Rescue of an Under-age Litter

(litter less than 7 weeks old ; dam not included)

by Michelle Mace, Ricochez Kennels, © 2004

A case history, in question and answer form, showing an exemplary rescue of a litter of puppies who are under-age for separation from litter and dam. The rescuer , Michelle Mace, is an experienced Poodle & Portugese Water Dog breeder and rescuer, groomer, and dog-trainer. All the material written by her is used here with her permission and is given exactly as she wrote it. My questions and suggestions are in italics and her answers in normal type. Any comments added by me will be in {italics} so as to be clearly distinguished.

The Bouvier e-mail list posted that you had rescued some 5-6 week old Bouvier puppies and would like adopters referred to you.

Yes, that is true. I have four wonderful little boys that are looking for great homes. They are all brindle, and have been checked by my vet, no congenital problems noted, and will have been given their first vaccines shortly and wormed, and first dose of heartworm prevention. And also have their first haircuts. :-)

Since pups have been removed from mamma bitch earlier than they really should have been, thus missing out on some of mamma's teachings on how to be submissive to an alpha, it would be good to come up with a substitute. Or see if they can stay with the bitch until 8 weeks. Have you got an adult dog who likes pups but will also instill respect into them? Likewise I hope the pups can stay together till at least 7 weeks so they learn the beginnings of bite inhibition from each other and also learn the beginnings of the dominence and submission game from each other.

Absolutely, I agree. Not only am I a groomer, but I am also a breeder/exhibitor/handler/trainer...jack of all dogs... ;-) I have standard poodles and PWD's {Portugese Water Dog }as my main breeds, but I love them all. I currently have 6 adult dogs, two of them being my standard poodles, who are trained in Search and Rescue. One, my 4 1/2 yr. old neutered boy Raven, was bred by me, and all of his littermates went to working homes of some type. I fully understand the psychology of the formative weeks, the need to be with litter and mother a certain length of time, importance of being seperated and socialized both with humans and other dog-friendly dogs, table training, and they have already been started on basic "puppy push ups," and I am planning on aptitude testing them at 7 weeks to better be able to place them with carefully screened potential adopters.

Be sure to encourage the adopters to get these pups into play groups with similar aged and sized pups and also if possible to have them have contact with a mamma substitute adult.

Absolutely, part of my screening process is whether people have gone to and are willing to take the new puppy to a puppy kindergarten class. My PWD bitch is their substitute Mamma right now. She is wonderful with all puppies, and cleans them and teaches them. My 2 yr. {male} standard poodle plays with them, but of course, mentally, he is about the same age. :-) He will lay on the floor and let them crawl all over them, but if they get too rowdy, he simply stands up and bops them with a big paw, holding them until they reconsider their actions. He's a great "father." {Pam's note : other expert breeders have also found that a stable , pup-friendly adult male dog willing to act the "father" role has a wonderful effect on the social development of puppies.}

Were you able to talk the owners into getting both the parents altered ? -- or at minimum getting the bitch spayed -- so this does not happen again and again. Once you can assure bitch will be spayed, you could also hit them up to cover some of the expenses of getting the puppies altered.

I did speak with them about it, and they were strongly leaning that way. She is 6 years old, and from what they said, I got the impression that she may also have heartworms. It's a shame, I feel bad for her. {"her" means the dog of course, not the owner. Heartworm is so easy to prevent, and without prevention in the Southern states infestation is absolutely certain to occur and left untreated will kill the dog after an extended period of suffering.} I truly think that this experience has soured them on puppies, and since I am their regular groomer, I will be able to follow up on the situation when I'm there doing the grooming. They did give me some "puppy support" money when I got the pups, to help cover food expenses and such, but that is long gone by now.

Can you find a vet who is expereinced at doing pediatric alterations so you can have all puppies "neutralized" before they leave your hands so you dont get called on to rescue their offspring next year ?

Yes. I worked as a vet tech for about 6 years before I went into grooming full time, and currently I groom at the clinic two days a week and do my mobile the rest of the time. I have a great relationship with my vet, and she knows that I do a fair amount of rescue work, and fully understands situations like these, and can take care of such matters for me. She also works closely with the city shelter, and does quite a few young spays/neuters for them.

You can and should charge enough of an adoption fee to cover the costs of alteration and shots. If you cannot find a vet to do a pediatric alter, then I suggest not only having an alteration clause in the sales contract but also charging a massive "neuter deposit" : I'd suggest at least $500 neuter deposit to be refunded if and only if the pup is neutered before age 6 months.

Absolutely. Anyone will surely take a "free dog," but I have found that if someone has to actually put out a sum of money to acquire a dog, no matter whether a purebred or a shelter mutt, will put much more thought into getting the dog, realizing that no dog is "free," even ones acquired for no money require $$ to feed, properly give veterinary care, both routine and emergency, and regular medications, heartworm, etc, training, supplies, etc, etc.

I am being as selective and careful in placing these puppies as if they were of my own breeding. I have had extensive experience with the right kind of dog being with the wrong kind of people, while a spoiled and untrained Chihuahua is mostly a nuisance to the public, and mostly the groomer.... it is especially dangerous with a breed like a Bouv. And that is something I definetly want to avoid. These pups really have great temperaments from what I've been able to see of them, only having them a week +, so they need as great a home as they deserve.

If you cant get AKC papers on them, then after they are altered, you can help the adopters get ILP (Indefinite Listing priviledge) to enable participation in performance events, assuming of course that the adopter wants to go into AKC performance events (eg many prefer those herding and agility events put on by other parent organizations -- I know I sure like AHBA herding a lot more than AKC !)

Yes, I will explain that to every adopter. I am with you on the alternative organization thing, I had a Border Collie awhile ago and I found the ABCA much more pleasant, easygoing, and with better organization and better execution and enforcement of their policies and ethics, performance events, etc, than AKC. 

Bless you over and over for saving these pups from an ignorant and indiscriminant "free to good home" placement at the hands of the parent dogs owners, placement that would probably result in half of them winding up at the pound within a year or two.

I am glad to help out, I love puppies of any breed. I love watching them develop and seeing which ones seem to have that truly "star" quality, whether for being a great pet, a service or therapy dog, or performance/working dog. I love being able to place a dog in the absolute perfect home, and I do stay in contact with all my puppy placements, they send great pictures, and I am always available for mentoring or advice for anyone at any time.

I must give the owners credit for one thing, they are not just your average, ignorant backyard breeders who would dispose of the puppies to a "free to any home," kind of thing. They at least did have the good sense to make sure that someone like me got the puppies, or else he was ready to shoot them. And that's not an exaggeration.

There is a ton of illegal dog-fighting that goes on in the backwoods of our area here, and when the pups were born, he even had some "less than desirables" approach him about getting a pup for that purpose. He was offered $1000 for a pup and turned it down because he is adamantly against that sort of thing. I do give him credit for that. He said he would rather shoot them than see them in that kind of situation. But of course, I could not let that happen either, so I am glad to have them.

There are two little boys in this litter that I am really getting attached to, they are really special. That's the hard part, letting them go.

Thanks so much for inquiring about the pups, and if you get any prospective adopters that look suitable, please pass the info to me and we will find these little guys excellent homes.

{I had already referred to her a potential adopter in a nearby state who sounded like a responsible , knowledgeable, loving home.}

Michelle and the Ricochez Gang

Ricochez Kennels,

(in Arkansas, early Dec, 2004)


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site author Pam Green copyright 2003
created 12/15/04 revised 12/15/04
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