Puppy Training & Care
The following details the care, nutrition, veterinary care, socialization, and training we provide during the first 8 weeks of life for a Magnum Opus puppy. We are happy to accommodate specific requests for reserved puppies (e.g. no obedience commands taught for an IPO prospect, or extra socialization and temperament testing for service dog prospects). We will also train commands in your preferred language for reserved puppies (English or German). This is all provided at no extra cost.
Dogs are pregnant for approximately 63 days. During this time, the dam will visit our veterinarian three times—once for a prenatal health check, and twice for ultrasounds. The first ultrasound is to simply confirm her pregnancy so we can begin accepting deposits and preparing to whelp. The second ultrasound is later in the pregnancy to get a more accurate count on how many puppies we are expecting. Magnum Opus does not perform x-rays to get an exact count on the number of puppies—exposing the developing puppies to radiation is an unnecessary risk that could lead to an early development of cancer. The health of our puppies is far more important to us than knowing exactly how many pups to expect ahead of time. The dam is fed with proper nutrition as recommended by our veterinarian as well as prenatal and postnatal supplements.
In the first two weeks after the puppies are born, we focus on familiarizing the pups with human scent and human touch. Puppies are born blind and deaf. To minimize stress, we do not remove the puppies from their mother at this age for any reason. We do not want the puppies to associate the smell of humans with stress of any sort—rather, we want them to associate humans with safety and comfort.
We also desensitize the puppies to human touch while they are in the nest with their mom. From birth we touch their feet, ears, tails and mouths. This helps the puppies to accept invasive human touch as a normal part of their lives. This will minimize any problems later on in life when your dog needs grooming, nail clipping, teeth brushing, etc because your dog is familiar with these experiences already.
Around week 2 the puppies’ ears will open and they will begin to hear sounds. We will expose them to as many new and different sounds as possible while their mom is right by them to reassure them. This will greatly aid in your dog’s confidence and lessen its natural fear and wariness of strange or loud sounds.
Around this time we start to wean the puppies. They will be gradually weaned off the dam’s milk for a period of 3-4 weeks, starting now. They are developing sharp little teeth at this point, and the dam is probably ready to start weaning. The pups are also starting to gain some bowel control.
The puppies also have increased mobility, so around this time we expand and enrich the puppies’ environment. As soon as the puppies have a desire to explore their environment, we increase the size of the whelping box, add toys, different walking surfaces, obstacles, and other humans for the pups to investigate. The pups are also beginning to loudly vocalize so you can expect some cute barking and howling videos around this stage! The pups will begin to run and play with each other and wag their tails.
We spend lots of time petting and holding the puppies at this stage so they begin to seek human touch instead of their mother. We also talk to them constantly so they become familiarized with human voices. The dam is starting to spend more and more time away from the pups as they become more self-sufficient. A heating pad is provided in her absence, and weather permitting, we will start to venture outside. Distinctive personalities will start to emerge, and we’ll begin taking notes on individual puppies.
Week 5 is all about building confidence. This is the time to expose the puppies to new environments (always in a controlled, safe setting for the health of the pups) and let them explore to build their confidence in new situations. We expose them to many different toys, surfaces both indoor and outdoor, cats and small animals such as rabbits and hedgehogs, and obstacles to climb on and over. At this age all their learning is self-directed, we never ask the puppies to do anything or force them into situations they don’t choose. This is crucial for the dog’s ability to handle new situations with the fearlessness that is characteristic of the German Shepherd Dog.
In week 6, the puppies visit our veterinarian for health checks and their first round of vaccinations. After this we start introducing them to other fully vaccinated, healthy, trained dogs. This is how they will learn important socialization skills as well as bite inhibition training. GSDs are called “land sharks” for a reason—they naturally try to explore the world teeth-first. By watching the reaction of other dogs and their litter mates during play, the pups will begin to understand that their teeth can hurt, and how to be gentle.
The foundation of potty training begins around week 5 but is not seriously stressed until a bit later. We also start to allow kennel visitors after the pups’ vet check at 6 weeks. To ensure the health and safety of our puppies, only human visitors are allowed. No other dogs or animals until they reach 8 weeks of age.
Socialization, exploration and training are what week 7 is all about. We start taking the pups on nature hikes and short trips into town. The dam and other adult dogs are there to model proper behavior, which is rewarded with praise, petting, and food. Some outings are pack-oriented, and some are focused on individual puppies. Weather permitting, we introduce the puppies to water. Pups learn to ride in cars, and leash training begins in earnest. At this stage the puppies are placed in harnesses, not collars, to prevent any injuries to their necks. Basic obedience commands (sit, leave it, no) are started, and potty training is getting a lot better (if not fully complete) at this stage.
Week 7 also marks temperament testing and the final placement of puppies in their prospective homes. Magnum Opus does not leave choosing the puppies up to the prospective owner for two reasons. First, we do our best to select optimal temperament, sex, and coloration in order of deposit placed. Many times, due to the fact that our clients travel many miles for our puppies and have their own schedule and lives to worry about, clients are simply unable to come choose a pup in order of deposit placed. Secondly, we feel placing pups according to temperament, and not color or size or other secondary traits, is the best way to ensure long-term success. Pups are placed at the beginning of week 7, and we can work with special requests on reserved puppies throughout the duration of this week until your pup goes home
Week 8 & Beyond
Our puppies are allowed to go home as soon as they turn 8 weeks old. Magnum Opus can hold reserved puppies for an additional week, until they are 9 weeks old, at no extra charge (other than at-cost veterinary fees for their second round of shots). We love our pups and enjoy the extra time with them! After 9 weeks, boarding and training fees will apply as well, or loss of deposit as we find the pup another home as stated in your terms & conditions. For as long as we have the pups, we continue to socialize, train, and expose them to new environments to build their confidence.
All our puppies are sent home with a puppy training packet detailing everything we’ve worked on and recommended steps for continuing that training and socialization after you bring your new puppy home!