As I write this week’s column, it is 10.30pm and I am at home, sitting at the side of our welping box as Blossom, our Chocolate Labrador (you may remember her as the Daffodil eater) has her pups. At present, we have 3 male puppies and 1 bitch.
This is now her second litter. The first litter was nearly 12 months ago and she had an enormous litter of 9 pups. The 9 pups was a lot for her to cope with and we had to wean them early as 9 greedy Labrador puppies were more than she could easily cope with.
Scanning for exact numbers is very difficult but I think I might have seen 7 puppies this time round which would be a great number.
We always try to select the father of our litters very carefully. Hip dysplasia can be a real problem in Labradors and there is a screening scheme run by the BVA and Kennel Club to encourage selective breeding in order to reduce the prevalence of Hip Dysplasia. Breeding dogs’ hips are X-rayed and the images are scored with points being added for faults in the conformation. Blossom has a hip score of 0 which is very unusual. For this litter, we have found a field-trial winning dog who also has a hip score of 0 so we are hoping for some lovely pups.
We have also had DNA testing done on Blossom to try to predict the coat colour of the puppies. Labrador coat colour inheritance is quite complex but, despite mating a Chocolate bitch with a Fox Red dog, we had predicted that all the puppies from this litter would be black and at this point in the birth process, the science is holding up!
Bitches are typically pregnant for about 63 days but Blossom whelped a few days early last time and has followed the same pattern this time. This morning, she looked anxious and was panting. While I was at work, my wife and son kept watch and at just after 6pm, I received a text to confirm that the first pup had arrived. They have come at a rate of about 1 puppy per hour since then so it looks as though I am in for a long night. It is fascinating to see how gentle Blossom is when cleaning the puppies. The mothering instinct is so strong that they just seem to know what to do. The puppies also have amazing instincts and (despite being completely blind) within 10 minutes of being born are navigating towards the teat for their first feed. Every little chirp and cry prompts a response from the anxious mum.
As a puppy maneuvers into place in the birth canal, Blossom paces around for a couple of minutes then gets back into the whelping box and after a couple of pushes, another puppy appears. I need to clear the membranes from around the face and rub the puppy to stimulate it to breath then detach the umbilical cord. As I am writing, Blossom is up and pacing so I suspect we are about to have some activity. It really doesn’t matter how many times you see it, there is an enormous thrill every time a new life enters the world.
Better put down my Ipad…. She has started to push again.
1.45 am and an update…… 3 bitches, 5 dogs and all doing really well (nearly got it right with the numbers on scan!)