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Whelping German Shorthaired Pointer Puppies

As breeders of GSPs we are lucky that the early breeders selected out for dames that were good mothers. To this day we have very few problems in whelping puppies compared with many other breeds. Having pups is certainly not difficult so it falls to the breeder to be more concerned with their ability to place the pups they produce in good homes than their ability to put pups on the ground. With that said here are some tips and guidelines on German Shorthair Pups.

From inception to whelp is normally 63 days. The first sign of pregnancy is a widening of the loin at around 4 weeks following the breeding. If you know your German Shorthair you will be able to tell she is pregnant looking down on her loin area weeks before any other telltale sign. It is also not uncommon for her nipples to swell to roughly twice their normal size shortly after even though her tits don’t get any bigger – especially for maidens. Nature made it so she can run and hunt right up till the last two weeks of being in whelp. More than one German Shorthaired Pointer female has fooled their owner for weeks especially if they are in field shape before becoming pregnant.

From that 6th week of pregnancy she will definitely show signs and become larger. But you can expect your bitch will gain huge amounts of weight her last 10days as well as start producing milk some 3-6 days before birth. With rare exception you can expect her to refuse food 12 – 24 hours before whelp. And you can bank on having less than 12 hours to whelp from the time her temperature drops to 97-98 degrees from her normal 99-101 degrees.

In preparation for the day it’s a good idea to give her something to nest before she actually goes into labor. It’s instinctive and if your try to keep her from nesting she will be unduly agitated at a time when you should do everything to make her calm. Give her a quiet, safe place to have her pups. Remember that in nature your German Shorthaired Pointer would dig a den so she would be covered and protected from all but one side.

Your bitch has two horns to her uterus and will tend to whelp pups in pairs. One from one horn then one from the other. If she has an odd number of pups she might have just one, or three to start before settling into her rhythm. When a pup is born she will puncture the sack, eat the placenta and chew the umbilical cord off. Resist the temptation to play doctor and let her take care of things by herself. Cutting umbilical cords and drying puppies is totally unnecessary unless something is seriously wrong with your bitch - in which case you should be at your vet’s.

It is not unusual for pups to be born asleep but they will soon be brought to consciousness by your bitch’s incessant licking. Not only does she clean her pups she gives them the equivalent of CPR with her tongue as well as stimulates their kidneys and bowels - something that will become her regular duty for the first few weeks of your German Shorthaired Puppy’s life. You may be tempted to make sure your puppy gets something to eat immediately. Stay back! Leave things alone!

Your pups are not hungry they just came from the most perfect environment they will ever know and are well nourished. Let your female use her tongue and work her magic on your GSP pups. When they get hungry they will find her nipples. They are like little guided missiles when they are hungry.

The time between pups varies dramatically with different pregnancies. Even the same female won’t give birth in the same length of time each litter. It is not unusual for a bitch to sleep between the birth of pups - normally in pairs. Unless your bitch is older and has worn herself out in labor what you are watching for are signs your bitch is having trouble - agitation, whining especially after the first pup is born. The more agitated your bitch seems the more likely she is in trouble.

While it is rare it is possible that the birth cannel can be blocked by an overly large pup - in which case you need to get her to your vet. It is not unusual for pups to be born breach. Luckily C-Sections are rare in German Shorthairs. As a rule of thumb an hour of restlessness and stress is long enough to wait. The key is not so much the time but the attitude of your girl. Other than the first pup or two with a maiden bitch having pups is not a frightening or stressful experience for a German Shorthair.

Raising German Shorthaired Pups

Although they are normally born between 12 and 24 ounces GSP pups quickly double their body weight and do so every week or so for the first 3 months. If a German Shorthair Puppy is going to be roan or white as an adult that portion of their coat is born white. All areas that will be patched are solid at birth. The hair in the patched area is shorter than the white hairs on the rest of the pup, especially at birth. If a puppy is going to be dark roan you can often tell by slowly moving your thumb against the grain of its coat so as to make the long white hair bend backwards. Looking at the color close to the skin will show you if the hair will soon shed darker. Another way to tell a pup that will be roan is they will get “dirty” feet at 3-7 days. What you are seeing is the darker hair starting to come in.

