Female dogs are generally naturals at the mothering thing, including both whelping, or giving birth, and nursing the tiny, helpless crews of newborns. Dogs frequently give birth without a hitch, but it's smart to cautiously monitor their parturition experiences -- especially if you're dealing with a primigravida. A primigravida is a first time mama.
Give Your Time and Attention
If you're looking after a dog who has never given birth before, the main precaution you should take involves your time and attention. While the first-time mother is hard at work giving birth, monitor her closely for any hints of problems or irregularities. Primigravidas sometimes experience discomfort when their pups' heads attempt to travel out of their vulvae, according to Gary England in his book "Dog Breeding, Whelping and Puppy Care." This discomfort generally doesn't stop them from birthing their pups just fine, but it's important to watch out for it nonetheless. If the primigravida seems to have problems with this, contact your veterinarian immediately. Make sure you have the number readily available in case of emergencies. A backup veterinarian's number is essential to have on hand, in case you can't get into contact with your regular one.
Monitor the Nurturing Process
Not only is it important for you to watch your primigravida give birth to her litter, it's also important for you to keep an eye on her rapport with her babies. Watch her to ensure that she's indeed nurturing her puppies, from cleaning them to nursing them. Since it's crucial for newborns to start feeding promptly after birth, it's your responsibility to ensure that the new mother is nursing them properly. Although many female dogs assume this maternal role quickly and easily, others aren't as natural with it -- particular first-timers.
Observe the Puppies' Behaviors
If you get the sense that the new mama is uncomfortable with her maternal duties, pay closer attention. When canine moms are uncomfortable and anxious, it often results in uncomfortable and anxious puppies, too. Puppies in these stressed-out states often cry excessively. They often don't sleep well. Their progress in physical development often doesn't match up to that of healthier pups. If you have reason to suspect lack of wellness in the litter, notify your veterinarian immediately. You can never be too cautious when it comes to the well-being of fragile puppies.
Watch for Aggression
Some first-time dog moms don't properly take care of their little puppies' needs -- it's a response to fear and confusion. Some deny their puppies entirely. Some of them even try to physically hurt them, according to Barry M. Baum, veterinarian at the Center-Sinai Animal Hospital. Protect the new puppies by monitoring the mama's mood and behavior regarding them.
Offer Calming Company
Dogs don't always appreciate the company of humans when they're whelping, but some of them do. If your dog is a first timer who doesn't quite know the ropes of whelping, it might help to try to serve as a calming figure to her. As she's giving birth, talk to her in a quiet and soft vocal style. Your familiar voice might help her get through her whelping experience with flying colors.
- VCA Animal Hospitals: How to Care for Newborn Puppies
- VCA Animal Hospitals: Breeding for Pet Owners - Whelping in Dogs
- Hall Place Veterinary Centre: Breeding Dogs & Rearing Puppies
- Dog Breeding, Whelping and Puppy Care; Gary England
- Your German Shepherd Puppy Month by Month; Debra Eldredge and Liz Palika
- Dog the Complete Guide; Sarah Whitehead