If Princess surprised you with a litter of puppies, you may wonder where on earth to keep them. Generally, domestic dogs are naturally good mothers, taking care of feeding and grooming their offspring. There's little for you to do the first few weeks if your dog whelped outside without your knowing she was pregnant, but the whole new family needs a warm, safe place to stay.
Ideally, Princess and her puppies should be kept indoors. A spare room is a great choice, but not everyone has the luxury of providing the new family with their own private space. Other options include a spare bathroom, a laundry area or a garage. If a private room option isn't available, get a large crate and put it in a low-traffic corner, where the new arrivals won't be bothered by too many curious visitors. In the first few weeks, the puppies won't be moving much, as they aren't steady on their feet or able to see, hear or smell much, so you don't have to worry about them wandering around.
Temperature Is Important
Maintaining a proper temperature is critical to a young puppy's well-being, and puppies receive the warmth they need from their mother's body heat. It takes a week or two for a puppy to be able to maintain its own body temperature, so ensuring puppies stay warm is critical. Princess will take food and potty breaks, so the puppies will need to keep warm in her absence. According to the American Kennel Club, the ambient temperature for puppies during the first five days of life should stay around 85 to 90 degrees Fahrenheit; at days seven to 10 the temperature can be reduced to about 80 degrees; by the end of the first month, it can go as low as 75 degrees.
When the puppies are weaned, they'll have a bit more freedom to move beyond the confines of the nesting area, including venturing outdoors. Generally, puppies should spend only short spells outside, always with someone nearby to keep them out of harm's way. Unless your yard is secure with fencing, puppies are at risk of wandering off and becoming lost, hit by cars or stolen. Other animals, including other dogs, may be potential threats.
If Outside Is the Only Way
If you're in a situation where Princess's puppies can't be inside, plan for their outside stay accordingly. Princess should be with them as much as possible for feeding, cleaning and providing warmth until they're weaned. The family will need a confined area, such as a fenced kennel area, to keep them safe. As well, they'll need proper shelter, such as a large crate or dog house, lined with soft bedding. You'll need to check on everyone frequently to see they aren't too cold -- puppies should not be cool to the touch, or too warm; they shouldn't be panting, either. If you can't provide adequate outdoor shelter and have no other options to bring your puppies indoors, contact your local animal shelter or humane society for assistance.
Outdoor Living Carries Risks
A puppy's welfare outside depends on many factors. A small-breed dog, such as a Maltese, won't fare as well as a large-breed dog such as a Labrador. A Siberian husky will be happier outdoors in cooler climates than in warm southern summer temperatures. Leaving young puppies -- dogs of any age -- outside on their own for hours at a time is an invitation for problems. Dogs on their own become bored and frustrated, resorting to digging, barking, chasing and sometimes becoming territorial. Letting puppies live outside increases their risk of illness and disease, particularly from the increased prevalence of parasites outside.
- Pet Sit USA: Should My New Puppy Stay Outside?
- Partnership for Animal Welfare: Backyard Dog, Outdoor Dog: Facts, Guidance, Solutions
- Petfinder: How Much Should You Keep Your Dog Outdoors?
- American Kennel Club: Responsible Breeding Steps
- VCA Animal Hospitals: Breeding for Dog Owners - Caring for Newborn Puppies
- The Kennel Club: Puppies Need a Safe and Secure Environment to Live In
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