This is lengthy but interesting reading. Grab a coffee or a glass of wine. Sharers are carers!
(yes it’s definitely a lot longer than what I originally intended. But there’s so much information in my head! What if I die tomorrow? Better I start writing it down…..)
For some social media: check here: A better pwd worldly group
and the back up group on mewe: PWD’s on Mewe
I’ve tried to fill this with the long process of what is involved in having a litter. There are good times. But. Word of warning, you may have already gathered that sometimes I come across as a bit terse. Through this page I’m going to give you some actual anecdotes and you’ll definitely going to say “she’s only terse? She should be crazy with all this!” That’s the feedback I’m already getting. hahahaha. There’s a reason why the vast majority of people only even attempt breeding once.
So let’s go (there’s pics further down):
One of the aspects people are quite mindful of are how are puppies raised as a breeder.
The vast majority of people think that raising puppies is all about puppy breath and joy and that every breeder is waiting beside their phone 24/7 for them to call and chat about wonderful puppies.
If that’s you. Stop it. Let me explain in great depth:
Firstly, I am a registered breeder and my home and property are not just regularly visited by people wanting to view my dogs, but I am inspected annually by my local council, where I have to meet a significant list of requirements which I easily do, and have been inspected by Dogs Victoria and told “excellent”, as well as various other Authorities. Actually it has come to the point where so many people want to see what I do, that I need to restrict access. Otherwise I would literally spend all day every day meeting with people who want to talk about dogs and that doesn’t pay the bills.
(Tip: if we have agreed I can supply you a pup, please don’t then tell your friend that they should then visit me to check out your pup. Yes this has happened. We are not a tiger farm! – you know what I’m talking about!)
I have been involved with Portuguese Water Dogs for well over 20 years, having had the first litter in this country in the 90’s. I have imported several dogs from around the world. Some of these have been stunning successes, and others have been disappointing and not bred from. I’ve only continued with the success stories.
I have pretty much stopped showing dogs now after spending endless weekends and vast amounts of money getting to dog shows. I think 10 years in the show ring showing often twice a week is enough.
My preference now, as you would have seen on this site is to live a far more active life, and I compete regularly in Ironman events, which I’m not very good at, and they take me at least 15 hours, but I get them done. I also find the triathlon community incredibly supportive and encouraging not something I found in showing dogs, to be blunt. That doesn’t mean that there aren’t some lovely people doing it, but it’s far more complicated than that. FWIW, horse people tell me it’s far worse there!
In 2007 I found an empty large 68 acre paddock a couple of hours north of Melbourne, and knew this would be where I would move my dogs to. It took 10 years to establish, but this is now the home of Bluegrace. This property is beautiful, except during a hot dry summer!
In any case, I have continued when I could to breed beautiful dogs with the aim to keep the strong working ethic in the breed, diversity of blood lines, correct conformation, and sound health.
I’ve made plenty of mistakes along the way, but continue in my quest. I have no doubt I will continue to make mistakes as unintentional as they are. But it is what it is.
I’m definitely not everyone’s cup of tea, nor aim to be. I’m pretty straight talking. I get annoyed when it’s clear people can’t help but treat me as “a dumb dog breeder” (I have 2 degrees inc a Masters, not that this should matter at all). Or when people trying to emotionally blackmail me to get a pup. I’m just not doing that.
If you want the perfect dog and the perfect breeder you need to look elsewhere. There are plenty of people around advertising themselves as such.
Breeding & litters
One of my mentors told me that you should know 5 years ahead what breedings you’re going to do. This means: look at a puppy, who are you going to breed its grandchildren to? Yes you need to think that far in advance. The added complication in Australia is extremely limited bloodlines, and the tiny number of people actually prepared to import new lines. Each week it seems there’s someone new who wants to get into the breed, but not able to afford the vast expense of importing. We need more people to import dogs. It can’t be just left to 2-3 of us to carry the enormous financial burden and risk.
I have a comprehensive program for how puppies are raised. There are milestones I am looking for, and issue identification. Interestingly there is a consistency of the milestone achievement between litters, and I’ll detail some of these below.
I get a lot of interest all year around for puppies. I’ll be blunt, if you text me at 9pm on a Saturday night to ask about the price of a pup, I will 100% block your number. All the information is readily available on the website.
