How We Raise Puppies
When people contact us for a companion puppy, they often want to know how the puppy has spent its first few months. Some breeders - whether they claim to be home-based hobbyists or full-fledged kennel operations - do not devote the kind of individual attention to each puppy that we feel is critical in forming optimum temperament. The Lakeland Terrier is a breed that I believe requires careful attention at its earliest stages of development. They can be prone to temperament problems (see below) and the hereditary condition Luxating Patella (see elsewhere on this site), and I caution anyone considering a Lakeland Terrier to ask his or her prospective breeder how he or she raises puppies.
The Lakeland is not a breed that enjoys extensive time spent in a kennel situation (or a home arrangement that involves many dogs, making crating inevitable and individual attention difficult), and a significant temperament problem in our breed is a general anxiety disorder characterized by neurotic behaviors such as panting, spinning in a crate, problem barking, separation anxiety, and so forth. It is important to me as a breeder to eliminate or minimize this anxiety disorder to which the breed is prone through careful selection and careful control of the environment and socialization. When questioning a breeder, be especially wary of those who deny that this temperament problem exists and promote their dogs as perfect or near-perfect. Even the most reputable breeding programs are going to have problems occasionally crop up, and the best way of approaching this is through responsible breeding.
I consider temperament to be the most important part of my responsibility as a breeder. At Wakefield, we do not house more than three dogs. Each is integrated in our household - they are seldom crated, they go for daily walks, spend time at the off-leash park, and enjoy life as housepets. All of the Wakefield breeding and show dogs enjoy this lifestyle - we keep our breeding stock in pet homes under an agreement that enables them to return to us for their breeding and show careers. Pet dogs, of course, are available to owners on a non-breeding contract. This differs from many other breeders, who house many dogs - either in their own home or at kennels - and these dogs generally do not enjoy a lifestyle that would be similar to that of the average housepet. This is not necessarily a bad thing: many well-adjusted Lakies have come from kennels, and I have had a few of them myself. It is important to look at the overall picture when choosing a breeder.
When we make a decision to have a litter, we first ensure that the prospective brood bitch is in peak health. Beyond ensuring that they are excellent examples of the breed tempermentally, we then clear them of Luxating Patella by a licensed veterinarian. We are in the process of uploading this documentation to the Orthopaedic Foundation for Animals (OFA), where it will be publicly available.
Carefully planned breedings lead to the mating, and then the waiting game begins. If the litter "took," the bitch goes on a slightly altered diet to promote healthy pregnancy. As the date draws near (normal gestation time is approximately 61 days, or 9 weeks), I re-organize my home office and prepare for the litter's arrival.
Thereafter, careful and frequent monitoring of the puppies forms a large chunk of our daily routine. Weighing them daily, we supplement those who need it, and we handle each puppy frequently to establish an early positive association with people. They each get a small amount of plain, organic yogurt daily, and once every two days they get a small amount of Manuka honey (this is a renowned product from New Zealand, well known for its support of the immune system). Puppies open their eyes for the first time at about two weeks of age, and begin walking shortly thereafter.
When they first outgrow their "whelping box," and for the remainder of their time here, we spend a lot of time extensively socializing the puppies. First is an introduction to the sights, sounds, and smells of a household. They begin to learn the joys of the "Discovery Network" on television, challenging the older dogs, and car rides. Romping in the kitchen, more than one missing 7-week-old has been discovered in the open dishwasher! We introduce the little ones to as many different people as possible, establishing a confident and outgoing attitude among all our puppies.
To date, we maintain close contact with puppy buyers throughout the puppy's lifetime. These people speak highly of the ease at which their puppy made the transition from Wakefield to their own home, and the continued joy that their new canine companion brings to their life. A happy, healthy, well-adjusted member of an appreciative family is really our top priority here, and the time investment we make in these first few weeks of a puppy's life reaps dividends for years to come. A Lakeland Terrier that has been well-raised will be an indispensable friend, and it is to this end that we have developed our strategy of raising puppies.
For the past few years, the majority of our litters have been whelped and raised with our good friend and partner, Rosemary Butler. Rosemary and her family operate a mid-size dairy farm in rural Quebec and this setting is an ideal place to raise puppies. The Butler farm (pictured above) is several hundred beautiful acres with a large and bustling farmhouse. Rosemary (pictured at left) is very well-versed in animal husbandry and has successfully applied that knowledge to whelping and raising puppies. She follows all of the protocols listed above, and takes a special interest in socialization. To date, her efforts have been tremendous and we expect her to continue in this role for some time to come.