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Equipment and preparation for the birth of the puppies




-small towels (need about 3 per puppy)
-disinfectant hand towels
-rubber gloves (disposable)
-5 ml medicine syringes (the type you use for e.g. cough suryp)
-nail polishes (different colours) to mark the puppies
-honey if the bitch does not want to lick the puppies
-a scale for weighing the puppies
-thermometer (to measure the puppy-room temperature)
-clock (for the puppy-room wall)

-puppy baskets x 2
-pencil + paper
-puppy table for marking important facts: times of birth, puppy names, number and time of placentas etc.
-store bought puppy milk
-water bowl for the dam and easily accessible water
-coke (caffeine) and chocolate (energy) for you if the birth takes a long time
-ear plugs for you!
-headache pill for you!
-collar for the bitch
-dental floss for tieing the puppies' umbilical chords
-small scissors for cutting the umbilical chords
-lot of big trash bags
-small trash bin for the puppy-area
-camera (charged and memory card emptied!)
-magazine/book/something for you to do
-mobile phone (charged!)
-a vet's phone number and printed driving instructions (car full of gas and ready to transport the bitch if the vet cannot come to you!)
-money for possible vet bills

After the birth:
-WC-mat for the nursing
-babywipes (a Lot!)
-Kleenex boxes (a Lot!)
-collar for the dam

Puppy room and taking care of the puppies:

-disinfectant hand towels
-babywipes (a Lot!)
-Kleenex boxes (a Lot!)
-nail polishes (different colours) to mark the puppies
-a scale to weigh the puppies
-thermometer on the wall
-clock on the wall
-puppy baskets x 2
-infrared heater (400w)
-pencils + paper
-duct tape
-water bowl for the dam and easily accessible water
-coke and something to eat (chocolate) for the puppywatcher
-camera (charged and memory card emptied)
-mobile phone (charged!)
-a lot of big trash bags
small trash bin for the nursing area
-a magazine/book or something for you to do
-small nail scissors for cutting the puppies' nails


Explanations for the equipment:

Reserve a lot of disinfectants, rubber gloves (disposable) and disinfectant towels to clean the floor (e.g. Mr Propre). The disinfectant towels are brilliant, as the disinfectant is already in the towel, so you can very quickly wipe the floor clean of blood, dirt etc.. You will need many disposable rubber gloves. It is quicker to throw away your gloves and put on new ones, than wash, dry and disinfect them every time they get a bit bloody or dirty.

You will need a pair of small nail scissors to cut the umbilical chords if the bitch does not bite them herself. To tie the umbilical chords, use the dental floss. The puppy room should also have a jar of honey, which you can rub on the puppy’s fur if the bitch is not interested in licking the newborn. You will also need small towels to dry and warm the puppies (at least 3 x puppy). Small towels (20cmx20cm) are much easier to handle than large clumsy ones, and you can wrap the puppy in the towel when you place it in the puppy basket (laundry basket). If you use big towels, you will not be able to fit as many wrapped puppies in one basket

You will need at least two puppy baskets, for the safety of the puppies. For Capri’s first litter, we build an exemplary puppy box, but for a big dog such a Newfoundland, the puppy box was just an inconvenience and no help at all. We or the dog could not fit in the puppy room properly. It is much easier for you to place the puppies in baskets filled with warm towels. You can place the basket next to the mother, without having to fear that the mother would step on them. (NB! Make sure the dam does not try and settle herself in the baskets :-))

Make sure the edges of the basket are high enough, so that the puppies won’t climb out after a few days. The puppies have quite a lot of strength and agility, so they are able to push and lift themselves quite high very soon.

One basket is not enough; as it is easier for you to keep count if the puppies need to defecate, eat or if they are waiting to be fed. The idea is that once the puppy has been fed and defecated, it is placed in the different basket than the ones that are waiting for their turn. It is also a good idea to keep a collar on the bitch, as this way you can quickly grab her and prevent her from stepping or lying down on the puppies or getting up during nursing.

