Caring for your German Shepherd puppies are far from an observer. You need to attend to his needs and nurture him with care. Any step you will do has an impact on his life until he grows up. You need to keep track of his growth and condition as right at the time he was born.
Most canine experts believe that a fully-grown dog is a result of 40 percent nature and 60 percent nurture. The nature portion pertains to your dog’s breed, genetics, and the characters he inherits from his parents. On the other hand, the nurture part is about the mother’s care after he was born, his littermates, and how breeder takes good care of him. It is critical to ensure that you handle your responsibility well as a dog breeder because the first stage of his life is crucial to how he will grow up.
If you are planning to breed a German Shepherd, it is imperative to know the things you have to do. You have the responsibilities to ensure that the dog receives proper care and nourishment. You also have to understand his behavior, so you won’t have a problem dealing with the dog.
Healthy German Shepherd puppies weigh about an average of .08 to 1.3 pounds at birth. With proper care and nutrition, his weight will increase between 1.6 to 2.1 pounds by the end of his first week. The average weight of each puppy is 1 percent of their mother’s prepregnancy weight. Weighing them daily will alert you if some pups require extra attention or immediate care.
From Birth to day 14th
The first three days are the most critical period in the life of the puppies. They should be nursed immediately after birth and about every two hours because suckling helps stimulate the contractions in their mother. That action will also provide them nutritious colostrum essential for their health.
You will notice that the puppies curved their bodies like a comma shape because their nervous system is still very immature and soft at this time. They are born with eyes closed and can’t hear yet, but they have a strong instinct to suckle and crawl towards their mother’s warm body. The parts of their body are characterized as firm and warm. They also have tight skin, folded ears, and small tails and they don’t have teeth.
They can’t also eliminate unless a caregiver gently rubs their anus. Their mother can also help them by licking the puppy’s genitalia or belly to ease the urination or defecation.
During this stage, the puppy needs a warm environment. He can easily get cold if he was left in the room for a longer time. To prevent this feeling, the caregiver should place a heating pad or heat lamp in the area where the puppy is kept. It needed to ensure his temperature stays between 85 to 90 degrees Fahrenheit and to maintain their warmth.
On day 5, the puppy slowly begins to stretch his legs. He uses his front legs to crawl going to his mother if he needs to nurse. It is the time where his nervous system starts to develop. Now, from the curving position, he will begin to arch his back when you hold him though it’s still a bit weak.
At day 7, the puppy begins to crawl more readily. Short periods of handling and exposing him to some stimuli can help him stimulate weight gain. Aside from that, his eyes and ears also start to open, his hair grows, and his motor development is beginning to improve. You will even notice that his eyes appear blue in color. He will start to see some shapes on this stage, and loud noises may cause him to startle.
Before the 14th day ends, the German Shepherd puppy should be able to open his eyes and ears fully. His first incisor should also begin to erupt. This is a period where you will notice profound changes in his growth and development. It is a sign that he is becoming more independent and will start to walk though he is still shaky.
It is the period where he spends most of his time sleeping and he may twitch or kick a bit which seems like he is dreaming. This sleep pattern is called activated sleep. That twitching and kicking is a good exercise for him to strengthen his muscles. It is the reason why he needs to be placed in a secure whelping box, a low-sided enclosure designed for the mother and her puppies so they have enough space as they sleep together and they can wander freely when awake.
From Day 15 to 28
This is the stage where the puppy begins social interaction with his littermates and his environment. He starts to wag his tail and can play fight with the other puppies. He can already eliminate all by himself which is a good sign of being independent. The reason why he needs to have a spacious whelping box is for him to walk away from his littermates if he needs to eliminate. It is an effective training of letting him keep the sleeping area clean.
The puppy will also begin to walk better without falling anymore. This stage is an essential time to build his emotional and social developments. He begins to form bonds with humans and his littermates. These dramatic changes allow him to identify his own species.
He also learns to interact with someone, whether it’s going to be his littermate or a human. Most of the time, this stage makes him feel attached to someone he always sees and takes care of him. Though he starts to build a bond at this stage, it is also the fear period for him. Between this weeks, his responses are very strong, he learns how to play with his littermates, and he also gets along with humans.
