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Samson was 5 pounds at 5 weeks. Now he‘s close to 200. Photo by Author

You have a huge dog and you think she’s pregnant. Now what?

Today our Caucasian Ovcharka dam Natasha went to the animal hospital for her ultrasound. Twenty days ago, she was bred using Artificial Insemination. Even though Natasha is a big boned dog weighing about 140 pounds, our sire Fenrir is much larger. AI prevents injury to the dam.

A large dog’s pregnancy mimics human pregnancy. For example, we have already started Natasha on prenatal vitamins. Sound familiar?

The ultrasound makes sure there actually are puppies and that they are healthy and viable. We’d also like to know how many puppies there are, because these purebred pups will be sold 8 weeks after they are born. They have to be healthy, have first shots and sometimes travel documents.

While I am writing this, I get a call from the hospital letting me know they captured 6 puppy images on film and believe there are a few more. This makes sense since last time Natasha had 9 viable pups.

First image of pups. Photo by Cindy Pratt.

The gestation period for dogs is 3 months, 3 weeks and 3 days. After the ultrasound, we will know almost exactly when the pups will be born.

The Sire? Fenrir has done his job and has no interest in his mate or the babies. He doesn’t go to the ultrasound, even though he enjoys the attention he gets at the AI center. Most pet owners have never seen a dog that large.

If all is fine with Natasha, my husband constructs her birthing enclosure, commonly referred to as a whelping pen. He makes sure it has a high door so that only the dam can get in and out. The pen is built inside the house, as it is important to socialize the pups from the very beginning.

Pups in whelping pen. Photo by Author.

Puppies are born weighing about one pound each. At 3 weeks their bright blue eyes are open. At this point, the whelping pen is too small as they have tripled in size. It is time for pups to go out into the barn in a heated room we call the puppy play place. My husband built the playground with ramps and alcoves and filled the area with toys.

There the pups are started on solid food mixed with milk replacement as Natasha can no longer satisfy them. The begin to grow astronomically.

Now, who gets a puppy? A couple have been reserved since last year. But we still have some to place. We look through our puppy applications and start making phone calls. Sometimes prospective owners text or call us.

I love puppy dogs, so it’s bittersweet to see them go. I have so much fun putting them into laundry baskets and taking them to Tractor Supply, the grocery store — any place that lets us. If it is summer, we build a puppy run on our front lawn and set up beach chairs to watch them play.

Pretty soon, these smart little dogs figure out how to climb the puppy yard fence, so we just start letting them out and keep track of them. Their favorite hiding spot is under the deck behind our flower garden It is very exciting when someone comes to pick up their 8 week old pup which by now weighs about 35 pounds and resembles a fluffy teddy bear.

We don’t realize how much work it was until the pups are gone and we have to dismantle everything. Natasha is a great mother but this is her last litter as we only breed a dam three times. Now she’s on vacation for the rest of her life.

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