Puppy Basics

Tips for Socialization, House Training, Crate Training, Mouthing/Biting, Chewing, Jumping

 

Keep your puppy away from places like dog parks, pet stores, and other popular dog places until they are fully vaccinated as these locations put your puppy at higher risk of contracting a contagious disease. 

 

Socialization, Handling, Grooming

 

Socializing and exposing your puppy to everyday sights and sounds is extremely important.  A puppy that leads a secluded life may grow up to be a fearful adult dog.  It’s tricky, because you don’t want to expose your young puppy to other dogs and areas that carry diseases before they are fully vaccinated. There are, however, things you can do to help your puppy before and after they’ve completed their series of vaccinations which typically happens around 5 months of age.

 

Meeting People:  Ask friends/family to meet your new puppy.  If your puppy seems shy/timid around new people, give your friend some treats and ask them to drop the treats on the ground for the puppy to eat.  They can gradually work toward offering treats from their hands, but take it slow if the puppy seems nervous about the new person.  Never let anyone force their attention on your puppy as this only heightens their fear of strangers.  Once your puppy is fully vaccinated you can start to take him/her out to public places that don’t have a lot of dog traffic, such as a walk in your neighborhood.  If your puppy seems extremely timid around new people please let us know so we can help you with further training tips.

 

Handling/Grooming:  Get your puppy used to human handling.  Touch their feet, ears, tail, etc.  Pick them up. Brush them with a dog brush.  Getting your puppy comfortable with this type of handling will help tremendously when it’s time to go to the vet or have their nails trimmed.  If your puppy seems nervous about this type of handling, have some treats on hand and feed your puppy treats while handling them so they associate the handling with good things.  You can smear a thin layer of peanut butter on a bully stick or something similar and handle your puppy while he/she is licking the peanut butter.  This peanut butter trick also can work during bath time.
 

Meeting Dogs:  Socialization with other dogs is important!  Before your puppy is fully vaccinated you are somewhat limited where you can bring your puppy (no dog parks!). As an alternative, once your puppy is at least 4 months old, you can ask a friend to bring over their dog-social dog for a play date.  Make sure your friend’s dog is puppy-friendly as not all dogs enjoy the company of puppies. You do not want your puppy to have a negative experience with other dogs so be very mindful about his/her first experiences with other dogs and always supervise the interactions.  For adopted puppies who are fully vaccinated, puppy classes that include puppy free-play are great because they are supervised as well as offer a more sanitary place for puppies to play (this is a very different environment than a dog park).

 

Introducing New Sights/Sounds: Expose your puppy to different sounds and objects both within your home and outside.  You may have to start at low levels or from a distance.  Using treats just as you did with new people is helpful.  If your puppy seems fearful of sounds like thunder, you can use an app on your phone to play the sound while you adjust the volume.  Always start at a level where your puppy shows zero fear and only work very gradually at increasing the volume/distance.  If your puppy starts to show fear, back off the volume, give them lots of treats then try again later.  This may be a slow acclimation process but it’s worth it.  When your puppy is old enough, bring treats along and walk them past a playground where children are having fun.  You don’t need to let a bunch of children pet your puppy if they seem fearful, but get your puppy used to the sounds of children playing, trucks passing, garbage trucks working, etc.

 

House/Potty Training

 

Puppies can start house training at about 3 months of age but it will likely take a couple of months before they are reliably giving you signals that they need to go outside to potty.  If your puppy is already close to 6 months and has been living in the shelter they are just starting potty-training and, just like a younger pup, it could take a couple of months. There are some key points to keep in mind during this process that are almost universally applicable:

 

Holding It: Every dog has a time limit. Puppies under six months are typically unable to hold it in for more than a few hours. Prepare for this! Come home during your lunch break or ask another onboarded PVAS foster to team up with you.

 

Crate Training: Puppies generally don’t want to eliminate next to their food or their bed.  The rest of your home is “fair game”.  This is where crate-training your puppy can come in really handy.  If you don’t want to use a crate, find an alternative way to confine your puppy (a small bathroom with a baby gate in the doorway so they can see out but not get out can work well).  When you are not home, when you are asleep, or when you can’t be watching over your puppy, put them in their crate or confined area. (See section on Crate Training, below.)

 

Establish a Schedule:  Setting up a schedule your puppy can rely on will help him learn faster.  Take your puppy out first thing in the morning, within 20 minutes of eating/drinking, after an indoor play session with you, as soon as they wake from a nap, and right before bed.  More frequent outings during the day will help your puppy hold it longer at night, however you should expect to get up in the middle of the night as most puppies cannot hold it all night long.

