Breeding puppies is a specialized activity which should
generally be left to professional breeders. But that
said, there are occasionally circumstances in which a dog
owner may find themselves expecting a litter of puppies.
Raising puppies is an exciting and rewarding experience.
It can also be an experience fraught with frustration unless some
basic guidelines are adhered to. Here's what you can do for both the
puppies and their mother to help make the puppies' first days
and weeks together healthy and happy ones.
The bitch will spend the first few days after giving birth
with her new puppies. This is instinctive, and generally
there are no problems. But it is important to check on
the new Mom and her puppies regularly during this period, as
puppies will not be kept warm enough (which is critical to
their healthy survival). It's also important to ensure
that the pups are being well fed, and
to make sure that the mother is producing enough milk for her
puppies, and that she is
If the bitch does leave the puppies during this critical
first few days, it's important for you to monitor their
temperature closely. It is imperative that the pups be
kept warm. Their sleeping area should be kept at a
temperature of 90 degrees Fahrenheit, or 32 degrees Celsius,
for the first four days of their young lives. The
temperature can be gradually decreased after that.
Although a large litter still needs to be kept warm, the
puppies’ own body heat will assist in keeping them warm as
they huddle together.
The mother will usually be very protective of her pups and
may display signs of anxiety when people come around the
puppies. Some dogs will move the puppies from place to
place in an effort to hide them from predators. This is
instinctive behavior. Keeping the mother and her pups in
an enclosed box may curb this problem as the darkness will
ease the mother’s mind and make her feel that she’s found
an ideal location for protecting her babies.
After the first few days, and during the puppies’ first
month there should be little need for the owner to do much of
anything for them. They will be cared for exclusively by
the mother during this time. The owner’s role should
be one of monitoring the pups’ progress and growth rate.
The puppies should approximately double their weight in the
first week. By two weeks of age the pups should be alert
and attempting to stand on their own. By the time
they’re a month old the pups should all be able to walk,
play, and run around. Now the fun starts!
By about four and a half weeks, the puppies should be
eating solid food. One way to train them to do so is to
start feeding them a mixture of canned or dry puppy food mixed
with a little water or milk to soften it.
The pups will lap this up as if they are drinking, but
they’ll be taking food in at the same time. Day by day
the amount of liquid being used should be reduced until
eventually the pups are eating the canned or dry food on its
One behavior that the bitch will engage in sometimes alarms
dog owners. In an effort to teach her pups how to
urinate and defecate, mother may lick the pups’
hindquarters. This stimulus will make them “go.”
The mother will often eat the pup’s excrement. She
does this to both keep the pups’ area clean and eliminate
the scent of her pups’ droppings that could alert predators
in the wild. The pups will sometimes mimic this behavior
and eat each other’s excrement for a short time. Most
puppies will cease this behavior by the time they are weaned.
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