It's Like Clockwork
Gun Dog Magazine (April/May,
By Carl H. Altenbernd
If you have ever had a bitch with a litter
of pups, you probably noticed
that on certain days the pups' level of physical and mental development
changed dramatically, that is, eyes opened, first steps were taken
or noise awareness occurred.
Mother Nature has developed a time clock for
growth of our dogs. Over the years I have kept a diary of stages
of growth with our black Labs. It's important to be aware of the
growth stages so you can plan dew claw removal, avoid cold drafts
or heat problems, keep direct light away from sensitive eyes, start
supplemental feeding and take pups to the vet for a stool check
and first shots. Let's take a look at a typical black Lab whelping.
The bitch is usually bred on the eleventh
day of her heat cycle. A dog will carry the pups for 58 to 63 days.
Our litters are typically born late at night and into the early
morning hours. A good indication that the female is getting close
to giving birth is that she will show nesting signs which include
scratching the floor of the whelping box, pacing, or water on the
floor. When I see these indicators I get the bitch outside to clean
herself. Birth usually will take place soon. Mother will take over
now, but do some homework prior to whelping as to trouble-shooting
for potential birth problems. Also, make sure your vet is aware
of the litter's due date. In addition, check out a past Gun
Dog article titled "RX for Better Pups" by Orest
Puppy growth is like clockwork. You will
see your litter go through many physical and mental stages.
1 - Pups are born wet with a large bag of afterbirth.
The bitch cleans pup, eats afterbirth and clips umbilical cord.
Pup should be in an environment of 80 to 90 degrees the first
few days. A healthy pup will be noisy and squirmy. The pup's
ears will be pinned against its head and they will cling to
mom for their first feeding. After the litter is dry and feeding
strongly, get the bitch outside so you can spot clean the whelping
box and she can clean herself of stool. She will be very reluctant
to leave the pups, so make it quick. Note the bitch licks the
pup's belly to stimulate urine and stool movement the first
three weeks. I feed the bitch three times her regular feeding
with a vitamin supplement.
Day 3 - Puppy ears
are starting to flop away from head; they are very vocal. Bodies
of the puppies are constantly twitching and this is a healthy
sign. It's time to take the litter to the vet for general health
inspection and pup dew claw removal. Puppies are starting to
crawl around. Their eyes are closed tight.
Day 7 - Pups have doubled in size,
less vocal and doing a strong belly crawl. The bitch will leave
pups for a 10- to 30-minute time frame. Quietly hand hold puppies.
Day 12- Walking upright but unsteady,
pups are quiet and content. Time to clip sharp front paw nails.
Hand hold all puppies.
14- Sense of smell and awareness of noise is keen and they
are walking upright with ease, with eyes slightly open. Mother
spends less time with litter. When a large litter, the bitch
will feed them sitting down rather than laying flat in the whelping
box. I now feed the bitch four times her regular feeding ration.
It is time to start socializing puppies. Handle them gently and
Day 16- Eyes completely open, walking
steady and constantly looking for mom. Vision is blurred; eyes
have a blue/gray look. Do not expose developing eyes to direct
21- Bitch stops cleaning whelping box. Place wood shavings
or shredded newspaper in whelping box. Cut pup's sharp front
paw nails. Pup's senses are taking hold, eyesight limited, but
smell sense is strong and hearing keen. With a large litter I
will introduce first warm meal of wet puppy food. No teeth yet.
Day 24- Teeth are showing, pups will
chow down moist dog food. Eyes are blue/brown cast with very limited
28- Teeth are like needles and dry dog food three times per
day is supplemented. Pups are walking around and venturing outside
of whelping box when door is open. I allow bitch to spend time
away from pups. Change whelping box bedding every other day.
35- Eyes are turning darker and sight good. Throw a small
puppy dummy for individual pups. Take pups for short walks. Change
whelping box bedding every day.
42- Signs of independence, pups are bold and venture out
on their own. Pups love to retrieve. You should spend a lot of
time on short walks. Mom feeds pups standing up. Take pups to
vet for stool check and first shots.
49- Completely Developed- remove pups from mom- ready for
a new home. Bitch is back to regular feeding with a vitamin
It is important to point out that even though
we start supplemental feeding of the pups at four weeks, they need
mother for feeding and emotional support until day 49. In addition,
socialization starts in your whelping box after a few weeks of
growth. Socializing your puppies is a key element to future training
success. Your pups will grow like clockwork. Follow these simple
developmental patterns and your pups will be healthy and ready
for that new home.
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