His mother will start weaning at him because his needle-like baby teeth are fully set at this time. The continued exposure to new things is beneficial for his development. His body temperature increases to 100 degrees which is almost similar to adults. His heart rate decreases to about 170 BMP.
From Day 29 To Day 42
At the start of this week, the male puppy gains the weight of about 9 pounds while the female is about 7 pounds. His body temperature becomes stable, so is the time for the caregiver to reduce the heat of the whelping area.
Now, you may hear him bark unlike when he was a newborn where he can only cry. His mother, though protective and watchful to her puppies, begins to distance with them and let them play on their own. The socializing period and playing with his littermates serve as an exercise for him to develop his body systems. Therefore, he can now move his head freely and his senses are more active. He can now jump while playing with his littermates.
From Days 43 Through 60
At this period, the male puppy now weighs about 20 pounds while the female is about 16 pounds. There may be puppies that weigh above or below this average depending on their genes or ancestors.
This stage is the best time for him to learn some skills like crate training, housebreaking, leash training, grooming, and follow human domination. You can also expose him to other animal species since this is the socialization period. Doing so will let him feel like other species accepts him, too.
As he begins to mature, his body parts also become strong like his ears. It is also a difficult stage for his mother because his teeth are formed making nursing hurtful for her. Moreover, the teething process is also the time where his ears go up and down which may look weird.
Your German Shepherd Puppies Health
Healthy puppies are characterized as having a plump body. They sleep quietly when they are well-nourished. Their body temperature is lower than the adult German Shepherd at about 94 to 97 degrees. Their mother’s temperature usually is 101 to 102 degrees. The puppies’ heart rate is also noticeably swift, which is about 200 BPM.
The Mother Dog’s Care
A mother dog can be very emotional while giving birth. It is not advisable to let someone see the newborn puppies because it may cause anxiety to her. It is because a German Shepherd, like other types of dogs, is very protective of her puppies. She instantly changes her behavior due to anxiousness, causing her to growl, bark, and may even hurt strangers who want to see her puppies. So, you need to give the full privacy she needs once she gave birth.
There may also be a time where the German Shepherd mother wants to be close to the dog owner. It makes her feel secure in giving birth while seeing the owner beside her. Her behavior depends on her relationship with the dog owner. Some mothers want full privacy on the other hand.
Breeder take note (Vigilance)
The role of the breeder is vital to the both the German Shepherd mother and puppies especially during nursing time. He needs to watch the puppies while nursing to ensure that they are well-fed. Some dogs, especially those first-time mothers, behaves differently. It seems like they feel uncomfortable while nursing and prefer not to lie long no matter the puppies are not yet full. This behavior is something you need to watch out.
Also, you have to make sure that the puppies are safe because accidents may happen like the mother would lie down to her puppies. It is dangerous for the puppies if this is the case, and worst, it can be fatal, too. You have to make sure this will not happen by keeping an eye on them from time to time or especially during nursing.
Aside from the health of the puppies, it is also highly recommended to look after the health of the German Shepherd mother because this is where the puppies rely on their nutrition, too. Make sure she produces enough milk to satisfy them. If they are not satisfied, they tend to cry and move around a lot, and then later, not moving enough. Dehydration is a severe problem they may get if they frequently do not feel full after they are fed.
You should also keep an eye to the mother’s breasts to ensure she doesn’t develop mastitis, an inflammation of the mammary gland which is typically due to the bacteria that grows in a damaged nipple or teat.
Ensure that when the mother feeds the puppies, the smaller ones could thrive like the others. Some large puppies may prevent them from eating because anyone of them wants to get ahead in the mother’s breast. To ensure they get a lot of nutrients, add protein or fat to the mother’s diet.
The Puppies Nutrition
It is essential that puppies are nursed right at the time they are born. They may be small, but they already have strong suckling reflex which naturally occurs. The milk produced by the mother dog during the first day and a half contains colostrum which is essential to sustain the energy needed by the puppies. Since newborn puppies usually have no subcutaneous fat, they need to get enough of this from their mother. It is highly recommended that breeders attend to this need to prevent any health issues from arising.