 

Productive Outings: Give your puppy plenty of time to potty by staying with them outside for at least 15 mins, if necessary. Give your pup lots of praise and treats every time they potty outside. Make them think it’s the best thing they have ever done!  If you’ve been outside with your puppy for 15 mins and they don’t potty but it’s been 2 hours since their last time peeing, return inside but put your puppy in their crate (or confined area) for 10 minutes, then take them outside again.  Repeat the outside/crate process until they have pottied outside, at which time they can have supervised time outside the crate with you (a double reward).

 

Reward Only! It’s vital to successful housetraining that you NEVER scold your pup for going potty inside, even—especially—when you catch them in the act. More often than not, the dog won’t understand that you are scolding them for going inside. They are more likely to think you are scolding them for going at all, and as a result they will want to hide from you to do their business. Instead your focus should be on praising and treating every time the pup goes outside. If your pup is learning for the first time or is struggling with learning outside from in, you can amp up the reward by “jackpotting” even a little outdoor tinkle with a BUNCH of treats and praise (or toys, or whatever your pup thinks is a great reward).

 

Prevention & Redirection. While in the process of housetraining, make sure you have eyes on your pup at all times. Keep a lightweight leash attached to their collar (what we call a “drag leash”) so that, the second they start to go, you can make a neutral (non-praise, but also non-punishment) noise that gets their attention. A mild “eh eh” or “no” or a light clap of your hands work well. Then quickly pick up the end of the leash and walk them outside. Remain neutral until they’re outside, and as soon as they start to finish their business out there you can reward! If you are preoccupied with other tasks while inside, limit their access to your home. Use a crate or exercise pen to keep them from wandering around unsupervised.

 

Clean up Accidents. Dogs tend to want to potty where they smell themselves or other dogs so it’s important to thoroughly clean up any accidents.  Use an enzyme-based cleaner to completely eliminate the smell.  Simple Solution and Nature’s Miracle are 2 such brands.  This link provides some useful information on cleaning urine odors and stains.

 

A note about pee pads.  Pee pads can work against your efforts of teaching your puppy NOT to potty inside.  However, sometimes it’s necessary to use these pads.  If you do, keep them to a confined area (like in their exercise pen) or place them near the door to help with the transition once you are ready to eliminate the use of pee pads.

 

If you’re having difficulty with excessive urination or bowel movements, contact our foster team, as you may need to rule out possible medical causes.

 

See the end of this section for a great chart to set you on the path of housetraining success!

 

Crate Training

 

Successful crate training opens up a lot of options for you and your dog, both within obedience and behavior training as well as life in general. A dog properly acclimated to the crate may be far less stressed during travel, boarding, or overnight stays at the vet. Crating can prevent destructive chewing and assist in potty training. The structure provided by crating can also reduce minor separation anxiety. The most fundamental and vital thing to remember about crate training is the crate is never a punishment. The crate needs to be a comfortable and pleasant space for your dog. Some puppies accept the crate in no time at all; however, some puppies are a bit more fearful in the crate and need a slower acclimation process.  Here’s how to achieve that:

 

The Crate. Choose a crate that is big enough for your pup to stand up and easily turn around.  Puppies in the process of house-training should not have much more room than that.  If you want to purchase a larger crate to accommodate your growing puppy, use a divider until they have grown into the larger crate. Some crates come with a wire divider-panel, or you can stuff an inexpensive large pillow/cushion in the back of the crate while your puppy is still small, then remove it when they grow.  Plastic and metal wire crates each have their pros and cons, but the choice largely comes down to preference (either the dog’s or the human’s). Some dogs like the closed-in plastic crates while others do better with more visibility in wire crates. Go with what works best for you and your pup!

 

Introducing the Crate: Encourage your puppy to investigate the crate. Toss treats or a favorite toy in to begin the positive association. Work on this until your puppy goes in and out of the crate without displaying any nervous body language. This could take a few minutes or several days.  Make the crate as cozy and comfortable as possible for your puppy with a blanket or towel and some chew toys. Include something with your scent on it like an old, unwashed t-shirt or pillowcase.

 

Location: Generally speaking, the crate should be placed in a high traffic area of the home, or where the pup is used to spending time (most likely around you or other people in the home). At night you may want to move the crate into your bedroom and possibly right next to your bed so your puppy can hear your breathing and/or see you at night. If your puppy whines in the crate at night and you know they don’t have to potty, try to ignore them or at least wait for a moment of quiet before attending to them.  Of course, if it’s potty time take them out right away, let them potty outside and then put them right back into the crate. Do not allow play time in the middle of the night.

