There is a lot more to raising puppies then sitting back and letting your bitch do all the work. For the first time breeder there can be a lot of confusion and uncertainty. We would like to offer you this guide on understanding what is required of you during this experience and a better understanding of what is going on. As with humans, one can minimize complications with proper care in pregnancy. Having puppies may sound easy and it may seem like the dog does all the work but that is not always how it turns out.
BEFORE BREEDING YOUR DOG
It is recommended that the mother dog is over one year of age. Many dogs are accidentally bred on their first heat when they are not much more than puppies themselves. I advise my clients to breed their dog No sooner than on its second or third heat period. Perferrably after they are 2 yrs old. By this time, the length of the dog's estrus cycle will have been established and you can plan for the event. Most dogs cycle every 5-7 months.
Take the mother dog in to for a veterinary examiantion prior to having her bred. Besides a thorough examination you should be certain the dog is free of intestinal parasites and heartworms. A blood test for brucellosis is also a good idea. If the dog is overweight it will be susceptible to more complications than a lean dog. So place the dog on a diet, if it needs one, six month prior to having it bred.
See to it that your dog is current on all its vaccinations before it is bred. The amount of immunity the puppies have to infectious disease is directly related to the immunity of their mothers. The mother's immunity is passed on to the puppies through her first milk or colostrum.
THE HEAT CYCLE
Your dog cannot produce offspring at any given time. She needs to start her heat cycle in order for male dogs to find her attractive and for her to conceive. The canine heat or estrous cycle varies in length. Many people know that their dog goes into "heat" but don't realize that unlike the human menstrual cycle, which is a non-fertile stage, dogs that are in heat are preparing to ovulate. There are four stages of the estrous cycle. The first stage is proestrus, which is characterized by increased follicular activity of the ovary, a stage that is necessary prior to the release of the eggs. Outward signs include vulvar swelling and bleeding. During this time, your dog will be attractive to males but not receptive to them. In general, this stage lasts six to 11 days with an average of nine days. The end of this cycle is noted when your pet becomes receptive to the male and will stand to be bred.
The second phase is the actual fertile phase or estrus. During this time, the discharge becomes more straw-colored to light pink and the vulva, although still swollen, is softer. The female is now receptive to males and will stand for breeding. This stage generally lasts five to nine days. Unfortunately, it can last as long as 20 days and still be normal. Each dog is different and must be monitored closely. The end of this stage is characterized by the female no longer accepting the male. This is when Conception occurs and about 62 days later you can expect your new arrivals
The last two stages of the estrous cycle are diestrus, a non-receptive time when the corpora lutea, which produce progesterone, are active on the ovary and anestrus. During anestrus there is no ovarian activity. Diestrus and anestrus are lengthy periods: diestrus lasts 56 to 60 days and anestrus is variable, but several months long. Most dogs cycle twice a year.
During her heat cycle your female will be more sensitive and grouchy. She will have a lower tolerance for other dogs, but will become very cuddly and needy towards you. She will also be inclined to run away in search of a mate so watch her closely. A female dog can also mate and produce offspring from more than one father. So even after she is bred watch her closely around other dogs.
IS SHE PREGNANT?
The next logical question is, "How can you tell if your dog is in the family way?" Confirming pregnancy necessitates a trip to the veterinary office. The earliest method of pregnancy detection is ultrasound—a nice test because it is noninvasive and very reliable. Fetal heartbeats can be detected at around the 25th day from first breeding. This is not, however, considered a reliable way to determine fetal number.
One interesting fact about the canine reproductive cycle is that the dog goes through roughly the same hormonal changes whether or not she is pregnant. For this reason, there is no progesterone blood or urine test to diagnose pregnancy in dogs. There is, however, a blood test that will detect relaxin, a hormone that is produced in pregnant dogs but is not found in non-pregnant dogs. This test may be performed mid gestation, which occurs at around the same time that your veterinarian can palpate the fetuses.
Most experienced veterinarians can determine pregnancy by simply feeling the dog's abdomen during a certain a window of time—about 20-30 days after conception. During this time period, there is uterine swelling around the placental sites that feels like firm and discrete lumps. After 30 days, the uterine swelling is more diffuse and it is difficult to distinguish the gravid uterus from the feel of the intestinal tract. Dogs that are very large or obese may be difficult to examine in any stage, however.