I get a lot of people saying “I’m really interested in this breed, and really want a pup in 2-3 years’ time. Can you keep me updated?” Sure I can – check out this web page frequently, and also join us on social media. You can also see what other people are doing and get as best informed as possible as to your decision making process. And we all know that things can change a lot in 2-3 years’ time.
check here: A better pwd worldly group
and the back up group on mewe: PWD’s on Mewe
We want people to visit us. We want you to meet the parents, the grand parents, the aunties and uncles of the pups. The great aunties even! We want you to get into the thick of it. There’s a questionnaire about half way down the front page of this site which you will need to answer first. Sending a quick email asking to visit won’t cut the mustard. Also, a small number of people want me to sell the attributes of the breed to them, and convince them the breed is right for them. Well there’s an immense amount of info about all breeds on the internet. Some is actually correct. Some is plain wrong. However you should have the critical thinking skills to work most of this out. But I won’t “sell” you the attributes of the breed. I need you to tell me how this is going to work.
Unfortunately it’s not uncommon for a conversation to start with “My children have got their heart set on this breed…..” That folks, is an attempt at emotional blackmail. I am definitely a sucker for kids. I love kids. However, don’t bring your children into it. We are trying to have an adult conversation. And you should already know that kids are not great at making adult decisions. I would suggest that 100% of people that say that to me are going to have the most difficulty with a pup, and the greatest chance of failure with their unrealistic expectations. I am unwilling to put a pup into that situation. And if you tell me your 10 year old gifted child is going to be responsible for the pup, then you’re going to get “the look”. Quickly followed by the “this ain’t going to work mate” discussion, from which you will quickly attempt to backpedal.
If you present as one of the more challenging scenarios for me to place a pup into, you need to be proactive in telling me the strategies you’ve got in place to make this work.
I want you to set yourself up for success.
Neither you nor I want to be in a situation where you are on the phone to me daily not just pointing out all the issues you have, but not being willing to put the strategies in place to fix things. Yes this has happened.
Real example: I have actually had someone tell me “I know what you said is right to reduce my dog’s separation anxiety, but I’m just not prepared to do that. But I want him to stop behaving like that.” The dog ending up being a screaming mess (not kidding) when separated from the owner and she was left literally housebound being by his side. If you aren’t prepared to change your own behaviour to fix an issue with your dog, then no amount of private training intervention will help you. Note: this owner has not sought that either.
Ok, so in conclusion from this section: There is an enormous amount of work that has gone into what I do. Tens of thousands of hours. Most people realise that they also need to put a few hours of research into getting a dog too. I am risk adverse. If I get a whiff that this may not work, I won’t place a dog with you at this point. This doesn’t mean I won’t do it later. I just won’t do it now. You may also find another breeder is better suited to you, and has different temperaments in their dogs. This has happened before. You might feel a little miffed by me declining you, but I am really concerned about protecting a vulnerable pup and a person who may not be making the best decision at this time.
I did have someone once say “I know if I offer you enough money you’ll sell me a pup!” Mate, I declined to sell one to the Obamas (didn’t need that level of attention thanks), so I’ve definitely got no issue not selling to you. The pup is the most important thing here.
All that being said, if you are a reasonable, happy, funny, comfortable, likeable person who I think I can have a long term relationship with, without drama, and you tick all/most of the boxes, then I would love to meet with you.
And then we get to what is the most stressful part of my life, the birthing process:
The days before puppies are born:
Despite everyone’s best effort, it’s just a guess exactly which day, let alone time of the day, that the pups will arrive. Now I know a lot of people think that having pups is awesome and a must see event, but the reality is very different. It is a time that you put what is probably your favourite dog at risk of death, and even with all my experience, death of puppies is a stark reality.
There used to be a thought process, “Oh I really want my kids to experience the miracle of life!” Well ya know, that most likely will also be the miracle of death, and do you actually want to traumatise your kids? I think not. Luckily I think in only 25 years has someone asked for their kids to be present at the birth of the pups. Yeah no mate, that’s not going to happen. Not only would that mean that lucky me gets to manage your kids at 2am in the morning through to maybe 4pm in the afternoon, but I also actually need to manage the dam and her pups. Would you want me to take your kids to an emergency c-section? I think not. Oh, you only want me to show your kids the good bits? Oh, we’re not on the same page are we? To be frank, anyone who expects me to have their kids at the whelping process are naive and selfish, and this is not a family I will sell a puppy to.
The process of giving birth is known as “whelping”. And whelping for me is an event I hate. It is the most stressful thing I do. It is likely that for 3 weeks I will have minimal sleep, and often characterized by nights where at most I might get 40 mins of sleep at a time. Pro tip: if a breeder is about to whelp a litter, or has just whelped a litter, don’t phone or text them, especially if you want to tell them how excited you are. If that breeder, like me, is surviving on sleep rations, you will quickly find yourself removed from any waiting list and more than likely blocked on their phone. No second chances. This will be even worse if there are issues with the whelping or with the surviving puppies.