 

Feeding Time: Food is an excellent training aid. Even if your dog isn’t highly food motivated, you can still use this basic necessity to your advantage. Start feeding your puppy in the crate.  Try placing the food bowl at the back of the crate but leave the crate door open.  Let your puppy enter/exit at his will.  If your puppy is showing too much fear of the crate then begin by setting the bowl in front of the crate. Over the next several days (or longer, depending on the dog’s comfort level) gradually move the bowl further into the crate. Let your puppy eat a few meals in the crate and then work on closing the crate door when he is fully in the crate and seems relaxed. Once they’ve reached this point, you can begin closing the door while they’re eating. At first, open the door once they’ve finished. As you progress, start taking a pause between their last bite and opening the gate. Lengthen this pause over several mealtimes until they can stay in the crate calmly for up to ten minutes after eating. If at any point they begin to bark or cry or paw at the gate, DO NOT open the gate until they have stopped. Otherwise they will think complaining makes the gate open!

 

Adding Time: Start crating your puppy outside of mealtimes. In the beginning, they should be able to see you while in the crate. Toss some treats or a toy in the crate and start giving a name to the act of going into the crate (such as “crate” or “kennel”). Wait a minute or two (walk across the room, pick up toys, sit on the couch—this doesn’t have to be while you are standing right in front of the crate, so long as your pup can see you) and then let them out. Do this multiple times throughout the day and slowly increase the amount of time. Once they can relax quietly in the crate for up to thirty minutes (this could take several days), start leaving the room. Once you’ve worked up to at least thirty minutes of calm, quiet crate time with no one in the room, you can start leaving the home for short periods of time with your pup crated.

 

Departures & Arrivals: No matter how much we want to coo over our pups when we leave and how we want to match their excitement when we come home, it’s important we keep our comings and goings calm and low-key. You want to reinforce the idea that your being gone was no big deal. When you do let your dog out of the crate, make sure they don’t have a chance to shove past your hand the second the gate is unlatched. Block the exit with your body and the gate until you give a release cue (e.g. “free”).

 

Exercise: Puppies have lots of energy but they also sleep a lot.  Give your puppy plenty of exercise before they go in the crate, this will help them relax/sleep while in the crate. Along with physical exercise, you can give your puppy something to chew on (and work their mouths) like a Kong lined with some peanut butter or pumpkin puree.  Careful that you don’t give your puppy too much to eat if you’re going to be gone for a long time as you don’t want your puppy to have to potty in his crate.

 

Crate Options: Ideally, we don’t want to crate a dog for longer than they’re used to. Realistically, many of us have full time jobs away from home and still want to prevent destructive behaviors and potty messes. There are ways to work around this reality without ruining our progress with the crate. You can keep your pup in a bathroom or laundry room where they can’t get into anything that might hurt them.  Using a baby gate in the doorway allows the puppy to see out but not get out. Give them some old towels or blankets to sleep on, but make sure things like trash cans and toilet paper are out of reach. Another option is to buy a plastic playpen or metal exercise pen to keep them contained in a specific area of the house. (Click this link for an example of an “x-pen”).

 

Chewing

 

Dogs interact with the world with their mouths. They don’t have hands and opposable thumbs like us. Using their mouths is how they eat, play, explore, pick things up, etc. Not only is chewing natural for dogs, but it has health benefits as well (so long as they’re chewing the right things). Then how do we make sure they don’t chew what they shouldn’t?

 

Management: Your dog can’t chew on what it can’t reach. Keep shoes, kids’ toys, remotes, and other interesting and chewable items out of your dog’s reach. For items you can’t put away, like furniture or baseboards, try a product called Bitter Apple spray, which you can find in most pet stores.

 

If you need to cook dinner, make a phone call, or get involved in some other task that takes your attention away from your dog, have a dog-proof area. This can be a penned-off area or even the dog’s crate. It’s not a punishment, so make sure your dog has plenty of positive things to keep them occupied. (One of the many benefits of crate training is to prevent destructive behaviors like chewing).  You can also tether your puppy to you by clipping on his leash and hooking it to your waist, so you can keep an eye on your puppy.

 

Redirect: We want to teach our puppies what they ARE allowed to chew on, not just the don’ts. If you catch your dog chewing on something they shouldn’t, interrupt them with a neutral (non-praise, but also non-punishment) noise that gets their attention. A mild “eh eh” or “no” or a light clap of your hands work well. Offer them an appropriate toy or chew instead as a means of redirecting the chewing behavior. While your dog is in the process of learning these dos and don’ts, offer lots of praise any time your dog picks up something they are allowed to chew.