A third way to detect pregnancy is by taking x-rays. Fetal skeletons can be visualized at about 45 days of pregnancy. This test cannot be done until late in gestation, but it is nice to know about how many of the little creatures you can expect once the actual birthing occurs.
About 5-6 weeks after being bred you may notice her nipples becoming larger. She will be starting to noticiably gain weight. She will again alternate between being grouchy and very cuddly.
DURING HER PREGNANCY
Although it takes an average of 62 days for puppies to gestate, normal variation is from 54-72 days depending on the breeding dates. During this time there is really not a lot for you do—just feed the dog her regular diet for the first month. It is absolutely crucial that you do NOT supplement your dog with vitamins during her pregnancy. Although this seems to be against normal thinking, dogs that are supplemented are unable to efficiently extract calcium from their bones after they give birth, and this predisposes them to suffer from hypocalcemia, which can result in muscular weakness and even seizures. Starting in the second month of pregnancy, you will want to switch her diet over to a good quality puppy food. This will provide her with the extra calories that she needs without providing excess supplementation.
About three weeks into the pregnancy, she may experience a little nausea and appetite loss similar to morning sickness. This should resolve within a week, so if an upset stomach or loss of appetite lasts longer than that or is accompanied by listlessness, something more serious is going on and the vet should be notified.
Regular walking helps the expectant mother keep up her strength but intensive training, showing, or even obedience school is probably too stressful. Obesity is a dangerous problem for pregnant dogs and serious blood sugar regulation problems can put the litter at risk. Still, pregnancy is not the time for a weight loss program. Your vet will help guide you regarding the optimal nutrition plan for your individual dog.
During the final 3 weeks of pregnancy, the mother dog should be completely isolated from other dogs at home This means no walks in public during this stage of pregnancy. Canine Herpesvirus infection causes a minor cold in adult dogs but can cause abortion in pregnancy as well as death in newborn puppies. The best way to prevent infection is to isolate the mother dog completely during the 3 weeks prior to delivery and the 3 weeks after delivery. This means absolutely no contact with other dogs.
A female dog should not be vaccinated during pregnancy; there are sera in the vaccine which could be harmful to the developing fetus. Ideally, the female should be vaccinated just prior to breeding. She will be passing on her immunity to her pups in the first milk she produces (special milk called "colostrum") so we want her antibody levels to be at their peak yet we want to avoid vaccination during pregnancy.
Speaking of the blessed event, here is your reward for reading this far. If your dog is pregnant, you will want to start taking her temperature (yeah, you know where) about a week prior to her due date. The normal rectal temperature for dogs ranges from 100 to 102.5F. About 24 hours prior to giving birth the dam's rectal temperature will drop a few degrees. If you record the temperature daily you will know when it is okay to go out to dinner and when you will have a long night ahead of you.
One to two weeks prior to the delivery, get your whelping box and supplies together. Your whelping box should have sides that are high enough so that four to six week-old puppies cannot get out, but when mom needs a private moment she can leave without doing damage to the milking apparatus. It is also important to have a ledge of some kind all around the inside edge so that no puppies are inadvertently smothered by the mother—the pups should be able to slide under the ledge so that mom cannot squish them. Place the box in a familiar but private area and line it with towels.
You can also prepare a bed for the dog that is lined with towels or unused clothes and get her used to using it. If the mother won't stay in it, you can encourage her to by petting her and giving her small food snacks. Lead her to the designated nursing area when labor begins. If she has her puppies outside of the pre-assigned area, let her. When she has completed the delivery, move them all into the designated bed. Many dogs become very clingy when labor begins and want you to stay with them at all times. They try to follow you when you leave the room. You will probably need to spend some time with this type of dog to comfort her. After the birth of the first few puppies, the mother usually is preoccupied with her pups and not as dependent on your presence. Other bitches will try to get away from you and hide. Give her the space she needs, but keep checking in on her regularly. It is quite possible that you will miss the birth process entirely. You might wake up one morning or return from work only to find you have a brand new litter of offspring contentedly nursing on their mom. If your nursery room is not warm enough, you can warmer it by wrapping a heating pad in a towel, setting it on "low," and placing it under one half of the nursery bed. This allows the mother and puppies to move away from the heat source if they choose to. Wrap duct tape around the heating pad cord because puppies tend to chew on cords
THE WHELPING PROCESS
Okay, so now comes the scary part: actual birthing. Let me tell you that this usually starts at 10 o'clock at night—the perfect time to prevent you from getting any sleep and late enough that you will have to go to the emergency clinic if you have problems. You will also want to make sure that you are wearing clothes that can be thrown away. Whelping is a messy business and there is some bright green goo that can be produced that cannot be washed out of anything with any stain remover on the planet. So, it is definitely a dress down event.
