There go my babies

Teddy being table trained by Hope

Teddy being table trained by Hope

Teddy, the last of the Chipmunks litter, has flown the coop. He’s now at home in Chicago, with his new mom, Hope Saidel of GollyLog and GollyGear fame.

Hope spent the weekend with us, arriving on Friday night bearing an armful of frozen, deep dish Chicago style pizza – I assume this was just in case we planned not to feed her 😉 Smart move, considering that on Saturday I tried to poison her with a meal consisting mainly of carbonized meat chunks, which I barbecued outside in the snow. Who knew that t-bone steaks and freak snow storms weren’t a great mix?

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Litter Box Training Puppies

French Bulldog puppy with litter box

Simon sitting outside his litter box

I just realized that I haven’t mentioned our little (litter?) experiment – we litter box trained the puppies. Doing so was incredibly easy – easier than I’d imagined it could be, and I am unbelievably pleased with the results.

We started from the minute that the pups were ready to move from their pool into their ex pen, which was right about when I started to wean them.

The supplies we used were as follows:

– ex pen made up of modular panels, connected with clips
– standard plastic litter box pan, with a rectangular door cut in the side to make access easier
– absorbent re usable puppy pad
– litter

That’s it! No fancy equipment or two hundred dollar indoor potty areas required, and our set up was clean smelling and easy to maintain.

We set the ex pen up to be as small as possible for the first stage of training. The puppies essentially had only two areas – a sleeping area, and their litter box. This forced the puppies to leave their bed when they wanted to eliminate, and left them with no choice but to use the litter box. We first placed the litter pan inside the ex pen with no door cut into it, but the side was too high for them to get over top of easily. Cutting a door into it, with still a lip underneath to contain the litter, solved that issue.

Initially, we used wood shavings for litter. This was an unqualified disaster. The shavings get everyplace – stuck in bedding, stuck on puppy paws, scattered on the floor, under the cushions of their bed. In fact, there were so many shaving stuck to their bedding that they clogged the sink in our laundry room. So much for that idea.

Our next attempt was with pressed pine litter, which is what we use for our cat. Like the wood shavings, it smelled nice and clean, even when wet, but it also was messy. The pine pellets break down into sawdust when wet, and we ended up dealing with the same issues we had with shavings, in that the sawdust ended up everyplace.

Our final product was compressed newspaper pellets, the same kind that veterinary clinics prescribe for cats who’ve had surgery, and for the same reason. It does not break down, even when wet, so it doesn’t track everyplace, and it doesn’t stick to bedding or to the puppies. It is neutral smelling, and the wet litter expands and darkens, making it easy to see the soiled litter when you go to clean out the box. Best of all, it’s easy to shake off of bedding, and can be swept up off of the floor without scattering everyplace.

As the puppies matured, and began consistently using the litter box, we expanded the size of the ex pen.

In our first expansion, we gave them a sleeping area, an area with their water dish and space for their food dish, and their litter box. The litter box is placed on top of an absorbent puppy pad, to catch spills, poopy foot prints or the occasional ‘out of the box’ pee (the pups sometimes pee on the edge of the box, rather than inside it – sort of like human males, come to think of it). We use a second, smaller absorbent pad underneath the water dish, since there’s nothing puppies like more than splashing in their water.

how to litter box train puppies

Another view of the litter box inside the whelping pen

8 weeks on, and the puppies’ ex pen is incredibly clean and tidy. When the pups have play time in the living room, I bring their litter box out with them. A few gentle pushes in the right direction, and they’ve all gotten into the habit of using it when they’re ready to eliminate.

Other than the occasional lazy pee I mentioned above, I have never yet seen a mess outside of the litter box. Through the day, I scoop out any poop or soiled litter, and once every other day I clean the box out completely, sanitizing it with warm water and soap. Instead of the nightmare mess of dirty newspapers that used to greet me in the morning, I have a clean ex pen with a soiled litter box. The space is now full sized, with the litter box in one corner, and a large sleeping and play area taking up the rest of the pen. I’ve also added a small crate inside the pen, with the door removed, which the puppies can go in and out of as they wish. Teddy, who is now the only puppy here, likes sleeping inside his crate, and in a day or so I’ll add the door and see how that goes over.

Simon and Alvin’s mom and dads have said that they might continue to use the litter box – Simon’s parents in particular, since they’re living in a condo right now. I’ll be interested to see if this early training pays off with puppies who are easier to housebreak.

I always laughed at the idea of litter box trained dogs, but after this litter I’m no longer laughing. Instead, I’m an enthusiastic convert!

Weekend End Frenchie Photos

Tula's 3 French Bulldog puppies

The boys, their last weekend together

Here are some photos from the last day or two – and can I just ask, completely without any prejudice, aren’t these boys growing into the most handsome fellows?

