How to Raise a Litter of Puppies in a Cold Climate

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Raise a Litter of Puppies in a Cold Climate
Raise a Litter of Puppies in a Cold Climate (Image: Photo, courtesy of sxc.hu/)

Raising a litter of puppies is both fun and challenging. Complications can arise depending on the time of year the puppies are born. Ideally, whelping should occur in early summer in colder climates. This allows the puppies enough time to become housebroken and mature before the colder weather of fall and winter. However, many litters are not born at the ideal time and still do just fine. There are several factors to consider and precautions to take in order to ensure the best possible outcome for your puppies when they are born during times of colder temperatures.

Things You'll Need

  • Whelping box
  • Clean blankets or rags
  • Space heater or heat lamp
  • Small thermometer

Ensure the comfort of the mother when she is ready to whelp. Line her whelping box with clean rags or blankets. Increase the temperature around the whelping box when the birthing time is near. Ambient heat is best, but you may place a small electrical heater in the vicinity. Make sure it is not where the mother dog will knock it over or get tangled in the cord. Do not point heaters with blowers in the direction of the whelping box. New puppies should not have air currents blowing over them. An overhead heat lamp also works well. Make sure it is placed securely and kept a safe distance from the whelping box. Get into the box or bed to check the comfort level. You should not be able to feel the cold floor through the bedding. Place a small thermometer in the box. The temperature should be around 85 degrees Fahrenheit. Closely monitor the temperature.

Change the bedding material once the puppies arrive. Place the clean rags or blankets into a warm dryer before placing into the whelping box. The mother dog will likely have cleaned the puppies upon birth. You will need to ensure that they are dry. You may use a soft cloth to gently buff their fur if it is still damp then place them close to the mother. Some breeders use a special heating pad under the whelping box. Be aware that this may cause the mother to feel too warm and want to leave the bed frequently. Your thermometer will read the air temperature but may not reflect accurately the temperature of the actual surface of the bed.

Keep the puppies' climate warm and dry. This is always important, even more so during cold weather. Dry off the mother dog's paws whenever she comes in from outside if there is any snow or ice that she may have walked through. Do not allow her to introduce moisture into the puppy bed at any time. Dry her fur thoroughly if she is damp from snow or rain before she enters the bed.

Keep the puppies together. They may be moving around enough to become separated from their siblings and mother. Check frequently and return any little wanderers back into the warmth of the family group. The first two weeks of life are the hardest time for the puppies to regulate their body temperature. You may move them to a smaller box whenever the mother is out of the bed for any extended period of time. This will ensure they stay bundled close to each other.

Allow the puppies to fulfill their normal desire for exploring and moving around as they continue to grow, but do not let them spend too much time on the cold floor outside of the box. Place towels or thick layers of newspaper over a cold floor. Continue to check the puppies regularly when they are outside of the box to be sure none have gotten too far from the bed or have gotten too chilly away from their mother and siblings.

Begin taking your puppies outdoors for short periods of time when they are ready to begin housebreaking. Most puppies can begin housebreaking between 6 and 8 weeks of age. Pick the warmest time of day and keep the outside trips very short. Do not leave the puppies out by themselves. Be present to praise them as soon as they have done their business. Take them back in as soon as they start to get chilly, even if they have not gone to the bathroom. Buy some puppy training pads if you live in a very cold climate or if you do not want to take them outside yet. Follow the instructions that come with the pads in order to ensure a smooth transition from the training pads to the actual housebreaking. Consistency is the key to successful housebreaking. Puppies should be given the opportunity to relieve themselves every two hours.

Allow your puppies increasing times for their outside play periods. Help your puppies experience new things as they grow. The outside environment allows a dog to acclimate to various noises and sights. This helps to avoid fear responses when they are older. Continue to stay with them during these times and keep in mind that young dogs are more susceptible to hypothermia and frostbite than adult dogs.

Tips & Warnings

  • You may experience a delay in housebreaking your puppy. Many puppies will refuse to relieve themselves when they are outside if it is cold. Instead, they will wait until they get back into the house and go to the bathroom. Don't hesitate to begin training with the puppy training pads. You can purchase them at most department stores and pet shops. Be consistent with your reinforcement when using the training pads and you will have few problems transitioning to outside housebreaking once the weather warms up.
  • Your biggest challenge in raising a litter of puppies in cold climates is keeping them warm enough. Continual monitoring of the temperature by using a thermometer is essential. Be aware that too much added warmth can also be dangerous and may cause dehydration in young puppies.

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