What sort of issues I hear you ask? Well let’s talk about c-sections. The price of these starts from about $4000. And you want to hope that your actual vet is going to be available to do it. If a large pup gets a shoulder stuck, then it’s c-section time. Sometimes, you can’t even see if the bitch is having contractions, but a black/green smelly fluid will appear and no puppy. You wait. And wait. And wait. Then you call your vet and give them a head’s up. And then you wait and try a few tricks to see if you can get things sorted without the need for the big C. Finally you make the call that you need vet help.
In the shortest possible time you’re about to spend thousands of dollars, and hope your girl and her puppies are ok.
Sometimes they are not. Sometimes the bitch miscarries and still needs a c-section, and you’ve just lost all the puppies and you then have to make the dreaded phone calls informing all your prospective owners of the terrible news. This is worse if this was the bitch’s last litter and you were hoping to keep a pup to carry on that breeding line.
And you know, oh you know, that by breeding your bitch, you put her and the entire litter at risk. What does this mean? It means, when you breed a girl, often your favourite, to supply a future generation for you and to make some families very happy, you are putting her at risk of death and that of the whole litter. And this happens to breeders more often than you think. We don’t often share our failures. Our heartbreaks. And while most potential puppy buyers are thinking of the future perhaps running through a flowery meadow with their new puppy, we’re sitting here wondering if we’ve done the right thing. It may well be 1.30am in the morning and you’ve got a dying puppy in your hand, wondering if you can wake up a vet to come and help you.
And if you breed long enough you will have at least one disastrous outcome. Ask me how I know.
Many breeders have reached a point where they won’t even advertise they have puppies available until they are safely at 4 weeks (ready to go at 12 weeks which is the most responsible thing to do). I am almost at this stage. The more you call and contact a breeder, the more pressure you put on them.
If all goes according to plan, your bitch will have her puppies without much intervention, just you keeping a careful eye on proceedings, making sure she doesn’t accidentally crush a pup as she turns around to have another. Very unusually, that might happen in daylight hours! You might give her some special calcium you got from the vet, under the skin, to help with contractions and hormones.
There are big decisions even prior to this regarding whelping box design and surfaces used. For many years I used straw. It’s super absorbent, warm, and cheap. It’s also super messy. After discovering a higher mortality rate when using towels, blankets, and the like, I decided to move back to straw. Under the straw, I use multiple layers, which consist of wood, cardboard, puppy pads, and fake grass carpet which provides a leverage point upon which pups can use, and hence helps develop their rear legs in particular. I don’t want my pups slipping on surfaces at any time. (that’s the reason I don’t use newspaper.)
The pups are often tiny. As small as a mouse even. If I’m not too sleep deprived and my phone is charged, I might text you a pic (during daylight hours). Sometimes there’s a big disparity in the size of the pups. Often the last pup is smaller, and has initial breathing difficulties. All these challenges and more need to be dealt with. Usually on minimal sleep.
People ask me “how hard is an ironman (3.8km swim, 180km bike, 42.2km run – all in one day)?” Well not as difficult or as tiring as a difficult litter. (also not as difficult as raising a teenager).
The first few days
This is when you literally have your eyeballs popping out of your head, and you’re not in the mood to talk much to people. Your first and only priority is the safety and well being of your dogs. I might zip off a quick pic to some of the people waiting for a pup. If it’s touch and go, and I’ve got issues with the dogs then that’s even less of a priority.
It can feel a bit like you’re drowning at sea and someone wants to chat to you about the weather. You might not get a great response. It’s all about prioritising.
What I’m really interested in is making sure that every puppy is sound at this point. Sometimes puppies are not well. Sometimes puppies get sick and die. Sometimes the mum is not doing well. Luckily I have never had the mum die. Many other breeders have. I’ll have more calcium on hand to pop under the skin to help with contractions and hormones (I will not use oxytocin).
A super small pup might not be able to compete for a feed. Or worse, no milk has come down yet and you’ve got 8 screaming pups. And when I say screaming I mean exactly that. I’ve got formula on hand (you need 2 types, for for the first 3 days, and another for older), and I will tube feed that into each pups in small amounts starting with 1ml.
Tube feeding is a very important skill where you really need to know what you’re doing. But you can quickly hydrate a litter and get them settled. You might need to tube feed a pup for 2 weeks if you’ve got 2-3 huge pups in the litter who dominate the milk bar. Some breeders will bottle feed. This is an enormous workload. It can take 15 mins to bottle feed a puppy. So by the time you finish all the pups it’s time to start again. I find the far less risky approach is tube feeding. Your vet can show you how.
I’d like to say it’s all about balance. It’s not. At this point, depending on difficulties, it can be simply hideous with the amount of stress and sleep at an inverse.
Eventually you do see the light of day. (Although the very first litter I had – not Portuguese Water Dogs – I lost all the pups over a period of 8 weeks due to some absolutely dreadful vet advice from the start which resulted in all pups suffering from oxygen loss & associated issues – that event has scarred me for life. Not kidding.)
