Thursday, 22 August 2019

In this blog an Ella and pup update

All of Ella’s nine pups pass their suitability to be police dog assessments.

The pups get to meet their dad PD Drake before going to their new puppy walkers on the next stage of their journey as trainee police dogs.


Pictured above are Ella’s 9 pups at the start of their 8th and final week with us. It was now time for them to undergo their puppy assessments to establish which pups would be going on to our puppy development program.

The assessments were  carried out in Plymouth at the home of Graham Mabbutt a retired Devon and
Cornwall Police dog Instructor with over 50 years’ experience of assessing puppies. The girls had their assessments on the Monday and the boys on Tuesday.

Here are the girls all bright eyed and bushy tailed about to set off on their 50 mile journey with me.


Having watched them develop over the last 8 weeks I was extremely confident that they would all do well.

On our arrival at Graham’s house without so much as a squeak from any of the pups on the journey the pups were given a run on the lawn to spend a penny and a chance to stretch their legs.

They weren’t at all fazed by the ducks or the noisy river which runs alongside their beautiful property.


Here is Finni recalling happily and confidently to Graham as did all of the pups.

The pups were then assessed individually by Graham in the house in a room they had never been before. The tests are designed to assess confidence, playfulness, determination, willingness, reaction to new situations and the ability to deal with stress.

Probably the most important test for me is the first one where the pup is placed in a room it has never been before and we assess the puppies initial reaction and recovery.

Here is Finni giving me everything I am looking for ie calmness, confidence and showing no sign of stress whatsoever.



Through play the assessor will look at the puppy’s playfulness, determination, reaction to different noises, reaction to constriction, reaction to unusual circumstances such as being placed on a rickety table or being taken by surprise by a small umbrella opening suddenly.

Here is Flint on entering the room with a raised tail confidently exploring the room with a real swagger.


There is a lot of divided opinion on the value of puppy assessing to try and predict adult character. I certainly don’t use it as a pass or fail but rather as additional information to complement the breeders observations having raised the puppy and research into the character and genetics of the parents.

Here is Floyd showing real determination to win a game of tug of war with the assessor.


I use Graham as my assessor because of his experience and ability to recognise any signs of stress in a puppy and to immediately remove any pressure through play if he needs to.

As Graham says any fool can frighten a puppy, the skill is assessing a puppy’s strengths and weaknesses without causing it unnecessary suffering.

Here is Fozzy showing incredible determination and concentration for a 7 week old pup to recover a toy thrown in amongst various obstacles.


Here is Franky showing confidence and enthusiasm recalling to the assessor as if he was his best friend.

Here is Flo on her assessment taking everything in her stride showing all the instincts of a potential future Police dog ie willingness, calmness, concentration, determination, playfulness and boldness.



I cannot remember seeing a litter where every single puppy in the litter was so confident and playful. Judge for yourself here is Freya showing all the traits you could ever want in a young puppy.



You have to pinch yourself that these pups are only just over 7 weeks old here on this assessment.
Here is Fozzy responding to a whistle where he works out exactly where the source of the sound is coming from.


I don’t think Graham could quite believe just how exceptional the 4 girls were on the assessment. Here they are when we got back home from Plymouth with mum Ella waiting to greet them.



The boys were just as impressive the following day and here is mum waiting to meet them on their return.



I was extremely proud of them all but their exceptional performance gave me a dilemma. We only  need 6 pups for our September 2020 Police dog course.

I decided to keep all 9 pups because in my opinion it would be extremely difficult to find better pups than these and we could always keep several for our January 2021 course.


On the Friday our vet Clive and Veterinary assistant Charlette came to our house to give all of the pups a full health check, their first vaccination and their microchips.

They all very calmly accepted being held for their examination and showed no sign of distress with their injections. Here is Fozzy taking it all in his stride.


It was a huge bonus to discover that was none of the males had Cryptorchidism ie where one or both testicles are not in the scrotum ( or sac) which is a common problem in the breed.

