The First Six Months
We have been filming with Plimsoll Productions as part of a new 2 part series called "Puppy Secrets: The first 6 months!" produced for ITV which was aired on
Wednesday 19th October 2016 - PART 1
Wednesday 26th October 2016 - PART 2
See the write up below from the ITV Press Centre:
Puppy Secrets: The First Six Months
Series 1, Episode 1 – TX Wednesday 19th October, 8.00pm
Puppies are one of nature’s greatest wonders and in this brand new two-part series, Puppy Secrets, cameras will follow, in loving detail, four very special litters. From Britain’s smallest breed, to one of the most popular, and from working sheepdogs to five rescue pups - breed unknown - cameras will capture their journeys all the way from birth to approaching the end of puppyhood.
Viewers will have a privileged look at the rarely seen magic of the early days, through to the moment they move to new homes, and see how puppies form the strongest bond of their lives: not with their mums or their siblings, but with humans.
Breeders and carers share their insights, and vet Mark Evans reveals some puppy secrets. It’s an eight-week race against time where the pups must hit crucial milestones if they are to be ready to move on…and the clock starts ticking the moment they’re born.
In Devon is the first of the litters: three Chihuahuas. At only a few hours old, like all pups, the two boys and one girl – Snuggles, Smiley and Cheeky - can’t yet see or hear properly, but they can smell and sense heat, guiding them to what they need most: mum’s early milk. It’s packed with energy and anti-bodies to protect the vulnerable new-borns from disease. Chihuahuas are officially the world’s smallest dogs, so puppies don’t come much tinier than this. Amazingly they only weigh around 100 grams, lighter than an apple.
The Chihuahua puppies are being reared by hobby breeder Dan, who says: “When you first hold that little puppy, it’s just incredible…I think I’m quite hard faced about certain things, but it gets me welling up every single time and it’s such an amazing experience.”
Over in the Cotswolds, and the second litter, which are not for sale. They are Labradors - Britain’s most popular breed - crossed with Golden Retrievers, and are a mighty four times heavier at birth than the tiny Chihuahuas. The two boys and four girls – Freddie, Barny, Evie, Lucy, Molly and Betty - have a special destiny ahead of them: as assistance dogs for the charity, Dogs for Good. If they make the grade, each of the six pups will be trained to transform lives. At a total cost of £12,000 for each fully trained dog, this little litter really is precious. For now, though, they have a lot of growing up to do.
In Gloucestershire is the third litter, Border Collies, and at four days old they’re already well on their way to doubling their birth weight. These little ones, five girls and three boys, are also special: their mum is training to be a competitive sheepdog and their dad is the current English champion. So there’s a chance that one of these little ones could be a future medal winner.
Collie breeder Angie says: “For me, it’s about trying to raise puppies that are going to work, trying to keep the Border Collie strain as a good working strain. All the time I’m trying to improve my breed so I get the ultimate thing that I’m looking for, which is a champion.”
In Essex, the fourth litter - five puppies - are in desperate need of a home. They’re living at Dogs Trust, the UK’s largest dog welfare charity, who care for almost 17,000 dogs every year. Among them, these five little pups, a rescue litter, whose mum came in as a stray and turned out to be pregnant. Because they came into the world the day before Valentine’s Day, the staff named them for love: one boy, Cupid, and four girls, Cuddles, Venus, Rose and Aphrodite. Unlike the other pups in the series, their breed isn’t known and the litter of five is quite a mix.
Over the following weeks cameras will follow the four litters as they reach various landmarks, including the crucial phase called socialisation, where the pups will be carefully introduced to a broad range of new experiences, and the more they acclimatise to the bustling outside world now, the better adjusted they will be as adults.
As Dr Mark Evans explains: “There’s no pre-wiring in a puppy’s brain to allow them to understand the world we live in. They need the help from us to be able to do it.”
Viewers will see how puppies can sleep for as much as 20 hours a day due to the tiring of their untrained muscles, and how a staggering 80% of puppy play involves biting.
Dr Mark adds: “What they have to learn is the strength and power of their bite. What they’ll learn, and it’s a really important lesson, is a thing called bite inhibition, which is how hard can you bite before it hurts.”
With the puppies’ individual characters starting to emerge, the eight-week milestone approaches, and it’s time for the puppies to continue their new lives, with new owners and new names.
The big day arrives for the Gloucestershire eight, the Collies, as one of Britain’s top sheepdog trainers, Dick Roper, selects two of them to go and live with him and train on his farm.
Before making his decision, Dick says: “I like dogs that come out and say hello, and come to me, and therefore I can work with. So that’s what I’m looking for - something that just enjoys my company and I like the look of.”
And it’s not long before Dick makes his decision. But has he picked a future supreme international champion?
For the Devon three, the Chihuahuas, new homes also beckon, and for little Smiley the adventure of the big city lies ahead.
He’ll be starting his new life in London, new name Louie, with law graduate Rachel, who says: “I was looking for the smallest breed of dog because I thought that the smallest breed would be most comfortable in a small flat. We always had a dog in the family and when I moved to London about five years ago it was all I could think about.”
The journey continues for the Cotswold six, the Labrador/Retriever crosses, to see if they have what it takes to become assistance dogs. And for the five rescue pups, new homes have been found for them all.
However, for carer Lizzie from the Dogs Trust, it’s a bittersweet moment: “I’m sort of standing there with the puppy and I know I’ve got to give it over to someone else and I’m sort of thinking, ‘But these are my puppies.’”
For one of the rescue pups, Cuddles, her new home is with Kevin, wife Lauren, and their two young sons. And her new name is Betsy.
Talking about how excited his boys are about meeting this new addition to their family, Kevin says: “They can’t wait. I can’t believe we actually got them off to school this morning. But I still think I’m more excited than they are.”
All the pups have been on an extraordinary journey over the last eight weeks: from helpless new-borns, to toddlers interacting with the wider world, and laying the crucial foundations for the special bond that will define their lives with their new human families.
Next time, viewers will see how the puppies are settling into their new lives…
Mark Boustead: 0207 827 7067
Pictures: Peter Gray 0207 157 3046
Here is what Plimsoll Productions had to say about the show...
PUPPIES FOR ITV
Puppy Secrets: The First 6 Months is a 2 x 60-minute show which will tell the story of four sets of puppies in great detail from their journey as newborns which are unable to see or hear, into full-fledged young dogs.
Throughout the course of the series, a rescue pup is found a new home, a pair of collie pups are chosen to join a top sheepdog trainer, a future assistance dog is put through its paces and a tiny Chihuahua pup negotiates the big city.
Plimsoll’s head of wildlife Martha Holmes said that she was planning a “captivating” programme.
“We’re using some of the most advanced natural history techniques to tell a story that we’ve possibly all witnessed but never really understood the complexity of what’s going on,” she said.
ITV factual commissioning editor Priya Singh, who ordered Puppy Secrets added: “It’s a hugely privileged look into this very special and rarely seen time in a puppy’s early days, packed rich in surprising detail.”
In a unique, long-term study, we reveal the remarkable abilities of puppies and the incredible speed of their development. The series charts the journey of four different sets of puppies, from hapless newborns that can’t see or hear, into fully-fledged young dogs ready to fulfill their roles in our lives. Rescue pup, Betsy, finds a new home; Collie pups, Jack & Jill, are chosen by Britain’s top sheep dog trainer; future assistance pup, Neave, is put through her paces and tiny Chihuahua pup, Louie, takes on the big city!
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