I’m just trying to give you an insight on why it’s not a good idea in these few days to ring and text and say how excited you are, particularly waking up the breeder. And you never know when they might be able to catch some sleep. Best that before the whelping that you ask them when is the best time to contact. I’ve had people contact me so late at night to talk about their excitement that this has resulted in me getting no sleep that night. That never ends well.
Almost every hour of every day the puppies and mum are checked. And checking pups and sorting issues might take an hour or longer. At 2am. We need to know everyone is getting enough to eat/drink, and that progress is being made. Things like mastitis can be an issue. That’s not just an issue – it’s a nightmare to deal with.
I’m actively looking for issues where I need to intervene. eg: if a pup is tiny, I might start tube feeding it at 4-6 hours old to make sure it’s getting some nutrition. And then over the ensuing days and nights I have to monitor closely and intervene more if the pup/s need it.
Also mums can have accidents. And pups can be crushed. This is always heartbreaking. And is not uncommon. In nature, it would be very unusual for 8 pups to survive. The reason why nature gives dogs large litters is because of the expectation that pups will die. Nature is cruel.
Many breeders, including me, are loathe to take deposits because nothing is final until the pups are stable and past the “danger period”. And even then, disasters can happen. It may not be until 2-3 weeks of age that the pup has a congenital defect from which they cannot recover. However, better we find that out now, rather than after the pup has arrived at its new home.
For these first few days it can be almost impossible to get the mums out to toilet and eat. Normally this means picking them up (they are so heavy!) and getting them outside. They never want to go outside to start with. Because most of my dogs are mad ball retrievers, I can usually help the process by throwing them a couple of balls.
Then it’s back to the whelping box, re-arranging the pups, making sure everyone is settled and back to the never ending amount of cleaning which you never seem to be on top off, crossing your fingers that no one dies whilst you’re trying to catch up on sleep.
10 days old
By this stage the pups are starting to get nice and round, hopefully. They are more agile around the whelping box. They don’t appear to need to feed 24/7 and will often have naps by themselves or with another one or 2 puppies. The mums are much easier to get out of the whelping box. Some of my girls will bring tennis balls back to the whelping box and it’s not unusual to find 5 or 6 scattered around.
The mum is eating a huge amount of food. A standard meal will consist of one quarter of fresh chicken (bone included of course), plus a piece of meat the size of the palm of my hand. Sometimes more. If the mum won’t eat what I think is enough bone, I will supplement with calcium tablets. At this point, you’re still being very wary of eclampsia, which can be fatal.
14 days old
Around this time the pups have started to hear, and their eyes are opening.
It’s really important to me at this point that I’m checking that all pups can both hear and see. Whilst seeing and hearing problems are very rare in this breed, we won’t be the breeder who accidentally sells someone a deaf or blind puppy. These issues are pretty rare in the Portuguese Water Dog, but they do exist. This is probably a good point to remind everyone that there are 10000 health issues a dog can have. In most breeds, we’re lucky to have 3-5 tests available. It’s even more complex in cross breeds where the tests don’t exist. I am more than happy to tell you about which problems we’ve had in our lines (everyone has problems, no one has a magic genetic wand), and how we’ve managed them. Despite all the best wishes, intentions, and health checks, problems (but more frequently accidents) may pop up – which is why it’s essential to have canine health insurance.
Back to the puppies: The puppies are handled every day, and by this stage, they’ve been introduced to at least 3 different surfaces as I start to extend their experiential learning. So far the toughest thing in their lives has been finding the milk bar.
These 2 pups below are 18 days old. They had impressed me right from the start. The first one is an outstanding brown and white wavy girl. Provisionally, her name is Twist, unless I think of something better! Beneath her is a goober boi ! well so to speak. He’s a brown and white wavy, and looks so lovely that I’m hoping to run him on with someone who lives relatively close to me who will keep him “intact”. So you’d need to have an ongoing close relationship with me. (He would not be available to “outside” stud, just me. So less complicated that way. And you don’t even want to know the politics of breeding dogs!) Let me know if you’re interested in a goober boi !
3 weeks of age
By now we’ve probably had our first escapee from the whelping box. The pups are consuming an increasing amount of calories and you can see it won’t be long before solids are introduced. Often I’ll give them a chicken thigh or similar which they take to straight away madly sucking. They can’t actually eat too much at this point, but are going to target the fluid in the chicken. Some will also try to rip and tear, and this increases as they get older.
I will then start to introduce crushed meat and bone. I’ll add a dog milk product called Di-Vetalac, which I buy in enormous tubs. I’ll introduce them to raw whole eggs, and yogurt.