There are three stages of labor. The first stage, which will probably go by undetected, occurs when the cervix is dilating and there are some uterine contractions. You may notice some shivering, restlessness, panting, vomiting, and unwillingness to eat, and the dog may seek out a private place. You may also notice a brown vaginal discharge. If you do notice this stage (which lasts six to 12 hours), encourage your pet to go to the whelping area.
Stages two and three, active labor and placental expulsion, conclude with the expulsion of the fetus and the placenta, respectively. If your dog has more than one puppy, she will alternate between stages two and three. Once your dog begins actively straining, the first puppy is usually delivered within 10 to 20 minutes. If the active straining has gone on for an hour unproductively it is time to call the vet. She needs some professional assistance. Many dogs will rest between puppies for an hour or so. This does not require intervention since the dog is not actively straining.
It is normal for puppies to be born either head first or breech (rear first). If you try to assist in delivery, never pull on an ear or a foot; instead, try to hook your fingers behind the shoulders or over the hips and use very gentle downward traction. Some dogs will squat to have puppies; others lie down. You must be flexible and responsive to what the mother may need. Some dogs just grunt quietly as they give birth, and others are screamers.
Puppies are born covered in membranes which must be cleaned away or the pup will suffocate. The mother will bite and lick the membranes away. Allow her a minute or two after birth to do this; if she does not do it, then you must clean the pup for her. Simply remove the slippery covering and rub the puppy with a clean towel. The umbilical cord may be tied in a knot about one inch from the pup and cut with scissors on the far side of the knot.
Now, I usually let mom lick to her heart's content. If your dog is an experienced mother or seems to want to do all this herself, there is no reason why you shouldn't let her tear the membrane and chew off the cord. Eating the placenta, however, is another matter. It is an old wives tale that the mother will not produce milk if she doesn't eat them. Just take them away from her and she will never know the difference.
CALL YOUR VETERINARIAN IF:
- 30-60 minutes of strong contractions occur with no puppy being produced.
- Greater than four hours pass between pups and you know there are more inside.
- She fails to go into labor within 24 hours of her temperature drop.
- She is in obvious extreme pain.
- Greater than 70 days of gestation have passed.
- It is normal for the bitch to spike a fever in the 24-48 hours following birth. This fever should not be accompanied by clinical signs of illness
WHAT COME NEXT?
Once all the puppies are born, make sure they all get a chance to have their first meal. The first milk is rich with protective antibodies that really help them to start off on the right foot. You will also want to offer mom a light meal and a potty break. Then you can all have a nice rest. All the puppies must begin nursing within the first 24 to benifit from the colostrom she is producing.
The next morning, call your veterinarian to apprise him or her of the results of the event. Many vets will want you to bring the brood in so that mom can have a quick check up to make sure that all is returning to normal and that there are no more puppies inside.
For the next six to eight weeks, the mother will be producing a reddish brown to bright green odorless discharge called lochia. This is a normal discharge and nothing to be concerned about. If your dog had a bright red bloody discharge, however, call your veterinarian right away. You will also want to continue to take your dog's temperature and inspect the mammary glands daily so that any uterine or mammary infection can be caught and treated early.
Now that she's given birth, you can feed her like gangbusters. Lactation increases your dog's caloric needs by three to four times. So, it's time to bring on the extra meals. Make sure that the babies are on a high quality puppy food as well. You should also start to supplement calcium in the mother's diet by providing her with a specific calcium supplement from your vet or by adding some cottage cheese to her diet. Free access to ample quantities of water must be available for your dog, but do not put it in the whelping box where puppies may drown. Use common sense.
PROBLEMS TO WATCH FOR...
METRITIS (INFLAMMATION OF THE UTERUS)
- Signs of this condition are as follows:
- foul-smelling vaginal discharge
- loss of appetite
- no interest in the puppies
- decreased milk production
- If these signs are noted, usually in the first day or two postpartum, a veterinarian should be consulted. Your dog may have retained a placenta or have suffered some trauma during delivery. Animals who have required assistance with delivery are often predisposed to metritis.
