Briza, like all Canaans, is an excellent and devoted mother. But while some are very worried and protective, Briza, even in the first days after her puppies are born, is quite happy to leave them for a few minutes, to go out and relax, and get a bit of fresh air and sunshine. That is not to say that she is not vigilant – she is completely aware of what is going on and whether anyone not approved might be getting close to her family. But she remains relaxed and calm unless there is really a reason to react.
So two and a half weeks after her current puppies were born, when I observed that she was lying with them constantly and not leaving them, I knew that something was not quite right.
On examination, I found that indeed there was a problem. Several of her nipples were swollen and hard. She had obviously developed some sort of infection in a few of her breasts. This was a very unusual situation; the Canaans are very healthy dogs and I had never had this with any other bitch.
She of course was examined by the vet and started on a course of treatment. The puppies seemed to be fine. They were plump and content, not crying and not seeming to be lacking in anything, and she was caring for them with typical
Canaan devotion. This in itself amazed me. I am sure that the
condition must have been very unpleasant to her, if not downright painful. In any other breed, I would not have been
surprised for the bitch to abandon the puppies, not wanting to be touched, and
certainly not allowing them to suckle.
But Briza, on the other hand, did not want to move from her puppies and
let them climb all over her and suckle to their hearts’ content.
However, I was worried that she might not have enough milk, and that the puppies’ demands would be hard on her. So I decided to give the puppies some supplemental feeding. At the age of two and a half weeks, they were certainly old enough to get some additional food.
I decided to prepare bottles with milk substitute to give them extra feeds a few times a day. To start with, the puppies made faces and tried to spit the nipple out when I put it in their mouths. “This isn’t the real thing!”, they seemed to be saying. “We know what real milk tastes like!” But most of them within minutes learned that this was food, and grabbed hold of the nipple and SUCKED! After a few feeds, they were sucking so hard that they could have been lifted into the air and left dangling there, held up by the strength of their nursing. Not that I tried it, of course, but when on occasion they grabbed my finger by mistake, I could certainly feel the power!
Two of the six puppies, however, were very stubborn. They were sure that this was not real food, and it took them about two days to decide that they really could drink this stuff. They were plump and full, and obviously were indeed getting fed by Mom. So why bother with something strange? But finally they agreed to take a taste and then also grabbed on and took advantage of the offer of additional food.
There was no point when the puppies seemed to be hungry or not getting food from Briza – she cared for them all the time, and they were very plump and happy. But if they were being offered an extra treat – well, why not? I actually, at times, started to wonder if a puppy could explode from eating too much….
For these puppies, I had now become a second mommy. They just had to hear me coming and their noses were in the air, all of them screaming, “Me, me, me!!!!”, as they stretched up to my hands to be picked up and fed. They were aware of my approach from a distance and scrabbled over one another to try to be the first in line for the bottle.
Three weeks of age is when I usually start offering puppies additional meals, usually special early age puppy kibble moistened to make it soft. So now was the time to start the transition from supplemental milk feeds to real food.
With most of Briza’s puppies, this was the case – I offered them a dish of food, and they quickly realized that this was good eating. But there were two that refused. They kept following my hand around, with their noses in the air, and tried to climb up my legs. “We know you bring milk! Where is it???? We want the milk!!!!!” was the attitude.
Canaans can be very stubborn in trying to get what they want. Although I knew, by now, that Briza, herself totally recovered and full of energy again, was feeding her puppies very well, I still felt that I might as well go on giving a supplement, just to be sure…So when these puppies, one cream male and one red female, decided to refuse to eat, they won – I fed them their bottle.
Finally, after a few days, I decided that they were not going to beat me, and I refused to give them the bottle. It took them one missed feed, watching the other puppies guzzling down the food with enormous enthusiasm, and finding that I was ignoring their nose in the air demands for milk, to decide to join in and eat. And of course, when they started to eat, it was with the typical enthusiasm.
Even drinking water warrants enthusiasm. When I put in a water dish the first time, they almost climbed in it, and drank and drank and drank… Obviously, anything I was about to offer, was something to get excited about.
The puppies are now five weeks old, and getting several feeds a day of kibble. I don’t think I have ever had puppies that are so very enthusiastic about eating. They seem to be as wide as they are long, and don’t stop until they have cleaned the dish. Briza, who would have enthusiastically cleaned up any leftovers, is left with her own portion, which she says is less tasty…