Puppy rearing

This is advice on rearing the litter.  For puppies of 8 weeks and over see ethical puppy sales and puppy advice sheet.


Some tips   

I use disposable cardboard whelping boxes

Get mum in her planned whelping area at least 3 weeks prior to the date the puppies are expected to give her plenty of time to settle in the new environment

For the first 10 days pups need an environmental temperature (i.e. mum and pups huddled together) of 80 degrees Fahrenheit because they cannot shiver and maintain body temperature.

I use a metal puppy pen for when the pups are mobile and put the whelping box inside it.

Normally mum does all the feeding for the first 2 weeks.  She will gradually end up eating 3 to 4 times her normal diet to produce plenty of milk


Puppy rearing basic time line


When pups are:

2 weeks of age.  First strange people can visit so not to upset bitch during early days.

2 and half weeks of age.  Worm mum and puppies against roundworms

3 weeks of age.  Start weaning puppies (see below)

4 weeks of age.  Pups can start going outside for short periods in summer or Spring.  in winter this might be started as late as 5 or even 7 weeks depending on weather.

4 and half weeks of age.  Worm mum and puppies against roundworms

6 and half weeks of age.  Worm mum and puppies against roundworms

7 and half to 8 weeks of age.  Go to new homes. (I take deposits from 4 weeks of age)


This regular worming of mum and pups is very important as ALL puppies are born with larval stage worms inside them and we need to catch the worms before they become adult enough to lay eggs themselves and cause re-infection.  The mum’s immune system will have dropped so she is also a reservoir of larval stage worms that become active because of her pregnancy.  Most wormers only kill adult worms and not larval stage worms and if they do kill larval stage worms not a 100% of them.  Therefore, worms have to mature sufficiently to be killed.  I also try to separate out major events like worming, weaning and going out side by at least half a week to avoid doubling up on stresses.


Weaning puppies off the bitch

If all goes well, a litter of puppies should feed happily from their mother until around three to five weeks of age and sometimes longer.  However, at about 3 weeks of age mum’s milk needs to be supplemented.  This avoids any "check" in the puppies' growth due to a reduction in food, and also promotes a natural reduction in the amount of milk the bitch produces, as the puppies make less demands on her.


I start by giving some finely minced beef and gravy (as they are still getting plenty of milk and calcium from mum) in to a low dish and encourage them to lap as below.  


You can put a little of the mixture on the end of your finger but generally the puppies sniff the bowl of food and walk in it and start licking each other and this gets their lapping started. After introducing the mixture this way, put it in the puppy pen in a low dish/s at meal times.  The bitch is usually excluded during feeds to avoid her interfering too much.  By the end of a week or so, with the puppies lapping properly, they can be fed three or four times a day.  I usually give two meat based meals e.g. mince beef or chicken with the introduction of some wholemeal puppy biscuit and two milk based meals e.g. rice pudding or wheatabix and milk mixed together.  You can give a good quality, all in one, puppy food, either canned food or dried food mixed with water, for both or one of the meat based meals if you wish.  I use cheap brands of rice pudding or if feeding wheatabix make up the milk with a bitch’s milk substitute such as whelpie or lactol.  My rule of thumb is that if there is a little food left when they have finished eating each meal you have given enough.  The amount of food will increase quite rapidly over the next few weeks.  There is no need to force weaning.  Mum will stop feeding when she is ready.  Some bitches go in once a day right up to when the puppies go to their new homes whilst others are fed up by 3 to 5 weeks.  This gradual reduction will dry up her milk naturally.


As the milk supply from the bitch dwindles, give the puppies more feeds yourself. Puppies need feeding more frequently than adult dogs for the same reasons that human babies require frequent feeds.  They have a small stomach but need more food for rapid growth and development. The calorific requirements of a puppy, on a weight for weight basis, are up to four times those of an adult dog.  By the time the puppies leave the mum at eight weeks they will be on 4 meals a day (see puppy advice sheet for approximate quantities and types of meals).


 At night times.  Make sure mum can jump into her pups if she wants but ensure she has a place to escape to and where they cannot get to her also.  Mum will need this sort of arrangement from when they are about 4 weeks old.


Joy Venturi Rose MSc BA Ed (Hons) RVN