I must confess I did fear the worst when Clive was examining Freddy because he searched for quite a long time before eventually declaring there were two testicles. Freddy didn’t seem to worry too much about the process and just calmly sniffed the bottle of disinfectant.


But you’ve got to hand it to Flint how many blokes would calmly accept someone searching around to see if he had two descended testicles while the nurse is waiting alongside with a needle which is obviously also coming his way.


With only 2 days to go before the pups were due to go to their puppy walkers it was clear that the time was right for the pups to leave us because some of the puppy fights and chasing games were becoming too intense and I feared injuries were just around the corner.

They certainly knew when it was food time because they could smell it in the kitchen.

Also as quickly as I filled or covered the holes that they were digging another one would appear.




The one constant feature throughout has been Ella who has enjoyed every minute of the 8 weeks and 2 days she has been with her pups.



Every opportunity she gets she is with them.





It has been a privilege to see the interaction and relationship she had had with her pups and it is something that I will never forget.



Finally on Sunday 18th of August and 8 weeks 2 days after they were born the pups had a light breakfast and a good run in the garden. I then put the pups back into their Den to await the arrival of their puppy walkers.


Before they arrived I arranged for the father of the pups PD Drake and handler Mark to come over early to be reunited with Ella. Just as I expected PD Drake was very happy and enthusiastic being reunited with Ella.

PD Drake lived with us and Ella for 8 months before being allocated to Mark.



We then introduced Drake to the pups and just as I thought would be the case PD Drake calmly said hello to the pups without any aggression or raised hackles and I knew there and then I had definitely used the right dog as our stud dog.



We then put PD Drake, Ella and the pups away until the puppy walkers had arrived and been given their briefing before they met their pups.



After suffering the trauma of having listening to me for over half an hour the puppy walkers were finally were introduced to their pups.






Then it was time for a group photo as a memento of what was a very emotional day for my wife and I.



We took an individual photo of each puppy and their puppy walkers.










Before we knew it everyone had left and the last 8 plus weeks had gone by in a flash.

I then took Ella for her favourite walk and just like the special girl she is even the rainbow joined her.
I will be visiting all of the F litter pups over the next 5 days to make sure everyone has settled in. 
I am looking forward to watching the F litter develop and will be posting photos and videos sent into me by all of our puppy walkers and of our development sessions which will shared on twitter and my blog. 

My thanks to John at the dog school for all of his help.

My thanks also to Colin who made the feeding station, to Chris Highton for the supply of papers, to

Chris Walter for the papers and helping with the photographs, to Mary for looking after Flo, to everyone else who helped out and most of all to my wife Di.

From Ella and me bye for now.

Tuesday, 13 August 2019

A day in the life of Ella and her 9 pups


Ella is pictured here on our 6am daily early morning walk on the Killerton park estate which is right next door to where we live. Considering she had a litter of 9 pups only 7 weeks ago she is in tip top condition.

Ella’s litter were 7 weeks old on Friday 9th August and will be going to their puppy walkers on Sunday 18th of August.

Ella has unrestricted access to her pups at all times and now that the pups understand that I feed them and not mum they tend to leave her alone and she can now really enjoy being with them.



She is always on guard and nothing escapes her attention. Even a crow flying overhead is in her sights.

Once we get back from Ella’s walk it is time for me to let the puppies out for a leg stretch and to do their toileting.


After the initial mad scramble to greet mum Ella things settle down and everyone has a morning play.



I then go down to clean out their Den and the pups invariably follow me into the conservatory to continue playing while I go into the den to clean up.



It takes quite a while to thoroughly clean out their living quarters and they usually all eventually run out of steam and huddle up waiting patiently for me to put them back in a nice clean den before I then go off and make their breakfast.



With their feeding I like to make sure that each pup gets his/her fair share with their own portion. This has worked well with all of our previous litters and was going quite well with this litter.

