Early Exposure for the Gun Dog Puppy

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Reprinted from the Summer 2016 Puppy Issue of the Griffonnier, the magazine of the American Wirehaired Pointing Griffon Association.  To join the AWPGA is only $35 a year, for four awesome magazines per year (I’m the co-editor, so I make it worth your money).  Join now at https://awpga.com/membership

Book Recommendations for further study: Gun Dog by Richard Wolters. The Training and Care of the Versatile Hunting Dog by Sigbot “Bodo” Winterhelt and Dr. Ed Bailey (free with the NAVHDA premium membership http://navhdastore.org/membershippackages.aspx).  How to Help Gun Dogs Train Themselves by Joan Bailey.  Training the Versatile Hunting Dog by Chuck Johnson. SmartWork Retriever Training by Evan Graham.

DVDs: Perfect Start/Perfect Finish Jon Hann of Precision Kennels.  Huntsmith Rick and Ronnie Smith.

Early Exposure for the Gun Dog Puppy

By Charity Upchurch (with Charles Upchurch)

Early Exposure Physical - Charity Upchurch

Raising a good gun dog puppy starts before you even bring it home.  I start exposing my litters to things that will help them in their future training as hunting companions.  Owners then continue that hunting exposure process once the pups go home at eight weeks old.  Equally important and also done with the new owners at the same time, but outside the scope of this article, is basic puppy training such as obedience, housebreaking, crate, and leash.  The following information is not organized by priority or in sequence, all of the pieces of the exposure are equally important and occur concurrently.

Bird Exposure

You can expose the pups in a litter to birds any time after four weeks, when they are walking fairly steady.  I prefer to wait until six weeks when they have lots of energy and a small degree of focus.  There are a few ways that you can do this.  You can place the bird in a small cage and just sit it in the middle of the puppies for them to go and check out. But I usually put the bird in a bird harness with a clothesline tied to it.  You can buy various sizes of bird harnesses through hunting dog supply companies, I own a quail and a pigeon harness.  I then just put the bird out in front of the pup.  They may or may not point it (you can’t train a puppy to point, it is genetic/inherited, and if they don’t point the bird at this early stage it doesn’t necessarily mean it will never point a bird).  I like to sort of lift the bird up and down in front of their face, so the pup can see it flap its wings.  Don’t let the pup chew up or try to take the bird from you.  They can sniff it or maybe pat it with its paw, but there’s no good reason to let them tear the bird up (especially with the price of birds these days).

Early Exposure Bird - Charity Upchurch

Physical Conditioning

The pups usually start ranging out of the kennel timidly and with encouragement at about four weeks.  They really start roaming at about five weeks and I like to have them able to follow me on a walk around the perimeter of my three-quarter acre fenced area by eight weeks.  Start walking your new pup off-leash in short amounts as soon as possible.  If it is a clean area that is rarely frequented by other dogs, it can be right away.  If you only have areas with heavy dog traffic, you should either drive a little farther, or wait until the pup has finished its vaccination schedule.  We have access to both private land and clean state ground about 20 minutes out of town, so this is where we work.  Really gauge the pup on this one.  Walk when it is cool and work in 15 minute increments.  Start with walking the pup for 15 minutes, allowing it to explore.  Walk at a leisurely pace at first.  Increase your time and pace as the pup improves.  We are usually up to an hour of field running by six months, since the pup will be expected to at least tag along on a 3-4 hour half-day morning hunt September 1st, for the opening of sharptailed grouse and prairie chicken in the Nebraska Sandhills.

Noise Conditioning

The first and easiest thing to do is to bang a can or pot to call them to eat.  Loudly.  This makes loud banging noises a good thing.  I start this at three weeks old and continue until the dog is working with a starter pistol.  Once the puppies are running in the yard at five weeks old, we use a kid’s toy cap gun to snap off caps while the puppies are playing.  Make sure that the puppies are busy and distracted before starting this.  Do not to acknowledge the puppies if they notice the noise.  Act like nothing is happening.  Once the puppy is in their new home, this should be continued until the pup has worked with a starter pistol.

