Highwood Norwich Kennel
Highwood Norwich Terrier Kennel: Early Care

Early Care of the Puppies

Early Care of the Puppies

The Care and Placement of a Litter

The new litter has just arrived home from the veterinarian. Everyone is elated because the puppies are mewling and active -- and finally here.

And this is when the work begins, where the vigil starts.


You will have prepared a small room to house a whelping box (for Norwich, an appropriate size might be 32 inches by 20 inches and 4 1/2 inches deep),which should have a heating pad laid inside, wrapped in flannel and pinned underneath, and a heat lamp some three feet removed from (never over) the box. The room -- perhaps a bathroom -- should be warm and free of drafts. Keep a thermometer there to monitor the temperature and, if the area seems dry, be sure to use a humidifier.

Early Care of the Puppies

The bitch and her litter should immediately be ensconced in these comfortable surroundings. But your new mom is likely to be bleeding; you should put a little peroxide on a washcloth, turn her over, and clean her bottom and clip away any dirty hair. And you should have six clean infant receiving blankets available. After washing her, place a blanket beneath her to absorb any excess blood -- and keep changing it, as necessary.

Introduction to Nursing

Early Care of the Puppies

If, as is often the case in Norwich, the bitch has had a caesarian section, she will normally be somewhat disoriented, because of the anesthesia, and initially may not want to lie down with her babies. You should move the pups to the end of the whelping box and turn the bitch on her side, holding her down, gently but firmly, until she starts to relax. Then plug each pup in, helping it to form a seal as it begins to nurse.

Early Care of the Puppies

(The longest that I have had to monitor a bitch like this was four days. She finally put it together, but I was up every night at 1:00 am and 4:00 am to get her to go into the box and stay with the puppies -- lying on the floor with my hand in the box until the puppies were full. It was a litter of six, and the mother was totally overwhelmed. When she figured it out, she was the best mom ever. It just takes patience and perseverance.)

Early Care of the Puppies

If you have some smaller pups, the introduction to nursing can require a combination of tenderness -- and patience. (You may wish to have someone with you to help.) Pinch the nipple and moisten it with colostrum or warm water. If the puppy doesn’t open its mouth, place your thumb and forefinger on either side of its muzzle and gently force the mouth open. Then place the moistened nipple into the mouth so the puppy can get a grip and continue to support the pup against its mother. You should leave each puppy on for not less than five minutes.

Take your time with each puppy that needs help getting started. (And recognize that your first sign of potential trouble with a puppy is that it will not nurse.)

If you have a large litter (over four), place half the litter on for five minutes and then the other half for its turn. Use all the nipples -- even those that may look inverted or small. It is, of course, very important that all the puppies get some initial colostrum. It is full of nutriment that will sustain them until your bitch’s milk comes in.


Early Care of the Puppies

Milk comes in at different times. I had the pleasure of whelping a litter naturally this year, and the milk was in six hours after the bitch gave birth. But caesarian lactation is more erratic. If you schedule your c-section based on preliminary labor and a progesterone test, the normal time for milk to come in is two days. (If I have decided on a c-section for my bitch, I try to wait until she is approaching full labor before going to the veterinarian; I find that her milk will come in sooner if I wait at home longer. I can afford to cut it close, because my vet is available at all times and lives close by. But most people may not have that luxury.) During the interval, your bitch will certainly have liquid available, and your puppies should be able to manage this period without dehydrating -- if they are not preemies (3 1/2 ounces or less). But be alert to the signs of dehydration. If a puppy’s mouth seems dry, pinch its skin. If the fold stays formed, you (or your vet) must immediately rehydrate by injection, using a Number 25 needle to introduce 2 ½ to 3 ccs of Lactated Ringer’s Solution USP, subcutaneously between the shoulder blades. And as for the mother, you will certainly be able to tell when her milk starts coming down. She will pant and show discomfort.

Puppy Hygiene

Early Care of the Puppies

By the time the bitch's milk has come in, she should be cleaning her puppies. Usually no problem. But some bitches -- perhaps understandably -- don’t readily take to this job. Make sure you have a bag of cotton balls available. Soak a cotton ball in a cup of warm water, and squeeze it so it won’t drip. Dab at the puppies’ pee pees until they go. Take a fresh cotton ball, moistened the same way, and gently tap it across the puppies’ rectums, right to left, left to right, up and down. This should stimulate a bowel movement. (You may need several moistened cotton balls.) Do this for each puppy in the beginning, when the litter first comes home. If the bitch does not want to clean them and continues to jump out of the box, however, I hold the puppies up to her face. I will even take a soiled cotton ball and swab her tongue with it so she starts to get the idea. This reluctance -- or, perhaps, fastidious disdain -- can occur with a first-time mom or occasionally after a c-section, when the bitch is so disoriented by the anesthesia that she may not realize that these are her own pups.