- This condition results when the bitch has trouble supporting the calcium demand of lactation. Calcium supplementation predisposes a bitch to this condition. Usually affected animals are small dogs. They demonstrate:
- nervousness and restlessness
- no interest in the pups
- stiff, painful gait
- This progresses to:
- muscle spasms
- inability to stand
- This condition generally occurs in the first three weeks of lactation and a veterinarian should be consulted immediately.
MASTITIS (INFLAMMATION OF THE BREASTS)
Normal nursing glands are soft and enlarged. Diseased glands are red, hard, and painful. In general, the bitch does not act sick; the disease is confined to the mammary tissue. The bitch may be sore and discourage the pups from nursing; however, it is important to keep the pups nursing the affected glands. This is not harmful to the puppies and helps flush out the infected material. Hot packing may be helpful.
Most dogs are excellent mothers and problems are few. The basic rule is to seek veterinary care if she seems to feel sick of if she ceases to care for her young. Puppies nurse until they are about six weeks old and then may be fully separated from their mother. A good age for adoption to a new home is 8 weeks or later.
Puppies' First Day
- To-day is extremely critical for the new puppy as are the next several days.
- He will be nursing almost constantly but he is not getting milk from the dam.
- He is getting 'colostrum' - a sort of thin yellowish-milky fluid.
- Colostrum is the fluid that contains all the antibodies against the many viruses that could make the puppy sick and it is extremely important that he gets all he can over the next 48 hours, before the dam begins producing real milk.
- When he's not nursing, he is sleeping.
- It is normal for all the puppies to make a 'mewling noise' almost constantly.
- There is nothing wrong with them, if they feel full and are warm.
- Their little legs and bodies will twitch from time to time. This is normal too.
- He cannot piddle or poop on his own, so the dam will lick him to stimulate his bladder and bowel, and she will clean up and swallow whatever he excretes.
- She will continue to clean up her 'nest' completely until solid food is introduced.
- She will also 'worry' the cord that is not yet dried and fallen off.
- It usually falls off in 48 hours, but the dam wants it off immediately.
- If she pulls on it, an umbilical hernia may develop, and while you can't cover the cord, you can sit with her to try and stop the licking and pulling behaviour.
- The pup's eyes are sealed closed and so are the ears.
- The eyes and ears continue to develop outside the womb.
- Eyes open anywhere from 10 - 18 days after birth.
- Ears begin to hear approximately the same time.
- At birth, the ears have no visible opening, but you can see the the ear canal beginning to develop after 10 days or so.
- The dam will be reluctant to go out to do her own bathroom duties because she does not want to leave her babies, so you may have to put a leash and collar on her and manually pull her away from the pups and take her outside.
- Keep a box of tissues at the door to wipe her vulva with, because she will continue to have a bloody discharge for several days.
- Give her lots of water in the days after the whelping to assist in making milk, and to regulate her temperature. Keep it as close to her as possible at first so she doesn't have to leave her puppies to drink.
- Take her temperature for at least 2 days after the birthing, and if it is higher than 102.0F, call your Veterinarian.
- She will eat large amounts of dog food, just as she did before the whelping, in order to make sufficient milk for the puppies.
- It is very important that she does not have visitors at this time.
- Her own family can go in for short visits, but the pups should be handled only by the main person in her life.
- Animal mothers who feel threatened often will kill their own young, so that a predator does not kill them.
- This is why it is so important that she feel safe and secure in her quiet place.
- The neighbour children can come over when the puppies are weaned.
- The pups are more fun at that time, anyway
- I use a baby monitor to listen to the sounds when I have to leave the room.
- We also sleep beside the whelping box for the next 10 nights.
- Puppies get behind the dam and then squeal because they can't get back to her teats.
- The dam seems to be totally unconcerned about them being lost, so we put them back, for our own peace of mind and quiet.
Puppies' Second Day
- The puppy normally loses 10% of its birthweight in the first twenty-four hours, so beginning to-day the weight will start coming back on and by tomorrow they should weigh the same as they did at birth.
- You should weigh the puppies every day on a little postal or food scale to make sure they are gaining weight.
- If you have a puppy who is not gaining as well as the others, then pay special attention to that puppy, and make sure he is not being bullied by stronger pups and is getting his fair share of nursing time.
- If he is being pushed off by stronger pups, then you should put the other pups in a clothes basket and let the weak puppy nurse unmolested every two hours.
- If he still fails to thrive, take him to your Veterinarian.
- Infants get dehydrated and weaken very quickly and Veterinarian attention is needed to save his life.
