The Puppy Process At Darkstone Kennel, our philosophy on breeding and raising a litter of puppies is driven by the following core principles: 1) We do not breed for profit. Most litters we have produced have actually cost us more money than we take back, as no expense is spared to breed and raise the finest litters possible. Even though we have some of the top stud dogs of our own available, if they are not the ideal fit for what we are trying to accomplish in a breeding with one of our females in order to constantly improve our lines, we will import semen from the ideal candidate dog no matter where on the globe that dog is located, and spend whatever money is required for extensive pre-breeding testing as well as artificial insemination. We do not simply breed the dogs 'in our own back yard' just for the sake of cost or convenience. We breed because we are in the 'pursuit of excellence' in our own dogs and blood lines. We want to produce a few world class dogs for ourselves, and for our co-owners. That is the only reason we ever really breed, and why we breed infrequently. The way we breed is costly, massively time consuming and life disrupting, and we have no desire to produce litters for any other purposes than breeding for ourselves to try to achieve our goals in the breed. 2) We believe that matching the right puppy with the proper 'forever home' is of critical importance. We do not sell a puppy to everyone who wants one of our puppies. Just as our puppy people should expect high standards from us as breeders, so do we expect that our puppies will only go to the finest homes, where they will be true family members for their entire life on this planet. 3) We firmly believe that a Cane Corso is not the breed for 'everyone'. We will only place a puppy in a home that will provide it with the care, lifestyle, training discipline, and love that puppy deserves. We have a rigorous process of approval for placing our puppies, but in the end, it must also 'feel right.' It really does feel like 'giving away one of our kids' every time a puppy leaves out home for its new home and family. 4) We do not place puppies on 'color' or other such physical preferences, or simply because a potential owner wants a certain dog they are attracted to for whatever their personal reasons. Our puppies are carefully observed in terms of temperament, energy level, dominance, drive, conformation, movement and other factors from the time they are born. We have the puppies professionally assessed via a temperament test at seven weeks of age to confirm our assessments or make us re-evaluate a particular puppy. We then work very hard to match the 'right puppy' with the 'right family', so that both the family and the puppy will have the greatest chance possible of having a great life together. The following is a simplified list of just some of the efforts taken to observe, assess, and shape a Darkstone litter: - The puppies are always whelped at our home, in one of our guest bedrooms,where they will spend the first 3 weeks or so of their life in the whelping box, in very safe, controlled conditions. Their mother lives with them in the room, as for the most part, does Betty, who moves into the room with them, and spends many of her waking hours with the puppies and the mother for the first 5-6 weeks. - The puppies are weighed daily to ensure they are gaining weight, and are bottle fed to supplement them as required to ensure they are robust, growing and healthy. - The Mother is given controlled and monitored access to the puppies for the first two weeks to ensure that she does not accidentally step on or injure a puppy while they are still very small. - Tails are professionally docked at 2 days of age. - The puppies and the Mother are de-wormed at approximately 4, 6 and 8 weeks to ensure that their systems are non-infected. - We begin to expose the puppies to controlled visits by friends and family members within the first two weeks, but all visitors must be wearing clean cloths, remove their shoes outside the house, and disinfect their hands, as we are protecting the puppies against disease being brought into the house. - At 3-4 weeks, the puppies are moved to a large enclosure erected in the great room of our house, where they have a larger play area, have a non-slip surface installed for playtime, and begin to be weaned from their mother, as well as paper trained. They continue to be supplemented with bottle feeding and/or the weaning process on to semi-solid foods, as well as being given access to their Mother several times a day and during the night. - We now encourage as many outside visits as possible to begin socializing the puppies with as many different adults and children as is reasonably possible but again under conditions that are as sterile as possible. - At five weeks, the entire litter and the Mother are taken to a specialist for a physical assessment and a setting of all their joints into proper alignment if needed. The practitioner is a leading specialist in animal physiotherapy, with a Masters Degree in Animal Kinesiology. We believe that this head start on joint alignment gives the puppies the best possible potential of having healthy joints and correct movement as adults. - The puppies are taken for their first shots at 6 weeks of age, as well as a complete physical. - At seven weeks of age, a professional temperament test is administered to the puppies by a third party assessor, with each puppy receiving a written score on the Volhard Puppy Aptitude Test. This helps to confirm our assessment to date of 'who' each puppy is, and what type of owner would be appropriate. - During the process of raising the puppies, they are periodically stacked up for photographic benchmarking and assessment of structure, usually once per week after week 5. - During feeding and other times, the puppies are carefully assessed on a daily basis for their behavioral characteristics, social skills, and physical attributes as they are rapidly maturing. - We believe in the 'rule of seven', meaning that the puppies should be fed from seven different types of bowls, be made to walk and play on seven different types of tactile surfaces, be exposed to at least seven different types of chew toys, be exposed to multiple types of lighting, be exposed to as many different sounds and tactile experiences as possible, etc. This is done to try to socialize and condition the puppies as much as possible to a 'real world' environment, and set their temperamental development on the right path as early as possible. - At 8-9 Weeks, all puppies are micro-chipped. - At 8-9 weeks, those puppies applicable have their ears cropped. We allow the owner of the puppies to dictate as to whether they wish they ears to be cropped or natural, except in the case of show/breeding candidate puppies, who we will insist upon being cropped. This is just a small example of the all consuming task that is raising a litter in our household. A huge amount of time, effort and emotion is put into the raising and assessing of a Darkstone litter, understanding 'who' our puppies are and doing our best to ensure that they are matched with the best homes possible, so that both puppy and owner 'live happily ever after.' So, if we seem a bit picky about our owners, you can hopefully understand why. No process like this that is subjective in any way, can be perfect. We do make the odd mistake. On occasion, we do pass over what turn out to be very good homes, based on our assessment at that time. At some point in time in the future, we then discover, usually through meeting the same people via mutual acquaintances, that those folks would have in fact made a great home for one of our puppies. We have to make the best judgment call we can at the time, with what information we have to make it with. On the flip side of the coin, we have been 'fooled' a couple of times into believing someone would make a good home, and they have been a disaster. But, once bitten, forever shy in terms of being on guard for situations that for any reason, do not feel right to us. So, if we pass you over, and you are in fact a deserving owner, please do not take it too personally. We sometimes make mistakes, and we hope that in the future, fate will bring us back together and one of our puppies can find a place in your home, and in your life.


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Betty & Byron Osing

Calgary - Alberta - Canada