Show Pic 4


However Freya ( Silver) Finni ( Pink) Franky ( Orange) and Flint ( Green ) are ferocious eaters who obviously take after their Dad PD Drake and within a very short time they have eaten their share and then try to pile into everyone else’s portions.

I decided I needed a system where everyone could have their own bowl and the big eaters couldn’t just take everyone else’s share. I knew exactly what type of feeding station I needed but didn’t have the skills to make it in a short period of time.

I rang our friends and current puppy walkers Colin and Mitzi who are puppy walking TPD Rana to see if Colin a builder by trade could help out. Within 24 hours Colin had acquired the materials, built the feeding station to my requirements and delivered it to our house.
With the feeding station I can remove the big hitters as soon as they have finished their share and place them back in the run while the others finish their share in peace.



Around 5 weeks of age I noticed the puppies were not always producing solid stools and so I spoke to our vet who suggested putting them on a course of antibiotics. This had an immediate effect and they have been much better.

However a sample of their stools revealed that they have a parasite called Coccidia and will need another type of antibiotic to completely clear this up. Hopefully this will clear out this parasite before they go to their puppy walkers on Sunday next week.

The one abiding memory I will take from my time with this excellent litter will be watching mum Ella interacting with her pups and the obvious enjoyment she gets from being with them.






She wants to check on them all the time and particularly when we have visitors.  Here she is on one of the many visits we have had demonstrating her excellent temperament and lovely trustworthy nature.



I have no doubt her calmness has been passed onto her puppies and they definitely draw strength from witnessing that calmness first hand. Here she is while I am introducing the pups to the rather loud hoover.



I find that sprinkling a hand full of food on the floor for hungry pups makes them oblivious to the noisiest of hoovers although this litter didn’t need that development strategy.

I doubt I will ever find a female like Ella ever again. A dog like Ella probably only comes along once in a lifetime.

Every evening our special time together would be 9.30pm under the apple tree when all the pups were put away for the night.

I enjoyed sipping my cold beer with Ella alongside me in total peace and quiet. However once the pups got to 6 weeks they weren’t so keen to go to bed at 9.30pm and invariably they would fall asleep at my feet in the garden.

When I eventually decided it was time to go to bed they never seem in a hurry to move


At this age all pups are playful and all of our litters have been very playful. But there is no doubt that this litter are the most playful we have ever had. They all just amuse themselves and all the pups just continually play and carry objects.





The boys are all very confident and playful pups but there is no doubt that the girls have an extra special dimension to their characters. They have a hard steely determination but at the same time a very calm confident nothing is a problem attitude that Freya is showing here.



This week the pups will be undergoing a 100 mile round trip to Plymouth for their puppy assessments. Because we have had kennel cough in the HQ kennels I have been unable to take them into HQ each day to meet the office staff and get them used to travelling.

I am so confident in this litter that I don’t think their lack of preparation will affect their performance on the assessments despite the long journey. The assessments will take place on two days with the girls on one day and the boys the second day.

On Friday they will have their first inoculation and microchips fitted before going to their puppy walkers on Sunday.

I will leave you with a couple of video’s of Ella and her pups which demonstrate clearly why if it is at all possible mum should stay with her pups until they leave to give mum and pups the best possible experience.



I will do a final blog next week showing how they got on with their assessments and finally leaving  with their new puppy walkers.

From Ella and I bye for now.

Wednesday, 31 July 2019

Ella's pups are 6 weeks old

Ella’s pups are 6 weeks old this Friday and their little characters are now starting to shine through


I am happy to report that mum and pups are all thriving and doing well. They are a very calm, confident, happy, playful litter and other than a little difficulty in getting them to switch from mums milk to puppy food at 3 weeks everything has gone very smoothly so far.

Meet the pups

FREYA - Silver collar


FLO - Yellow collar


FENDI – Bright green collar


FINNI – Pink collar


FLOYD – Blue collar


FREDDY- Red collar


FOZZIE – Purple collar


FLINT – Green collar


FRANKY – Orange collar



There is no doubt the girls are the lead players in everything they encounter. Particularly Flo, Fendi and Freya. Finni did worry me at one point because she was quite reserved and cautious but she has really developed and is now on a par with her 3 sisters.

