Raising a litter of puppies can be a tremendously fun and rewarding project,
but also one that requires a great commitment of time and patience. Before you undertake the process of raising a litter of puppies you must ask yourself if you have the time and resources to do it properly, as well as the commitment to finding all of the puppies good homes once they are ready to be weaned. Once you are certain of your commitment, you are ready to begin.
Before your puppies arrive there are several things that you can do in preparation to be ready for their arrival. You should speak with your veterinarian about a proper and nutritious diet for you pregnant dog. As a rule, you will probably want to feed your pregnant female puppy food about half way through her pregnancy. This will provide her with more nutrition, as well as additional calcium.
Well before the due date, you should prepare your dog for the arrival of her puppies by purchasing or building a whelping box. The whelping box is a large box that will become a home for your dog and her puppies. The whelping box is specially designed for accommodating puppies. One important feature of the whelping box is that it will have a guardrail that runs around the interior of the box. This prevents the mother dog from accidentally pressing the puppies against the side of the box and suffocating them. Another benefit of the whelping box is that the sides of the box are low enough for the mother dog to step over and get away from the puppies and high enough to contain the puppies to one area. You will want to get the mother dog used to sleeping in the whelping box two to three weeks before her due date, so that she will be perfectly comfortable in it by her due date. Although you may be concerned about your dog’s comfort during this time, resist the urge to put blankets or towels in the whelping box at this stage. The more sanitary and practical thing to use is newspaper. They can easily be replaced as they are soiled, and a thick layer will provide adequate support for your dog.
As the time nears for the puppies to arrive, you should speak with your veterinarian about what hours he is available and what you should do if anything unexpected should happen during delivery. Happily, most deliveries are routine and trouble free. The best thing that you can do is to stay out of the way and let the dog do her job. After each puppy is born, the mother should lick it dry and help it attempt to nurse. If she does not seem up to the task, you can dry the puppy gently with a clean towel, and lay it by the mother’s stomach. Once all of the puppies are delivered you should feed the mother a small dinner, offer her water and allow her the opportunity to relieve herself. If this is her first litter, she may be apprehensive about leaving her puppies, but with your reassurance, she will be fine.
During the first few weeks of the puppies' lives your major responsibility will be in insuring that the mother has plenty of quality food and clean water, and that you clean out the whelping box regularly. As the puppies get older and their eyes open, you can begin to play with them gently. A few snuggles and pets now will go a long way in insuring happy companion animals down the road.
Around the age of four weeks, your puppies will probably be ready to begin eating solid food. To start with, you should soften regular dry puppy food with milk or water. As they become more accustomed to eating, you can begin to decrease the amount of liquid added to the food.
You should take the puppies to the vet at least once before they are sold, usually at around 6 weeks. Follow the vaccination schedule set up by your vet, but do be certain to get them in for their immunizations. Diseases, such as parvo, which are not that common in older dogs, can be deadly in puppies.
Once your puppies are around seven weeks old, you are ready to find homes for them. If you have been playing with them regularly and they have a healthy diet, they will be so adorable you should have no trouble getting rid of them. Remember to select potential owners carefully, and make them aware of when the next series of vaccinations are due on the pups. You may want to include a few days supply of puppy food with each puppy. The new owners can either continue using this food, or gradually switch over to the brand that they prefer. This will prevent any upset stomachs.
Once the last of the puppies have gone to their new home you can sit back and congratulate yourself on a job well done.