The Making of Puppy

This is something I’ve thought about doing for a long time, and I hope to do it through a video series soon. (You know, when that day finally comes when I have a little extra time.)

I want to take you through “the making of a puppy.” I have to admit- 20 years ago when we sought to have our first litter of Labradors, I thought it was much easier than it actually is. Here’s the short version….

  • A female shows signs of coming into heat. Her mood changes and there is some noticeable anatomy differences. We keep a close eye on her and when she starts her heat cycle, we call our veterinarian. We are absolutely blessed to work with Schultz Veterinary Clinic and Countryside Animal Hospital…2 top notch reproductive clinics. Lots and lots of trips from Wheeler, MI to Lansing.
  • We take the female in for a breeders consultation with our veterinarian. They do a complete check of her health to make sure that she is healthy and ready to have a litter. We then check to make sure there is no disease such as Brucellosis and Heartworm.
  • Next is a blood draw to test her progesterone. Progesterone is a hormone released as a female ovulates. We will most likely test this 4-6 times during the first 15 days of her heat cycle. Once her level reaches a certain height, we know she’s ready to breed.
  • We bring our girl back to the vet with our male to do a breeding when the time is right. The male is collected by hand at the vet and his semen is tested for motility. We’re looking for at least 100 million per 10 lbs of body weight and 80% motile. As long as it passes, the breeding proceeds.
  • We do a Trans-cervical Insemination at our vet. We’ll use a catheter along with a small camera to reach into the females cervix and deposit the semen. Sometimes this takes 5 minutes, sometimes it can take hours depending on a few factors.
  • Another breeding, just like the first, occurs 2 days later. Then we pray for happy, healthy momma and puppies!
  • 23 days after the final breeding, momma goes in for a pregnancy ultrasound. It’s so fun to see the puppy sacs, just 3/4″ long and the little flutter of a heartbeat. We’ll get a rough count (sometimes they hide) of the litter and momma now goes back home to rest and be babied.
  • Momma gets a protocol of supplements, exercise and cuddles as the litter grows inside her. We love loving her!
  • At 52 days, momma goes for an x-ray for a final puppy count.
  • At 56 days, she moves into our whelping room in our home to prepare for her litter!
  • 63 days after her progesterone level was 5.0 ng/ml, we expect puppies. We’ll monitor her 24/7 and have cameras set up over her if we have to step away.
  • Then, the midwife extraordinaire, Alisha Karp, takes over with momma and makes sure that she and her puppies are happy and healthy during the entire labor.
  • Labor is an entire post by itself. We are always on standby with our emergency clinic for a c-section if need be. Alisha always knows when things are going well or if momma needs some help.
  • After the litter is born, it’s time to supplement mom more/differently and make sure her milk supply is in and the puppies are nursing and gaining weight! No resting yet!
  • We finally get a break from the intensity of the 24/7 care during week 2 for a couple days as momma and pups sleep most of that time- we do too!
  • Week 4 starts weaning, another whole other post!
  • Puppies then meet their new families around week 8 and it’s so bittersweet!

This post is just a summary, basically off the top of my head, for what it takes to make a puppy. God is so good, we’re extremely blessed to be able to have this lifestyle. Oh yeah! Theres, family, school, dance, sports, ministry, church, farming….it makes for a crazy, fun life!

A Dream Come True

Since we moved to our current (and forever) house, we’ve dreamed of building a kennel the way we want it. A nice, comfortable place for our dogs. We spend so much time with them, every day, that we have had so many ideas of what we wanted. We live in a 1888 farmhouse out in the country. On our property are 2 barns. We’ve had our eye on one of the barns (built as a 75’x32′ seed mill in 1943) to completely remodel for our kennel. After a lot of dreaming, saving, planning and praying, the project begun! Here’s what we’ve done and we’re so incredibly happy with our new kennel, it’s turning out great:

  • New indoor/outdoor kennels with professional doggy doors
  • 75’x12′ roof over outdoor part of kennels
  • New roof on building
  • New 1 acre play yard all of the kennels open up to
  • Resilient flooring
  • Kuranda Beds
  • Completely insulated and new furnace (gotta stay warm in the winter!)
  • New electrical and water
  • Washer/Dryer/Hot Water set up
  • Commercial exhaust fan
  • Other creature comforts 🙂

Raising Labradors the right way, doing the best we can and having a high standard are always top priorities for us and we’re so happy to be able to have this new kennel, especially with winter approaching!

Pandemic Puppies

Over the last few months, a lot of other breeders have asked us about our plans with breeding for 2020. We weren’t quite sure (like everyone else) what was going to happen and, as breeders, we’ve realized one important thing- a good veterinarian is essential to help produce happy, healthy puppies. Because of the lockdown, we haven’t been able to do our breedings like we normally do. We normally have a breeder’s consultation with our vet and and female who is in heat. Then we do several progesterone tests through her heat cycle to determine when she is ovulating. Next we do Artificial Inseminations at just the right time. Finally, 30 days later, we do a pregnancy test to determine pregnancy and institute our health protocol for pregnant dogs. Well, none of those things we normally do have been “allowed” to happen because of this shut down. It’s been really hard. We still expect to have puppies this summer/fall/winter but it is proving to be not as successful as when all of our normal routines are available. If you’re on our deposit list, please keep being patient. Happy puppies are coming!


