Good news! With week 1 complete, I'm feeling more confident about the B Litter little ones. Tuesday, I took Spruce into the vet's for a check. Her deformed leg was looking really sore and she wasn't gaining weight well.
The vet suggested we put her on antibiotics to prevent systemic infection and a cream on the leg to keep it as healthy as possible. We think she was dragging the limb and the friction and bumping were quite irritating. I've made a little sling/crutch that seems to be helping.
The vet agreed that both Spruce and Larch are not gaining as we would like and recommended supplemental feeding. I've made up formula and although they prefer mom's method, they are taking some milk from the bottle. Spruce showed a little gain overnight so we'll try to keep that going.
What else is new with the pups? On day 3, we started our AVIDog education program. It has been shown that puppies that are stimulated or stressed slightly as newborns are more resilliant as adults. The US Army used this idea in their SuperDog program, conditioning dogs that would go on to provide critical work to the troops.
The stresses at this age are tiny, but they present slight challenges to the puppies that they would otherwise not have. We called the program ENS - Early Neurological Stimulation. We take each pup and hold them for 5 seconds with their belly facing down, then belly up, then head down, then head up. Finally we choose a new paw each day and squeeze the toes gently until they complain or withdraw. The puppies are definitely not fans on day 1 but even now, after just a few days, they are able to relax in any of the positions.
In addition to the ENS program, we also provide scenting stimulation. Puppies do not have a fully developed sense of smell at this age. As they build the nervous system for scenting, we provide additional input each day.
After we complete the ENS program, we take a unique item and offer it for the pup to sniff. We try to include a variety of items over the 17 days. This program is called ESI - Early Scent Introduction. I think of ENS and ESI as the Montessori school for puppies - providing them the opportunity to learn about the world at an early age in a way that makes sense to them.
We started ESI with banana - which they unanimously declined. You might be surprised how much dislike these little ones can demonstrate. There is no question how they feel about bananas! They squirm and wiggle and quickly turn their heads and their entire torso away from the offensive smell.
Next, we introduced them to the smell of soap from the shower. It could be that they recognized the smell from our handling, but for whatever reason, they enjoyed the soap smell. On day 3, we tried stinky socks from the laundry pile. Again, these were a hit. You just never know what will be positive for them! Instead of turning away, the puppies would burrow their noses deep into the sock and inhale deeply.
We continue the ENS and ESI programs from day 3 to day 16, just before they open their eyes and see the world for the first time. It is during this sensory deprivation period that we can have the most influence. We believe that these small stressors build a stronger puppy mentally, one that is able to manage on their own when challenges arise. These pups historically do better at scent challenges than unexposed pups and at a younger age. They also tend to be more settled at home - neither agressive nor fearful.
It's just one example of the AVIDog program using proven science to build better dogs.