- The dam's temperature may still be slightly elevated.
- By tomorrow it should be returned to normal.
- If it is not, then you should call your Veterinarian.
- The vaginal discharge will continue to be moderately heavy and bloody looking.
- There should not be any foul odour or green colour to it, however.
- If a bad smell or a weird colour develops, call your veterinarian immediately.
- This could be a sign of a retained dead puppy and needs immediate attention.
- Something like this can cause your dam to die.
- You should offer food to your dog three times a day.
- As the puppies grow, the amount of food for the dam will increase proportionately.
- Water should be available at all times for her, but be careful that a puppy cannot crawl into the water and drown.
- The puppies' umbilical cords should be quite dry and may be falling off today.
Tomorrow- day 3
- is the best day to remove dewclaws and dock tails.
- I find that the best way to transport them to the Veterinarian is in a large picnic cooler with towels and hot water bottles.
- Take along a little stick or a clothes pin to keep the lid slightly open for fresh air.
Puppy's First Week (Days 1 - 7)
- You may have a dam who has continued to 'nest' in her box, scattering her bedding or newspapers, even after the birth of the puppies.
- This is normal and is caused by the uterine contractions, which are causing her uterus to return to normal size following the pregnancy.
- The nesting urge gradually decreases over the next few more days.
- You have been weighing the puppies daily, and they have made a regular weight gain.
- The dam is used to you handling her puppies in the box.
- You'll notice that the pups are sleeping a little more spread out now, and are more active in the box - they are navigating around using their noses for scenting the dam if they get too far away from her.
- Even though they still can't see or hear, they are amazingly capable of getting what they need - food, warmth and companionship.
- The dam's appetite is increasing daily, as the pups grow and require more and more milk from her.
- Feed her as much as she wants. She won't get fat!
- Encourage her to stay in the room with the puppies as much as possible, coming out only for bathroom breaks and a brief hello to her human family.
- Her vaginal discharge is beginning to decrease now.
Puppy's Second Week Days 8 - 14
- This week has a few interesting happenings with the puppies.
- They are often starting to hear sounds.
- Some pups will have their eyes beginning to open although it is not unusual for the eyes to remain sealed for another week.
- They are beginning to "lurch" around the whelping box, but they still sleep congregated to-gether, for warmth and for comfort.
- They are not nursing constantly as they have been, but they are draining all the milk in each teat.
- The dam continues to lick and clean them as well as eating up any bowel movements and urine from the puppies, however, towards the end of this period, they are beginning to urinate and defecate on their own.
- Make sure the dam's water bowl is elevated so that a pup can't fall into it and accidentally drown.
- The vaginal discharge is almost all done now.
- She wants to leave them for an hour or so at a time, to be with her family, but I advise against this.
- She will rapidly decide she doesn't want to be a mother, and will prefer to be with the family, but her pups need her with them.
Puppy's Third Week (Days 15-21)
- This is a fun week!
- The eyes open and the ears are working well.
- The pups discover that they can bark and growl!
- Their astonished reaction to the sounds that come out of their mouths really befuddles them :-)
- They begin to interact with each other with the very beginnings of puppy play, and you will want to spend more and more time just watching them.
- They become more adept at moving around as well, and they will begin to try to find an 'escape' from the whelping box, by stretching up to climb on the sides.
- At this point, ( 21 days) I open the 4th side of the whelping box and put down newspaper on the floor, to allow the pups to leave their 'den' to go to the bathroom.
- Pups are, by nature, very clean in their habits, and do not want to soil their sleeping area if there is an option, so they will come out and use the newspaper.
- Our whelping box is 4' x 4' and we have an "exercise pen" that is 4' x 8'. We surround the box with the exercise pen (X-Pen) before opening the 4th side, so the pups have an additional 4 x 4 place to run, play and piddle, and not be running loose around a room.
- This makes it safe for the pups and easy to clean up for me.
- At the end of this week, They may start to eat their mothers food..
- This is the time to put down a cake pan or some low dish for water for the pups.
- Once they start on solid food, they need a supply of water.
- Of course, they'll fall into it and walk around in it, but it is low enough that they can't drown in it.
- Have your camera loaded and ready to snap some really fun pictures.
Puppy's Fourth Week (Days 22 - 28)
- This is a another fun week, but now your work becomes more intensive!
- The whelping box and the flooring in the exercise area will need to be washed daily, and the papers changed.