We continue the progression into the field with a starter pistol and planted quail.  With our hunting season starting September 1st the progression is pretty quick for a spring pup.  They have to be shotgun ready by six months old.  At around four months old they should be ready for this step, as long as they are accustomed to the noises at home, not showing any fear at them.  You plant your quail with the pup in the truck (spreading the birds out, of course).  Try to use a place with tall enough vegetation that the pup won’t see the bird when it lands.  Walk your pup into the bird, make sure that he knows that it is there, hopefully pointing it.  Then you flush the bird in front of the pup and fire the starter pistol.  At least for us, we are not worried about steadiness at this juncture.  We let the pup chase but not catch.  Other trainers may have other thoughts on this.

[How to lightly plant a bird for recapture: Tuck the quail’s head under its wing.  Pull back on the quail’s legs until they are straight behind their tail.  Wait until they relax and quit fighting it, they’ll go into a brief catatonic state.  Tuck the bird into some vegetation with their legs still out behind them.]

Once the pup has shown confidence with the starter pistol (usually 2-3 sessions) and is excited about chasing birds, we use the same scenario but this time replace the starter pistol with a sub-gauge shotgun, such as a 410, 28 or 20 gauge.  If you are a terrible shot, you may want to have a dead bird on hand from a previous training session (you should keep some uncleaned dead birds in your freezer).  The same thing, let the pup point the bird, you flush it, then shoot it.  Hopefully you don’t miss.  If you miss, take the dead bird out of your pocket and throw it.  Show the pup the dead bird and encourage him to pick it up and carry it around.  Lots of praise and excitement.  Do this in two to three sessions before taking your pup to the wild bird field or preserve.


With a litter, I will generally encourage them to get out and roam at about four weeks when they are ready to leave the kennel to explore with encouragement and by five weeks they are blowing out of the kennel door.  To get them to come back, I use a combination of whistling, hollering their collective name, “Puppies!”, banging on something loudly or clapping.  They generally come back, but there’s always one or two that I have to chase down.

Once I have my eight week-old puppy on its own and housebreaking, I use its name and the whistle to call it back in from going potty.  If it tries to rebel and not come back, I go out in the yard and pick up the puppy, whistle in its face, say its name, and kind of give him some gentle pokes, as to say, “Hey, that means you!”  The important part of this is to NOT chase the puppy down unless it is in imminent danger and it is an emergency.  Also, you shouldn’t pick it up for a correction every single time, to mix things up you can just stand close by and sort of fake ignore the puppy and eventually it will come back to you.  When it does come back to you, give it lots of praise and love.

At the four to six month stage, they need to be working on consistently coming back when called in the field.  But you have to strike a balance here.  Only call the dog when you really want the dog, like at the end of a training session, if it is chasing something, etc.  If you hack on the dog and are constantly calling and whistling to it, you will kill his desire to range and have a “bootlicker”.

If you are not getting a consistent recall in that four to six month stage, take a 30 foot check cord and go out into a field that doesn’t have a bunch of brush.  Let the dog run and drag the check cord.  Whistle and call the dog by name.  If the dog does not respond, run up and grab the check cord and reel him in like a fish.  The dog will get the check cord all tangled up in stuff and find it annoying, but will learn that he won’t get to run loose unless he responds to the recall.

Soft Retrieve

We know that it is a crime in some circles, but we have never force fetch trained any of our dogs.  But they all fetch.  Once again, I start early at five weeks.  I place dead quail on the ground for them to sniff and pick up.  I throw around cheap little rope bones for them to pick up.  I put the quail or rope bone in their mouth and praise them for holding on to it.

