At first, much like human babies, they just eat and sleep. A Golden Retriever puppy can wag its tail in the first 24 hours and you've never seen anything so cute! For the first week I handle the puppies each individually. I pick them up, I play with each of their paws, I fidget with their ears, I blow in their faces. NO OUTSIDERS can come into my kennel during the blackout phase! This protects the puppies and is a trust issue between me and the Moms.
After the first week to nine days, they open their eyes. We are still playing with them for hours on end several times a day. They are starting to scramble around. They now know our smell and associate that with getting held and cuddled. They are learning to trust people, look to people for comfort, and are learning to be handled with confidence. This is not something you can hire someone to do - it requires love! There are also some clinically proven stimuli that I do as well, sometimes this is referred to as the Super Dog Program. Originally developed by the Army in the 70's, we do a modified version that include stimuli not only aimed at the intelligence and confidence of the animals, but the custom touches we have added are aimed at desensitizing puppies to actions like tail and ear grabbing. Through these short activities, you hard wire in the puppy's brain that no matter what external action happens - when you are with a human you are safe.
From weeks two to four they are rapidly growing. They are becoming confident on their feet. They are beginning to establish pecking order in their initial attempts at play. It is natural and important to their development that they mouth each other and paw pat each other during this time. It is also critical for me to see who are the precocious little ones and who are the 'stay out of it' ones. There are a variety of personalities in the group and each personality belongs in a certain type of family lifestyle and I will want to weigh in on this at selection time. Far better to get the right personality for your household than the coat you think is the cutest!
At four weeks old, you as the future puppy family, have the first opportunity to see/pick your baby. Picks are made in the order of deposit on my waiting list. I can tell many of the puppies apart. When you have made your pick, the puppy will get a unique collar to mark it as SOLD and unavailable for others to select from. IF there is any availability of puppies at this time, I will e-mail pics to prospective families first - there will be no 'window shopping'. They will get their heads talked off (just like you did when you first called me!) and please understand that though we are just talking casually, I am really interviewing you and looking for the key elements I need to hear in order for you to be considered as getting a puppy.
IF you have been at a farm, park, gathering of animals, or large pet store recently - you CANNOT dash over and pick out a puppy. If you have even considered buying a puppy from a 'puppy store', please just don't even bother calling me.
No shoes that have been around another litter or in a pet store recently may enter into my home. This is absolute. You will likely be asked to take off your shoes when you enter. This is for my babies protection and the comforting assurance of those who have selected and fallen in love with their babies. There are NO exceptions to this. I would rather lose a sale than lose a puppy!
From 4 to 6 weeks the puppies are weaning. They are starting solid (albeit soggy) foods. Mom dog no longer cleans up after them once they start eating and the mess has REALLY begun. This stage separates the devoted breeders from the backyarders as they are either loving the puppies MORE than hating cleaning up 4 times+ a day OR they are leaving the puppies in yucky mess. This will be key in your housebreaking ease! Does your breeder know how to define a den and a dump? Are they gradually and purposefully directing where to go and how to 'live a clean life'? They are still getting handled more and more as they are totally cute and fun. They are pouncer bouncers and notice a lot about their environment.
From 6 to 8 weeks the socialization issue becomes critical. This is why you can always tell someone who does not care in the least about puppies if they are willing to let them go at 6 weeks. Sure they are weaned, but the Mom dog has not started to teach them proper behaviour. At six weeks, nearly to the day the Mom's demeanor with the puppy changes. This is nature's way. Mom now very tenderly and yet with a visible display says 'NO'. Maybe a puppy was too rambunctious. Maybe they tugged on her tail after she moved it time and again. Whatever the issue she deems as correctable, its only at this time that she will begin to show the kids who's boss and what's allowed.
It is also at this time that the puppies learn socialization from one another. Too rough playing results in a yelp (which is the universal dog language for 'STOP'). At this stage the puppies are 'mouthy'. This is how they initiate play and as they don't have hands to wrestle, they use their mouths. This should not be confused with biting and young children who go into a kennel should be told about this. The important thing for human socialization at this point is to know that when playing with a puppy; 1) you should always stop and walk away if it gets rough, and 2) you should NEVER engage with your puppy by putting your hand, finger, whatever in their mouth. They are teething and your finger feels good in their mouth, but it sets a very bad precedent. Mouth playing is for puppy on puppy. The same goes for tug of war games. This is for puppy on puppy. If you the human want to debate who is the pack leader, by all means play tug of war. But if you want to be decided that you are always in charge, never play tug of war.
Eight weeks. Finally! Puppy goes home. If I have done my job right, you should be house broken in a couple of weeks (and there are tricks to this which I will share with you in take home instructions). Puppy will have been dewormed several times (an ounce of prevention) and given its first shots. Second and third shots happen at 9 and 12 weeks respectively. If the vet's office has had any parvo (or other) disease lately, I will give the shots. I am glad to have them looked over by a vet and get any care they need, but I absolutely will weigh the need for professional review with the possibility of exposing puppy to something when they are so vulnerable.
I will want you to take puppy to your vet right away. I will want you to call them first to make sure they have not had any contagion. I will want you to hold puppy carefully in your protection and NOT let it interact with any dog you don't know the disposition of or the health/shot record of. I will want you to expose the puppy in a supervised manner with 100 people (and by this point between other puppy families and a few carefully supervised visits by neighborhood kids they will have been exposed to about 40 already, its not that huge a number,100) and 100 animals in the first 6 months of life. Do not go to the park with puppy until it has had ALL three sets of shots. Do not jog with puppy until they are a year old. If you don't like your vet, get a new one! Call me if you have any questions, problems, concerns, or want to tell me how much you adore jr.
Please read the puppy training page!!! There are reasons why I have catered the training tips to English puppies. This is how they think and how they respond. If you are having troubles with you puppy - I am always glad to help with ideas, but I can't help if you don't communicate with me. Puppies do not exert self control unless you show them how. They do not have hands to explore, so they use their mouths. When a littermate gets too frisky they will yelp or growl to get them so stop. It is your job as a puppy family to teach your puppy what is acceptable behavior and how you expect them to compose themselves. Young children should never be left unsupervised with my puppies or anyone else's!! If your puppy is having constant accidents after 4 weeks of training - tightly roll up a newspaper and hit yourself over the head for failing to recognize when puppy needs to go.