How on earth does a breeder distinguish look-alike puppies in a litter? In breeds that are all the same color, or have only slight color variations without unique markings, it can seem impossible. To track puppies’ growth and manage care, it’s critical to be able to tell them apart from each other. AKC asked these Breeders of Merit what they do to keep track of their babies.
Oksana Fagenboym, Rocknrolla Poodles
On new-born puppies, I use wool thread in different colors. As they grow up, I change to Velcro bands and later I use cats’ collars with a safe lock.
As soon as puppies arrive, they must be identified. The main reason to do so is to monitor their development. I check their weight every 12 hours for the first two weeks and sometimes longer. They should gain weight every day. If a puppy does not gain weight, I will watch him for the next 12 hours and never miss an opportunity to help him thrive. It is very important for me to keep an individual health record for each puppy before they leave me.
Cathy Lewandowski, SoftMaple Curly Coated Retrievers
I use little Velcro collars on my puppies when they are newborn. They come in all sorts of colors, and if I must repeat a color, I put dots on the white and light color ones with a Sharpie marker.
After they get a little bigger, I go to larger Velcro collars or small cat collars.
Michel Berner, Mira Vizslas
Vizsla puppies, unless they have some white markings on their chest or feet, all come out golden–rust colored with piles of wrinkles. The best way I’ve found to identify them from birth to six weeks (when they’re microchipped) is to use color–coded collars.
When pups are born, I crochet daisy chains and tie those on for collars until they’re big enough for a high-quality breakaway collar. I prefer the daisy chains over rick rack or breakaway collars for baby puppies because they have a good amount of flex, and I can replace a collar in a couple of minutes as needed if they get dirty. But no matter what, they’re replaced every week because they outgrow them so fast.
I’ve tried nail polish or using a permanent marker as some breeders do, but my dams are too fastidious in their cleaning, and those marks last only a day.
Tracy Van Niel, Aardehond Border Terriers
I’ve always been leery of ribbon or collars on very young puppies because of the potential for choking. I use a combination of the dog’s coloring and non-toxic paint dots to identify each puppy as I track weight gain, testing, immunizations and microchip. Because Border Terrier coloring can include blue and tan and grizzle (brown), it is easy to identify pups if, for example, there are only two males and one is blue and the other is grizzle. When there are multiples of a sex (and color), then I will use small non-toxic paint dots to identify the puppies based on their birth ranking (one dot for Girl 1, two dots for Girl 2, etc.).
Steve Krulish & Jackie Smith of StoneBull Bullmastiffs
If there is only one of either sex, that one, of course, is easily identified. If different colors are involved, that may come into play, perhaps in combination with the sex. After that, we would look at physical appearance, meaning any markings. We had a litter early on that included three males. One had what looked like a small white bat on its chest, another had what appeared to be a lightning bolt, and the third, a small white T. They became Batman, Lightning, and T-Bone.
After that come ribbon collars. When we had our two big litters, we ran out of different ribbons and resorted to modifying what we had on hand using an indelible ink pen. That was when I realized that when bottle feeding, it is important to always feed them in the same order. While I sometimes have trouble remembering more than three things to pick up at the grocery store, it wasn’t long before I could remember the 14 different ribbons in the order in which they needed to be fed. We keep written records on each puppy, with pictures, noting their weight, toilet habits, etc. On one occasion, we had a couple of pups slip out of their collars. We were pretty sure which went with which pup, but we were able to verify by checking their weights.