 

Exercise: There is an adage that “a tired dog is a good dog”. Sometimes a dog chews for no other reason than they are bored (as one might chew on the cap of a pen in a dull meeting). It’s important to make sure your dog has not only plenty of physical stimulation, but mental stimulation as well. Mental stimulation can include training games (learning sit, down, shake, etc.), puzzle toys, or even a Kong stuffed with tasty treats (peanut butter, pumpkin puree, and plain yogurt are a few ideas). When you’ve had enough play time with your puppy but he/she still has tons of energy, give them a puzzle toy that takes them 15 minutes to complete to help tire them out and give you some peace. Always monitor what you give your puppy to assure they aren’t able to chew off and swallow pieces that may be a choking hazard or cause an obstruction.  Here is a link to some puzzle toy ideas.

 

Mouthing/Play Biting

 

Puppies play with their mouths.  If you’ve ever seen puppies play together, it’s all mouth-on-mouth and biting each other’s ears, paws, etc.  Your puppy likely wants to play with you in just the same way.  While it’s understandable, those puppy teeth are sharp and it hurts! It’s up to us humans to teach them that doing so is not acceptable when engaging with people. Here’s how:

 

Redirect. As with chewing, you want to teach your dog what IS allowed. So always have toys nearby. When it comes to mild mouthing, simply engage them with a toy and continue playtime. You will probably have to repeat this several times even within the same stretch of playtime to help your dog understand.  Be persistent and consistent.

 

Remove all attention. If your pup isn’t responding after several attempts to redirect, and/or the mouthing/biting become more intense, stop play and immediately walk away. Don’t talk to them further and don’t interact with them in any way. Simply remove yourself from them. To your pup, suddenly the game has stopped. With enough repetitions, they’ll come to understand that being mouthy is what causes the fun to go away. Note: yelling or yelping when your puppy mouths/bites you may excite your puppy even more, the opposite of what you want.

 

Reward Positive Behavior.  Remember that your puppy doesn’t know what you want until you teach them.  If you only correct the bad behavior they are left wondering what to do.  Make sure you reward your puppy for grabbing a toy instead of your hand by praising and playing with him/her.  If you’ve just left your puppy alone for mouthing on you and he/she follows you in a calm manner, take the time to reward this calm approach with praise and playtime.  At first this may mean a lot of on/off of your attention but keep it up and your puppy will soon learn how to get what he wants (which is your attention). Note: ignoring is also a great tactic for attention-seeking barking, but be sure to reward when your pup is being quiet and calm.

 

Jumping Up

 

Puppy jumping is usually greeted with enthusiasm and affection but when your puppy grows up, it’s no longer fun to have them jump on you or others.  Now is the time to teach your puppy that it’s not ok to jump on people.

 

Never reward any dog for jumping. In fact, we want to engage them as little as possible. Our natural inclination is to tell them “no” and push them away but even a stern “no” or “eh eh” is a form of attention and many dogs consider pushing them away to be a form of play so resist the urge to do that.  Here are a few ways to effectively deter jumping behavior:

 

Teach an incompatible behavior. A dog can’t jump if they’re expected to do something that requires all four paws on the ground (what we call “four on the floor”). Teach your puppy to “sit”. If your dog wants your attention, they must sit for it.

 

Remove all attention. The moment your puppy jumps on you turn your attention off of them and walk away. Again, this means not even scolding them. Stand up and either a) turn around and walk away, or b) walk “through” (or past) them and keep walking.  You puppy should only be getting your attention when they have all “four on the floor”.

 

Reward Positive Behavior.  If your puppy approaches you without jumping up, be sure to reward that with praise and affection.  If your puppy knows “sit”, give them that command and give tons of praise/affection for knowing how to “sit”. If your puppy starts to jump up, turn and walk away again.  Your puppy may be a bit confused at first but they will soon figure out that the only way to get your attention is to have “four on the floor”.  As with all puppy training, consistency is key so everyone in the family (and your friends) must follow this same training technique.

 

With enough repetition of these steps, your puppy will pick up on the pattern: “four on the floor” = attention; jumping = no attention. To puppies, it’s really that simple. As your dog begins to show an understanding and offers a sit in a situation where they would usually jump, lavish them with praise and other rewards.

Continued Support

 

Raising and teaching puppies takes patience and time plus some trial and error to figure out what works best for you and your pup. We encourage you to check out Good Pup if you would like personalized one-on-one training from a private trainer. The first week is free and includes an hour long virtual session, plus you can text with your trainer throughout the day as questions arise. If you choose to sign up for this service after the one week free trial, you will receive a 20% discount and a donation will be made to PVAS in honor of your pup!

This is a dog housetraining flow chart
 

Raising Puppies WITH a Mom

Watching moms raise their puppies is fun and incredibly rewarding! Usually mom will do most of the work, but newborn and young puppies are very delicate, and sometimes she may need your help. 

 

Puppies in their first months of life are susceptible to what we refer to as fading puppy syndrome (hypothermia and hypoglycemia), so being vigilant is important. Even the slightest sign of illness can quickly turn into a life-threatening situation. Please review this Fading Puppy Protocol so that you are adequately prepared if such a life-threatening situation were to arise.

