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Evaluating Your Litter ~ Part One

Tips and Insights from Top Breeders

Even more fundamental to making useful assessments of your puppies, however, is a three-layered understanding of puppy development—understanding what you’re seeing in terms of general canine conformation and personality traits, in terms of specific traits for your breed, and in terms of nuances within your own bloodline.

Cultivating all this knowledge is an ongoing project, one which you will fine-tune through study, observation of your own puppies, looking at other people’s litters (including litters of other breeds), and comparing notes with other breeders.

Starting points: A few practical strategies
Keeping detailed records on each litter can be a huge help in building information about what you might expect in your breed and bloodline. It will allow you not only to see how one litter stacks up against another, but also to compare how adult dogs that are now “known quantities” looked at various stages of their puppyhood.

The first step is to keep a record of puppy weights at given ages. In addition to providing a baseline of size comparison between litters, tracking weights is crucial to making sure that the pups are growing at a healthy rate. You might wish to also record measurements of height at the withers and body length. Whatever time intervals you choose, be consistent in this regard from litter to litter. For example, you might plan to record every pup’s weight and measurements at birth, weekly through 5 months, and then monthly through 1 year.

While you’re regularly recording this data you can also write down general observations about the litter, such as All puppies are up on their feet this week. Comments about individual puppies, as in Red-ribbon puppy’s body seems long right now, can also be extremely useful for later reference.

As you continue to develop your eye for evaluating puppies, the knowledge that mentors and other experienced dog people can provide in this area is invaluable. *Arliss Paddock

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