At 8 weeks I take them into the front yard so that they are not distracted by the other dogs.  I start throwing the rope bone and the dead quail for them to pick up and bring to me.  When I throw, I use the commands, “fetch” and “find the bird”.  Once they pick it up, I say either “bring it to me” or “fetch”.  If someone is planning to force fetch later on, my understanding is that they need to avoid the “f” word (fetch), so “find the bird” and “bring it to me” would be good replacement commands.  Of course, lots of pets and praise and excitement when they do bring it to you.  As they get bigger, the dummies get bigger.  First I start off with the Tom Dokken dove dummy.  It is the perfect size for the 4-6 month old puppy.  By the time that they are one year-old, they can pick up the Canadian Goose dummy.  At the same time, as they get bigger, we throw cylindrical training bumpers, dead ducks, chukar, and pheasant.

Very important: never snatch something out of a dog’s mouth.  Always use a command, whether it’s “give” or “release”.  If they don’t drop an object in your hand, you can either stick your hand in their mouth, pry it open, then remove the object, or you can give their belly a little pinch (right where it meets the leg, like the flank on a horse), say your command, and they should give up the object.  Whichever works for you and your dog.  Also, your family members have to be trained how to do this as well.  The kids need to know not to play tug-of-war with the dog.  Ever.  No taking stuff out of the dog’s mouth without the proper sequence of events.

Early Exposure Retrieve - Charity Upchurch


Go swimming with your dog.  Many six week-old puppies will go into the water on their own.  It helps that I have kids to encourage them to get in.  If any of the pups are reluctant, we carry them in gently and just let them go, swimming along-side of them and praising them.  Just swim with the dog for the first few weeks or so.  Once the dog is confident in the water and is doing well with the retrieving work at home, go ahead and throw the dove dummy in the water for them.  I like to take an object that I’ve been working with on land and throw it into the water for the first few sessions.  Don’t throw it very far at first.  And make sure to wear clothes that you can get wet in, because chances are that they won’t retrieve it every time at first.  Transition into throwing dead ducks and training bumpers as the pup gets larger and more confident.

Early Exposure Swim - Charity Upchurch

Early Exposure Water retrieve - Charity Upchurch


            It takes some time and effort, but getting that gun dog puppy ready to go into the field is fun.  The first year you and your older dogs will be doing most of the hunting and your new buddy will just be tagging along.  Since we aren’t training for AKC Master Hunter or NAVHDA Utility Prize I at this point, we just let the dog have fun in the field the first year and make lots of mistakes.  Some people do it differently and train the dog by the rules from the get-go.  Maybe we’ll modify our techniques in the future to get better test results, but we sure have a ton of fun hunting with our wild beasts just using these basic techniques to get them ready to go.

“L” Litter Homegoings

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Future breeding and litters

I was supposed to be taking this year off, but it was the time to have one last litter with Ben and Velma, then things surprised me with Chief and BB.  I will be taking 2017 off from breeding, but have 2 litters planned for 2018.  Chief will be bred to both Fire and BB in 2018.  We will be keeping a female pup from Chief x Fire and will also be bringing in an outside stud pup in 2018 to ensure continued genetic diversity in our bloodlines.

“L” Litter Homegoings

So many happy families here!  At this point, the pups are all settled into their new homes an it sounds as if they are doing great!

Melanie and Shane will have Lynda right outside of Lincoln, Nebraska near Branched Oak Field Trial Grounds, so they’ll have lots of opportunities to run and play (and hunt!).


Mel and Lynda

Jayce and Austin take Laertes home to Central Iowa.  Austin farms and says he is starting to see pheasants again, which is a great sign since things have been so down there.  Iowa used to battle South Dakota for #1 pheasant harvest, but big corn (unfortunately for hunters) changed that.  Austin also has friends in the Dakotas to take his buddy on adventures.


Jayce, Austin and Laertes

Leia went home to Colorado with LeAnn, Jim, and Calt the Pudelpointer.  With Calt only being 5 months old, they have some training work ahead of them.  Good luck to Calt and Jim on their upcoming NAVHDA Natural Ability test with the Rocky Mountain Chapter.  Colorado looks like the place to hunt some dusky grouse, that will be on our list of trips over the next few years (like, maybe next fall).