 

Please make note of these important PVAS Foster Team contacts:

Phone/text: 956-330-3206

Email: foster@pvastx.org

 

What supplies should I have on hand?

 

  • Hand sanitizer to use before handling the puppies. Note: puppies under 3 weeks should never be handled by anyone from outside the home. Even later on, handling by visitors should be minimal. Puppies this young are extremely vulnerable to germs, with parvo being a major concern.

  • Newspapers or puppy pee pads.            

  • Scale to weigh the puppies to be sure they are gaining weight. When the puppies are under 4 weeks, this can be a food scale since most puppies weigh less than a pound when born. You can use a bowl to contain the pup while you weigh it. 

    • Just be sure the scale is zeroed out with the bowl on the scale when you put the puppy into the bowl. You don’t want to include the weight of the bowl in the puppy’s weight. 

    • At around 4 weeks of age, you’ll need a baby or human scale (if the human scale can read fractions of a pound).

  • Bleach to add to the laundry when washing the towels or blankets.

  • Baby wipes will help to clean up small messes or wipe off the puppies. Just be sure the puppies do not get cold.

  • Heating pad to keep puppies warm; no auto-shut off. Normally, a mom’s body temperature will keep her pups toasty, but you should have a heating pad on hand in case she needs help with this, or in case you need to perform the Fading Puppy Protocol. 

    • If you need to use a heating pad, it should be used on the low setting and covered with a towel. Make sure the puppies are NEVER placed directly on the heating pad. 

    • Note: It is very important the pups are kept warm and away from drafts or fans. Chilling is the number one danger to newborn puppies. 

  • Towels/blankets.

  • Thermometer (in case you need to check temperature)

  • Good quality puppy food (pate style wet, kibble, formula if able). The puppy food is what mom should be eating before the pups are weaned, and what the puppies can eat later.

 

IMPORTANT BEHAVIOR NOTE: It’s normal for momma dogs to be protective of their puppies; it’s part of what makes them a good mom. Because of this, make sure the momma dog and her babies have a space to themselves without other animals or frequent human traffic. 

  • We recommend putting other animals away when momma leaves the room to go outside. 

  • Please leave a lightweight drag leash on momma at all times, so you are able to easily take her outside without grabbing her collar. 

  • If she growls at you, other pets, or other household members, this is a warning that she is uncomfortable. Please respect it and give her space.


 

Puppies 0-4 Weeks Old

 

Daily requirements:

  • Puppies should be nursing vigorously and regularly.

  • Puppies should be kept warm at all times.

  • Puppies should be weighed and weights recorded in the table below.

 

If you see the following symptoms, immediately begin the Fading Puppy Protocol (do not wait to get in touch with the foster team--they can only take the same steps for fading puppies):

  • Extreme Lethargy - not getting up, unable to stand, not responding when pet

  • Gasping for breath

  • Whining/Crying out

  • Cold to the touch

 

The following should be considered red flags (email the Foster Team at foster@pvastx.org):

  • Very watery or explosive diarrhea

  • Bloody diarrhea

  • Not eating, even missing one meal

 

The following should be considered emergencies:
During business hours: Mon. - Sun., 9am - 7pm, call or text 956-330-3206 

Outside business hours: leave a voicemail or text 956-330-3206, and email foster@pvastx.org.

  • Seizures

  • Excessive vomiting

  • At 2-4 weeks old: White or gray gums

  • Lethargy or listlessness

 

0-2 Weeks Old:
 
  • Care:

    • Puppies should nurse vigorously and compete for nipples. Newborns can nurse up to 45 minutes at a time. Be sure to observe puppies nursing at least once a day, if the mom will permit it, and make sure that all of them are nursing and are not getting pushed away by other puppies. A great deal of activity and crying could indicate a problem with milk flow, quality, or availability. When the mom re-enters the area, there should be some fussing for only a few minutes before everyone has settled down to serious nursing. 

    • If any of them don’t appear to be thriving you might need to gently pull them back a little to ensure they are actually nursing and not just mouthing the teat. You might also need to give some of the smallest ones some alone time with mom to make sure they are getting enough milk.

    • Be sure to have plenty of food and water available for mom. Momma should be eating puppy food and will eat much more food than usual while she is nursing. Most bags of puppy food will indicate how much to feed a nursing mom daily. In addition to dry food you can mix a can of wet puppy food for a yummy mix for momma to eat. Provide her with as much food as she will eat. You can also leave a bowl of dry food out for her to eat at will. Lots of water will be needed too. Replenish the water as needed. 

