There is a lot to see in pups beginning right from birth. They are more than sleeping and eating blobs! Personality, adaptability, determination – these and many other qualities are there for the observant.

I am always interested in watching a newborn’s manner in finding mom’s faucet. Some hone in and grab on like guided missiles while others might stumble about, miss a few times before hitting the jackpot. Once attached, one can see personality, too. Can a pup be pushed off the nipple by another pup or do they hang on defiantly? If they hang on – do they grumble and growl or with quiet determination, remain unmovable? Making their way around the whelping box is instructive. How does a pup solve the problem of getting out from behind mom? If they attempt an ‘overland’ route, do they persevere and triumph? If the challenge is greater than their abilities, how do they handle that stress – and yes, to a baby pup, trying to get around their mom to nurse is a challenge.

Besides monitoring their weight and general well-being, we handle our pups often and began introducing them to various surfaces and temperatures – always for brief moments so not to stress a pup. This is followed by lightly exhaling near their face before putting them on to nurse from mom. A tiny bit a newness or stress followed by the warmth of human touch and scent with a snack from mom and the inevitable thorough cleaning that a mom dispenses.

Over the years we have collected an assortment of odds and ends for pups to investigate - everything from household gadgets, outdoor tools, toys, anything, and everything. I would place these for pups to investigate and watch their interaction. I remember when our ‘Q’ litter was around 3 weeks of age and toddling around, I placed a broom across the hallway so they would inevitably run into it. One pup starting at the handle carefully worked his way down the handle smelling intently and pausing periodically when he found the scent especially engrossing. When he reached the bristles, he must have been in heaven as his nose burrowed deeply into the myriad scents. This little guy was our Quando who lived through his nose! (Quando vom Framheim HT, PT, TD, HCT OFA G (h&e)

Reactions to the broom ranged from playful attacks on the bristles, to chewing, mock territorial skirmishes and even settling down on the bristles for a nap. All of these normal and unique to each pup’s personality.

I keep a wardrobe of odd hats, coats, capes, footwear to wear with the pups so swishing, flapping, rattling, clunking attire is common. We introduce them to a wide range of body movements including limping, distinctive arm and body movements as well as crutches, walkers, wheelchairs and bicycles. Providing a rich assortment of experiences broadens what pups define as normal. We want pups to consider most things to be normal!

I often chuckle at how lucky we are to live privately in the woods with no neighbors nearby to witness what most would surely think are odd goings-on! Silly voices, strange clothing get-ups and lots of puppy parties when my dog savvy friends visit and play with litters. Speaking of our home, we designed and built our home, so pups experience a wide variety of environments. As a litter as well as in small pairings and individually, pups walk in woods, fields, swim in ponds, visit family and friend’s homes, accompany us to town. It is normal to pack a couple of pups into the van when I visit my folk’s next door. Pups experience variety not just as a litter but alone so that eventually leaving the litter is not unsettling for them. Their environment is rich with interesting things like tires, plastic kiddie pools (right-side up and upside down), wobble boards, obstacles to play with and lots of toys – everything rotated in and out of their area to keep pups interested and provide challenges. In our walks in the woods, pups learn to climb and jump over logs, streams, and make their way through brush. Pups explore various rooms in our home, training building as well as other buildings on our property.

Shepherd pups are naturally social and love to interact with people. Creating a wide variety of environments and experiences is probably the most important thing a breeder can do with their puppies.

Our Puppy Parties are memorable! Luckily, we have a dog savvy group of friends who join us for parties. As pups mature, they bring their dogs for socialization, too. Friends, food, fun with puppies – what could be more fun?