Larry went to the far southeast corner of Missouri to do “lots of hunting” with Mark.  Mark is a Missouri Conservation Officer and also the father of a son with autism.  Their family had to be certain of solid temperament both in breed and bloodlines for that reason, as the dog has to assist and be a companion to their son’s service dog.  Plus Mark loves to hunt, so the griff was the perfect fit.  Thanks to Robin Parks of Cottonwood Griffons in Texas for introducing us.


Larry and Mark

Lucina went right across town to Papillion, Nebraska with Brent and is family.  Brent recently moved from South Dakota and so he has connections up there.  Plus he has been picking out brains about good spots down here in Nebraska (you know, you can only help a brother out so much though).


Lillian went home to Northern Minnesota with Lindsey, Todd, and family.  They also have a cabin in Canada, so this pup will have lots of “Northern Exposure”.  Their daughter in the photo (I missed her name) is studying Classics (Greek/Latin) at my undergraduate alma mater here in Omaha, Creighton University.  I promised her that she will find a job and won’t starve with a liberal arts degree (mine is in English Literature).


Clinton flew in to take Luke as a carry on back to Colorado.  He had lots of little kids waiting for him upon his arrival.  Clinton is new to hunting, but his wife Karen grew up hunting in Wyoming where her folks still have a place.  Luke will have four acres on the east side of Ft. Collins to roam.


Clinton and Luke

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Luke with his kids in Colorado

Mike and Jeanne took Laius back to Missouri, just a couple of hours south of Kansas City.  Jeanne is a vet tech, so there will be lots of good care there and plenty of love from those kids.  Missouri is world famous for its duck hunting, so I’m sure that there will be plenty of that in the future too.


The family for Laius

Sue Update

One last thing before I take my oldest son to get his braces off.  I recently found out that old Sue is still alive.  Sue is the great-grandmother of these puppies and is 12 years old.  She lives near White River, South Dakota with Savannah, Trey and their new cattle dog.

Sue, pup, Savannah and Trey

I will be sure to post the article reprint of “Early Exposure for the Gun Dog Puppy” from the Summer issue of the Griffonnier later on today, but I’m just out of time for now.

“K” Litter all home and “L” Litter on their way out…

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Please note:  If you have e-mailed about future litters and have not yet gotten a response, I apologize.  I will be returning those e-mails after all of these pups have gone home, with the last of them leaving on the 30th.  So give me until the first week of August to get back to you.  I apologize for the delay, it is just a juggle with the kids home on summer break and all of these puppies and dogs to take care of.  Triage.

“K” Litter Homegoings

Here are some more photos of the “K” Litter homegoings.  So excited that they all found wonderful families!

Klaus went home with Brian and family to the Black Hills of Rapid City, South Dakota.  Their family likes to hunt the plains near Pierre.


Kato went home with Sue and her husband to Michigan.  They also have  a 5 year old rescue griff, who isn’t a hunter, so he’ll get all of the good jobs of chasing ruffed grouse and woodcock.


Kaden went home with Colin and his wife to be an army brat dog, currently residing in Colorado.  They are looking forward to checking out the bird hunting in eastern CO.


Konrad went to Holdrege, Nebraska with Bridgette and Marty.  They have lots of good upland and waterfowl hunting out that way, so I’ll be excited to see how they do!


Kennedy went to Kansas with Phil and Corinne.  Good quail hunting where they are at.


Karl went home to Central Iowa with Mert.  Pheasants have been hit pretty hard over there with the loss of habitat, but Mert is a member of Doc’s Hunt Club (where we held our field day for AWPGA National Specialty 2015).


Aaron and I will co-own Keri (now “Chewie”, short for Chewbacca.  All of our kids love Star Wars and the griff is known for looking like Chewbacca.  This pic was taken at Aaron’s place.)


And the last to go home was “Karma” who hopped a plane to San Diego to be with Shaun, while they wait for dad to get home from deployment.


