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