Wikipedia states that the average litter size of a Whippet is 6.1 – how lovely that sounds! During all our years of breeding we have never had less than 11 puppies, and one time we even had 14. It has always been our opinion that the only way of producing a healthy, well-socialized litter with lovely temperaments, can only happen if the puppies are being raised within the family. It goes without further explanation, that raising a litter is a very busy time for our family, as we give it all of our thoughts, all of our time, all of our patience and almost all of our nighttime sleep.
If you are interested in one of our puppies, please take the time to read through this page. While it is lengthy, we hope that it will keep you entertained and leave you well informed about our breeding program. Around 76% of our puppies sell to families in entirely different States or sometimes even countries, without ever meeting us or their future puppy. We hope that giving you this insight in how we raise our puppies will make you feel more confident about choosing your puppy among our litters.
from birth to 2 weeks
The first 2 weeks after the birth of a litter are perhaps those weeks that cost us the most nighttime sleep. About a week before the due date, we set up the whelping box in our bedroom. Most of the time, our girls will give birth late in the evening or during the night, and it is essential for us to stay close in case of complications, or to comfort mommy. Also, even with pig rails, it can happen that a newborn puppy will be suffocated under it’s mother, and only our constant attention will allow us to interfere and avoid such terrible accidents. Our bedroom is therefore, at least in our opinion, the best choice.
With every puppy that is being born, we add the little sucker to our list and note the date of birth, time of birth, weight, color and markings. If we can then we will check on the gender as well, but most of the time we try to hurry up, so that they can soon dry out close to mommy and start nursing. Whelpings usually go smooth and we have never had any real issues, but we always have a puppy first aid kit ready in case that things go south. Both my husband and I have acquired quite some knowledge over the years when it comes to animals and mild or moderate boo boo’s, though I hope that we will never have to put this knowledge to the test.
We check the weight of the puppies every day for the first 7 days, and once a week from day 8 and on. We have decided years ago that we will not have the dewclaws removed on our puppies, since we are against any sort of unnecessary alteration.
The puppies usually stay with us for about 2 weeks, which allows us to pay close attention to the litter as well as mommy. During this time we call them little suckers, because that is pretty much all they do: they suck, they pee, they poop, they sleep.. repeat.
Quiet before the storm
2 – 4 weeks
Around 2 weeks of age most puppies will have opened their eyes to some degree, and they will take very brief excursions around the whelping box. If they are particularly brave, they may even have a peek at what is beyond. Their sight is still very blurry, but their ears have opened and they will now react to the sounds and the movements of our family tending to them. They will take in our smells, but they still want to be close to mommy and their siblings. Around 3 weeks of age, the puppies will slowly start to bear more weight on their chunky legs, and may even walk or run a few steps. This is also the time for us to move the whelping box to the living room, which will allow them to join us in the busiest room of the house, and will bring back the much needed sleep for us humans. Between 3 and 4 weeks of age, some puppies will start to leave the whelping box to relieve themselves. This is the time when we open the door to the growing pen, which is attached to their whelping box. The growing pen will be their designated potty area, and aids them in future potty training. This is also the time when mommy won’t clean up after them quite as well, and we trade nighttime sleep for poop duty. We sanitize the whelping box and replace the bedding daily at this stage.
4 – 6 weeks
The title says it all. Around 4 weeks of age the puppies will want to discover what is beyond the whelping box, and will therefore visit the growing pen more often. Our growing pen has a think plastic wire cover, so that urine will fall through the openings and be absorbed by cat litter. The puppies will still nurse several times a day, and they will frequently empty their bowels and bladders. Since the puppies stay in our living room, and because we appreciate a clean and tidy home, it was essential for us to create a growing pen that is as hygienic as possible. The cat litter will hold the urine and keep it from smelling, and is generally replaced once a day. Number two is being picked up by us several (read “a gazillion”) times a day. We also continue to replace the bedding daily.
The puppies have now reached a significant size and their legs have grown strong. They will wildly play with each other, bark, growl and try to dominate each other. This is the most entertaining time with a litter, since they are now mobile enough to be played with and start to show their true personalities. Between 4 and 5 weeks of age, two new and very important aspects of raising our puppies start:
1. group playtime outside if the weather will allow it, or group playtime in the living room and
2. individual play and snuggle time with the family
This is a part of our breeding program that we are particularly proud of, and we hope that future families can understand how time consuming this is and therefore appreciate it. Around 5 weeks of age we will take the puppies outside once or twice a day, where they can run around and be as wild as they wish. We live on 5 acre mini farm, so there is lots to discover! The puppies may meet the horses… always a very intimidating encounter! They may get into trouble with the chickens. And it happens from time to time that their wild nature will upset the ducks, which will quickly show what they think of this circus by chasing the puppies around the property. Once a day, usually in the evenings, we will bring 2 puppies and let them enjoy 20 – 30 minutes of individual time with our family. This time is spent throwing balls, having a tug of war, running around with them or simply snuggling on the couch while watching TV. Since our litters are always so big, we have to rotate through all puppies in one evening.
6 – 8 weeks
Weeks 6 – 8 are generally those weeks where we wonder why on earth we decided to get into breeding. What was previously so fluffy and cute, has now turned into 10 – 14 little monsters who will suck the energy right out of you. At this point, most puppies have sold and their new families are excited to meet their cute, adorable puppy that has a soft coat and smells like a spring meadow in the Austrian Alps. The reality is, that these little rascals need a bath almost daily now, because they will play so hard that they often slip and fall straight into their pee or poop if there was anything left behind. Outside they will now be the ones who chase the ducks, or worse, discover the horses muck heap beside the barn. Inside the house they have long figured out how to escape their whelping box and growing pen, and a litter of puppies can quickly turn a freshly renovated house into something that looks like out of a horror movie. Between 6 and 7 weeks of age the puppies will therefore move to the lower level of our home, where they will get a large run. This is also the time when we introduce solid foods to them, and they receive their own water bowl. We do not intervene in the weaning process as many breeders do, but let it take it’s own natural course. Around 6 weeks of age, mommy automatically cuts down on the feedings, and the puppies will slowly increase their intake of puppy kibble. By 7 weeks of age mom may only stop by once a day to nurse them standing, more to her own relief than for the purpose of feeding her puppies. Between week 7 and 8 mommy will try to avoid her puppies at all cost, as she starts getting fed up with them, and wants them to move out, get a job and make their own life.
And something else happens during week 8 of their life: the vet visit! We take our puppies to Dr. Hill of Jolly Pond Clinic in Williamsburg, Virginia. There, the puppies will receive a thorough exam, a microchip and their first set of shots. Those puppies who will fly to their new families will also receive a health certificate as required by the USDA. We will continue to give them playtime outside daily, as well as have them join us in the evening. The great thing is that some of the best pictures are taken during this time of growing up. No longer are they little suckers, but graceful representatives of their original breed!
“It wasn’t really that bad!”
after week 8
Puppies need to be 8 weeks and 1 day old in order to fly to their new families. Once all puppies have left us, it is time for us to clean the whelping box and store it until more puppies arrive. It is the time when we either have the carpet cleaner come to visit, or just have the carpet completely replaced. It is the time when we enjoy watching TV without having someone try to bite your nose, and the time when our life is not dictated by barking bunches of fur. We will tell each other how exhausting it was. How we want to take a long break before the next litter. But then slowly, after just a few weeks, we tell ourselves that it wasn’t really that bad. The interrupted sleep for the first two weeks suddenly doesn’t appear so dreadful anymore, and you think back of the fun this litter has brought to your family. And then? Well, we may find ourselves with a new litter soon, and it will all start over again…