As the days progress I will introduce more types of protein including: chicken, beef, rabbit, kangaroo, lamb, goat, and fish. It depends in part what I can get from my wholesalers. And I mix that up into a slurry form that the pups will devour with their mum cleaning up all remaining bits.
Now we’re ready for our first move outside the whelping box. It will still be a large “bed” type enclosure, but with loads more room. Mum will be cleaning up the pups’ waste less, and so that’s a lot more work for the breeder. The pups are usually still on straw unless it’s some hotter summer weather.
Again, the experiences of the pups increase. They will be introduced to toys, and noises. They will listen to a variety of tv programs and music genres.
By this stage we’re ready for our first outside adventure in the sun. This first session might only be for a few minutes. But pretty quickly the pups are ready for a greater breadth of experience.
Again I’m checking vision and hearing. I’m also seeing which pups are a bit too cautious and looking for ways to make them feel safer and more outgoing. Any pup who I figure is “overly cautious” is a pup I watch closely and work a lot with. It is always rewarding to see them taking the steps I want to see. Often they will sit back and watch, and after a bit of encouragement I’ll see them jump up and bounce forward and my heart bounces with joy at the same stage “ah.. they are getting it!” I think.
I’ve got the pups in a large yard in this photo above. It has fences 180cm high. I’d encourage everyone to have high fencing. If you start your pup in a fence they easily learn to climb or jump out of, and then increase the height by an inch every day, but the time they are 6 months of age, they will be Olympic style jumpers, and you can never un-train that behaviour. Ask me how I know.
I have loads of different environments I can move them to to extend their experiences. I definitely over-engineered my whole property! But better to have too much than too little. I know some breeders who are desperately trying to manage their way around tiny little suburban 2 bedroom homes, and it is very difficult when that is the case. On the positive side, unless those dogs are just thrown into the back yard, the breeder should be having a ton of interaction with them.
Part of the process here, and a critical part of their training going forward is the pups learning to follow me. The first few times it’s like herding cats, but eventually they get the hang of it. Again, I’m looking to check that all are seeing and hearing. Check out this pic:
At first, it’s definitely like herding cats. It can take 10 mins to get all the pups to come 30 metres. It usually gets easier every day. One of the things I’m looking for is “latent learning”. So not trying the same thing for an hour multiple times, but trying it once or twice, then trying again the next day. This is usually the far more successful route.
If the weather is ok, the pups might be allowed to spend the night outside! I have a special puppy kennel created where they can stay in there out of the cold weather. This also helps start them on their house training.
The pups are eating much increased amounts of food, and are major “time wasters”. I can easily lose an hour sitting down to interact with the pups and start making assessments on which homes the pups will go to. This is when it starts to get easier to contact me. Just drop me a note during the day and I can send you fresh pics almost immediately. (again, please don’t text me at 11pm)
This is the sort of cut of meat I’m going to give the pups as a group:
And this is one of the pups taking off with it to eat himself ! Of course he cannot eat this all himself at this age:
Just in case you’ve forgotten how much work appropriately raising pups is, this is when it really starts. Firstly they need to be vet checked, vaccinated, and microchipped. We have a vet that visits that does all this. Any problems are noted so that we can follow up later and make sure this is ok. When you visit, you can check this paperwork to see what we’ve done. They will also get checked again by another vet when they are desexed 2-3 weeks later, and again around the 11-12 week mark when another vet check form is completed and they receive their C5 vaccination.
As far as we know, we are the only Portuguese Water Dog breeder in this country doing this, and there would be very few in any other breed (or cross breed) doing this also. Let’s be smart though – this does not say that there will be no health issues at all. But we’re doing the best we can right now to ensure that all is on track and there are no noted abnormalities. If you need it, you can ask right now for your pup to be DNA checked. This is not done as a standard process. It will cost you maybe $200-$300 which you will need to pay upfront. In all honesty it’s not going to tell you much, and we’ve never been asked for it. But it’s there if you want it. Because of previous generations of strict health checks, our lines are currently free of PRA, Storage Disease, Juvenile Cardiomyopathy, Improper Coat, and there has never been any indication of Puppy Eye Syndrome. I do not sell puppies with cleft palates. And there are not “reject” pups available. “give me the one with faults, I can’t afford the full price” is something I’ve heard before. Well if you can’t afford that cost, how would you afford the cost of ongoing care? And the last thing I want is a saga of setting up a gofundme. In the past I have gifted these pups to my friends who have been experienced dog people. I got an update of one (May 2020) who was now at the ripe age of 13, outliving well and truly all expectations and still going strong.
Because of the significant environmental component with hip dysplasia, I am unable to guarantee against that. Keep your puppy lean, uninjured, on a raw diet, and off slippery floors, and that will reduce your risks there.