Early Growth Stages

Early Care of the Puppies

You should continually weigh your puppies until they reach a pound, monitoring their growth. Take their birth weights at the veterinary's office or when you first come home -- on a digital scale which measures tenths of an ounce, an important increment in the beginning. I weigh in the morning and at night, at the same times each day. Your puppies will usually lose weight the first and second day -- not a lot, but up to a half ounce. This is very normal. Just be sure that you keep plugging them in, both to stimulate milk production and to ensure that they get as much colostrum as the bitch can produce. Thereafter, the weight gain should be continuous. Your pups should have at least doubled their birth weight at 10 days to 2 weeks.

At about the 3rd or 4th day, the puppies should begin to look shiny -- and to twitch a little. (A small, periodic spasm is a sign of healthy development.) The umbilicus should be dried up. You can trim it to two inches on the third day if it is dry and if the mom continues to worry it. Otherwise just leave it; it usually falls off within a week.

Docking Tails and Removal of Dew Claws

You should normally dock tails and remove dew claws between the fifth and eighth days. Earlier is better -- if you have a nursing, gaining litter. But if you have small puppies or a preemie in the litter, I advise you simply to leave the tails. It is traumatic for puppies otherwise stressed also to undergo docking. You can lose them. A small puppy may just be getting a grip on life and starting to gain, and the docking could radically reverse its tenuous progress. If the pup should then stop suckling altogether, you must promptly return it to the vet for special care -- or yourself learn to tube feed and rehydrate by injection.

Early Care of the Puppies

If you have had to keep tails, you then should wait until the puppies are five or six months old before you schedule tail docking and dew claw removal. At that age, a puppy needs to be anaesthetized and the tail, stitched. It is a significant surgery, but not difficult or risky.

At Highwood, if we have sold a yet undocked puppy, I always offer to have our vet perform the procedure, and I pay for it. But most owners have their own vet do it, and simply send me the bill. And, in several instances, I found that the owners enjoyed having the tail.

Early -- and Common -- Medical Issues

The Mother. If your bitch has had a c-section, she will often have exterior stitches. I normally take them out at ten days. Otherwise, the stitches can become ingrown (like a hair) and cause a lot of discomfort to a nursing bitch. Have your vet do it if you not confident. The vet not only has the proper tools, but would get a chance to see her and check her out. (Actually, most vets now use three layers of dissolving stitches, so it might not be an issue. But ask.)

Early Care of the Puppies
  • The Puppies' Eyes. Their eyes can start opening from ten days on. If you notice a crusty build-up at the corner of the eye or along the rim, or if the eye opens and seals again, take a moistened cotton ball and soak the eye with warm water. You should do this several times a day. If the buildup is stubborn, ask your vet for a puppy antibiotic to put on the eye to help soften and medicate the situation. Under no circumstance force the eye open. Nature is keeping it shut for a reason. Nothing can happen if an eye is closed for an extended period of time.

  • The Mite. Mites are very common in Norwich Terriers. I have found that certain bitches seem more predisposed to have puppies that will have mites. It is usually the bitch with an apparently weaker immune system. She may herself have suffered with skin irritations or dryness before pregnancy; she may herself have had ear or eye infections as a puppy. She may have been a picky eater or had bouts with diarrhea. When mites do occur, often only one puppy in the litter is afflicted. That would lead me to believe that the puppy’s immune system may not be as strong as its litter mates’.

    Early Care of the Puppies

    But mites aren't dirty, nor can they hurt your puppy. And mites are very fragile. To get rid of them, start bathing the puppy at two weeks with Johnson’s Baby Shampoo or a comparable ‘No tears’ puppy shampoo. (When you bathe at such a young age, use small towels and keep changing them if they become too wet as you are drying.) Importantly, you need to wash not just the mite-ridden pup, but all the puppies in the litter -- and the mother. And you need to wash out the whelping box with soap and water; the bedding needs to be fresh that day as well.

    The puppies should be kept very warm during this process. You should continue washing every week until they are six weeks old and receive their first round of inoculations. This will keep the situation from escalating. After their inoculations, particularly if there is any reinfection, you can start using a topical antibiotic and washing with a diluted flea and tick shampoo. This has always remedied the situation for me.

  • Crusting and Scabbing. A crusting patch of skin and hair on the side or flank, shoulder or neck is alarming and can occur as early as five or six days. (I had originally thought that the condition might be mange-related, but it disappears with treatment and doesn’t recur. Mange, on the other hand, is recurring and is usually carried by the animal to the next generation. Its symptoms include lacerations and patches of open, raw skin. It doesn't always respond to medication.)