    • For the first couple of weeks, the puppies will be nursing or sleeping. They will need to be kept warm and if necessary you can use the heating pad to provide additional heat. Remember to keep the setting on low and never put the puppies directly on it. 

    • Mom will stimulate the puppies to pee and poop by licking them, and she will swallow everything they eliminate. This is normal behavior and makes your job easier! Again, if it seems that mom is not doing this you may need to help stimulate the puppies to pee and poop as they can’t do this on their own for the first couple of weeks. This is very easy - you just hold the puppy and gently rub a warm, damp cotton ball, baby wipe, or cloth on their bottoms shortly after they have nursed. They should eliminate then.

    • Keeping the puppies warm is critical. Please do not bathe them.

    • Weigh puppies once daily and record their weight in the table below to accurately assess growth. If any of the pups lose weight 3 times in a row, or if any of them drop 10% of their body weight between weigh-ins, contact the Foster Team immediately. 

    • Healthy puppies at 1-2 weeks will be round and warm, with pink skin. If you pinch them gently, their skin should spring back. When you pick a puppy up, it should wiggle energetically, and when you put it down near the mom it should crawl back to her. Healthy puppies seldom cry.

    • Minimize handling the puppies as much as possible.
       

  • Milestones:

    • Ear canals open between 5 and 8 days.

    • Eyes open between 8 and 14 days. They open gradually, usually starting to open from the nose outward. All puppies are born with blue eyes, and initially no pupils can be distinguished from the irises - the eyes will appear solid dark blue. 
       

  • Behavior: 

    • You should observe the mom’s overall demeanor with the puppies. Most dogs are excellent moms, but occasionally a mom will be too rough or hurt the puppies. If you have any concerns about this, please contact the Foster Team at foster@pvastx.org.

    • Puppies this young will sleep 90% of the time and eat the other 10%.

 
2-4 Weeks Old:
 
  • Care:

  • At this age the pups can urinate and defecate on their own.

  • Unless your puppies are exhibiting any signs of illness, they should not need any medical care until they turn 2 weeks.

  • At 2 weeks, the puppies will need to be dewormed. Send an email to the Foster Team with the puppies’ weights, and the clinic will prepare the dewormer for you to pick up. It’s very important to not expose puppies to the germs in the clinic unless it is absolutely necessary for them to be seen.  

  • Continue to weigh each puppy daily, regardless of outward, visible health. Sometimes puppies this age may appear to be thriving and growing but without measuring food and output there is no way to know for sure how your puppy(ies) are doing. Puppies can go downhill very quickly, often within 24hrs.

  • Avoid too many guests. Minimizing exposure will help keep the puppies healthy.

  • Puppies this age should be kept indoors to avoid exposure to parvo and other illnesses 

  • At 3 weeks, puppies will start cleaning themselves, although their mother will continue to do most of the serious cleaning. Please continue to avoid bathing them. 6 weeks is the earliest we recommend bathing puppies. If there is a specific reason why you think you need to bathe your foster puppy (e.g., urine scalding), please email the Foster Team.
     

  • Milestones:

    • Eyes are opening now, and the puppies are beginning to hear sounds. Adult eye color will begin to appear at 3-4 weeks, but may not reach final shade for another 9-12 weeks. Puppies begin to see well, and their eyes begin to look and function like adult dogs' eyes.

    • Puppies are beginning to move around some and trying to stand up. Puppies begin to crawl at around day 18 and can stand at around day 21.

 

  • Behavior:

    • Mom will begin to spend larger periods of time out of the nest, though she will not go far from it. 

    • Puppies will begin to play with each other, biting ears, tails, and paws even before their teeth have come in. Their milk teeth are cut during this period. They learn to sit and touch objects with their paws.

    • Puppies begin their socialization phase - they will be strongly influenced by the behavior of their mother for the next several weeks. To further socialize puppies, increase the amount of handling, and get them accustomed to human contact. It is important not to expose them to anything frightening; children may seem intimidating and should be supervised closely while visiting to ensure gentle handling.
       

Puppies 4-8+ Weeks Old

 

Daily requirements:

  • Puppies should be allowed to free feed and should have easy access to fresh food and water.

  • Puppies should be weighed and weights recorded in the table below.

 

If you see the following symptoms, you must immediately begin the Fading Puppy Protocol (do not wait to get in touch with the clinic--they can only take the same steps for fading puppies):

  • Extreme lethargy - not getting up, unable to stand, not responding when pet

  • Gasping for breath

  • Whining/Crying out

  • Cold to the touch

 

The following should be considered red flags (email the Foster Team at foster@pvastx.org):

  • Decrease in appetite

  • Diarrhea that is not improving in 72hrs

  • Very watery or explosive diarrhea, even once

  • Losing interest in playing with littermates

  • Suddenly being “bullied” by littermates

  • Losing 0.5lb in a 24hr period.