By using nail polish, you can mark which puppy is which. It is a good idea to put the mark on the tails rather than on their paws; as the tail-marks fade away slower. You can also see the tail marks when the pups are at the mother’s teats. Make sure that the nail polish colours you have chosen can be seen on black fur, so avoid any clear or similar shade polish colours. If you run out of varying colours, start marking the puppies strategically. If you have a boy with blue colour, mark the next girl with blue as well. It is easy to mark the tail after the puppy has eaten and it is completely relaxed in your arms. This way the polish has time to dry before you place the puppy among the others.

You will need a lot of babywipes and Kleenex-boxes. You will use a lot of them very quickly, as you have to help the puppies defecate before and after each feeding. If the dam wants to lick them, let her help, but always make sure that the puppy really does pee and poo so it doesn’t get constipated. You can always use regular toilet paper to make the puppies pee, but the Kleenex boxes are much easier as you don’t have to worry about ripping pieces of paper while holding a peeing puppy. It is a good idea to use Kleenex for the pee, but use the babywipes for the poo. Vera wasn’t too interested in licking the poo, so we had to rub the puppies’ belly and bottom after each feeding. Originally we used the regular Kleenex, but only after one day we realized that a bit of the poo had dried on the puppies’ bottom and one puppy already had a small blockage. By using the babywipes, all of the poo is cleaned, and no blockages have yet occurred. As an additional bonus, the babywipes resembles the mother’s tongue more (wet) than a Kleenex and the puppies pooped easier.

Buy a LOT of big trash bags, as the puppies will defecate a lot and often. Use the small trash bin in the puppy area, as it is easy to manoeuver. You can empty it into a larger trash bag after each feeding, so that the puppy area stays clear, clean and organized. It is more hygienic to keep the big trash bag in the next room or in the corner of the puppy room. Keep the puppy room as clean and organized as possible, so that all the equipment is easily found and all the dirty papers are placed straight into the trash bags.

The puppy-room should have a scale with which you can measure the puppies’ weights, so that you know which ones have gained/lost weight from the previous feeding. You can also divide the puppies into two groups depending on their birth/gained weights. For the first few days, we divided them so that in one of the baskets there were two smallest and two biggest puppies. Vera’s hind teats have more milk in them, so we placed the smallest puppies on the “best teats”.

Puppy weight table:

Date and time (NB in 24:00 format) Puppy 1 Puppy 2 Puppy 3 Puppy 4 Puppy 5 Puppy 6 Puppy 7
00:00 weight (g) ...          
03:00 ...            

Make the puppy table ready before the puppies are born, as during the birthing you have a lot of other things to do and by having drawn the table, it’s one less thing to worry about. In the table you should have slots for the date and time of birth, puppy’s call name, nail polish colour, birth weight, and other-column in which you can record any interesting facts about the puppy such as if it was born head first, if the umbilical chord was tied, were there any problems etc..

Puppy table:

  Time (NB. 00:00 format) Puppy's call name Birth weight (g) Colour of nail polish Sex and colour OTHER (tied umbilical chords, was born head first, the placentas (with time!)...)
Puppy 1            
Puppy 2            
Puppy 3            

It is also a good idea to tape empty bits of paper/small bits of tape on the puppy-room wall, in which you can write the puppy’s call-name and the nail polish colour. When you are taking pictures of the puppies, always take a picture of the name first and then the puppy, so you know which puppy it is when you look through the pictures on your computer. The puppies look a lot alike, and even if you think you will be able to remember who is who, you won’t.

Always have a pencil in the puppy-room! Pens will not write vertically (on the papers on the walls) or on dirty or wet paper. Also if the paper gets wets afterwards, the ink will smudge and you won’t know what the paper says. We always tape a sheet of paper and a pen (on a string, so you can write but the pen won’t get lost) on the puppy room wall.

Do not forget to tape a thermometer on the wall, as you have to make sure the room stays warm for the puppies (28°). Tape the thermometer in a place where you can see it all the time. It is also a good idea to get a infrared heater, as an air heater will make the whole room unbearably hot for the Newfoundland mother. We prefer the 400W basic hatching heater, which you can get from most hardware stores. Also tape a clock to the wall, so that you know exactly when the puppies were born and can estimate when the next feeding is. Often the bitch can estimate the best feeding intervals herself. Vera fed the puppies every half an hour for the first few days. The actual feeding took about an hour and a half. Only five days later, the interval had increased to two hours with an hour feeding time.