Obviously German Shorthaired Pointer Puppies eyes are closed and they are unable to stand. But they have nice hook shaped claws that allow them to pull themselves around with ease. If a pup is not strong enough to hold on to the nipple it will likely be pushed off by its littermates as they squirm and “swim” to find an open nipple. It is in the first 3 days that most pups that are born with something wrong with them fail to sustain themselves. Not every pup that is born is healthy.

Old breeders knew that to save a pup was to fool with Mother Nature. On rare occasions a mother will actually isolate a single pup and refuse to feed it – knowing that something isn’t right with the pup. While most German Shorthair Pups are warm and active some are born unable to keep their body temperature warm enough to survive. A pup that is genetically poor will likely feel cold to the touch shortly after birth and stay that way until they die. Even attempts to elevate their body temperature won’t help. There is simply something wrong with their body functions.

If you do have a pup that dies leave it with the bitch until she stops trying to take care of it – which could be days. And even then only take it from her when she doesn’t see you do it. You don’t want to get her fretting over a missing pup. One of the most difficult things on a bitch is to have only one puppy that dies. We know of other breeders that have had bitches that have never been the same mentally.

German Shorthair bitches are great mothers. They are attentive and nurturing by nature. Even first time moms while nervous and anxious in the very beginning will settle right down to lavishing care on their brood after they have consumed a few placentas and have a couple of pups nursing. It’s all about the “love” chemical oxytocin being produced by these activates. A female that has had a C- Section will sometimes be slow to produce milk and on the uptake of being a mom for this reason.

When your pups are 3 days old it is time to attend to the docking of tails and dew claws. German Shorthaired Pointers have thick tales that before it was common to dock tales would constantly be emaciated on the end whipping around in the woods. While it is possible for a dog to tear its dew claw off on a hunt it is unlikely – coon dogs regularly live their life with dew claws without befalling injury. But the fact is that leaving dew claws on a dog makes them more of a problem to live with because dews claws are made to rip and tear at whatever the dog has its paws on – including us, our children, guests, the neighbors and the furniture. Dew claws are a great thing for a wild dog to have.

When it comes to the question of: How long do I leave my German Shorthaired Pointer Puppy’s tail? The old standard called for leaving 40% of the tail on the pup but recent trends are to leave more and more tail. A dog uses its tail for balance on land and as a rudder while swimming which is why the Germans regularly leave 66% of the tail on their dogs today. Personally we feel that’s just a tad too much. To our eye a German Shorthair looks balanced when the length of the underside of their tail ends up being the same length as the top of their hock joint to the ground. To reach that balance we leave 60% of the tail on the pup.

While animal rights types think it cruel to dock tails we can assure you that it is not that painful. In fact it is not unusual for pups to fall asleep in the middle of the procedure if you know how to handle them. It amounts to a moments worth of pain exchanged for a lifetime of less pain. It’s while docking tails that you can get the first good gauge of the relative amount of bone a pup will have as an adult. If a pup has a very thick tail we will dock it a joint or two shorter and if it has a very thin tail we will dock it a joint or two longer. Not much but those slight differences will look better on the dog as an adult.

Be sure to keep mother isolated from the sight or the sound of docking tails and dew claws. We suggest that you first remove her – maybe to a crate in a vehicle outside the garage – so that she doesn’t see you gather the pups up or put them back in her box. After you are finished docking tails or bring them home from the Vet put the pups in the whelping box before you let her back inside. Let her discover them don’t bring them to her. She will notice all the strange smells on them and give them a good licking before letting them nurse. At this time she wants nothing more than for all of her pups to be right there with her - refrain from over handling the pups at this age.

Raising Healthy German Shorthair Pups

You can expect your Shorthair Puppy’s eyes to stay closed for 10-14 days. When they open slowly from the inside corner their eyes will be blueish gray and not be fully functioning. For the first week their eyes are open they can’t focus clearly on objects let alone movement. What is funny is that they will often bark at things you can tell they can’t really make out. Their voice comes as a big surprise to them as well as you. It is in the third week of life that they start to notice their littermates. Still wobbly in their walking they will often put a paw up to reach and touch a littermate as if to say “Hello, what are you?”