Floyd, Flint and Franky are all like their dad PD Drake in the way they walk around like 3 little stocky pit bulls. Here are Floyd and Franky doing their impression of a couple of nightclub bouncers.


Freddy and Fozzie have both appeared somewhat vulnerable and quiet in comparison to the others but they have also really kicked on in the last week and are now more than holding their own.

What is very apparent from the visitors that we have had so far is that they all love people and being held and fussed as demonstrated here with Flint





They have been very advanced in terms of their eyes opening, their hearing and their teeth coming through. As I mentioned in my last blog Mum was finding their biting very painful during feeds and switching them from mum's milk to puppy food was not progressing as I wanted it to. 

So to make sure the pups continued to get their nutrition I continued letting mum feed 3 pups at a time on her bed.



I know there will be lots of breeders reading this who will disagree with interfering in this way but I know Ella and she was very relaxed and happy with this.

I like my pups to have their own bowls so that I don’t get a situation where the greedy pups eat too much to quickly and the slower eaters don’t get their fair share.

But for the first time in our 6 litters this didn’t work and so I continued to hand feed them mince beef individually and let them experiment with one large bowl of puppy food with beef mince which seemed to work.



I then introduced a second feeding pan because 9 pups around one pan was too crowded.



They adore their supper meal of Goats milk and so it was easy to introduce them to this individually.



There was one of the pups who tried to switch to someone else’s but that isn’t a problem because they all scoff their milk so quickly nobody misses out.



I’ve now started them back on individual feeds for all of their main meals and although initially they kept trying to swop bowls they are now getting the idea.


What they do is eat the mince beef on top of their own bowls then try to steal everyone else’s mince beef.



I will now continue with each pup having their own bowl, but if there are slower eaters I will put them in a separate feeding area. 

The pups all ventured out into the garden via the patio doors when they were just 4 weeks.   As always the first ones out were Fendi and Flo.



When you consider at 4 weeks their sight is still poor and they struggle to focus close up and the drop down onto a lower level I was really impressed with them.

Within 2 days they were all going in and out without any difficulty. Here is mum leading them out when I let them out first thing in the morning.



They currently have an enclosed area outside the patio doors and a small enclosed grass area to play in.

Ella has continual access to her pups and although she no longer feeds them she has a strong instinctual urge to check on them and so she can come and go as she pleases.

Here she is leading them out when I let them all out first thing in the morning.



As their eye sight becomes clearer they are becoming more and more playful.



Although they love playing in the grass area where their favourite game seems to be rolling down the bank they still like to be able to retreat to their Den area.



They are getting quite focused on biting people’s legs and shoelaces as my wife found out this week and realises now that Wellies are the order of the day.



The pups are now realising trying to grab a sneaky feed off mum is no longer on the agenda and as a result Ella can enjoy being in with her pups much more.



She has numerous places she can get in and out of the pups exercise area if she wants a quiet moment but still has contact with the pups.





There is obviously much more work involved in having a litter at home as opposed to a kennel environment but just seeing mum having such fun and empathy with her pups makes it all worthwhile.




Mum is also invaluable in giving off her calmness and super confidence which in turn transmits itself to the pups and shows them life is nothing to worry about. Here is Ella showing her total indifference to the hoover and the pups treat it just the same way.



The weather has been a real plus and is why having a litter at this time of year has so many benefits. Here they are having a nap out on the grass without having to go back inside.



I will leave you with Ella enjoying some down time with her pups.



In my next blog I will report on how the pups get on with their 7 week assessment to establish which of them will be retained for the puppy program.

Also I will report on TPD Ernie, TPD Nico and TPD Errol who successfully passed their final assessments last week and will now be allocated to their new handlers for the Sept 2019 Initial Police dog course.

From Ella and I see you next time.