    To treat a crusting condition, soften the area with Animax (similar to Panalog) -- but use very little. Keep the mass soft and massage it. On the third or fourth day, put the puppy in your lap and loosen the edges of the mass with a flea comb, prying up just enough to define the edge of the mass. Again, soften with the Animax. If there are several areas, treat them in a similar fashion. The secret here is to wait it out. Eventually, after perhaps two or three weeks, the mass will start to dry and peel away. Use the comb to clear the loose portions of the mass and keep lightly medicating.

    Sometimes you will find scabbing throughout the body coat. Take your flea comb and comb through, knocking the scabs off. Then medicate with the Animax. Do this every three or four days. You will notice that the skin will become smooth and the scabbing will stop. When you use the Animax on the coat, separate the medicated puppy for 30 minutes until most of the medication is absorbed. Litter mates will lick it off.

  • Toenails. Make sure you are clipping the puppies’ toenails every week. They can easily claw each other when they scrabble to nurse. And getting scratched in the eye is not good.

Worming. Puppies should be wormed at two to four weeks of age. You will then be able to feel confident that your puppy is getting -- and retaining -- all its nourishment from mom. I use Strongid liquid, a very mild wormer, available premixed from your vet, that takes care of round worms and hooks worms -- the principal potential puppy pests. (Strongid lasts a long time -- up to a year -- in the refrigerator.) At two weeks, two drops is an appropriate dosage for the average puppy. I worm the mother at the same time, one half cc for every ten pounds of her body weight.

Early Care of the Puppies

Change of Venue. When they are about three weeks old, the puppies will begin to climb -- or flop -- out of their whelping box. They have graduated to a puppy play pen. Our play pen is about two and a half feet square, its floor comprising two trays covered with toweling that sit on a grate bottom that is six inches off the floor. A rabbit waterer hangs on the side of the pen, and a heating pad rests in the corner, again covered with a flannel pillow case pinned on the back, its switch fed through the side panel of the pen and taped to the wall. I put lots of large sheepskin toys in the corners so they can snuggle up to a mass when mom is not to be found.

Weaning. Weaning. Weaning can be done when it is convenient for you -- and for the mother. She may be getting a little sick of all those puppies and finding more reasons -- most of them teeth -- to stay out of the puppy play pen. My rule of thumb is based on the size of the litter. If the mother has a large litter (five or more) and is producing a lot of milk, it is surely taking its toll on her. For her benefit I will start weaning at three weeks. With litters of three or four, I wean at four to five weeks. With litters of one or two, I wait until the mom gives me a clear signal; it is usually five to six weeks. At the appropriate point, I simply begin to introduce puppy cereal in the morning before I put mom in to nurse. (Be aware that, upon weaning, with the introduction of alien foodstuffs, the mother will quickly lose interest in cleaning up after her offspring.)

Early Care of the Puppies

Puppy's First Solid Foods. My recipe for starters: Two tablespoons of Gerber’s Rice Cereal mixed with one tablespoon of evaporated milk and diluted with warm water. At first, the solution should be soupy. I place one puppy in my lap and put a spoonful of the mixture to its mouth, relying on its senses of smell and taste -- and its inevitable curiosity -- and then repeat the process with each pup in the litter. (It can be a bit messy in the beginning.) I follow this routine, gradually making the mixture thicker, until they start to catch on, usually after four or five days.

At this point, I grind a Beecham’s Pet-Tab with a mortar and add it to their cereal. (When they are a bit older, they can readily chomp quarter tablet pieces.) At the same time, I begin to soften a few Purina Puppy Chow nuggets or Precise puppy food with water, and see if I can get them to accept it. Once they do, the process accelerates. I can then put a flat dish with the cereal mixture down in the playpen in the morning for them to eat by themselves. But I put a receiving blanket beneath the dish. In the first few days, they seem to wade through their food as often as they pause to partake. I simply wipe everyone down -- face, paws, wherever -- with a damp paper towel, until the puppies figure out what food is really for, usually rather quickly.

For the next week or so, the mom will nurse after the puppies’ morning cereal. You may find that she will regurgitate her food from her own morning feeding for the pups to eat -- nature’s answer to Gerber’s Rice Cereal. If this should happen on a regular basis, simply wait several hours after she has eaten before allowing her in with her litter.

The puppies will now have cereal in the morning and softened Puppy Chow (one quarter cup per pup) for midday and late afternoon feedings. I start to add cooked ground meat to the softened puppy chow the next week.