“L” Litter Update at 7.5 Weeks

I have given up on trying to get any good action shots of the pups since the passing of my beloved Canon DSLR on our vacation. It is easier to just post a video.  So here it is: https://youtu.be/Ga_D5QCtsog

We go to the vet this afternoon for first shots and microchips.  They’ve had their final de-worming from me, I have all of the registration paperwork, and now it is just a matter of me putting the packets together once I get the shot records and the microchip information from the vet.  And of course, keeping them fed and cooled in the heat wave we have coming up over the next few days.  They begin going home on Saturday the 23rd and will all be home by the time the sun sets on Saturday the 30th.  One last big push, here we go!

“K” Litter 8 weeks and “L” Litter 6 weeks

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Sorry that I’ve been absent from posting, but we took a family vacation to the Black Hills of South Dakota (and Wyoming) and the Pine Ridge of Nebraska.  It was quite an adventure!  While we were there, we visited Badlands National Park, Minuteman Missile National Monument, Mount Rushmore National Memorial, Crazy Horse Memorial, Devils Tower National Monument, Wind Cave National Park, Custer State Park (SD), and Ft. Robinson State Park (NE).  We also climbed Harney Peak in the Black Elk Wilderness, swam at Evans Plunge Natural Hot Springs, and saw the fossils at Mammoth Site of Hot Springs, SD.  We love our public lands not only for hunting, but for hiking and exploring too!  With the sad events over the last week, it is nice to have these fresh memories of how good America can be.


The Upchurches at “the faces”

In our absence Aaron, Keri and the girls watched over the litters.  And boy did they grow!  It is hard to believe that “K” litter pups are going home this weekend.  Here are some of the shots that I got of them before they went home.  I apologize that my photos aren’t going to be up to normal standards for awhile.  We were caught in a thunderstorm (with heavy rain and pea-sized hail) the entire 2 hour descent of Harney Peak and it killed my Canon Rebel XS DSLR.  So I’m down to my little Canon Elph until I can get to the camera store for a replacement DSLR.

All of the “K” Litter pups checked out in good health at Heartland Pet Hospital in Bellevue, Nebraska on Wednesday afternoon.


A pup getting some vet tech love


Dr. Andrew Kliewer DVM listening to their innards


A mess of pups trying out the new flooring


Charles helping me unload the pups from the vet visit


Velma hangs by while the “K” Litter mobs the food dish


Velma and the “K” Litter pups waiting to be let out

And it is already time to post homegoing pics!  Here is Karen going home to New Mexico with Rob and Joanne.  Her new name will be Mitzi Mambo and she’ll live on a mesa full of desert quail and jackrabbits.  She will be the sister of a few Cairn Terriers too.  Photo taken inside of their sweet rolling home (RV).


Kate and Maurice, from just across town in Papillion, Nebraska, decided that they didn’t have enough little ones to chase around and added Krystal to their pack.  She will become Murphy and will be chasing pheasants and ducks before we know it.


Kristov went home to Minnesota early this morning with Matt and his expecting wife, but I forgot to take a picture (oops!).  Hopefully I can talk them into taking a selfie and send to me to share with you all.

Kylla went home with Zoe and Peter to North Dakota.  She will become Olive, and my fourth or fifth pup to be a part of the Central Dakota NAVHDA crew.  NoDak has so many great hunting opportunities, we can’t wait to see her in action.


Rick and Peggy took Kalli home to Grand Island, Nebraska, in the heart of the Rainwater Basin, one of the top waterfowl regions in the country.  She’ll live next to a sandpit lake where she can swim as much as she wants.  New name TBD.


I have video of both of the litters, but I’ll need a bit more time to get it all put together.  I really want to get the photos out today, because in TWO WEEKS the “L” litter goes home too!  We still need to figure out picks, which we’ll work on early this week.  I have whole mess of homegoings tomorrow, so I can post those videos when I get those photos up.

These individual photos are in the same order of the individual photos that I took a few weeks back.