Teddy’s markings are so eye catching – his mask may have faded, but his “eyeliner and mascara” are still in place, giving his a sort of doe eyed prettiness that’s hard to look away from. Simon – now Zeus – is in his awkward phase. His head, while still gorgeous, looks too small for his body. It will all even up in a month or so, and in the meantime he’s just a gloriously gallumphing little guy. He’s growing into quite the snuggle monkey, too.

Alvin still looks like Alvin – round, cartoon eyes and that adorable little grin. He’s just to cute to be anything other than a muppet, I swear.

And speaking of little Alvin, he left today, back to Paula’s first, and from there on Sunday he’s on to his new home. Paula tells me he was NOT happy about the solo car ride home, but he’s settled in well at her place, and is behaving like the little gentleman we know he is. I know he’s on his way to a FABULOUS new home, but I just can’t help missing his little tiny muppet face. His brothers, on the other hand, have been gleefully cackling “More food for US, sucka!”. Hellions, I tell you. Cute hellions, but hellions none the less 😉

You can see the photos over on Flickr, or check out our iPhoto slideshow below.

Breaking what isn’t broke

Teddy eating his first meal of raw dog food mixed with goats milk.

I’ve been raw feeding my dogs off and on for almost twenty years now. Back when I started, raw feeding was something that you turned to in desperation, when all the other diets had failed you. It was also something you didn’t advertise to most people, as you were almost assured of being considered a ‘kook’. I remember several potential puppy buyers who balked when informed that my pups were raised on raw food. A few thought it meant that they’d be walking salmonella farms, and one or two actually believed the old myth about ‘raw meat making dogs savage’! Times sure have changed – you can now buy raw diets commercially, some puppy buyers specifically come looking for pups who’ve been raised on raw and lists for raw feeders abound on Yahoo Groups.

No matter how long you feed raw for, it’s still possible to have the occasional crisis of faith. Mine came when it was time to wean the chipmunks. As always, I started them on a slurry of raw dog food mixed with goats milk. I then gradually reduce the milk, until they’re eating just raw. This time around, a week or so in and the little hellions all went on a hunger strike. In an adult dog, this would be time for a case of tough love – eat or go hungry, is generally my motto. With babies, it’s a little bit more worrisome – they can’t afford to skip meals, and they don’t have the energy reserves to make fasting practical.

And so, I admit it – I panicked. I picked up a bag of premium quality, grain free kibble, I soaked it in some goats milk, and I offered it to the kids. And, of course, they loved it. Like sucky, over indulgent moms the world over, instead of just insisting that the kids eat their damned broccoli, I gave in and fed them the canine equivalent of a trip to McDonalds. Initially, it seemed a simple solution – give in, feed them dry and say ‘so be it’. It wasn’t quite that simple, however.

As soon as the pups went on to the dry food, they had constant diarrhea. This wasn’t the truly frightening, dehydrating diarrhea, either. Excuse the crudeness, but their poop looked like pudding, and poor Alvin was suffering from a wicked case of diaper rash as a result. Not life threatening, but not pleasant, either, and I was desperate to get it under control.

First attempt? Re worming. I use Safe Guard, which covers the widest variety of intestinal worms, and also addresses any potential Giardia. Nothing. Next attempt, a precautionary dose of Baycox, an  almost impossible to get wonder drug that knocks out Coccidia in one dose. Still no change. Alvin’s bottom was so sore I was applying zinc oxide cream four times daily, and the poor little guy still looked miserable. Next up, we tried a course of Flagyl (aka metronidazole), surefire cure all for all mystery cases of runny poop. No improvement. Final attempt, a pricey box of FortiFlora, which my repro vet swears by. Still runny poop, still scooting their little bums, and still a sore bottom on Alvin.

On Friday, I’d had it.

I decided to switch them back to raw, whether they liked it or not, and put down a dish of raw lamb dog food. Picky as always, they sniffed at it and said ‘no thanks’, until I sprinkled a remaining packet of FortiFlora over top of it, after which they scarfed it down like they were starving.

End results? By Saturday morning, their poop was fifty percent better, and by Saturday night, their poop was 100% normal, for the first time since I switched them to dry.

Lesson learned! I’ll be sticking to raw from now on, and if another batch of puppies get picky, I’ll ride it out and use tough love until they get their appetites back, instead of feeding them junk food. As Sean said “If you know raw works, why were you messing around with their food?”. It was a simple case of breaking what wasn’t broke, and I’m not going to make that mistake again!

Breeders Big Book of Scary Stuff, Chapter 915

Teddy says "How could anybody not want to do everything possible to save me?"

Teddy says "How could anybody not want to do everything possible to save me?"