Born with a body temperature of 97 – 98 degrees your pups should have a body temperature of 100 degrees by week four. Their internal functioning is now working properly and mother attention to urination and defecation is needed less and less. In nature the pups won’t venture from the den until their 4th or 5th week. By now they can see perfectly, walk great and skip-run some. They are mobile and inquisitive – time to see the world. This is when your best socialization skills should be brought to bare. It is a great time to introduce the pups to children. We have found that with small children it works best to make them sit while holding a puppy. Their quick motions and loud noises are good for the pups as long as the pup doesn’t get hurt. All things equal German Shorthaired Puppies raised around children are bolder than those that aren’t.

It is week 5 that German Shorthair Pups start being pups like we see them in a Walt Disney world. The litter will not only sleep in a pile but pack around together – especially when they find themselves in unfamiliar territory. They very much depend upon each other and pay attention to each other’s reactions to outside stimuli. It is the 5th week that you can start to see subtle differences between pups. The more independent ones will be the first to venture off and the more dominant ones will be the one that finishes the fights they get into.

Don’t get all hung up about one observation there is a huge difference in the maturity of a pup in the matter of days. A pup that is a day or two behind the others in mental maturity might appear to be less independent or dominant than it’s littermates on any given day. This is why we don’t place much emphasis on firsts. First to get out of the whelping box, first to drink water from a bowl, first to venture away from the rest of the litter are all nice observations but can tell you nothing more than a pup found itself in an unusual circumstance or that they are a couple of days more mentally mature than their litter. Place more emphasis on a body of observation over weeks.

There is one week in the life of an individual German Shorthaired Pointer Puppy that can skew things – the transition to solid food. Some pups take quickly to solid food. They digest it well and start growing rapidly. Others either don’t like the taste or don’t seem to digest solid food well at first. You can help this along by giving each puppy a teaspoon of Greek Yogurt or some other source of probiotics but sometimes a pup just won’t do well that week. We have seen pups go into that week being one of the largest and come out of that week toward the bottom in size. If a pup isn’t digesting food well their littermates will leave them in the dust on body weight gain. Remember they are doubling their body weight every couple of weeks so a week of little growth can mean a lot.

While mom has done a great job of keeping the litter box clean by eating all the feces and licking up what urine she can you can expect this to stop the instant you feed your pups something else. On a normal healthy litter you can start the weaning process sometime in the 4th week. Your pups should be healthy and strong before you start. And always worm them before you start – the first part of the 4th week is a good time. All pups are born with roundworms. Yes even your bitch who has been regularly wormed her whole life will produce wormy pups. You need to do your first round of worming before you change your pups diet.

One of the major mistakes of first time breeders is to not understand that their pups are born with worms and that if left unwormed they will be full of worms by the 8th week of life. In fact our idea of a fat bellied puppy shows us how common round worms are in pups. No puppy should have a fat belly. If do they are they are full of round worms.

Start at the beginning of the 4th week worm your pups every 14 days for the rest of the time you have them and instruct their new owners that they need to continue the battle for the first six months of a puppy’s life. Then put their dog on a regular monthly worming schedule. Remember these are field dogs that can quickly eat scat or a rodent or lick their feet after walking in animal dung when they are off your property. If you have a real bird dog you have an ongoing worm problem that needs to be managed for your dog’s own good.

Worming German Shorthair Pups

The week of weaning is one of the most difficult weeks for first time breeders. Weaning is a dance that only experience allows you to get better and better at. The object is to get the pups off of mother as quickly as possible and get her dried up just as quick. On the one hand you have pups that have to get used to solid food. Couple this with the fact that mother is at the height of milk production when you start the process. Yet she needs to be dried up quickly if you want her to draw back up nicely after her pregnancy.

