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!

“The Lord gave, and the Lord takes away. Blessed be the name of the Lord” Job 1:21

One of the greatest joys of being a breeder is when there is new life. Watching a puppy be born is such an awesome experience, from the nurturing of momma to the puppy’s first taste of milk. I (Steve) always dream of the family that is going to bring the puppy home and love and care for it. Is this puppy going to have kids to run around with and help raise? Maybe this puppy will be with a retired couple and live the easy life in front of the fireplace. Maybe he/she will live in Florida or Canada or California…It’s so fun to dream of the future for the puppy and even more fun to watch it happen!

But, along with the joys of new life is the harsh reality of death. We realize death is a part of life, but it is NEVER easy. Recently we lost a week old puppy. She was the smallest in the litter but she was tenacious and we loved that about her. She gained weight, loved to nurse, loved to cuddle and we thought she was going to grow up and be a really nice Lab. But, over a 12 hr period, she took a turn and wasn’t thriving. Nothing we, or our vet, could do helped her and we lost her. It’s so, so hard when that happens. Momma new it too, she howled and had a hard time for a couple of hours. It’s no fun at all.

With saying that, we came to realize a truth again that we’ve been taught several times over the years. It’s the Bible verse at the top of this blog. We are believers in God and have a strong faith in Him. When a litter of puppies are born, we always pray that they will be happy, healthy labs and that they will bring happiness, love and protection to their forever families. There’s a peace that comes over us in the midst of the pain of losing a puppy because we know that God is in control. Sometimes (a lot of times) that is hard to understand but we just simply believe it anyway.

I just wanted to make a short post about this, maybe as encouragement to myself or anyone reading this who has dealt with loss of any kind. I know this doesn’t end with just puppies. Well, God bless and Happy New Year!

Puppy Biting

There’s nothing quite like bringing home a new puppy. The love, connection, fun and excitement that surrounds it is something that every family should experience. Bringing home a new puppy, however, requires a lot of work as well. We start the puppies off on the right path and do our very best to make sure they are on their way to being wonderful family members, but there are a few issues that will no doubt arise when you have a young lab puppy.

The biggest issue that we’ve heard back from our Elite families over the years is probably the issue of puppy biting. Puppies use their mouths to play, feel, communicate and since they are teething, it feels good to chew on things. Some of that is really cute, unless it’s your fingers of children’s hair, shoes or pant leg. There are several things you can do as a new puppy owner to make sure the biting doesn’t get out of hand.

The number one thing to do is to be consistent. Labs LOVE to be trained, and training takes consistency. Doing what I’m going to describe to help cure over biting will work, but only with consistency. It make take 200 training sessions with your puppy until he learns what you’re teaching him, but as soon as he learns it you’ll be so happy that you stayed consistent. Kids are generally more excitable which encourages the puppy so we advise adults to do this training alone for the first couple of days and then once the adult gets the hang of it, they can teach the kid’s what to do.

So, when a puppy is playing with you and starts to go for your hands, you need to recognize if it’s something that needs a quick distraction of a toy to get him not to go for your hands or if it needs correction. If he just goes for your hand quickly and you can grab a toy and distract him, then no correction is needed. Just grab a toy (we like squeaky ones for this) and get his attention with it and continue playing. This will happen a lot and its okay, not every time he goes to bite your finger needs to be corrected.

The difference when he needs a correction is when his mind is set on biting your fingers or any part of a kid’s body or clothing. What you are going to teach is to stop his state of mind from getting to the point where he is fixated on biting you and if anything you do to get him to stop only encourages him even more. The key is stopping that state of mind and it will be very healthy for the puppy when you do so.

If the puppy gets fixated on biting you, be very calm and assertive. Imagine what you’d like him to do (stop biting you) and slowly get up and turn your back to the puppy. If he continues to go after your feet, slowly back him away from you with your foot (do not kick or make any fast movements) until his attention is on something else. Then go back and play with the puppy. Do this every single time he gets fixated on you instead of a toy. He will learn (normally in a week or so) that he doesn’t get attention if he bites you. It works! The KEY is to be calm and assertive when you get up and turn away from him and stand still. If you yell “ouch!” or run away, it will encourage him to chase after you and continue to do what he thinks is playing.

Once you learn how to do this correction, teach the kids. It is imperative that you teach them how to react calmly, even if he bites one of their fingers. Once the kids understand when and how to do the correction, you’ll be free of puppy over biting until those little shark teeth fall out (4-5 months old) and he doesn’t really bite anymore anyway.

Good luck with training! It’s so rewarding when you connect with your puppy in training and you realize that he is listening to you and wants to please you. Once you’ve made that connection, training is even more of a breeze.

Where the love began…

Alisha surprised me with Cocoa, then an 8 week old cute chocolate lab puppy, as a housewarming gift in 2005. I remember telling her how I always wanted a lab puppy when I moved into my first house. I had just finished remodeling the house and was moving in right around my birthday in June 2005. I was 21 years old and so excited, but I didn’t have a puppy. We found an ad for a mixed breed litter that had labs in the mix so we went and saw the puppies. Their living conditions were terrible and I felt really bad for the litter. I wanted to rescue all of them out of there, but I knew I couldn’t. I was brand new to the “puppy world” and we started to experience how hard it was to find a sound, healthy lab puppy. We called breeder after breeder, only to come up empty. Half the time the breeders were rude to us or never returned our calls anyway.

Alisha stumbled on an ad in the “Wheeler Dealer” and found a litter of lab puppies. 🙂 She drove me out to the middle of nowhere (much like the same feeling those have when they come to our house now), I had no idea where we were going. When we pulled into this driveway, I saw an adorable chocolate lab puppy in the yard and I fell in love in about 1.5 seconds. I go back to that feeling every time a family steps out of their car to meet our puppies, it is such an amazing feeling.

Bringing her home with me and moving into my new house the very same day is something I’ll always remember. In a way I feel like we grew up together. She became my best buddy and we did everything together. We still have the chocolate brown furniture I bought just for her, she sleeps on the loveseat every night in our puppy nursery.

That started our love for labs and I am so glad we went with a healthy, purebred lab! Now she’s 12 years old and still my best buddy. Her tail is a weapon and she gets what she wants. She was one of our first moms and we LOVED her puppies with Chopper. Now she’s “Aunt Cocoa”, who turns into a puppy again whenever she plays with them. It’s fun to look back and think about where our love for labs began.

Health Testing is Very Important to us!

When Alisha was a teenager, she worked at “Deer Acres” a fun place to go for families. Deer acres included puppies in their petting zoo every year, and at the end of the season they would place the puppies. Well Alisha fell in love with a male Lab/Irish Setter mix puppy and she brought him home. His name was Duke and he was a great guy. When Duke was about 3 years old, he went blind. It was the hardest thing to watch him go through, it robbed him of so much in his life.

When we started raising Labs, we knew we wanted the health of our adults and puppies to be of utmost importance, so we began health testing all of our labs. One of the tests that is important to us is the test against PRA, a disease known to Labs that will cause them to go blind between ages 1 and 8. We’re proud to so that none of our Labs even carries the gene that causes this disease! Unfortunately so many of the health issues we have in Labradors in America today are hereditary, they are completely avoidable if breeders would be responsible. Right now we test for 11 different diseases known to Labradors, including PRA, and we don’t carry genes for any of them.

Here’s an article that explains PRA well if you’re interested: