I've got "sucker" tattooed across my forehead, and I agreed to foster half a litter (4) of boxer-lab puppies, approximately 7-8 weeks old, for a local rescue.
They arrived yesterday and they were scared and shy. Now they have turned into nonstop kung-fu fighters, and are like a tiny thundering herd running around my kitchen.
My question: what do I do with them at night? I just assumed that I would pile them all in a crate together, but do I need to slowly introduce them to the crate just as I would with a single puppy? Is it foolish to expect them to be OK in a crate together overnight right away? I'm up at this hour because one of them barked almost nonstop for 3.5 hours in the crate. He was finally quiet and I took that opportunity to let them all out to go potty. Two of them have diarrhea (they are on a course of Panacur) and someone soiled the crate at some point. Now they are playing, hard.
I know very little about their earlier lives except that they were in a local high-kill shelter. And I've never had a whole (ok, a half-) litter of puppies before-- just one at a time.
That is very generous, CookiePony. Folks think it is so much fun (and overall it is) but it is so much work.
With littermates for company, I would not worry about habituating them to the crate. Potty breaks every 4hrs (more often if diarrhea) then right back into the crate NO playing! Potty breaks are for pottying not playing but puppies will quickly convince you otherwise if you are not on guard against manipulative antics of puppy adorableness .
If a new foster starts whining a couple hours after they have settled in their crate, I interpret it as they need to go. Honestly I just can't sleep worrying/guessing Well maybe they need to pee. No they're just whining. But they could need to go. Oh no did someone just poop? My inner dialogue keeps me up so for me it's easier to give them the chance to relieve themselves. Then I can rule out the variables. And I would much rather lose a little sleep taking em out than to wash off a litter covered in diarrhea and launder soiled bedding at 4am. A little can get it everywhere, fast!
Out they go for 10mins while I shiver in my PJs and barefeet hopeful for any signs of squatting . Potty or not they come back in after 10min. Eventually they learn these trips are not playing. As they get settled and a little older, they seem to naturally stretch out how long they sleep between breaks. Initially I do not wait out their crying: I take it to mean they need to go out. (that is after the initial just-been-crated fussing)
OK, my plan for tonite is to leave them in there for a maximum of 4 hours. I'll ignore fussing unless it starts after a quiet period. If it stops raining and I go to the barn, I will also leave them in the crate for a few hours while I'm gone.
We usually keep them crated at night, but more than 3 or so may mean expen. If they're in a pen, we don't put down bedding aside from one small towel. Some people use newspapers but we've found it's more of a hassle than anything. Soiled drippy paper, torn up shreds, and probably a mess that still made it on the floor!
Our two new ones- small/medium terrier mixes- sleep in a small crate. They're 8 weeks old and have made it through the night three out of five nights now without messing. We've actually had a good record with these two not going inside too much-knock on wood-but have had others who would make it their sole purpose to run through our cleaning supplies and sanity asap.
They're so much more work but are worth it! We took a 6-9 month break from young young puppies, which was nice, but it's puppy season here now and time to resume puppy madness... (ha! My phone predicted my "puppy" to be "output"... Output madness sounds right too!)
They are freakin' adorable! Good luck not keeping atleast one...
Our last foster was a puppy we were only supposed to have for 2 weeks. He was the worst puppy ever (peed ON my boyfriend once), and SOOO much work...but I fell in love and now he's 3 and still with us....I refer to him as my doggy soulmate.
We stopped fostering after we failed twice. We did however rehome a few successfully!