To help with the task it is best to feed your pups gruel made from water soaked food. The highest quality food you can afford to buy is best – we are not fans of puppy food. German Shorthairs are slow growing animals and don’t need the extra minerals found in Puppy Food. Just poor water over the top of high quality dog food in a bowl and let it stand. Do NOT put cow’s milk on the food. Puppies can’t digest cow’s milk. If for some reason you feel you must use milk buy Goats Milk in the can and add a little to flavor the gruel. Another additive that can prove useful is Gerber Rice Cereal made for babies. It is high in protein and highly digestible. But the most important thing for your German Shorthair Puppies is to keep the consistency of their gruel near liquid. Warm is nice the first few times but not necessary.

The first time you put gruel in front of them they are likely to walk in it rather than eat it. Therefore, it often helps to stick each puppy’s muzzle into the gruel. When they lick the liquid off of their muzzle they will get the idea quickly. Puppies are likely more dehydrated than hungry. Even though she is producing more milk than she was weeks ago mother is likely having a more difficult time keeping up with the needs of the litter so they become dehydrated. This is why it is not a good idea to introduce them to water before you introduce them to gruel.

They will soon come running when they see you with the food bowl. Over a week to 10 days you should have made the transition from them eating only gruel to watered-down food then to solid food and drinking from their water bowl. During this time you should allow mother to nurse them less and less. A morning and evening feeding is enough - then only an evening feeding then none at all. The only time we break this is if the female gets too full of milk. You don’t want milk to gorge her breasts. Understand that to help mother shut down her production of milk you need to limit her food intake as well as her intake of water during this week. It’s a back and forth dance that gets easier with experience.

So by the time your pups are 5 weeks to 5 ˝ weeks old they are fully weaned and just in time because they now have a full set of needle sharp teeth. Trust us most females would have started weaning them soon enough on their own. It is best to not allow her around the pups for a couple of weeks or so. You want her to dry up completely as quickly as possible and any nursing she allows only stimulates her to produce more milk. Some mothers will sharply rebuke any attempts at nursing and others will let pups attempt to nurse even after they are dried up.

So now you have pups that are six weeks old, completely weaned and free of worms. They are full of life and very playful. This is the idealic time in a puppy’s life. It’s the time of many of the drawings and paintings of puppies we all love so much. Enjoy it doesn’t last that long! It is so much fun watching Shorthair Puppies figure things out. Toward that end you need to give them a rich environment to grow up in. We have found obstacle courses to play on, various objects to carry around and few inches of standing water to get in and out of all work well. And don’t forget to worm them again.

At six weeks a puppy only has two fears - the fear of falling and the fear of loud noises. Because of their fear of falling an adult dog will rarely fall into something like a well or over a cliff so it is best for this fear to be left in place. However, anything you can do to help your GSP Pups get over their fear of loud noises is a good thing. So be noisy in everything you do. Having said that make certain that if you have pups around the 4th of July to isolate them as much as possible from all of the pyrotechnics – especially the neighbor kids.

Obviously you should vaccinate your German Shorthair Puppies before they leave your kennel. There is a good deal of debate as to which vaccine is best and what schedule to use to vaccinate pups and we have known successful breeders who use very different methods. The key to understanding puppy vaccinations is to understand that unless you have done a Titers Test on each of your pups you don’t know if they have been successfully vaccinated or not.

What new breeders often don’t realize is that if a puppy still has mother’s immunities any vaccination we give them is fought off by its mother’s immunities and the pup builds no immunities of its own. It would be nice if mother’s immunities would wear off at the same time in all pups but that’s not the way it happens. While there are differences within breeds there are also differences between litters and between pups in the same litter. So as a breeder the best you can do is vaccinate them on a schedule that will give them the best chance of building Titers while they are in your care.

Most breeders seem to agree that a 3 week schedule is good - the first vaccination at 6 weeks, the second at 9 weeks and the third at 12 weeks if you still have the puppy. You should also communicate to the new owner that they should follow a similar schedule until the pup is at least 18 weeks of age. Too often customers assume that if their pup has been vaccinated by you they have immunities. And unfortunately this is not always true - through no fault of yours. Again only a Titers Test can tell for sure.