Laverne face, female


Laverne back, female


Laverne stacked, female


Lynda face, female


Lynda back, female


Lynda stacked, female


Lillian face, female


Lillian back, female


Lillian free stacked, female


Leia face, female


Leia back, female


Leia stacked, female


Lucina face, female


Lucina back, female


Lucina stacked, female


Larry face, male


Larry back, male


Larry stacked, male


Laius face, male


Laius back, male


Laius stacked, male


Laertes face, male


Laertes back, male


Laertes stacked, male


Luke face, male


Luke back, male


Luke stacked, male

Thank you to my daughter, Cordelia for being my puppy modeler.  And of course, thank you to Aaron and family for taking care of everyone while we were gone.  I had better sign off for now, as I still have paperwork to put together for the pickups tomorrow and of course, regular dog/puppy chores.

“K” Litter 5 Weeks and “L” Litter 3 Weeks

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“K” Litter 5 Weeks Old

These are in the same order as the two week old photographs.  Keep in mind that 5 week old puppies do not stack perfectly.  I will get the puppy supply list written and posted over the next few days.  I am pretty close to being done with picks and the latest that the “K” Litter families will hear from me is Thursday afternoon.  Here is the video that I took of them yesterday: https://youtu.be/b0avkTVokZo

Karen will go home with Bob and Joanne to New Mexico.


Karen side, female


Karen back, female


Karen face, female

Kalli will go home with Rick to Grand Island, Nebraska.


Kalli side, female


Kalli back, female


Kalli face, female

Kylla will go home with Zoe to North Dakota.


Kylla side, female



Kylla back, female


Kylla face, female

Keri is going to stay here with Velma’s co-owner, Aaron (and his wife Keri!).


Keri side, female


Keri back, female


Keri face, female

Kennedy will go home with Phil and Corrine to Kansas.


Kennedy side, female


Kennedy back, female


Kennedy face, female

Krystal will go home with Maurice and Kate to Papillion, Nebraska.


Krystal side, female


Krystal back, female


Krystal face, female

Karma will fly home to Marc and Shaun in California.


Karma side, female


Karma back, female


Karma face, female

Kristov will go home with Matt to Minnesota.


Kristov side, male


Kristov back, male


Kristov face, male

Klaus will go home with Brian and Meressa to South Dakota.


Klaus side, male


Klaus back, male


Klaus face, male

Karl will go home with Mert to Iowa.


Karl male, side


Karl male, back


Karl male, face

Kato will go home with Sue to Michigan.


Kato side, boy


Kato back, boy


Kato face, boy

Konrad will go home with Bridgette to Holdrege, Nebraska.


Konrad side, boy


Konrad back, boy


Konrad face, boy

Kaden will go home with Colin to Colorado.


Kaden side, male


Kaden back, male


Kaden face, male

“L” Litter 3 weeks old

Here is the video that I took of them yesterday: https://youtu.be/9QMfBWQX-FU


Laverne back, female


Laverne face, female


Lynda back, female


Lynda face, female


Lillian back, female


Lillian face, female


Leia back, female


Leia face, female


Lucina back, female


Lucina face, female


Larry back, male


Larry face, male


Laius back, male


Laius male, face


Laertes back, male


Laertes back, male


Luke back, male


Luke face, male

The Dog Days of Summer

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This is going to be a short update and I’ll get more detailed information up over the weekend.

Too Hot

I know that I owe you updated individual pictures, but we are totally in survival mode right now.  It has been between 95 and 105 degrees every day for the last week and it shows no signs of stopping.  This not only provides challenges with the puppies, but keeping the big dogs comfortable is tough too.  I have had to groom down all of the big dogs and make sure that they have cool water in their pool and dog bowls all of the time.  For the puppies, I also make sure their dog bowls are full of cool water and occasionally haul five gallon buckets of water to their kennels to either dip them in or just rinse off the kennel floor to not only clean it (after poop scooping, of course), but to cool it down.

Oh and don’t think that my dogs are rich when I say that they have a pool.  It is actually just an old kids’ durable plastic sandbox that I fill with water.  That is the next scheduled dog improvement, to get a stock tank with a drain on it, but it will have to wait for next year.  This year we will continue this aspect on low budget.  Eventually we also want to get city water piped back there with one of those farm spigot water hydrant thingies, but we’ll just keep hauling water and running massive lengths of hose for a few more years.