I’ve always joked that someday I’m going to write a book titled “The Big Book of Unbelievably Scary Shit That Will Inevitably Happen to You if You Breed Dogs Long Enough”. If I ever do, this incident will be chapter 915.

I noticed two weeks ago that Teddy’s hernia was larger than what I’d consider to be “normal”. I’ve seen quite a few hernias over the years, none of which have worried me – until this one. Concerned, I called my vet clinic (a fairly new clinic for us, I should add) and asked about having it corrected. They didn’t want to even see him – they told me that they NEVER correct hernias in a five week old puppy.

We’d had problems with Teddy’s umbilical since birth, a fact I attribute to the clinic not having clamped (or even tied off) the pups umbilical cords at birth. At two days, I was on the phone with the clinic telling them his umbilical was too open – they told me to apply iodine. At less than a week, I had him in the clinic, so that they could see his umbilical was so open you could see his abdominal wall.

Their solution? Liquid bandage. I was surprised that they didn’t want to stitch it – I even asked if they didn’t want to do a purse string repair. They told me no, that the margins of the opening were too healed over, and to leave it be.

Since I’m not a vet, I acquiesced to their professional opinions, even if I had some doubts.

Monday night after dinner, I popped in to see the pups, and found blood splattered all over the bedding. Teddy had two inches of tissue poking out of his hernia, and it was bleeding. As you can imagine, I panicked – wrapped him in a bandage, called the vet and headed for the clinic.

I arrived to see my least favorite vet – the one who has always seemed to have little confidence in his own skills. His reaction when he unwrapped Teddy’s bandage confirmed this – instead of looking at him like a diagnostician should be expected to, he grimaced and recoiled, not even examining the puppy beyond that cursory glance.

I asked him what he was going to do to treat it, and he responded “That’s intestine, and it’s necrotic. There’s nothing we can do”. I insisted that there had to be SOMETHING he could do, and he replied that I had to “think about the well being of the puppy”. I again said “I don’t even want to TALK about anything other than what he planned to do to fix his hernia”, and he again insisted “the prognosis isn’t good, and you need to think about what is best for this puppy” – basically saying, in effect, that we should put him to sleep, without even attempting surgery.

At this point Sean, who was thankfully there with me, yelled at the vet “If you’re not capable of fixing this, just tell us, so we can go someplace else where they can”.

Again, the vet said we ‘weren’t listening to the prognosis’, and again Sean asked him “Are you or aren’t you capable of fixing this?”. At that point, the vet reluctantly said “Well, you might as well take him someplace else”, to which I said we’d take him to the University, so please call there and let them know we’re coming. He agreed, but then told us “you have about an hour to get there, or it will be too late”.

Guelph is a one and half hour drive from the clinic we were at, so you can imagine our panic. Sue Simon can tell you – I phoned her from the road, to ask her help in reaching Teddy’s co owner, and was too incoherent to even talk. Thank God Sean was holding it together, and thank God Hope and Sue were there to help us.

As I took the puppy to the car, Sean stayed behind to make sure the vet called the University – a good thing, since he wasn’t exactly rushing to get them on the phone. Sean yelled at him to hurry up and call them, and said that if anything happened to Teddy, he’d better hope he had a good lawyer.

We managed the drive in an hour, and arrived at the small animal clinic at Guelph. They took a short history, and then took Teddy in the back for examination.

Five minutes later, we had a NEW answer – instead of necrotic intestine, Teddy had a little bit of fat hanging out of his hernia. Instead of a dying puppy, we had a puppy who was going to be just fine. In fact, we could have had the operation done at any skilled, experienced vet clinic, by almost any experienced, skilled veterinarian. When we told the veterinary surgeons at Guelph that our first vet had insisted that it was in Teddy’s ‘best interest’ to put him down, they were shocked. Even if it had been intestine, that fact that it was still healthy and pink, and that Teddy was alert and playful, should have been a sign that it wasn’t necrotic – and fixing it was still a relatively simple operation.

It’s this sort of blatant veterinary incompetence that scares me when it’s time to send my puppies home. What pet owner, with no experience, would have known enough to ignore a vet telling them to euthanize a puppy ‘for its own good’? Would a novice breeder know enough to be able to decide that their puppy was not even CLOSE to being sick enough to put down?

If I’d listened to him, instead of stubbornly insisting he was wrong, Teddy would be dead now.

French Bulldog Umbilical Hernia Repair

Teddy's umbilical hernia repair

Teddy is back home now – none the worse for the wear, and with his hernia fixed. We’ll be filing a complaint with the OVMA, and I won’t rest until the original vet is, at the very least censured.

If I have my way, he’ll be suspended.

More photos of Teddy, just home from the University, are here –