Caring for Newborn Puppies

Is there anything sweeter than a litter of newborn puppies? No, we can’t think of anything either.

When it comes to caring for a litter of newborns, the mother will do a lot of the hard work herself, just as she did during the pregnancy and birth. But that doesn’t mean you won’t be needed. From providing the right environment, to stepping in if there’s a problem, your role is an active one. And it all starts with creating a cosy nest.

What is a whelping box?

Secure, sheltered and safe, a whelping box will allow the mum and her puppies to adjust to their surroundings. Typically, the mother will birth her pups in this box, and keep them fenced in once they’ve arrived.

How to make a whelping box:

1. Tailor the box to the size of the mum – whelping boxes have four, equally-high sides to keep the puppies in place. But it needs to be high enough to foil any escape methods, while remaining low enough to let mum come and go with relative ease. It should also be big enough to allow the mother to lie and stretch out her legs.

2. Don’t go too big – on the other hand, you want the box to feel enclosed. So, make sure mum isn’t squashed, but don’t give her lots of extra room. Too much extra room can result in wandering puppies being sat on!

3. Add ventilation – the puppies will be doing everything in there. That’s feeding, toileting, playing. Adding some airflow at the base of the box will also allow any excess liquid to drain away. Just be sure to put something under the box to soak up any messes.

4. Insulate and heat – make it cosy with blankets or whelping mats that can be regularly washed, and polystyrene underneath the base to add an extra layer of protection from chilly floors. For warmth, clamp a heat lamp over the box along with a thermometer to keep tabs on the temperature.

Temperature and lighting

Newborn puppies can’t regulate their body temperature. This is why one of the things on the whelping box checklist is a heat lamp. While their mum is next to them, they’ll benefit from her body warmth. But when she leaves the box, they’ll be at risk of losing heat. With the aid of a heat lamp and thermometer, aim to keep the temperature in the box at a consistent 29.2-32ºC for the first few days.

From four days onwards, you can start to gradually turn the heat down. Within a week or two, settle the temperature at 26.7ºC, and down again to 22.2ºC by week four. It’s okay if some parts of the box are slightly cooler. If anything, it gives the dogs a chance to move a little and find a spot to suit them. To keep things cosy in there, also turn the lights down, or put a blanket over the top of the box.

Puppy vaccinations, microchipping and health

Puppy vaccinations are an essential part of your tick list to keep your puppies safe. Immunity from their mother’s milk will protect them from most infections at the beginning, but it’s advised that you get them vaccinated for the first time at around eight weeks. This will cover off the risky, killer infections that could be passed to them. A second dose of vaccines will be offered two-to-four weeks after this date.

Schedule your first vet visit for around this time. Often, vets like to see new pups from six weeks. They can do a physical examination and give you advice on a health plan for your puppies at this time.Ifyou have any worries before or after this around weight, appetite, wheezing, swollen eyes or anything that doesn’t feel right, contact your vet immediately. It’s also important to note that a normal puppy temperature should be around 37.5-39ºC. Anything outside of this requires an urgent trip to the vet.At this time you can also schedule for your puppies to be microchipped. It is now law for all puppies to be microchipped before they leave their breeder. Have the microchip details registered to your name, these are easily transferred to the new owners when they leave for their new homes.

If you’re wondering, when can puppies go outside, it really depends on the weather and the environment. If it’s warm and the area is safe, you can start from an early age, but you may want to wait until they’ve had their first two rounds of vaccinations.

Monitoring puppy weight

The weight of your newborns will depend on the breed, but you’ll need to keep an eye on their weight gain to give them the best start. As a rule of thumb, the puppies should be gaining around 10-15% of their birth weight a day.

Keep some reliable scales handy and pop each pup on there every day to keep track, while referring to a puppy weight chart or puppy weight calculator. It’s also worth having a look into growth spurts for their breed. That will give you a full view of when to expect significant weight gain.

How to socialise puppies

In the first few weeks of a puppy’s life, they won’t be doing much apart from sleeping and feeding,bBut once they’re around a month old, you’ll need to consider puppy socialisation. That includes interactions with both humans and dogs. This is an important step for boosting their confidence, decreasing anxiety, improving their social skills and reducing behavioural issues. Puppy socialisation plans are a useful way of covering things off.

There are a few great points to keep in mind when socialising your puppies. First off, take it slowly. Until around 8 weeks, puppies should be kept with their mum and siblings. They’ll learn most of their tips at this stage from their family. That includes bite inhibition and playing. Regularly handling them around this age will also help them to build trust with the people in your household.

Just remember, if a puppy appears to be unhappy with the interaction, calmly end it immediately. It’s about creating good experiences, and a nervous dog will associate an experience with that feeling. Get to the floor to play and interact, encourage but monitor children and babies during social times to maintain a calm room. And most of all keep it short. Little and often is the best approach here.

From around eight weeks, it’s also good to get your puppies used to riding in the car and being without you for a few minutes at a time. It’s wise to expose your pups to household sounds from day one, but you can also introduce them to new sounds, like fireworks for instance, with apps or CDs from two months onwards.

Discover the BETA® Breeder First Steps Club, and give your puppies the best possible care.