Puppies are at risk of dehydration if they don’t get enough nursing from their mother. Though their kidneys are immature, they still tend to eliminate large amounts of urine. For this reason, nursing them every after 2 hours is recommended. Milk can help sustain their body fluid in the body.
There are ways to determine if your puppy is at the level of dehydration. The skin of the well-hydrated puppy returns to shape after you gently pinch and release it. On the contrary, the puppy is already suffering from the dehydration if his skin remains fold when you tweak it. If this is the case, the breeder should immediately feed the dehydrated puppy with supplemental feedings to prevent worst situations from happening.
The Mother’s Milk
Since the mother dog produces colostrum through his milk, it provides many benefits for the growth of the puppies. It naturally protects the puppies against virus and bacteria that enter to their body which may cause infectious diseases. The milk contains maternal antibodies, the elements that maintain the health of the immune system of the puppies. It also includes about 10 percent fat, 9 percent protein, and 4 percent sugar. It also contains about 150 calories per gram. All these minerals are essential to their growth and development, as well as an excellent foundation of their energy.
To produce these nutrients, the mother dog needs to be feed with nutritious dog foods, too. She, therefore, needs to have three times more kilocalories compared to what she consumes before and during her pregnancy period. You must feed her with foods high in protein and fat to gain the nutrients. You can feed her usually the same amount you gave her before make sure you add extra meals to satisfy her.
Another option to supply the mother dog with nutrients is to boost her calories by adding pasta, cottage cheese, cooked and deboned chicken, cooked chopped chicken hearts, grated and steamed carrots, and molasses to her meals. Adding these foods alternately to her meal helps her regain the strength she lost when she gave birth. It can also help her maintain her energy while nursing. She needs to regularly feed her puppies from six to eight times a day.
If she continues to nurse her puppies and you make sure that even the smaller ones can compete with the larger ones to the nipples of their mother, they will surely gain weight and increase their size. They may gain weight from 65 to 90 grams per day, depending on their genes and size at birth.
Supplementation for the puppies
A healthy German Shepherd mother can produce a lot of milk for her puppies which is beneficial so you don’t have to provide her any supplements anymore. As long as you can see that the mother dog produces enough milk while her puppies are satisfied with the nursing and they are gaining weight, there’s nothing to worry about.
However, if a puppy is not gaining weight, you need to pay extra attention to his condition. If he frequently cries and his weight is not increasing or its lower than his weight at birth, he may be having a hard time competing with the big ones during nursing time. If you already helped him get to his mother’s nipples but you can’t see any progress in his weight, you already need to provide him some supplemental feeding.
In some cases, it is also possible that the mother dog is not producing enough milk or there is no milk at all that’s why her puppies are not gaining weight or they seem to look restless. For this reason, supplemental feeding is necessary to cover the nutrients they need. If you will feed them with commercial milk, it also important to know if it is suitable for their needs. You can give them canned liquid or powder that you can mix so they can digest it easily.
There are dog recipes on the market that you can cook first before giving it to them. Choose nutritious and digestible foods since it is the first period that you will introduce a different flavor to them. Make sure to cook the food properly so their stomach can quickly process them.
The right way to feed the puppies is to use a small feeding bottle with a nipple. Also, you have to make sure that the bottle is clean to avoid the bacteria from entering the puppies’ digestive system. Hold the puppy upright and make sure his head is up. Do not hold him like a human infant to prevent choking.
The eruption of the puppy’s teeth could be the hardest part of nursing of the mother dog. His tooth begins to erupt between three to four weeks after birth. To ensure that the puppies still receive the right nutrients and prevent dehydration, providing a supplement is necessary. It is also recommendable to feed them up to 6 weeks. If you let the mother dog stop from feeding them, the puppies may be prone to vitamin deficiency.
The best way to wean the puppies is to keep them away from their mother about 2 hours before the meal. Let them feel hungry at first so they can eat whatever quality dog food you provide them. Avoid giving them dry kibble food to prevent choking. After they eat the food you serve, you can now put the dog back with her puppies to continue the nursing. Doing this strategy helps the puppies receive the proper nourishment. It also helps them adjust to the new introduction of food to prevent diarrhea.