- I find that if I cover soiled spots with fresh paper in the pen when needed through the day, I can wash and clean the floor just once a day.
- If there are lots of bowel movements because of a big litter, then change the papers as often as needed.
- You don't want the puppies playing with or eating the stools.
- In this week, as well, the dam will begin to stand to nurse them.
- Until the pups get the hang of it, they latch on and fall off frequently through-out the nursing period.
- The dam does this new procedure instinctively because she knows she can no longer accomodate the litter in a lying down position.
- This is also encouraging balance and agility in the puppies.
- The pups wrestle and play for longer periods and they can be quite noisy with the barking and puppy growling.
- They are sorting out their social "pecking order".
- Very often the dominant female and the dominant male are apparent at this age, but the others will continue to jockey for this position.
- Now the pups need to be introduced to Rice Pablum three times a day. "Pablum" is a Canadian word for baby rice cereal.
- Mix up about 1 teaspoon of pablum for each puppy, and make it a little 'soupy' with warm water so they can lap it up.
- "Pablum" is found in grocery stores in the baby food aisle, as 'cereal'.
- There are different varieties and manufacturers but I have found that Heinz Rice cereal is the best one for the puppies.
- Add one mashed up meatball for each puppy into the mixture.
- I put the mixture into a large pieplate and group the pups around it in the whelping box area.
- You may have to help a slow eater by spooning it into the puppy.
- They'll slip and slide into the meal in the pie plate and almost need a bath afterwards.
- I have a supply of wash cloths and a small basin for washing their faces and feet after a meal, but they love it!
- The dam can be away from them for two or three hours at a time now.
- The room temperature can be at a normal 72 degrees.
- The dam has stopped cleaning up the puppy urine and bowel movements.
- The pups will enjoy some little toys that they can drag around and play tug with.
- You'll want a good deoderant for the garbage can that you put your soiled papers into.
- You'll need to clip the hair away from the rectum, and even wash their behinds in lukewarm water to clean away old hardened bowel movement (stool).
- Cut those nails!
Puppy's Fifth Week (Days 29 - 35)
- This week has some more changes in the routine.
- I begin adding puppy chow to the pablum.
- Do not add too much chow too quickly or the pups will get diarrhea.
- Select a brand of chow that has a tiny kibble, rather than a large kibble, and one that is designed for growing puppies.
- I give about 1 teaspoon of wet chow at the most, with about 3 teaspoons of dry pablum (pre-mixed with water).
- This amount is based on my size of puppies, who are about 3 1/2 lbs. at this time in their life. You will have to gauge the amount based on your pups' weight.
- As you increase the chow amount this week, decrease the pablum amount.
- Make sure you have fresh water available all the time for the puppies.
- There are heavy ceramic bowls in the pet stores, or a corning ware casserole will work too.
- Pups at this age have a tendency to drag things around, and if the water bowl is lightweight plastic, it may get 'dumped' regularly.
- There is a lot more play fighting and growling this week.
- The 'pecking order' is still being decided, and you'll notice who's the bully, who's sweet and who's shy.
- The dam likes to check them about 4 times a day, and at this age, I usually let her sleep away from them if she wants to.
- She is still nursing them when she visits them.
- She may regurgitate ( barf up) her last meal for them to eat when she visits them.
- Don't be disgusted by this! It is normal instinctive behaviour.
- She knows that puppy guts are not ready for regular food, so she brings them partially digested food.
- As the puppy food amount increases, so does the size and number of the bowel movements, so there's a lot of cleaning up ahead of you.
- About the middle of this week is a good time to take these puppies outside for the first time with their dam.
- Ten minutes of this strenuous play and running is about all they can handle.
- If it's winter, cold and snowy, about five minutes is plenty.
- If the weather is warm, make sure you have a bowl of water outside for them.
- They'll fall asleep after this outdoor playtime.
- I like to get them outside at least once a day through this week.
Puppy's Sixth Week (Days 36 - 42)
- Again there are more changes in the routine.
- The dam likes to check her pups about 3 times a day, and she is still nursing them when she visits.
- As the puppy food amount increases, so does the size and number of the bowel movements, so there's a lot of cleaning up ahead of you.
- At this time in their lives, I move them, pen and all, from the quiet area where they were born and have lived up till now, into the living area of the house.
- You'll need a good spray room deoderizer available all the time.
