Puppy Development

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On average, the Inuit pup male weighs 500g (a pound is 456g, so it is just over 1lb) at birth. A female weighs slightly less. The ear flaps lie flat against the auditory canal. Three hours later or so, the flap straightens, the ears lift to stand upright and the pup can hear. The pups open their eyes nine or ten days later, but they will keep them half closed if the light is bright. For the next three days, the dam barely moves from her pups, even to urinate. She will defend them fiercely against intruders. If food is put where she can reach it, she eats, otherwise she does without. The placenta is rich food and can sustain her.

After three days, she leaves the pups to go, eat and relieve herself, which she does in record time. Several accounts report that if there is grass, straw or a blanket in the birthing area, she will nose the material around her pups to cover them. Three Toadhall bitches did that, others did not. After a week, and only if she feels safe, she will lie a couple of feet away from the pups, except in cold weather or if she senses another dog close by.

By fourteen days, the development of the pups’ teeth has advanced. The have a set of incisors and canines, making a serrated mouth. When they suckle, the tongue forms a cup, with the edge covering the teeth. At that time, the pups can stand on their four wobbly legs and move around the whelping area instead of crawling on their bellies.

Two days later, they move more assuredly. The mother circles them and noses them to prevent them from straying too far. Eighteen days old, the eyes are focusing and they try to nibble at their mother’s food. They manage to lick moist, soft food, such as milk and cooked egg yoke. (Recipe in Appendix I)

When they reach twenty days, they attempt to step out of the sleeping area to relieve themselves. They also try to suckle while mother is standing up. She is now quite relax, and does not watch the pups so closely.

By the time they are twenty-four days old, they are exploring their immediate surroundings. The pups start nuzzling their mother’s mouth repeatedly and are rewarded by a partially digestive mash. They eat her food too. As long as there is plenty of it, she lets them. They venture well away from their area but run back to it promptly. They start sleeping like little dogs, curling up, tail over the nose. They also have learnt to defecate in one area – in the house it is on newspapers. As soon as one pup defecates on the newspapers, he is praised and petted, then the layer is removed. Pups have been watching. They come and sniff the spot. Many times, it stimulates a bowel movement. They get praised. By now most bitches have stopped cleaning after their pups. The most advanced pups might even attempt to scratch with their back legs.

Praising the pup defecating on the newspapers encourages them to a repeat performance. Adults sniff the ground where they, or their companions, have previously defecated and have a bowel movement on that preferred spot.

A week or two later, the pups have their own food, a soft mash, a piece of meat on a large bone, or a piece of seal, depending on what is available. The pups delight in it but still nuzzle their mother’s mouth for regurgitated food. In traditional conditions, pups would be given a piece of seal skin to chew on.

They are very aware of their surroundings and of humans coming and going. They follow, come when called and appear to know their names.

When dogs were kept loose, this was a dangerous time for young pups. Too small to run for cover, but too inquisitive to remain in the safety of the whelping area. A passing male could try to make a meal out of one of them if the bitch was not close enough to protect them. Sometimes the boss dog will stand guard over the pups and will also regurgitate. At Toadhall one male did and did it again when the pup was a year-old and nuzzled his mouth. After six weeks, the pups’ strength and mobility greatly improve, as well as their squealing power. The outside danger lessens somewhat.

The pups’ growth is amazingly rapid. Below is a short table to indicate how fast the first two months of growth is. It slows down after sixty days. Some pups lose some weight in the first few days, especially in a litter of eight. Possibly because they are less competitive for the mother’s teats.

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