Low budget dog pool

The dogs have also dug themselves various holes and dens around the property to beat the heat.


Free dog house and shade hole

“K” Litter

We moved the “K” Litter to my house last week so that Aaron could go on a fishing trip and so that I would have a chance to evaluate the pups and do picks.

I will be working on my breeder picks for the “K” litter over the weekend and will have them finalized by sundown Tuesday.  So “K” litter future owners, be prepared for some questions over the coming days.  I have a few that I’m settled on already, but still need to go over my notes from talking to folks in the past and doing some more evaluating on the pups themselves.

Here are some shots of our kennel techs and the move.


Aaron’s kennel techs Avery and Josie with the pups and Velma loaded in my truck.


A closeup of the pups


Two of my three kennel techs: Conrad and Cordelia moving the pups from the truck to the kennel.

They have gone to straight dry kibble and I am feeding Diamond Naturals Large Breed Puppy.  If you are looking to pick some up to transition your pup home, here is the store locator: http://www.diamondpet.com/where-to-buy/

Over the weekend, I will post a list of recommended supplies for when you bring your puppy home when I post the new individual pictures.  Oh but here is a photo of the doggy dinner pile:


K Litter chowing down

They also like to get out and about in the yard.  Here are just some random shots.

“L” Litter

Well in spite of my efforts and hope, I did end up losing those two males last weekend.  I rode it out without going to the vet to put them down, but it was a pretty rough ride.  Right before I brought the “K” litter over last weekend, I moved the “L” litter inside to try to help those two.  The basement was too cold, so we settled on the upstairs living room for a few days.


Indoor setup


My smallest kennel tech, Caleb.

Once the two undeveloping pups were lost, I knew that I needed to start to condition them to the heat, so they were back in the garage with a fan on them.  They are stumbling around a bit and their eyes are open.  I will get individual photos over the weekend.  Random shots.

They have also started on canned puppy food:


And then finally yesterday, with a heat index of 110-115, I had to move them outside.  I knew that I couldn’t keep the garage cool enough.

Oh and a few parting shots before I go and run dogs around some more.  I had to get an updated photo for the magazine earlier this week.  It is the puppy issue after all.  But then I wanted you to see what I really look like coming out of the kennel area.

Co-editor Charity

What the world thinks a dog breeder looks like. Photo by Charles Upchurch


What a dog breeder really looks like.  Note the sweaty t-shirt.  I had washed the dog hair off of my arms though. Photo by Cordelia Upchurch

Time for more dog adventures, talk at you soon.  I will come bearing videos as well.

“K” and “L” Litter Updates

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Note:  All of the puppies are spoken for at this time, but if you would like to be on the contact list in the event of a last minute back out, please email bluestemkennels@gmail.com.

I think it is so funny when people admit that they’ve been following my blog and YouTube channel for several years.  It makes both parties feel embarrassed, but it is really flattering.  If I think about it too much it makes me so self-conscious.  My personality is very split between extrovert and introvert.  When I’m around people, I’m very outgoing and talkative.  But I also love to spend lots of time home alone, just hanging out with the dogs, watching the birds, and doing the endless chores that go along with three kids and small dog kennel.

Oh and “the magazine” as it is known around here.  It takes a lot of time and patience.  It is like having to do a quarterly summative grad school group project.  I lose sleep over it and it makes me crazy.  But when it comes in the mail all shiny and chrome, it’s like “damn, we did it again”.  Thanks to my very good friend Amy Caswell-O’Clair of Soonipi Point Griffons in Newport, NH for doing this life with me.  It is great to work with someone so smart and kind.  She knows so much about griffons and training and grooming and breeding, it is fun for us to to share our experiences and knowledge with each other.  To get this amazing magazine, the Griffonnier, you have to join the AWPGA, the American Wirehaired Pointing Griffon Association https://awpga.com/membership

Oh and while you are joining clubs, join NAVHDA, the North American Versatile Hunting Dog Association.  At their training days, they can help you train your dog.  And you get a magazine each month.  And it brings you good hunting karma (I made that part up).  One of my Facebook friends just got his premium membership package the other day and was so excited about it that he took a photo and posted it. http://navhdastore.org/membershippackages.aspx


NAVHDA Premium Membership Package.  Photo by Matt Kadlubowski

So if you want to be in the cool dog nerd clubs, there you go.  Okay puppies, must talk about the puppies.

