Written By Amie Chapman
I can not believe how fast this year has gone by. It seems like just a few months ago we were keeping track of and cleaning up after nine little fuzzy puppies. Now as I write this I look over and see our big girl poodle who is turning a year old. How can our tiny Pixie be a year old already!?!
Last summer was a crazy one. We welcomed a pregnant standard poodle into our home with two days notice and did a mad scramble to make room and get an area set up for her and her puppies. She gave us two surprises. First she delivered two weeks before the due date we were given. Second, she had nine puppies instead of the eight that we thought and that we were expecting.
When we agreed to take on whelping and raising a litter I had visions of puppy heaven. Sitting in the whelping box with mom, rubbing baby puppy feet and having the picture perfect experience. Well, like pretty much every experience in life, things didn’t exactly go as we envisioned.
Momma Lotus was very nervous when she first arrived to our home, and that was very understandable. She didn’t know us at all. She warmed up a little bit to us during the week she was with us before the puppies arrived. We were amazed how she let us help her with the birth of all 9 puppies. But only an hour after the last puppy was born she became very protective and wouldn’t let us near her puppies. This was very unexpected and difficult.
Newborn puppies require a fair amount of monitoring. They need to be weighed daily to make sure that they are gaining weight. They need to be watched to make sure that they are active. They need to be monitored to make sure that they are warm and that they are nursing well. The first few days we had to be improvisational and wait until Lotus went out to potty to be able to check on the puppies. This was stressful for both her and us. She would get very agitated being separated from her puppies and I was nervous that we would miss something do to the fact we had to rush through changing the bedding in the whelping box, weighing all nine puppies, and getting fresh food and water for Lotus as fast as possible in the time span of a few minutes
There were other challenges the first week other than Lotus being protective of the puppies. Lotus refused to eat almost everything we offered. She would only eat chicken breasts. This is not ideal for a dog nursing with nine newborns. She was already underweight when she arrived to us and she didn’t have any body reserves. She was taken to the Veterinarian and cleared of any major illnesses luckily. To our relief she finally started eating after about a week and once she started eating she literally didn’t stop. We have never seen a dog consume so much food. At one point she was eating 10 cups of food a day.
The other challenge that came up during the first few days involved the smallest puppy of the litter. Pixie was losing weight instead of gaining weight. She was very weak on the 3rd day after her birth and we were very concerned about her. We stepped in and had to remove Lotus from the room. Consequently she and the puppies were separated a few times a day so we could bottle feed Pixie. The first couple of sessions didn’t go too great, but by day two of bottle supplements Pixie was nursing from the bottle well and beginning to get stronger. She also started gaining weight everyday like the rest of the litter. She was still significantly smaller than the rest of the puppies, but she was a little fighter and we were able to see she was doing better.
Pixie wasn’t the only puppy that we gave supplemental feedings to. I noticed that Lotus was not producing large quantities of milk despite eating really well. All the puppies were supplemented with formula to help Lotus out and they thrived because of it.
It took a couple of weeks but we finally gained Lotus’ trust and she began to allow us to be around her and the puppies all at the same time. After that milestone we began to have a wonderful experience. While having a litter of nine adorable puppies was a lot of fun, it was also a lot of work. By the time the puppies were four to five weeks old we started to wean them onto blended puppy food. Consequently Lotus decided to stop cleaning up after them and our work got more difficult.
Our days started off at 7am feeding the puppies. Then transitioned to moving them to their new enclosure downstairs. Then the cleanup process from the mess they made in the space Matt called the “Growing Up Guide Pup Room”. There were two loads of laundry each morning, cleaning the food dishes and blender, cleaning the toys that had been pooped and peed on and scrubbing the floor. Once that room was cleaned it was off to clean up their downstairs enclosure. After that it was lunch served followed by another load of laundry from the downstairs enclosure and nap time for the puppies. Then I walked the older dogs before I headed to work. Around 3pm Matt came home from his work and he took over for the evening while I was at gone. More cleaning up from nine puppies going potty after that because they went a lot. Then Matt took care of feeding dinner and giving evening walks for the older dogs. When I got home from work at around midnight is was one last feeding for the puppies and then getting them set up for bedtime. Another load of bedding in the wash, hosing down the outside area, and cleaning the floor in the inside pen, cleaning dishes, and toys before crawling into bed around 2am.