Early Care of the Puppies

Immunizations. My vet gives inoculations starting at six weeks. At that point, we give Parvo only and worm again with Strongid. At seven weeks, we give the Influenza Cocktail. Three weeks after that, we give both shots again and four weeks after that we give both shots. Four to six days after the 3rd cocktail shot my vet administers a rabies inoculation. I happen to include Lepto in my inoculation routine. Many breeders choose not to give this vaccine, essentially because there are many different strains of the virus, so that, even if inoculated, one could contract a mutated Lepto. But I have never had an issue. And I have seen the disease at work. It is debilitating and can be passed to children by the sick pet. That was enough for me to continue to inoculate my puppies.

Early Care of the Puppies

The Puppy's New World. I let my puppies go to their new homes at about three months of age. I do not ship. I expect the purchasers to come to Newbury, New Hampshire to pick up their puppy. If air travel is involved, I expect the new owner to fly with the puppy in the cabin. I can provide all sorts of crates and gates, leashes and bowls, Sherpa Bags and doggie beds if needed either for the journey or for the home. I send the puppy to its new world laden with Pet Tabs, Precise Puppy kibble, some ground cooked hamburger, and a can of Pedigree puppy food.

With any prospective home, I have always sought to establish a sound working relationship well before the actual pickup -- usually with adults, but occasionally, if appropriate, with children in the family as well. Discussions range from dealing with other pets in the family to jealous siblings to baby proofing the room where the puppy will reside. At the point of pickup, I always build in time for questions, and, if there are children, I go over carrying procedure and the puppy’s need both for time and for a private retreat in an active home environment. And I am always available thereafter by phone to handle any problem.

Early Care of the Puppies

A puppy is always returnable for a full refund until it is four months old. (This gives me time to replace the puppy’s home while it is still young enough to bond with a new family.) And I will always take any dog that I have bred back to Highwood -- at any age.

What you have just read is the method that I have found to be the most successful in raising my puppies and the means that I have found most accommodating in placing my puppies. Everyone has a little different way of doing things -- and, for that matter, I keep learning new things, so this article will be updated, I’m quite sure. It was written primarily as an educational piece for those who are new to the breed or who are just starting out as breeders. I provides a lot of information that I wish had been available to me when I was myself first setting forth.

Early Care of the Puppies

A Final Note. Care and Placement of a litter: I believe in having a contract. Everyone benefits from taking the time to establish this agreement. It is on paper and available for the parties to go back to read to clarify the agreement at the time of sale.

Are contracts really enforceable? No, unless you spend a lot of money and are prepared to upset the breeder and the owner alike. The contract I ask someone to sign is very simple and forthright. Most of all it protects the dog through its life and offers a place for it to returned at any time.

I have attached a copy for you to download. Norwich Terrier Puppy Sales Agreement.

As you read through it, aside from the "Additional Terms" segment at the top of page two, it defines the parties, gives the AKC information about the sire, dam and puppy, the current date, amount of sale, veterinary health certificate and shots and worming record. I also list the name and number of my veterinarian. What then follows are a list of requests made to the new owner to secure the puppy’s well-being, a request to see their vet within 72 hours of purchase, an “as is” clause and some breeding requests that reflect the policies of the NTCA (Norwich Terrier Club of America) with which I am in agreement.

The "Additional Terms" segment reads differently for each puppy. It usually contains information about spaying and neuter the puppies and at what age. It can cover future breeding instructions if it is a female puppy and the new owner wishes to breed. It covers any details about the future of the puppy if it is to be shown. It also reflects the working agreement if there is a co-ownership between the two parties.

Registering your litter from your bitch:

Early Care of the Puppies

The AKC has made it very easy for this to be done. You can either go online and download the forms or you can register your litter online. It is very important to do this. Your AKC registration is very valuable and allows you to have proof in the AKC studbook of your puppy’s heritage. There are other registering agencies out there that are available for designer breeds and pet shop purchases but an AKC registry allows you to breed to other AKC registered dogs, be a part of other AKC sponsored events and check on the pedigree and history of “your Norwich line”.

After you fill out the form or register your litter online and receive your “litter kit”, fill out the names of your puppies and register all the puppies in your name. I have done this with every litter I have bred. It gives me a “paper trail”. I know that I have owned every puppy I have bred. With technologies the way that they are today, I can go back and check all sorts of information as breeder and owner of the dog. When I sign off on the puppy, I know where it is going, what constraints with the contract that I might have and I can even transfer the puppy on limited registration then if I so desire. It isn’t controlling the situation as much as going slowly and carefully through the process so that I can insure the best situation for each owner and dog.

Please download our Puppy Sales Agreement This is the contract for Highwood Norwich for people to use as a form to create their own.

Knowlton A. Reynders

Copyright 2012

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