The raising of puppies can be an exhilarating and rewarding experience. It can also be an experience wrought with frustration if some guidelines aren’t adhered to or if certain aspects of the duty are overlooked. There are a number of things that you can do for the puppies and their mother to help make their first days, weeks, and months together healthy and happy ones.
The mother dog will spend the first few days after giving birth with her new puppies. It is important to check on the mother and the pups to ensure that the puppies are being kept warm enough and are being well fed and to make sure that Mommy is producing enough milk and is comfortable.
If the mother leaves the puppies it will be very important to monitor their temperature closely. It is imperative that the pups be kept warm and their area should be kept at a temperature of ninety degrees Fahrenheit for the first four days of their young lives. The temperature can be decreased gradually after that. Remember that a large litter will still need to be kept warm, but that the puppies’ body heat will help keep them warm as they huddle together.
The mother will 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.
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 double their weight in about a week. By two weeks of age the pups will 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 in doing so is to start feeding them a mixture of canned or dry dog food mixed with a little water or milt to soften it. The pups will lap this up like they are drinking, but will 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 their own.
One activity that a new mother will engage in will sometimes alarm 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.