GSPs have webbed feet and thick nails. So, we recommend first cutting their font nails when they are 3 weeks old. At this point they don’t need the hook on their front feet to pull themselves along. They can get to their favorite nipple using only their back feet just fine. By cutting the hooks off of their front nails you are preparing for them to start to stand as well as making it easier on your bitch because if they haven’t already all the scratching from the puppies sharp hooked nails are irritating her tits. We cut their back nails the day we start weaning as they will spend all their time standing to eat. Then we cut nails as needed – often every other week for the rest of the time we have them. We want them to be able to stand on their toes without their nails touching the ground.

Selecting German Shorthaired Pointer Puppies

Eye color is something you can easily evaluate. Unless your pups have black hair – in which case they have very dark eyes already – it is time that you can easily see the dark outer circle in the iris of the eye of a German Shorthaired Puppy that will have dark eyes as an adult. While dark eyes may not help a GSP be a better hunter it gives them a much more pleasing appearance and has been bred for over generations. Who wants to look into the cold stare of a dog with bird of prey eyes?

A pup with proper shoulder lay looks like it has a longer neck than its littermates and that is it leaning forward more than its littermates. Proper shoulder confirmation makes it much easier for a dog to run. With their shoulder blade and forearm forming a right angle (instead of being straight) they have a natural shock absorber and are much more coordinated. Look for the pup who’s front feet are well underneath it when it stands – especially when it is striking a pose. Video is very valuable in accessing this especially if you can film from a low position. We have found it easier to video pups playing on a deck than trying to get down on the ground with them – they all want to come lick the camera and your face. Video taken looking down on pups is virtually worthless in evaluating conformation.

Other than that most of the things you should select for are a matter of personality. Some pups are more naturally busy than others and this will often be more their personality when they grow up. Some are more timid and cautious but don’t be fooled into thinking that this is always an inferior pup. It may be your most intelligent pup. Especially if it is one that watches and figures things out before jumping in rather than runs and hides when something new is presented. It is this kind of a brain that makes German Shorthaired Pointer Puppies grow up to be wonderful companion animals. That wonderful combination of calmness in and around the house coupled with incredible drive and desire in the field.

Most successful breeders have developed tests they rely on having to do with new situations and things. Is a pup inquisitive about new noises or do they simply head for the hills? Does motion attract their attention and garner their interest? Will they chase a slow rolling ball or pay no attention to it? Do they pick up objects? Do they parade with them or slide off by themselves? All of these and more are observations you can make to determine a pup’s relative personality. Only experience will allow you to make relative judgments of pups across many litters. As a breeder this is one of your most important responsibilities to your clients. While color and confirmation is important to a new owner ultimately it is the personality of the grown dog that will determine if it is a good fit or not.

Too many breeders let their German Shorthaired Pups go too early. There has been much written about the 49th day as being the best day for the new owner to start socialization of their pup. We will say that if the new owner comes to your kennel picks up the pup and will be with the pup 24/7 for the next few weeks this can work out fine. But in a world where pups are put on airlines and ship around the world the 49th day is too early. We let our litters stay together until they start serious scrapping in the litter. At this point they are ready to find a new pack to become part of. Most airlines won’t let you ship a pup under 9 weeks of age and we often don’t ship till they are 12 weeks of age.

So if your pups will fly to meet their new families you should crate break them before they fly. If they feel that a crate is a safe place to sleep before they are put on an airplane they will likely go to sleep when they are in the hold of the plane. It is entirely possible to ship puppies without causing excess stress. The key is in having them sleep at least 3 nights in their crate by themselves before they are shipped. And yes that first night can be very loud. We put each pup in the crate they will eventually be shipped in on the floor. Then we lie down on the floor where they can see us and go to sleep. We never give in to their pleas to be released.

There is no need to tranquilize a pup that has been crate broke before it is shipped. The odds are that it will enjoy the flight. Many times we have received calls from clients that have just picked up their German Shorthair Puppy and are amazed it is so calm and relaxed. Ready however to plant some big kisses on the face of the person who lets them out of their crate. It is not unusual at all for a pup to lie calmly in the arms of someone on its way from the airport to its new home. The result is a happy pup and a happy family.

And therein lies the main satisfaction is raising German Shorthaired Pointer Puppies.