- I give them their toys, the water bowl, and old blanket at one end for their bed and put down newspaper at the opposite end.
- I move furniture around to accomodate the pen.
- If the area you are moving them to is carpeted, then purchase a scrap of linoleum slightly bigger than the pen to put over top of the carpet.
- I do not move the whelping box to the new puppy location.
- I clean it thoroughly, disinfect it well using Javex and water in a 1:30 part solution, cover it with an old sheet and store it away for the next litter.
- Bringing them into the living area of the house is an important part of socializing them for their future life as someone's pet or your next breeding or show dog.
- Encourage neighbourhood children to come and visit and play with the pups.
- This is the time to have potential owners come to see them, as well.
- The dam will be a little worried as they handle her babies, so keep a close eye on her.
- It is possible that she will guard them very defensively, and you may have to put her into a separate room or outside while the pups are being viewed and handled.
- Do NOT allow the pups to be in contact with other dogs.
- They have not yet been immunized and are losing some of the immunity they got from their dam's colostrum the day they were born.
- I take the puppies outside after every meal at this age.
- This encourages the beginning of housebreaking, since a bowel movement usually occurs about 10 minutes after eating a meal.
- A half hour of strenuous play and running is about all they can handle.
- I also put each pup on the grooming table for a brushing every day from now on.
- This takes about five minutes for each puppy.
- They don't really need a grooming, but the process is teaching them that the human is dominant over them, and that they must stand still while being handled and groomed.
- You can bathe each puppy this week, to get rid of the newpaper ink and their 'puppy smell', as long as you make sure they are throughly dry afterwards and don't get a chill.
Puppy's Seventh Week (Days 43 - 49)
- They sure are busy and noisy now, aren't they?
- By now, the dam will probably not be interested in nursing them any more, and you must help her dry up the milk supply.
- 1. Reduce her food to her normal amount of feeding.
- 2. Restrict her water intake a little.
- Make sure she has water after her meal, for digestion, and offer water 4 times through the day, but don't let her drink to excess.
- 3. Make a schedule for her visiting the pups and weaning (stop suckling) them at the same time.
- Without a proper weaning period, her mammary glands will become engorged and very sore. This may require veterinary care, so you want to avoid this situation by using common sense and consideration.
- If she has been sleeping away from them for eight hours overnight, keep her away for an extra four hours, then allow the pups to suckle on her. Make the next nursing time sixteen hours later, then 20 hours, then twenty-four hours. Wait thirty-six hours and allow her back with the pups, then wait another forty-- four hours.The next visit should be forty-eight hours and by now, the milk should be all dried up. She may stand and allow the pups to suckle ( mine do) but milk will not be produced.
- Once she has dried up, she can play with the pups two or three times a day, and go outside with them. She will discipline them when necesary and will be teaching them 'pack manners'. It is wise not to interfere with her lessons, even if she snarls, growls or hits at them with her paw. Her warning and/or punishment is swift. She will not hurt them, but they will certainly know they've misbehaved.
- Their diet should be almost all puppy food now, with very little if any pablum added.
- Make your Vet appointment to have puppy Vet checks done and their first immunizations at 8 weeks of age. This first needle is only a "temporary" vaccination and must be repeated in 4 weeks, and followed by a Rabies vaccine at 16 weeks of age.
- Make arrangements with the new puppy purchasers that you have selected to pick up their pup the day AFTER the first immunization.Give them a list of the supplies they will need to have on hand.
Puppy's Eighth Week Days 50 - 56
- You know each pup's personality now and have probably called them with your own pet name, but it's time to let them go to their new homes, even though you'll hate to see them go.
- Your job now is to help the pup make the transition to a new home away from the familiar environment, and the company of littermates and dam, and to help the owner raise the puppy.
- Plan to have about two hours for each family on 'moving' day.
- Keep a record of the purchaser's name, address and phone number.
- Make a list of the pup's daily routine and its own little behaviours.
- Write down how much food is being eaten at each feeding.
- Explain what kind of food and biscuits the owner should purchase.
- Give them the health card from the Veterinarian with the record of the first vaccination.
- Explain the follow-up Veterinary visit for the next shots.
- It's always best to send the puppy home on an empty stomach, so it can eat a meal right away in the new home, and also so the pup hopefully will avoid being car-sick.
- Have a camera ready to take a picture of each pup with its new family, for a keepsake.
- Sit down, put your feet up and listen to the silence of your house.
- It's OK if you shed a tear or two.