Sunday, July 26, 2009

First Over the Wall

Bet you are thinking, "What the heck does Gayle mean by that blog title?" Well, in 1989, Andy and I were stationed in Germany while the Berlin wall was falling. Realizing that we were living in the middle of history in the making, we headed for Berlin to see its amazing transformation. Night and day, the city rang with the sound of hammers and picks dismantling the wall. My memories are of the constant din, lights by the wall at 3 AM, impromtu parties and a city filled with energy. One of the sights that I remember is of the Brandenburg Gate festooned with a large banner claiming "Saatchi and Saatchi, First Over the Wall." This global advertising firm got a lot of free publicity from that banner but what did that sign really mean in terms of quality and future performance? In my opinion, nothing. They just happened to have a quick printer at the right place at the right time.

I often remember that sign as I talk to people about puppies. Most folks want to know which puppy was first to do things. Who was first out of the whelping box? Who was first to figure out the dog door? Who climbed the jungle gym first? I know some breeders give creedance to "firsts" but I'm not one of them. Similarly, I do not give creedance to "lasts." Being first for puppies is more often the result of being at the right place at the right time than of any individual characteristic or ability. Being last may simply be that pup is putting more energy into growing than into acting.

I actually take this a step further and do not commit to the virtues or weaknesses of an individual puppy until they are 7 1/2 to 8 weeks old. Many buyers think I'm being coy or playing my cards close to my vest but that is not the case. I firmly believe that puppies have to have the opportunity to develop at their own pace in their own way. Some do it more quickly than others but that doesn't mean they don't all get to the same place. I've had pups that appeared dynamite, bold and active at 5 weeks and by 8 weeks were timid and quiet. More often, I see pups that appear almost dull at an early age who turn out to be fabulous, eye-catching 8-week olds. I can clearly remember truly annoying, whiney pups that I couldn't wait to send to their new homes that became amazing working dogs, that will remain some of my favorite dogs of all time.

I write this to caution you against selecting favorites early on. If I say that a pup or two did something "first," take it as information but not a commitment. I also warn you that if I don't have an equal number of photos or videos of the pups, it means nothing. I simply take photos when I can and post them as soon as possible for you to enjoy. There is little editing, no plan and no ulterior motives.

All of that is a lead in to where the 4th of July crew is now. At the moment, they are still in the whelping box but in a few hours they are moving downstairs into the exercise pen. At 3 weeks, they are ready to see the world and are making every effort to do so. Mr Red and Miss Yellow have already gone exploring. Mr Purple and Mr Blue are almost "over the wall" and the rest of the pups are not far behind. So, we are transitioning them a few days earlier than most of my recent litters but they clearly need more stimulation than we can give them in the whelping box.

The x-pen goes in our dining room so they move into the middle of the family action. Risk is very much ready for this--she is bored and lonely by herself in the box and is completely comfortable with the other dogs around her babies. The x-pen will have a large potty area which will begin the pups housebreaking, a sleeping area and lots of things to explore and play with. All of the dogs will be able to get in and spend time with the babies, if they wish. I'll take pictures of the new set up tonight or tomorrow but in the meantime, have posted the last few videos and photos of the pups in the whelping box.


Marcy Burke said...

Gayle -

Such memories of conversations we had about the Ice Cream litter. Everyone wanted to know which one I was keeping. You advised that I observe and not judge because in your experience things would change. Of course, I took home Ms. Red in my litter, one I had not even considered until she was 7.5 weeks old. When I came home with her, everyone was shocked. She was absolutely the right pup for me!!!

Love, love, love the blog!!! The pups look wonderful. I cannot wait to test them :o)

Kathy said...

I wish I could watch this test. The Gamebirds were fascinating!

Gaylan's Golden Retrievers said...


I wish you could be here for the test, too. C'mon East! It should be an interesting day.