At this age, I’m also encouraging the pups out into one of our many wonderful and diverse yards where they learn to follow me, and also experience different environments. My place is really a one of a kind type of facility that our local council sends people to, to see how to set up an appropriate place to raise dogs well.
The mum is still with the litter. In fact, she will stay with the litter until they leave and help with their very important education.
By this stage they are already being introduced to other dogs. This helps with their socialisation and manners!
By this stage we should have been in contact several times. The easiest way is communication via text. All I need you to be is careful the time of day you do so. If the sun is shining, text me. If it’s not, hold off until the next day please.
Unless I’m out training, I can usually shoot you through an instant pic of the pups. It might not be fancy, but you’ll have it.
It’s at this point you can visit again. I will show you the paperwork of the vet check for all the puppies, so you can be assured of all being good as we know. You can check out the vaccination booklets and the microchip details. It is very unlikely though that I will know which puppy is yours and when you visit you will love them all.
Please note: I no longer take deposits for puppies as it’s become more and more apparent that some people will reveal their true personalities in such a way that I don’t think I’m the breeder for them. I’ve seen some “unusual” behaviour or someone has said something that becomes a “show stopper”. This includes people who try emotional blackmail such as “but my kids really really want a dog with white feet.” I’m done at that point. Find another breeder. I deal with mature adults, not the whims of children. This indicates to me that if you can’t manage the expectations of your children, you are hardly likely to manage a puppy nor the relationship with me at the level I would expect. 95% of people are not like this thankfully. Also if you start a sentence to lecture me with, “Now Jane, I’m not going to argue with you but…” I’m done then. There’s no coming back from that.
I’ve heard from other breeders of buyers who will contact them multiple times a day for weeks on end. This is just not fair to the breeder. And it’s a easy way for the breeder to start the difficult discussion of “I’m sending you your money back”. Whew, don’t let this happen to you. The vast majority of breeders have this as their hobby. It is not their livelihood. We all have “real” jobs to pay for the things that puppy sales will never cover. (yes there are commercial puppy farmers out there – I’m not talking about them.) If this sounds like you, right at the start say to the breeder, “look I’m so excited I may feel the need to email, text, and call you several times a day. Is this ok?” This then gives the breeder to opt out at that point.
Note: if I’m unsure I’m the breeder for you, I will not place a pup with you. If you have expectations of the breed that are not consistent with what I breed, eg: I really need a “quiet one”. Or “I need a female because it will be small”. In no way can I guarantee what size a puppy can get. Indeed 2 of the biggest dogs I ever kept were female. I did not know this at 12 weeks of age.
My preference is to have a waiting list of great friendly people who are like “we will take any pup you have, and this is the work we’re planning to do with it.” Pro tip: make it as easy as possible for me to make an uncomplicated call. Don’t expect me or any breeder to be able to read between the lines. It’s almost like a long job interview. Unfortunately, like a job interview, if you say or do something “wrong” or inconsistent with what the breeder can do or provide you with etc, then you don’t get a 2nd chance. Real life examples: everything is great and then after much initial contact that all seems well:
- when you visit, your partner hits a puppy.
- you decide to bring your mother and her friend to visit with you. They go into an area when you are distracted where there are dogs that they have been told not to enter. They then start swinging at the pups with their handbags
- your children seem great, but when you’ve left them unsupervised to run around the dam, meaning I’m then having to manage them. I’d prefer to not have to use my public liability insurance thanks.
- your children seem great, but when you’re not looking I see one of them pulling the tail of one of the dogs. This can then be made worse when you, on behalf of the child, deny what I just saw.
- when you visit on a hot summer’s day, you’ve brought no hats or sunscreen for yourself or your kids (or worse, for yourself and not for your kids), and I’m left to sort it out. (I shouldn’t care more about your kid’s sun safety than you.) My parenting days are well and truly over thank you.
- and I squeeze you onto a puppy list as the last available spot, and probably sacrificing my own spot on the puppy list, and then you become super demanding about which pup you want, made worse if you attempt to use emotional blackmail. You will be surprised how many times this has been attempted.
- when you visit and you actually say nothing and ask no questions.
- I see some online social media commentary that doesn’t fit with my values (eg: we should just let the old people and the vulnerable die of Covid19)
(I’m going to add to this list as more experiences come to mind which I have tried to forget because they upset me so much)
At this point, you are absolutely invited to visit. We’ve reached a higher level of safety once that first vaccination has happened. We have also permanently chipped the pups so both you and I have a record of all the pups, and importantly, the one we end up selecting for you.
