Rearing Puppies

The first two weeks are the easiest. The puppies are relatively inert. They will wriggle around the bed a great deal but are incapable of recovering the nest if they accidentally fall out. Most whelping boxes have high fronts for this reason.


At this stage the puppies need no supplementary feeding, just their dam's milk, and should spend most of their time sleeping quietly. If they do not, seek help urgently. Puppies open their eyes at about ten days old, though some breeds are notoriously lazy about this.


By about three weeks old the puppies are moving around much more; they will mostly have fallen out of the box several times, indicating that it is time to add another layer to the barrier at the front. It may also be the time to start to supplement their diet. This is done by hand-feeding.


Although most people think of the puppies' first hand-feeding as an occasion for something delicate, milky perhaps, just try scraping a little raw beef from the joint on to your fingers. You will be lucky to have a finger left! The main reason for starting to wean puppies at three weeks is to spare the bitch. With a large litter there is a tremendous physical demand on her, and she will certainly lose a lot of weight during the course of rearing a litter. By starting to wean the puppies relatively early she will be spared some of this load. Puppies do, in any case, start to look for more solid food at this age if given the opportunity.


At three weeks of age the litter must have its first worming dose. Take advice on this. Modern wormers cause no side effects.


From three weeks to about five weeks a gradually increasing proportion of the puppies' diet should be supplied from sources other than their dam. By six weeks they should be completely weaned, although the dam may take some convincing of this, and may keep trying to feed the pups. The action of sucking by the puppies prolongs the production of milk by the dam, and after six weeks this should be discouraged.


At six weeks the puppies should be feeding on a puppy food of your choice. It is also time for a second worming dose to be given.

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