Chapter Seven

Five Weeks Old

At five weeks, the pups weigh in at somewhere around eight to ten pounds. The girls are starting to look quite feminine, and the boys definitely have a masculine air about them. All systems are working well, and the world is theirs for the taking.



The puppies’ indoor kennel area is very much still home, and a fine place to retreat to now and then. But at five weeks old, they spend the majority of their daylight hours outside, exploring their world.



The pups’ fur is now thick and fluffed out. Their legs are sturdy. Their curiosity is endless. And mom’s still the best ticket in town.



Sometimes, if a puppy is particularly persistent, he can grab a quick drink. Even though he’s upside down, that milk still tastes really good.



Meals are now served three times a day. The kibble disappears within seconds.

Are you wondering about the checked tablecloth? It’s not just for ambiance. The kennel floor is covered with shavings. Pups are messy eaters, and they roam from bowl to bowl, often walking through the bowls. Sticky feet would get covered with shavings. The tablecloth keeps their feet out of the shavings, and the shavings out of the food, and thus out of the puppies’ tummies. Ingested shavings can play havoc with a pup’s intestines, so that tablecloth is a crucial piece of kennel gear.



The pups are now big enough to romp freely with the bigger dogs. At Sweetbay, Newfs of all ages play together. Older puppies provide good role models for the little ones to emulate. Adult dogs establish and enforce the rules.



There’s a four-week age difference between the bigger puppy and his two smaller friends. One month means roughly twenty-five additional pounds – and a whole slate of added experiences. Older pups know great games, and they love including the babies. And that great Newfie temperament ensures that everyone gets along.



Many years ago, Ellis tore out a seldom-used back-yard deck. The lumber was reborn into a series of sturdy tables of varying heights that took up residence in the puppy kennel. Ever since, every litter of Sweetbay pups has found them irresistible. The pups soon boost themselves up onto the lowest table. Then they quickly master climbing from one to the next.



Confidence is built in many ways. Knowing that you’ve succeeded at a tough task is priceless.



At four weeks of age, the pups stuck close to their indoor kennel. But every day, they ventured a little further. Now, at five weeks, they’re exploring every inch of the territory.



Those bigger bowls of kibble mean more poop to clean up. Scooping is a religion at Sweetbay, both inside the pups’ kennel and out. An immaculate environment ensures that the puppies will be a cinch to housebreak when in their new homes.




Something new and wonderful comes into play this week: the shavings pile. Each time Judi and Ellis whelp a new litter, they order five cubic units of wood shavings. A huge truck backs in, the tailgate opens, and the most amazing shavings mountain grows – and grows – and grows.



It’s an immense mountain, easily ten feet high and much wider at the base. The resident Sweetbay Newfs immediately take possession. But the shavings pile is really for those puppies, who are busily exploring their expanding world.




The shavings mountain provides endless opportunities for the puppies to test their mettle. It takes muscle and coordination to boogie up the side. At first, Judi and Ellis sit near the top, giving the pups a visible goal. Not that they need one! Gleefully, the pups scrabble up, often in a line like furry little sherpas heading up Everest.



Getting down again is a bit tricky. At first, the puppies tumble and roll, sometimes doing a series of somersaults and landing in a heap at the base of the hill. But the shavings are soft and the pups are sturdy. They quickly learn what their bodies can do, and their skills expand still further.



This pup looks like an otter as he slides down the slope on his belly.



At first, the puppies choose the easiest ascent, using the same route each time. But as their skills increase, they purposely increase the challenge. They will deliberately head up the steepest side, hunkering down and digging in, until they arrive at the summit.



Every Sweetbay litter discovers a universal truth: the shavings pile is the best play-place ever.


Visitors love the shavings pile, too. It’s a great vantage spot for watching the action down below. It’s also handy for dispensing a congratulatory snuggle when a puppy makes it to the top.



The pups’ incisors are long and sharp. Biting is a crucial element in every puppy’s play, and they learn from their siblings’ reactions. Growling means the game is fun. A sharp squeal means somebody’s teeth went overboard.

At the same time, Judi and Ellis begin augmenting the lessons with their own “no bite” training. It’s a tough concept for a puppy, understanding that chomping on fingers or toes or pant legs is not allowed. But learning to bite appropriately, and learning when not to bite, are essential in order for the pups to become great family companions.



This brash youngster is taking a big risk. Noting his mother is occupied with a toy, he latches onto her tail. But adult Sweetbay Newfs are very good teachers. His mom will set him straight in no time. If her steely glare doesn’t do the trick, a fierce snap of her teeth (carefully calculated to startle but not to injure) will convince him to knock it off.



Judi and Ellis have been able to tell the pups apart almost from birth. But at this age, everyone who visits knows which puppy is which, too. “That’s Jake, he’s got the big white blaze. And that’s Chloe, she’s always carrying a pine cone around.” Still, Judi renews those nail polish markings every few days so there is never any confusion. And the red splotches remain until the pups go to their new homes.



The puppies continue to get daily house time. The newspaper areas are gradually reduced, and this helps the pups progress on their housetraining. Even at five weeks old, they race for the papers to pee. With less flooring under newspapers, more tile is exposed. Those tile areas give them experience on slick surfaces, which Sweetbay puppies (and adults) handle with ease.



Everything they encounter seems designed for the puppies’ entertainment. A kitchen chair makes an interesting jail. He got himself in. Now can he get himself out?



Oh, dear. A disaster is about to happen. That tablecloth is asking to be grabbed and tugged. You know there’s a big crash in the offing. Fortunately, Judi or Ellis is always within reach, ready to convince the pup that tablecloths are not toys. Teaching a puppy limits is valuable at any age, and at five weeks, this pup is ready to learn that some things are off limits. Yes, the Adlers could puppy-proof the kitchen. But they believe in teaching rather than adapting. One quick pop on the nose – and that pup will think twice about grabbing the tablecloth the next time he spots it.



Last week, during their house visits, the pups slept three quarters of the time, and played the rest. This week, those percentages are reversed, with the naps much briefer and the play a lot more active.



Who knew the kitchen island would become the center of a puppy racetrack? Five-week-old pups can get up considerable speed, chasing each other around and around.



There are three weeks to go until they head out to their new homes. But these pups are already well on their way to becoming amazing family companions. Daily visitors, both local and from out of state, add their cuddles and chatter. Isn’t it great that something as important as puppy socialization is also so much fun?


Return To The Chapter Index

Go To The Next Chapter