We realize how big of a commitment bringing a Labrador puppy into your family is. It’s potentially a 15+ year journey of love, connection, protection, bonding and joy. We keep this at the front of our minds with everything we do. We want your experience with us to be EXCELLENT. From the first time you visit our website through “gotcha day” and as your puppy grows into adulthood, we want you to feel that you made the best decision you could on the breeder you chose. For us, our dogs are not a means to an end. They are such a huge part of our lives. We get to spend so much time with them and their well being is of utmost importance to us. We strive to always improve. Improve our lineage, our kennel set up, our website, our interaction with people and of course the quality of our puppies. We thank God for every puppy that is born and pray for the future family of that puppy. We don’t take what we do lightly, we want to do the best we can, every time. We hope and pray that you feel that you had an excellent experience with Michigan Elite Labradors!

Nature vs. Nurture

We have witnessed, time and time again, how informing a family of the nature of a puppy will help them tremendously with the specific training needs of that puppy. All puppies are different. Within a litter of 8 puppies, we will have puppies that have a more assertive nature, puppies with a balanced nature and puppies with a more submissive nature. With proper nurture from their new families, any of those puppies would be the perfect family companion. More assertive puppies require steady boundaries and steady praise/correction. Balanced puppies require an equal amount of praise and correction with consistency. More submissive puppies require a lot of love and cuddles to give confidence to come out of their shell. No matter the nature of the puppy, with the correct nurturing the puppy will be a very balanced and wonderful member of your family.

We have many families in need of a service dog and knowing the nature of a puppy helps us determine the most successful service dog candidates when they are very young.

In order to determine the nature of a puppy, we as breeders have to SPEND TIME with the litter. Hours per day, every single day from the day they are born. It’s the only way to do it right. We give our puppies a lot of time and touches, we know them inside and out by the time they are ready to go to their new families. This helps us be able to let you make a very informed decision when you’re picking out your puppy.

Another tool we use is aptitude testing. When puppies are 7 weeks old, we put each of them through 10 exercises and score them on how they complete each exercise. It’s not an absolute, definitive answer to their specific nature but it’s a helpful tool we use. All of our puppies go through this testing and we’ve found it to be beneficial. It’s called the Volhard Puppy Aptitude Test.

If you choose to get a puppy from us, we’ll make sure you’re very well informed as they grow and we’ll give you specific tips on the puppy you choose to help nurture them into the perfect companion for you and your family.

In Wheeler, MI they were born and raised…

In the breeder world, people lie. I guess that’s true in the world in general, but when dealing with animals who can’t speak for themselves, lying is something we see too much of. One thing you can be sure with us is that we have integrity. Being honest and having God’s blessing are so important to us and we’ll never compromise on that.

It’s come to our attention that there are other breeders that are telling people that we buy random litters of puppies and resell them. That’s simply not true. All of our puppies are born right here in our home and raised everyday with us. We have NEVER bought any puppies to resell and we never will. All of our puppies are ours from our lines that we’ve strived for 15 years to always improve. All of our adult Labradors live right here with us too. We hope that clears up any misinformation!

Julie Varchetti

Finding MEL was one of the greatest blessings to our family. We are the proud parents of the smartest, sweetest, most laid back lab, Gracie. Steve Karp and family are incredible to work with and truly care for their puppies and the families who adopt from them. If I could give 100 stars, I would! If you’re searching for a lab, look no further.

Kara Bunbury

We cannot say enough great things about M.E.L. and owner Steve Karp. Steve is very hands on throughout the entire process- sending weekly updates until the pups come home and remaining in contact thereafter. Our handsome male puppy is not only the best looking lab we’ve ever had, but his temperament and personality are both absolutely perfect. Everywhere we go people ask what breeder he came from. We’ve had labs our entire life from various breeders, but we are now and forever will be, a “Michigan Elite Labs” family!

Melissa Koontz

After a tragic & sudden loss from our last Labrador (non MEL) we were on the hunt for another English Lab & came across Michigan Elite Labradors web page. I instantly knew they were the right breeder for us, I contacted Steve and he answered all my questions and concerns before I got on the waiting list (which wasn’t a long wait even tho I was 9th in line). We got many (very cute) updates on our soon to be little puppy. The whole experience was very relaxing & easy going, you can tell Steve & his family put so much love & time into ALL of their puppies. We feel honored to be apart of the Michigan Elite Labrador family!

Jill Price

We were looking for a pure bred lab but were very skeptical about many breeders until we found Michigan Elite Labs. We knew after our first contact with them we found the breeder we were looking for. Stan is 10 months old and we love him to pieces. If you are looking for a pure bred lab you have found the perfect breeder. We couldn’t have possibly asked for anything more with our baby!