If you have lots of flexibility in which pup you want, we can choose your pup at this visit most of the time. I’ll have a good idea on temperament. Sometimes I’ll assess all pups at Temperament 2. Things are much harder when you have young kids and less flexibility on temperament and we need to ensure that you’re not going to get the lunatic pup. So often I’ll say “look it’s going to be one of these 3, so let’s just wait”. People are usually really happy with that. I’ve got to say, I’m met so many wonderful people (despite the anecdotes I should put in a book!), that it is truly just a joy to work with most people to sort out the best long term pet for them.
Here’s some of my really happy puppy people meeting their pup for the first time:
well things start to really move into place now. The pups are getting short group walks each day and played with. I’m starting to understand their temperaments and starting to match the pups to home – in my mind.
Most people are really keen to find out which pup they are going to get. This is when I hasten caution. Temperaments can change over the next 3 weeks and it’s important that I gather a vast amount of information through watching, interacting with the pups, and giving them novel experiences. I want to see how they react, and how they recover. A puppy evaluation doesn’t take hours. It doesn’t take days. It takes weeks. Often it seems vague. Some breeders need to put coloured collars around their pups to tell them apart. I’m able to easily identify who is who and monitor their progression. You can do this when you spend so much time with them.
If it’s a small litter and you’re totes flexible with colour, gender, coat type, temperament (or maybe just want one specific critera), I’ve probably got your pup picked out by this stage and have sent pics.
If you’re super fussy “I need a puppy that has the same colour pattern as an Old English Sheepdog because we used to have one”, I’ve already told you I can’t work with you. That’s a real story btw.
This is when I’m thinking I’m going to ensure you’ve been exposed to a noisy washing machine, and a muffled leaf blower that I will gradually increase in volume over the next few weeks as I de-sensitise the pups.
The pups do not, however, get exposed to noisy roads when they live with me. I live in the country on a lovely secluded block where the most common sounds are the birds chirping and the wind in the trees and the odd loud expression from me that might be “put that down now” to one of the dogs! (ok, sometimes to the husband as well.)
So if your dog is going to be exposed to a noisy road at all, you will need to start an easy going desensitization program with your pup as soon as you get it. This might sound complex, but really want it means “go easy, and don’t throw it into the deep end”. Rome wasn’t built in a day.
This is when we do our first dam visit! This is always exciting. By this stage the group will have learned to follow me. It won’t be without mishap, and can take a long time. There’s about a 150 m walk to the dam. This is an environment I specifically established for my dogs. There is nothing like it in Australia, and few in the world. There’s a great guy in the south of Portugal call Rodrigo, and he’s able to take his dogs daily to the sea. It’s amazing what he does. Unfortunately there is no sea in central Victoria!
I’ve found that the pups development prior to 8 weeks of age is really not far enough advanced mentally to do it earlier. And this is one of the reasons we keep our pups longer than most people.
Protip: there are major advantages to buying a pup that is well past 8 weeks of age. Our owners have far less “trouble” when their pup leaves them at an older age. Between the pup’s mum, me, and the other dogs and experiences they have, the pups have learned a whole lot of behaviours in a far more natural setting. Also a pup at 12 weeks of age is much heavier than a pup at 8 weeks of age. This means that it’s unlikely I’m going to hear about you letting your kids pick up and carry a pup around. A pup that is carried around a lot will expect the same fully grown, so good luck in managing that!
I will pick up a pup to put it on a table for a vet exam or some grooming, or to put it in a crate in the car. Pretty much, I let them stand on their own 4 feet and follow me around. Better all round.
So back to that first trip down the dam. It does take a while. The mums are always keen! They love love love the dam.
It is a joy to watch the pups first experience of a large body of water. Some will jump straight in and delight in the experience. Others will want to take their time. I do not push them. It’s a bit harder in the colder months, and I will pick days that it’s nice and sunny and be able to provide an area for the pups to warm themselves up if needed. Often the pups will actually spend less than 5 seconds in the water. The brave ones will actually start swimming much to my delight and a little bit of trepidation. The big dogs are meanwhile having a glorious retrieving session in and out of the water, where they may be 5 or more tennis balls in play.
Then we slowly meander our way back from the dam, finding the distracted pups who have decided to play under a bush, or similar. In total these sessions with the pups last no longer than 20 mins. We move slowly. The pups delight in this experience. It’s taken slowly and without fuss. There are no dreadful surprises for any of us.
I will probably give the pups a couple of days off before I take them to the dam again. Through trial and error, I find an extended break between these visits works better than daily trips at this age. It’s always lovely to see the more initially hesitant pups gain confidence over the ensuing weeks.
It is an extraordinary amount of work and cost to keep pups beyond 8 weeks of age, and that’s one of the reasons the vast majority of breeders won’t do it. In assessing where you’ll get your dog (of any breed) from I would suggest you determine which position sits best with you.