  • Bloody diarrhea

  • Vomiting

 

The following should be considered emergencies: 

During business hours: Mon. - Sun., 9am - 7pm, call or text 956-330-3206 

Outside business hours: leave a voicemail or text 956-330-3206, and email foster@pvastx.org.

  • Seizures

  • White or gray gums

  • Lethargic or unresponsive

  • Temperature of above 102 degrees F (at rest)

 

4-5 Weeks Old: 
 
  • Care:

    • At this age, you will need to start to wean the puppies with gruel. Gruel is watered down, warmed canned food (the same food you are feeding mom)--pate style, not chunky-- that is blended and made into a thin paste. If your puppies are eating the gruel well and seem hungry they can be started on the same high-quality canned puppy food you are feeding mom.

    • Ideally gruel is diluted with puppy milk replacer, if possible. If not, water is used as the alternative. If you would like to purchase milk replacer to use, PVAS recommends Esbilac. Royal Canin Puppy Mousse is an excellent food to use as gruel for the early weaning process because it already has formula in it and is the perfect consistency. Both of these can be found at most pet stores.

  • Weaning should be a gradual process that occurs over several weeks. Puppies need time to learn important behaviors from their mother and littermates, including how to interpret signals from other dogs, inhibit their own biting habits, and defer to more confident dogs. It is also preferable for the mother to slowly dry up her milk supply. Weaning can definitely be a stressful time for puppies and mother and, whenever possible, should be a gradual and supervised process.

  • Mom will usually begin weaning by discouraging her puppies from nursing; however, some dogs (particularly those with small litters) will allow nursing until the puppies are old enough for permanent homes. Some nursing activity is the canine equivalent of thumb-sucking, that is, for comfort only. Even if puppies appear to be nursing, they may not be getting all the nutrition they need from mom. Make sure they are eating food and gaining weight.

  • If momma is not doing this herself, you can help the weaning process along by separating her from her litter for a few hours at a time. While separated, introduce the puppies to eating from a shallow plate. This time apart will reduce the pups’ dependency on their mother’s milk and overall presence. The amount of food and the frequency and length of separation can gradually be increased. As the puppies become more independent and self-confident, they can spend more and more time away from their mother until they are completely weaned.

  • Some puppies may prefer to lick the gruel from your fingers, if this is the case; slowly lower your finger to the plate and hold it to the food. This way the puppies will learn to eat with their heads bent down. Be patient, sometimes it takes two or three meals before they catch on. If they do not seem interested enough to even sniff your finger, try gently opening the puppies' mouth and rub a little bit of the food on their teeth. Hopefully this will result in the puppy starting to lick your finger. If they're still not getting the idea, you can take a syringe (without a needle) and squirt a small amount of gruel directly into their mouths.

  • Be sure that the puppies always have access to fresh water in a low, stable bowl. 
     

  • Behavior:

    • Begin housebreaking at four weeks of age. This can be done by using a pile of newspapers or training pads in a corner. After each feeding, place the puppy on the papers, for him to go to the bathroom. Be patient! He may not remember to do this every time, or may forget where to find the papers, but he will learn quickly. Be sure to give the puppies lots of praise when they first start using their papers. It is a good idea to confine the puppies to a relatively small space, because the larger the area the puppies have to play in, the more likely they will forget where the papers are. Keep the papers clean and away from their food. 

 

5-6 Weeks Old:
 
  • Care:

    • Feed gruel 4 times a day. Thicken the gruel gradually by reducing the amount of water mixed with it and gradually mix in dry puppy food. Introduce dry food and water, but continue weaning. For reluctant eaters, try mixing some puppy milk replacer into the gruel or tempt the puppy with some meat-flavored human baby food mixed with a bit of water. The familiar formula taste and smell or the baby food’s meat flavor is often more appealing to the picky eaters than dog food. Once the puppy accepts the formula-based gruel or baby food, gradually mix in dry puppy food until the puppy has been weaned like the other puppies.

    • At 6 weeks, puppies can be bathed to be kept clean but should be blow dried and fed immediately after.
       

  • Milestones: 

    • At 6 weeks, PVAS foster puppies have their first visit to the medical clinic. At that appointment, they will receive a microchip, annual Bordetella vaccine, and their first DAPP shot; they will then be given DAPP boosters every 2-4 weeks until they are 5 months old. To make an appointment for the vaccine, please email the Foster Team at foster@pvastx.org. Because they are so young, puppies must stay outside of the actual clinic. We put puppies on our website at 7 weeks of age. So for each puppy under 10 weeks, we will need at least 3 great photos for our website, and for each puppy 10 weeks or older, we will need both these photos and a short biography. And just like any foster dog, you will need to correspond with potential adopters via emails and arrange meet and greets with potential adopters and your puppy(ies), where they might encounter sick dogs; normally for the puppies’ first and second appointments you will be asked to stay in the car and call the clinic when you arrive, so a tech can come out to attend to the pups.

