Our puppies make their appearance into the world in our living room. (Yes, puppies are always born in our living room.) The first couple weeks after a litter is born is often referred to as the “Neonatal” stage. Puppies eyes open around two weeks of age, which is the basically the end of the neonatal stage.
Birth can be easy or difficult. Puppies can come out at an average weight (6-7 oz), larger (7-9 oz) or tiny (3.5-5+oz). Sometimes puppies come out chunky, start eating and don’t look back! Other times, just like with human babies, a puppy will drop below their birthweight, but then start gaining and pass that weight within the couple days. Other times we might have a tiny one, two or three that need to be supplemented. These guys get extra groceries (from us or we stick them on mom to nurse when the bigger pups are sleeping, or both!) A lot of times these are the feisty ones, the little fighters and they have a special place in my heart. ❤
So the first time weeks for sure, we are weighing the puppies every day, if not twice a day. At about a week of age, they get their first toenail trimming done. Puppy toenails are like little needles and you can imagine what those feel like on mom’s soft belly. I just use a human fingernail trimmer to nip the pointy ends off about once a week.
During the first couple of weeks, the puppies are pretty much eating, sleeping, pooping and peeing (with mom’s help). They do a wobbly-crawl to move around, rooting around until they find mom, “the milk truck”. When they sleep, their body does these cute little twitching motions. Newborns need to keep fairly warm and (depending on the time of year) we use the nearby wood stove, a heating pad or portable heater near the whelping crate.
The first two (plus) weeks they stay with mom in the large whelping crate that they were born in.
Normally on the third day of life, we start Early Neurological Stimulation or ENS. ENS is done from day three through day sixteen and consists of five simple exercises done once a day for about five seconds per exercise. These activities put the puppy through a small amount of stress which has been shown to improve cardiovascular performance, make for stronger heartbeats and adrenal glands, plus makes them more tolerant of stress and more resistant to disease.
The first exercise consists of holding the puppy and using a cotton swab to touch a foot (pad, between toes, or just rub the bottom) for five seconds.
Next, the puppy is held upright for five seconds.
Thirdly, the puppy is turned over, with the head facing down and held for five seconds. (I know, it looks strange. But it’s only a few seconds)
Then puppy is turned over and held on it’s back for five seconds.
And lastly, the puppy is set down on its stomach on a cold, wet washcloth for five seconds.
Here’s a quick video of a session with one pup.
As you can see these exercises can be done quickly (I know, they look strange, but don’t hurt the puppy) once a day to each puppy but can have a lasting, beneficial difference.
You can read more about ENS on Dr. Battaglia’s website “Breeding Better Dogs”.
And that pretty much wraps up the first two weeks of a puppy’s life here.