Labrador puppies Norwich

Puppy Breeding Adventures – January 2018

As you may know by now, in January 2018 my husband and I became Labrador puppy breeders. It’s been hugely exciting, an emotional rollercoaster, and also a massive learning experience.

So, as I’m writing this, our very first litter is literally about to leave us, within the next 48 hours, to all go to their new homes. I thought this was the perfect time to get some of my thoughts down, to take stock of just what we’ve been through together, and hopefully share some things that may just be useful to others.

So, firstly, it seems clear to me that the puppy breeding process has clear stages, or chapters. I’m not going to give you a journal of the full process (that would be dull) but here are a few of the points that really stood out for us, and I’ll try and keep them roughly in order.

1. You’ve got to trust the bitch – and listen to her

This was our first time dog breeding, and it was Lizzie’s first litter, too, which meant we were nervous about the whole process. At times, because of these nerves, we hit the research hard, and looked for the rules. At every step of the way, right from deciding when Lizzie would really be ovulating and ready to conceive, right through to when the puppies would be born and then a whole range of other steps like when and how much she should feed them, etc, despite everything that we could read and all the tests we could pay for, Lizzie always knew what to do. We had to really allow ourselves to listen to her and observe, rather than try and shape all of her behaviours.

For example, there were occasions when the puppies would whine and cry, and she would ignore them. This was difficult to watch, and we were worried that Lizzie wasn’t bonding with her babies. So, we did what over worried parents do – pushed her and “encouraged her”. However, each time this happened, we began to learn that Lizzie knew what she was doing, and would react to her puppies when she knew they needed her. You have to trust her maternal instinct, even when it’s her first litter.

2. Pay close attention to the mum after the birth

With so many puppies around, it might be easy to overlook how the mum is doing, but you should pay close attention to how their behaviour may change. For some reason, Lizzie stopped wanting to drink water once she had had the puppies, and would only consume liquids through highly diluted food. Unfortunately, because we were so excited about the puppies, this went unnoticed for a day or so, and slowed down her milk production, which would have had severe implications for the puppies had it been left any longer.

So, without wanting to be alarmist, in all that action and excitement with the puppies, it’s easy to take your eye slightly off the mum.

3. Gestation doesn’t always last 63 days

Don’t be fooled when people assure you that the gestation period is exactly 63 days. Before Lizzie gave birth, almost everyone we asked was adamant that dogs are pregnant for 63 days – no more no less. This meant that, having marked Lizzie’s due date on the calendar, we were a little surprised (to say the least!) when Lizzie whelped on day 59!

4. Establish a good relationship with a respected breeder

We were lucky to have been able to use a faultless stud owner for this litter – Julie ( had an abundance of experience and provided us with great support from the very start. We have been able to ask her advice to calm our nerves and prepare ourselves for what might have been very difficult situations had we not talked about them beforehand. For example, we were able to spot Lizzie’s development of mastitis early on, get the right advice, and resolve the problem within 48 hours. We feel incredibly lucky because Julie went above and beyond what she needed to do for us (because she is so lovely!), but it is important that, whichever breeder you choose, you are able to trust them and can ask them advice. Don’t rush into choosing your stud – do your research!

5. Be prepared for house arrest!

Puppies can’t really be left alone (though most people, including myself, don’t want to anyway!). I spent around four weeks camped out in the room with Lizzie, and then with the puppies. It wasn’t really that difficult but, even with the best box sets in the world, that’s a long time to be doing very little! You will definitely need someone to help you with food shopping, and running errands, as you will have very little time for this. I would discourage anyone with a job or an active social life from breeding, as it requires a lot of hardcore dedication. From beginning to end, we will have put in between at least 12 weeks of constant effort.

6. You’ll fall in love

Even with the best will in the world, and no matter what you tell yourself before the puppies arrive, you will fall in love. Having hand delivered each of these 9 bundles of joy, myself and Tom have both watched them develop their own personalities and temperaments. We have seen their confidence grow, watched them get bigger, witnesses their first steps, learned all their names and laughed at their first funny little growls. This means that I can’t stop smiling for a second that I am at home in their company. I don’t believe anyone wouldn’t melt at the sign of these 9 gorgeous puppies- falling in love with the puppies was unavoidable. Even though we consider it a privilege to have had them, even for a short amount of time, it will be so very difficult to say goodbye!

I’m sure there will be more to share. As we finally say goodbye to the pups in the next couple of days, we’re hoping to keep in touch and to follow how they all get on in their new lives, so we’ll try and share what we can with you all too.