Here at CCF, each of our breeding females has one litter per year, some smaller than others. Despite having different mothers, all puppies go through specific stages of life. Here is some insight into the life stages of a Livestock Guarding Dog puppy at CCF.
A dog can have anywhere between one to fourteen puppies, and we find out how many there will be prior to birth through an ultrasound and x-ray. The puppies are born in the kraal, where they will live with their mom for the first several weeks of their lives. After being born, the puppies are weighed and identified by their markings so that we will be able to tell them apart. During their first few days, aside from feeding and changing water for mum, CCF’s LGD team have minimal contact with everyone, as the mums can be very stressed about the puppies or be overprotective of them.
During this week, we focus on making sure that all of the puppies are gaining weight and are healthy. They are weighed every day, and if a puppy weighs less than the others, we assure it receives additional time nursing.
The puppies are introduced to the world! Their eyes begin to open, and their personalities also emerge. The puppies are free to move around and adjust to their surroundings, though they tend to stay in the shelter. They also begin to wear collars around this age, which act as the form of identification.
Though still nursing, the puppies start on solid food. The food is portioned out and adjusted over the next few weeks. They begin with food mashed on a tray from which they all eat. The puppies soon graduate to unmashed soaked food, and eventually are given hard food. During this week, the puppies along with their mom are dewormed.
This is the week of goats! Goats are placed in the kraals with the puppies so that they learn and understand the livestock they will someday protect. The goats are roughly one year old, so they are able to stand their ground against the puppies if they are being rowdy.
During this week, little changes. The puppies continue to live with their mom and the goats and are fed twice per day. A routine deworming also takes place.
This is another mostly stable week. Little changes, and the puppies are vaccinated with DA2PP.
Puppy aptitude tests are completed. During these, puppies are tested against certain factors they will be introduced to in the field. The purpose of these tests is to get a sense of what each puppy might be like once they become a livestock guarding dog and to foresee of any challenges they may face. Another routine deworming also takes place during this week.
This is a big week for the puppies because they are spayed and neutered! These are completed because if a dog is not spayed or neutered, it might roam looking for another dog to mate with, and we need their focus to be on protecting the herd. Additionally, CCF has a reputation to maintain, so we want to assure that farmers do not intentionally breed our dogs.
The puppies receive another routine vaccination and are placed at farms once their incision sites have healed. They are checked on by CCF periodically throughout the rest of their lives, and once they are retired as livestock guarding dogs, become pets.