WC-mats (1mx1m) are very useful during the feeding. We folded the mats so that the cold tile floor would not affect the puppies and they would stay warm. We could not turn on the floor-heating, as Vera could not stand the heat. Capri had not minded the extra warmth. The WC-mat does not slide, and the puppies get a good grip with their small paws during nursing and when they are practising walking.

If the mother does not produce enough milk, you can give the puppies’ store-bought puppy milk with the 5ml syringe. The babies’ milk bottles are too big and clumsy for feeding newborn puppies. If the puppy does not take the teat in its mouth, you can “force feed” the puppy a few drops to wake its appetite. When the puppy is more interested in eating, place it on the mother’s teat as the mother’s milk is much better than the store bought puppy milk and contains valuable antibodies. You can always give the bitch some of the puppy-milk for the first few days. The milk is a good extra source of vitamins, calcium and energy. Let the puppy drink as much of the dam's milk as long as it does not overfeed. Overfed puppies will cry and cause sleepless nights for you and the puppy.

If your dog has a very low pain threshold and has a loud voice, it is a good idea to get earplugs. The whining and barking during the birthing process will give you a bad headache and break your concentration. You cannot relax and the whole birthing process will be very stressful for you and your dog. Vera’s birthing was very quick and she concentrated on pushing, so she did not make a lot of noise. Vera’s mother’s, Capri’s first birthing was extremely noisy, she barked and whined throughout the opening and pushing phases, which took over 36hrs so we had to use the earplugs. Take a headache pill if you feel your head is starting to hurt. You are of no use to the bitch or the puppies with a horrible migraine.

Charge the camera and empty the memory card! Get in contact with the 24 hour vet and make sure the vet is available even in the early hours of the morning. Tape the vet’s number on the puppy room wall and program it to your mobile phone. Print the driving instructions and make sure you really know how to drive to the vet. It is a good idea to use a wireless phone, so that you can move from room to room.

Don’t forget about yourself either. Make sure that there is something to drink and eat. We always have a few bottles of coke (caffeine and sugar) and a few bars of chocolate (energy!) downstairs in the puppy room. It is also a good idea to have something to do while you wait for the puppies to be born. If you stare intently at the dam, you will make her uncomfortable and nervous. You should relax, as the birthing process takes many hours. You could even read the puppy books one last time J.


Do not forget to keep the dog hydrated! Make sure she has enough fresh, cold water and change the water often. The bitch cannot drink too much!


Noteworthy about the puppy-room:

The puppy-room should be in a quiet area, as it is important for the newborn puppies and the dam to relax and sleep in peace. If the family has other dogs, make sure they cannot come to the puppy-room. We allow the family’s other dogs to meet the pups when they move upstairs when they are about 2,5-3 weeks old.

Make sure the bitch has the chance to go and cool down and sleep in a separate area from the puppy-room. The place should not be too far from the puppy-room, so that the bitch does not get stressed. Our puppies were born in our sauna-room which is downstairs. There is a small place under the stairs with a cold tile floor, where Vera goes to cool down between the feedings. The cold floor cools her down very quickly and she isn’t as exhausted by the puppy-rumba

The heater should be placed above the puppy baskets. The heater should not be turned on before the puppies are born, as the room gets hotter very quickly and a cool room is much nicer for the birthing bitch.

If at all possible, divide the puppy-room into two: puppy area and feeding area. The puppy area has to be kept warm, but the feeding area can be kept cooler, so that the bitch is not as exhausted. With us, the floor heating was turned off, so the walls and the floor tiles stayed cold. The heater kept the air warm for the puppies. The WC-mat which had been folded, kept the puppies warm while nursing.

Organize all the birthing and puppy equipment and think carefully where you will be at what point. If there is more than one of you, discuss who does what. Who helps the mother break the fetal membrane, who cleans the pups and warms them up and who records the weight and times of birth… Make sure everything is thought out before the birth as during the process your concentration will suffer and you will get anxious and frustrated more easily if there is no organization. It is important for you to stay calm and make sure the bitch is relaxed.




(c) Salmelin