Well we’ve all got into a bit of a routine by now. The pups are introduced to the doggy door where they can learn to take themselves in and out more and more. This is a useful skill when they go to their new owners and very much assists with house training. It is rare that I need to clean up a mess inside. The area inside I have for them is about the size of a house laundry. So yes, the laundry can be a good place for your pup to sleep when you bring it home.
Around this time I will be taking the pups to get desexed. This gives them ample recovery time before they go to their new homes. Usually by the next day the pups are back to normal.
From the age of 10 weeks the C5 vaccine can be given. I tend to give it closer to the 12 week mark, where again the pups receive a thorough vet check. Note: while it is extremely unlikely that a pup will have a health problem, vet checks at this point will not find one of the shitty rare conditions that we hope we never have. But if it turns out your pup does have a congenital condition, we will replace.
We are happy to send you the vet health check sign off. We will also have the mother of the litter assessed again to make sure she’s ok.
Again experiences for the pups are extended. The pups are introduced to a noisy mower, they are meeting new people, they are meeting other dogs, and if my stupid cat Bluey is game enough, they will meet him. This is Spritz, one of our magnificent stud dogs, meeting Bluey, on a hot summer’s day as we were headed to the dam for a swim.
Now is when we really start working on logisitcs. During the months of Covid19 we would have started earlier than this due to flight restrictions.
The pups are being closely monitored. I want to be able to identify quickly if there are any issues. I don’t think I’ve been in the position where I’ve really had a new issue at this point. Any issues are rare. But let’s be realistic, things can happen. Other breeders have lost pups at this age. Fingers crossed, I haven’t so far.
Well this is it. We’re nearly here. You’ve probably already bought too many dog toys, and a lovely dog bed that I didn’t recommend but is gorgeous that your pup will definitely pee on and 100% will destroy! But that’s part of the fun right? You’ll find much to your frustration how your pup will get more joy out of an empty softdrink bottle (lid in the bin thanks) than they will from that expensive dog toy you’ve bought. Worse if you’ve imported it from overseas!
You’ll have sorted out a safe way for your pup to travel in the car. Under law (and surely is common sense) that dogs are kept safe.
You’ll have sorted out dog school. You’ll have stocked your freezer. You’ll probably worry too much.
Hopefully you keep reading this site and absorbing all the information.
Meanwhile your puppy with me will probably have had its muzzle shaved (unless you strongly disagree and have told me such), will have been bathed and blow dried. It will have been introduced to the OUTSIDE of my chook pen, and definitely not encouraged to be interactive with them. (dogs love chooks particularly for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.)
The pups will still be with their mum. They will have stopped feeding off her some time ago, but she’s a very necessary part of managing the behaviour of the pups. I will, however, be giving her more and more breaks from them as I need to get her used to leaving her motherly duties. She’s invariably thrilled to be having more one on one time with me again.
I always love getting updates of my puppies. Sometimes when I’m travelling interstate I will arrange to meet up with people with my dogs. This is a real treat.
So feel free to send through pics throughout your dog’s life. By this stage I’ll have let you have my mobile number!
Also, call/text me if you need to troubleshoot any problems or issues.
Remember, it is critical that your pup receives a thoroughly good education right through to 12 months of age. You cannot miss this learning period without suffering major consequences. All bad. And there is no magic want to fix a dog who can jump a 6 foot fence, can’t walk on the lead without pulling, endless barking, aggression, and digging and wrecking stuff. The Portuguese Water Dog like most other breeds is capable of this and more if you have not put in the work.
As a reminder from my page on preparing for your new pup, I’m including my expectations for what training I’d like you to complete when you get your pup:
My expectation of what you can train your dog to do in the first 6 weeks:
- walk on a lead without pulling
- sit when asked the first time
- retrieve a ball and bring it back to you
- not steal other dog’s balls at the beach or dog park and run off with them (I had one owner stand and laugh hysterically whenever her dog did this. And he frequently did this. She was also oblivious to the fact that it was visibly clear how annoyed the other dog owners (and me!) were. Yes, we had a chat. (Tip: if you arrive at the dog park and you see other owners take note and leave with their dog/s, that’s a sign there is an issue or three.)
- behave nicely in public. There will be no jumping all over other dogs – (especially little dogs) at the dog park or anywhere else. And no jumping on humans or over fences.
- not have separation anxiety (yep that’s caused by humans and is terribly difficult to then un-train)
- easily come when it is called (recall)
If you want to get another dog from me, I will want to see a video of some/all of these behaviours. It would be a disaster to put another dog in the mix if you haven’t managed to nail these basic behaviours above. You can do it!
Those first 9 months of training are just so critical to your ongoing success. Show society how impressive you and your dog are!
(this page last updated 29th June 2020, or later if I’ve forgotten to update this bit here!)