All the hours of work with the puppies was worth it when we started handing them out to puppy raisers. That was an amazing feeling. Handing over the puppies to people that are very excited to receive them is amazing and knowing that they could grow up to possibly improve the lives of others makes the hard work worth it. All the puppies left our house by the time the pups were 11 weeks old except Pixie, Scarlett and Paddington. Shortly after eleven weeks we drove Scarlett and Paddington up to Brigadoon Service Dogs where we donated them to be trained and placed. Scarlett did come back with us for a short time so Growing Up Guide Pup could help get her heart repaired and then I took her back to Washington on a solo trip a few months later. Lotus was rehomed five months after the puppies were born. We spayed her before she left us so her breeding days are over. We can happily report she is living the life of a loved and pampered pet now.
Then there is Pixie, the final puppy who is still with us. She was the smallest, although I don’t believe that she still is now that they are grown up. She had a small medical issue with her teeth and so Growing Up Guide Pup offered to keep her. We got the issue taken care of. Her bottom canine teeth came in a little narrow and were hitting the roof of her mouth. She saw a dental specialist, and we were told that this issue seems to be more common with the smaller or “runt” puppies in a large litter. She had her baby canine teeth removed to make her more comfortable and give her a better chance of her adult teeth to grow in the correct position. The treatment worked and her adult teeth grew in the correct position and she is perfectly healthy in every way.
We were raising two puppies for a three month period before Scarlett went to Brigadoon. That was a huge challenge for Matt and I. Pixie and Scarlett were really bonded and we had a hard time making sure they had enough one on one training time. So the new routine was to give each puppy a solo walk twice a day, at least two clicker training sessions a day, individual play time and a short outing each on days that I wasn’t working. They slept in separate crates and were always taken out to relieve by themselves. Also during this time Penny came home to us. That put us at five dogs in the house at the same time. We were still doing dog care from first thing in the morning until we went to bed at night to make sure everyone got what they needed.
Things got easier after Scarlett left and Penny got settled back into the household. I was able to focus more on Pixie’s training and Matt focused more on the care of the other dogs. I thought that Pixie would struggle after her sister left, but it was actually the opposite. She loved the extra attention and her personality really began to emerge.
Pixie was very confident and comfortable at home as a very young puppy, but nervous and shy outside the house. But once I didn’t have to take two puppies on separate outings Pixie got more exposure being away from the house. She also was old enough to join the older dogs on walks and that helped her confidence a lot. I also had more time for clicker training sessions to teach her new things. Some days things were easy for her while other days she would get frustrated easily and not want to train. She has gone from a shy timid slow moving puppy to a dog that can’t wait to leave the house and see the world.
Raising a poodle has been a lot of fun and I have learned a lot. I have learned that it is very difficult to keep a light colored poodle clean during the rainy season. I learned that grooming a poodle is a lot of work. They need brushing daily to keep them from getting matted. A high velocity blow dryer is a must and even with having one it takes a good 45 minutes to dry a fluffy poodle. I learned that clipping the hair on a poodle is a lot harder than it looks. I have still yet to groom Pixie evenly. Pixie is extremely intelligent and learns things pretty quickly, but she is also easily distracted. She still chases leaves that blow in the wind. So even though she can learn things fast, she has a hard time staying focused. I have been told by many that poodles take a little longer to mentally mature so I’m sure she just needs a little more time for her brain to catch up to her physical size.
The other thing I have learned about is Poodletude. Pixie is usually a happy and sweet puppy, but she does have a little attitude. Pixie’s one big issue is that she talks. She will bark at things that she doesn’t understand, things that frighten her or excite her. She has grown out of most of it, but she still barks at other dogs when she sees them. When I used to tell her “quiet”, she would turn from what she was barking at and bark at me. Then go back to barking at the thing she was originally barking at. If I tell her not to pick up something she knows better not to do it but I get side eye and then she will slowly pick up the item and walk away.
My perception of standard poodles has been very wrong. I always thought that they were a little snooty and didn’t have a lot of personality. Pixie is super silly, with lots of personality. She is selective about who she opens up to and shares her true self with, but that’s ok. She is an absolute love and very strongly bonded with me. I can’t move anywhere in the house without her needing to come with me. She has a lot of promise, but still has a lot of maturing to do.
In conclusion the first year of the poodle has been very busy and a bit crazy at times. We had a lot of fun adventures, great triumphs of learning new things and a few embarrassing moments that I can look back on and laugh about. I can’t wait to see how this little oodle of ours grows over the next year. Where will she go? What will she become? Only time will tell to see what path Pixie chooses.