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Stages of Whelphing a Litter of Puppies

Your dog being pregnant can be a nerve racking time for owners who have not had the experience before. Just like with human babies the first is the most challenging and if you intend on doing this often – don’t worry it gets easier with practice.

Follow some of these tips for making the birthing process as easy as you can for your dog.


Generally dogs give birth after about 63 days of pregnancy. NO matter how planned or coordinated the pregnancy is nobody can predict on which day your dog is due. The universal standard is anywhere between 59 and 69 days. If your dog is extremely large she might carry the pups for much longer and smaller breeds tend to deliver sooner.

Chances are your dog will start behaving differently when the time comes. On the day of the labor your bitch will seen anxious and nervous. Every dog reacts differently. Some dogs whine, others even vomit!

Make sure the birthing area is ready you will need a whelping box set up in a quiet and warm area for her. Many dogs begin ‘nesting’ when the labor is near. You will want to make sure that the box is lined with newspaper so you can easily clean up the birthing mess without disturbing the puppies.

Around the time that you suspect your dog is ready you should start taking her temperature at regular intervals. When her temperature starts dropping to 100F and below you can expect the puppies to be delivered within the next 24 hours.

Labor Stage 1

During this stage your dog’s cervix is dilating to allow space for the puppies to come out. She will start experiencing painful contractions and become restless.

Every dog has a different reaction but commonly start pacing, shivering, whining or vomiting as the contractions become stronger and more painful.

Try to remember that she is confused by the pain if it’s her first time.

If you can try to minimize noise in the area around the birthing area; your dog is feeling frightened and experiencing some strange instincts. Close the door and try to keep the amount of people in the room to a minimum. Just you and a ‘helper’ should be sufficient.

Labor Stage 2

During the second stage of her labor you can expect to see her water breaking, her contractions are now coming closer together and are much more painful.

The puppies start coming out usually within half an hour of each other and different dogs deal with it differently; some dogs take a nap between pups others just keep going.

As the puppies come out the bitch should tear the sac open and start licking the puppy. Her licking stimulates circulation and many believe that this is one of the most important parts of the birth of happy well adjusted puppies. The licking not only helps puppies breathe, it stimulates circulation as well as bonding with the puppies.

If the dog does not tear the sacs open herself you will need to intervene. Using your nails pierce the sac and rub the puppies. Never however tear open a sac if a puppy is stuck and hanging out the birth canal.

It’s common for puppies to be born in a breech position and experts say the best way to deal with this is to gently but firmly tug on the puppy’s feet. Use a twisting motion to loosen the puppy. Keep some lubricant on hand just in case.
If more than 4 hours passes between puppies it’s time for medical intervention.

Labor Stage 3

After all the puppies have been born any left over placenta, blood and fluid is passed. Don’t freak out if the color of the blood is not red and especially with her bowel movements. Bowel movements will be a different color for a few days.


The puppies are fragile and you will need to carefully monitor their growth over the next few days. Keep the whelping room warm, quiet and supervised at all times.

If one puppy seems to be getting less milk than the others you may need to separate them from the others to allow for some one on one time with mom. If weak puppies show little improvement you may need to bottle feed. Also have some Karo syrup on hand. Put syrup on baby finger, just about a pea size and put it in the puppy’s mouth. This gives those small ones some extra energy. Babies should gain several ounces within 24 hours and if they don’t there may be something wrong. It may be time to see the vet.

Congratulations! The hardest part is now over. Be sure to take your dog for a complete checkup soon after the birth. If you intend on selling the puppies you can now phone prospective buyers and confirm the number of healthy pups.

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