If you are reading this you have probably already gone through whelping your pregnant mama dog! Congrats! Raising a litter of puppies can be the most joyful thing anyone can do! There is so much to learn about puppy development and how to prepare a litter of puppies for their best lives! Here is a week by week guide on raising a litter of puppies!
For your new little ones, the first day of life is super crucial. On this day, you will want to keep Mama and the puppies supervised. Make sure that everyone is feeding. If you notice that one puppy isn’t getting as much nipple time as another, rotate them around so everyone is feeding the same amount.
A very important thing you will want to check for is dehydration. You will do this by softly pinching the skin on the back of the puppy’s neck. If the puppy is well hydrated, the skin will bounce back to its normal shape. For a dehydrated puppy, the skin will stay in place after you pinch the skin. So it will look like a small peak on the back of their neck. If that is the case, make sure that puppy gets more drinking time. Keep monitoring it and make sure they get nice and hydrated.
After a few hours of Mama and puppies settling in, you will want to check everyone over. Pick each puppy up and look them over from nose to tail. You want to check their nose and mouth for any cleft palates. This will be a missing section in their nose or mouth. This can inhibit eating so you will want to monitor any puppy with a cleft palate to make sure they are gaining weight.
After checking the facial area, continue to search the puppy’s body. Make sure every limp is in tack and you notice some movement in them. If there is a deformity or missing limp, you may want to check in with a Veterinarian to have that puppy seen.
Today is the day you get the initial birth weight of the puppies. I created a weight chart using Excel. For the first two weeks, you want to get weights of all the puppies twice a day. Once in the morning, and once at night. As long as everyone is gaining weight day-by-day there is nothing to worry about. After the two weeks, you can record weights once a day for weeks three and four. If everyone is still gaining weight, after that you can stop recording weights regularly after week four.
For the first week of life, puppies are deaf, blind, and toothless. Their eyes and ears are not fully developed yet so they use their sense of smell to determine where they need to go. Once they smell their Mama, they will start wiggling towards her for their meals.
Puppies in this stage cannot maintain their own body heat. It is very important to keep the room they are in around 70 degrees Fahrenheit. Using a heating pad under their blankets and a space heater for the room are the best ways to keep the puppies around the temperature they need to be.
The Mama Dog will make sure that the litter of puppies stays nice and clean. She will lick everyone regularly to stimulate them to use the bathroom. Changing the whelping area bedding once every other day will help keep everyone warm and as clean as possible.
During the second week of life, you will start to notice a lot more changes. For one, the puppies’ eyes will begin to open. At first they will be very squinty but as they get used to the sights, their eyes will stay fully open. The puppies’ ears will also start to open and they will be able to hear louder noises.
You will also notice that the litter of puppies will start gaining some muscle strength and will begin to use their front legs to stand and pull themselves around the whelping area.
At this point, the puppies eyes and ears should be fully open! They should be seeing and hearing everything pretty clearly. The puppies’ back legs should also be gaining some strength and you should be seeing the puppies standing up on their own. All the puppies should be showing more distinct features as well. So it will be a little easier to start telling the puppies a part. You will also start to see the puppies learning to play together!
A huge development is that the puppies’ little teeth will start coming in. This is when you want to start preparing the puppies to eat solid foods. To start, take dry puppy food and soak it in water or puppy formula. Do not mix it in. This is so the litter of puppies can get used to the taste and lapping up liquids on their own.
Puppies at four weeks old are going to start adventuring out a lot more. Their little legs will never stop moving and they are going to want to explore. They will be playing a lot more with each other and every start to play with small toys.
Their teeth should be almost fully in so now is a great time to get them to eat three meals a day of puppy mush. To make the mush take several cups of dry puppy food and soak it in water or puppy formula. When it is soft and easy to break down, stir it and smash it to make a thick mixture. Serve the mixture to the puppies with extra warm water added in. It is important to start with the mixture at a more soupy consistency at first. As the week progresses, add less warm water to the mixture. This is also a great time to start leaving out a water bowl for the puppies to use when they’re thirsty. Start with a small amount and slowly increase the water level as they get used to drinking on their own.
With the ability to eat solid foods, the litter of puppies will start to learn to hold their bowels more. Creating a potty area at this time will teach the puppies the different areas to go to the bathroom and where to play.
Week five is when Mama Dog can start taking more breaks away from her puppies. They should not be nursing as often and she should be teaching them more manners. She will start to show them when to stop nursing, when to stop mouthing, and how to play appropriately.
Also at this stage you want more and more people over to meet the puppies. The best way to do this is to set up at least two new people every day for 30 minutes. They should interact with the puppies by petting, playing, and talking to them. The puppies can also start being introduced to new socially confident dogs.
During this week the litter of puppies should be eating the soaked puppy food mush with dry food mixed in. This way they can start to learn to break down the dry kibble more with their teeth. Their potty spot should also be reduced in size to teach them to be more accurate on where to go to the bathroom.
Week Six – Seven
During this week is when the puppies should be totally weaned off their Mama! No more milk! They should also be eating dry kibble as is!
Puppies should be interacting with as many new people as possible and some new socially confident dogs. This is also a great time to introduce the puppies to cats or other animals. Another great thing, the puppies can go outside to use the bathroom! Reduce their inside potty spot to a small area and try to get them outside a majority of the day. This will help create a great foundation for potty training.
Week Eight – Ten
The last few weeks of puppiness consists of creating a foundation for training. You can start working hard on potty training, crate training, socialization, and desensitizing the puppies. For the best tips and tricks on puppy training check out more blogs on Puppy Training with A Confident Dog.