On the topic of supplementing a litter, as with almost everything else in dogs, there's no one right answer, it depends on a number of variables, and it varies tremendously from breed to breed. I have learned my lesson that just because a bitch CAN feed a large litter, does not mean that she SHOULD. Pippi’s mother, Daphne stayed in the box 24/7 with her second litter and they nursed in shifts just about continually. She was dripping milk and easily fed all 8 puppies - and she also wound up with eclampsia, which I hope none of you ever have to experience because it's scary as all get out.
The bottom line, for me, is that Bull Terriers are not really "big litter" dogs - I think a well cared for Golden Retriever or a Rottweiler might be able to handle a huge litter and be just fine, but I don't think you can trust things will be OK with a Bull Terrier bitch and a large litter, no matter what you feed her. This is what what my breed mentors said and did with their litters and, through hard experience, I've come back to their advice. Even though Pippi is making plenty of milk, we’ve begun supplementing the puppies with goat milk.
There’s a behavioral aspect to this, as well. Pippi does not stay in the box continually with the puppies, so when she gets in to feed them, they literally stand up on their little legs and start swarming like screaming cockroaches. The sound and the motion are truly alarming. I’ve seen bitches give a keening pack of puppies that quick, darting back and forth look that appears to me to be more prey drive than maternal instinct. Not interested in testing that theory, so we quiet down the puppies by giving them a little goat milk delivered on a cosmetic sponge before letting Pippi back in.
The rule of thumb for orphaned puppies is 1 cc per ounce of body weight for a full meal replacement - that's way more than you need as you still want your puppies to nurse. I just a give a few ccs to take the edge off. For a 2 pound puppy I do 6-12 ccs, depending on how vocal they are.
A couple of tips about sponge feeding:
This topic points up the importance of having a breed mentor, as opposed to a general mentor when it comes to whelping litters. The variations between breeds is HUGE (and wonderful, and fascinating) and you do need to have someone in your breed brief you on the peculiarities of your breed when it comes to raising a litter.
I love reading well written stories about breeders and the history of their dogs, but I realize not everyone does, so I’m putting what follows as a “bonus” at the end of our ten day blog.
Ruby - Great Great Grandmother (Ch Corsaire Carpe Diem of Madcap VA, RN, NA, NAP, NJP, RL-2)
I went to see her and, indeed, she was a stunner. She showed like a house on fire in the breed ring, is fun as heck as a pet and was a terrific performance dog. She also wants to mix it up with just about any dog she meets. As you can imagine, getting her to reliably perform around other dogs was a feat. Anyone who’s taken my Attention as a Behavior seminar can thank Ruby, because she taught me everything I know about teaching a dog to ignore her surroundings.
Augie - Great Grandfather (Ch. Madcap Veni Vidi Vici, RL-1)
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I bred Ruby to the most sweet, soft Bull Terrier we could find (who conveniently also had the beautiful shoulder construction that Ruby needed) and produced Augie, who truly looks and acts like Ferdinand the Bull. Lover of cats, foster mother to orphan puppies, surrogate parent to guinea fowl keats, tireless puppy babysitter - he’s just a happy and sweet guy.
He’s gorgeous, moves like a dream, and also happens to have one of the prodigiously bad under bites I have ever seen. The fact that he could finish his championship with that bite is testament to just how beautiful he is. As it turns out, that bad under bite is possibly one of the best things that ever happened to me. More on that, later.
Zulu - Great Grandmother (Ch TNG N Buoy's Concrete Blonde ROM, VAX, RA, NA, NAJ, AXP, OJP)
I kept running into June Krukenkamp with her young white bitch at the specialties. The bitch was pretty but still immature and kept getting passed over, but I really liked the bitch and made it a point to spend time with her. Her temperament was beyond delightful - a perfect combination of Bull Terrier spark riding on a “hail fellow well met” attitude. When June mentioned that she was thinking of placing her, I jumped at the chance to lease her and breed her to Augie.
I had no intention of keeping Zulu, but Zulu decided she was mine and was not taking no for an answer. And she’s turned out to be so wonderful and so deep in so many ways, I’d really need a whole blog just to talk about her. She’s the start of our “can do” bitches – whatever we ask of them, they deliver in spades. Best of Variety at specialties? Sure. ROM championship. Of course. Group placements? Roger. ROM champion offspring? Absolutely. Neutral dog for seminars with reactive dogs? Yes. Puppy socializer? Affirmative. Agility, obedience, rally, water sports? Yes, indeedy. Zulu can never die; I don’t know what I’ll do without her.
Daphne - Grandmother
(GCH Madcap When In Rome ROM, NAP, NJP)
So then came the wonderful Augie x Zulu litter of 9, one of which is Daphne. She’s following in her mother’s “can do” footsteps in every way, except that she’s added Movie Star to her resume - Daphne and her first litter are the subject of our film Puppy Culture. As of this writing, Daphne’s produced two AKC Grand Champions and two ROM champions, and there’s more where that came from. Right now she’s delighted to be retired from the whelping box and moving on to the agility ring.
Mother - Pippi (GCH Madcap Jump The Broom, ROM)
We bred Daphne to frozen semen from a dog who, in my opinion, never got the recognition or use that he should have because he was tri colored (long story, but Bull Terrier people don’t like tri coloreds). We got a super litter, one of which is Pippi. Pippi is really different from other Bull Terriers that I have known and is incredibly socially motivated – she does agility with me for the pure joy of it – no food or toys required. She’s also the only Bull Terrier I have ever observed to learn by imitation – she learned to sit up on her hind legs by watching the other dogs do it.
She quickly earned her Grand Championship and ROM championship and she’s taking her first turn in the whelping box with this litter.
Daphne and Pippi were line bred, so we chose to go out to an English dog named Ch Emred Devil's Spy when we bred Pippi. We are super fortunate that it it appears to have clicked, and so far the puppies look outstanding.
So that brings us to the fifth generation, which are these little babies – but first a small back track…