If you've ever raised an orphaned puppy, you know how much effort and attention it takes to keep a newborn litter happy and healthy. Pups rely on their mother for practically everything. They need to nurse frequently and they can't even use the bathroom without mom's help at first.
During the first month, puppies need to nurse at least once every two hours and may spend up to 40 to 50 minutes suckling during each session. When the pups aren't nursing, they are sleeping. Newborn pups spend about 90 percent of their time sleeping and the other 10 percent nursing from mom, according to Austin Texas Animal Services. They alternate between the two activities frequently, so there probably will be at least one pup in the litter suckling away at any given time.
Mom won't want to leave her young during the first week or two, so prepare newspapers or padding so she can eliminate in the room. Don't make her go outside during the first seven to 10 days. Forcibly removing her causes stress and may make her fearful of you. Prepare a whelping box before she gives birth. The box should have a flat bottom with walls several inches high. The walls need to be tall enough to keep puppies in, but low enough to let mom out when she needs to use the bathroom. After the first week or two, you can take the mother outside for short breaks throughout the day.
Watch the puppies nurse for a few minutes every day. The puppies should suckle vigorously and may compete for space at the feeding line. There shouldn't be too much struggling between puppies though. If they are constantly shifting positions and pushing siblings out of the way, it could mean the mom isn't producing enough milk to satisfy them. Call your vet and describe the situation. Make sure the mother has free access to as much food and clean water as she wants. Don't restrict the amount she consumes during nursing even if she was on a diet before, according Michigan State University Veterinary Teaching Hospital.
The puppies nurse less frequently as they get older. You can begin weaning them by offering a gruel made by blending dry kibble with warm water and milk replacement solution, according to the ASPCA. Set out a dish of fresh gruel for them several times a day. Gradually reduce the amount of water and milk until the puppies are eating solid kibble. They can handle dry food by the time they are 2 months old. Once they are on a strictly solid diet, feed them four times a day until they are about 6 months old.
Quentin Coleman has written for various publications, including All Pet News and Safe to Work Australia. He spent more tan 10 years nursing kittens, treating sick animals and domesticating semi-feral cats for a local animal shelter. He graduated from the University of Delaware with a bachelor's degree in journalism.