Since the puppies cannot identify foods placed in a bowl, you can still try to serve it to them. Out of curiosity, they may first play at the food but when they taste that it is delicious, they will get used to it. You can give them foods gently while the transition starts or before you are going to stop the nursing the. In this way, their stomach can adjust slowly as soon as you provide them more solid foods. You need first to introduce them to soft and digestible foods because their digestive system is still sensitive at this phase.
Grooming your puppies
Grooming could be the form of bonding of mother between her puppies so they get closer to each other. She helps them during elimination by licking their bellies and genitalia to ease their condition. Breeders can already cut their fingernails using a set of canine nail clippers to avoid them from scratching each other while nursing.
The breeder also plays a vital role during the weaning process because it is the time where the puppies get little attention from their mother. The mother dog has a short time or may stop grooming her puppies. She will be less interested in washing their faces after nursing or eating. Therefore, the breeder should take over the responsibility by training them the proper body care and grooming.
The social skills of a puppy are best built when he is together with his littermates. He starts to interact with them and to humans for the first two months. The breeder may also introduce them to socialization by having an exercise session every day. To do this, you can hold the puppy upright while positioning the head down and tail up. You may do it for about three to five seconds only because his body is not yet sufficiently strong. Hold his back securely while his feet are positioned upward and this may take about three to five seconds, too.
Another useful exercise is to tickle between the toes of his paw using a cotton tip swab for about three to five seconds as well. You may also place his paws on a cool, damp towel, and let her stand between three to five seconds. Other activities you can do are cuddling, petting, and playing with them.
Between 22 to 28 days, the puppies start to recognize their own species and identify humans as well. They begin to interact with other dogs in the house and communicate with them. The mother is still protective of her puppies at this point of time because she may allow some friendly dogs to play with her them. The adult dogs might let the puppies play with them by bringing them toys or by play fighting.
The puppies will also appreciate if you bring them toys. They can play with the other dogs using them as a form of bonding. Aside from that, they may also interact with your family members. They will like most if kids pat them gently and hold them. They easily get used to people if they got this gesture from the family.
One thing that might bring you trouble is the puppies will start to play with things in the house out of curiosity. Though you will give them toys, they are still easily captured by new things they see all around and your precious carpets, sofa, and rugs are not an exception. They are easily attracted to soft and feathery stuff so you need to be cautious because they might play with your expensive stuff.
The Importance of Mom’s Teaching
The behavior of the German Shepherd mother affects the attitude of her puppies as well. If she is uneasy with being a new mother, her puppies will feel the same way, too. They will also be fearful if their mother shows the same attitude. As the puppies grow up, they will not develop their physical looks, but they will also learn their behavioral aspects. Therefore, the mother dog should calm, stable, and relaxed so her puppies will learn these attitudes, too.
With the help of a wise breeder, calming an aggressive mother is possible. He must be relaxed right at the time the puppies were born. He needs to respect the mother dog’s privacy and let her stay peaceful with her puppies. He must also communicate with the mother dog calmly to make her feel the same way.
It is also the stage where the puppies understand why they need to control the strength their bite. It is made through their mother’s correction, and the learnings that the puppies knew is called bite inhibition. Their mother’s body language is one of the most critical factors that contribute to the learnings of the puppies. You must let the mother dog teach these lessons to their puppies and they also have an instinct like humans.
Littermates Teach, Too
Aside from the mother’s body language and personal lessons, the puppy’s behavior is also influenced by his littermates. It is normal to adapt to their behavior because they grow up together and start to play as early as 2 ½ weeks old. The simple gestures like making little growls, rolling with each other, and jumping together are a significant factor that makes them value their companionship with each other. They learn the lessons on how to socialize and bond.
It is also a good exercise playing with each other because they are able to practice their muscles to develop strength. You may see them biting each other which seems like they are fighting. They have their own way of communication. The litters can tell someone if the play is too hurtful. They also have reactions if like crying if their game is not getting nice.