“K” Litter

It is hard to believe that the “K” Litter is four weeks old today.  I was over at Aaron’s on Sunday and got some pictures and video.  Sorry that I’ve been slow to post them, between the magazine and the kids and the “L” Litter and the other dogs and Charles has been traveling for work…it’s just a lot.

Aaron and I were really busy talking, so I didn’t get many photos, but I did get some video.  I go and pick the pups and Velma up tomorrow to bring them over here while Aaron is on a fishing trip.  Plus it will be good to spend time with them to evaluate them and start to think about who goes where.  So I’ll be in touch with the future owners over the next week about specifically what you’re looking for in a pup and what I’ve got.


“K” Litter at 3 weeks old chowing down

Here is the video that I took of them: https://youtu.be/tmL7ve7C3V0

“L” Litter

Nine puppies of the “L” Litter are big and developing, with their eyes starting to open and starting on puppy mush.  Puppy mush is where I take canned puppy food and mix it with puppy milk replacer.  Right now they are eating it off of a spoon.  Once they get up on their legs over the next week, we’ll transition to eating from a dish.  Notice that I said nine.  Four males and five females.

11 were born, but there are two males that are just not developing correctly.  Amy has had similar situations where they just fail to thrive.  The other puppies are nursing from BB and eating from the spoon and getting big and fat, and starting to open their eyes.  I can’t get these two to latch on to BB and I have to basically force feed them because they won’t suck from the bottle.  They are wasting away and I can’t bear to watch it.  So I have an appointment at the vet to have them put down tomorrow.  Something like this is caused by internal organs not developing correctly and there is nothing that I can do to fix it.

This isn’t Disneyland.  Being a breeder isn’t all fun and playing with puppies.  I am sad, but in my sixth year as a breeder I’ve learned to harden my heart a bit to this.  There were years that I was just destroyed and crushed over losing pups.  But now I know that it is the nature of things and the reason that even though I have a health guarantee, I’ve never had to replace a pup or give a refund.  Because I am honest with my buyers that I’m not going to coddle a reject and send it home with them.  So may their little puppy souls rest in peace.

(Post-Script:  I had an honest conversation with Dr. Andrew Kliewer, DVM this afternoon.  He said that his wife, Susan, checked their hearts and initial internal organ function when I brought them in for tails and dew claws.  He said that when there is a large litter, it is possible that there are “premie” type pups.  Where they are internally normal, and will eventually function and perform the same as the advanced pups, and just need a little extra time.  And that two weeks is too early to make a call.  That there is not necessarily anything congenitally or genetically wrong with them.  As if the two male pups had read my post about having them put down, they started spoon feeding with their bigger siblings tonight.  Honestly, I cried when it happened.  I hope that they “power up”, as my kids say in video gaming.  I am not taking reservations on them until they establish themselves in the pack, but should they be ready for homes eventually, I will seek them locally.)

Here are some pics and a short video of the nine cute and healthy pups.  Two week-old puppies are just not very exciting.  It is amazing to look at the difference one week makes.  The next week of their lives is huge: https://youtu.be/dhphJSjuA_Q

We are getting into some dangerous heat over the next few days, so they might have to spend some time in the cool of the basement.  Our property is really shaded in, so we won’t have the worst of the heat, but I will have to keep a close eye out to make sure that they aren’t overheating.

Okay it is noon and it is 91 degrees already and I need to move some pups.  Talk at you soon.

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