    • When the pups are 6 weeks old, mom will be made available for adoption! 
       

  • Behavior:

    • At about 5 weeks, puppies can start to roam around the room, under supervision. The strongest, most curious puppy will figure out how to get out of the nest. The others will quickly follow. 

 

6-7 Weeks Old: 
 
  • Care:

    • By this age the puppies should be eating dry food well. Feed the puppies at least 3-4 times a day. If one puppy appears food-possessive, use a second dish and leave plenty of food out so that everyone can eat at the same time. Although the puppies may not eat much at a single sitting, they usually like to eat at frequent intervals throughout the day. 
       

  • Behavior:

    • By this time, you have "mini-dogs." They will wash themselves, play games with each other, their toys, and you, and many will come when you call them. Be sure to take them to their papers after meals, during play sessions, and after naps. These are the usual times that puppies need to eliminate. 

 

7-8+ Weeks Old: 
 
  • Care:

    • Offer dry food at least 3 - 4 times a day. Leave down a bowl of water for them to eat and drink at will. Mom should only be allowing brief nursing sessions, if any. Do not feed the puppies table scraps. 

  • Milestones: 

    • At 7 weeks PVAS foster puppies are made available for adoption on the website, and you will be asked for photos and names if you haven’t already submitted them. Please remember that because they are not fully vaccinated, PVAS puppies cannot do meet and greets with a potential adopter’s dog.

  • At 10 weeks PVAS foster puppies are given a surgery date to be spayed and neutered as long as there is no medical reason to wait. The surgery date may be a few weeks in the future depending on how many other dogs are currently scheduled. Puppies that weigh less than 2 pounds or that are sick will not have surgery until they are well and weigh at least 2 pounds. Puppies who were considered Distemper exposed and are cleared can be scheduled for surgery immediately, provided they meet the other criteria. Puppies considered Distemper watch or confirmed Distemper must be clear of symptoms for a total of 30 days before they can be scheduled for surgery.

 

Vaccination

Until they have been vaccinated, you must carefully restrict their exposure to any disease. This means checking with visitors to make sure they have not been around any sick dogs and ensuring they always wash or sanitize their hands before handling the puppies. 

 

Puppies that have not been fully vaccinated (usually around 20 weeks) should not be allowed on the ground in any public area where other dogs have been, e.g., pet stores, dog parks, and even neighborhood parks.

 

Dehydration

Puppies stay hydrated by drinking water and eating canned food. Most puppies will adequately hydrate themselves. You can do a quick elasticity test. Pinch a little skin between your thumb and forefinger on your pup's back. When you release it, it should pop back into place immediately. If you are concerned your puppy is becoming or is dehydrated, contact the Foster Team at 956-330-3206 or foster@pvastx.org. Puppies should always have access to clean water.

 

Temperature

Your puppy's temperature does not need to be taken regularly. However, if you are concerned a puppy is too cold or running a fever it is best if you can take a rectal temperature. It is not difficult to take a rectal temperature but is easiest with two people. Using petroleum jelly or a similar substance insert the thermometer into the rectum. A normal temperature is between 100.5 and 102.5.

 

Hypoglycemia

Puppies will quickly become hypoglycemic if they miss even one meal. Just like a baby, puppies need to eat 3-4 times a day and always have access to fresh food. If puppies become even slightly hypoglycemic they can begin to go downhill very quickly. 

Signs of hypoglycemia are:

  • wobbliness

  • listlessness

  • seizures

If your puppy has a decreased appetite or is not eating, contact the Foster Team at 956-330-3206 or foster@pvastx.org

 

Anemia

Puppies are also susceptible to anemia. Anemia is a loss of red blood cells that, in puppies, is most often caused by an infestation of fleas or intestinal worms. The easiest way to check for anemia is to look for white or very pale gums. Normal puppy gum color is close to salmon pink. If your puppy's gums are white or grey contact the Foster Team at 956-330-3206 or foster@pvastx.org. Attaching a photo is helpful. 

 

Parvovirus - signs and symptoms

Parvovirus is a highly contagious, serious, life-threatening condition that affects the intestinal tract and causes severe vomiting and diarrhea. PVAS has a Parvo ICU and successfully treats the virus. The key to survival is early detection. The signs and symptoms are:

  • Decrease or loss of appetite, even missing one meal

  • Vomiting

  • Diarrhea in conjunction with one of the above

  • Lethargy

 

If your foster puppy is experiencing any of these symptoms, contact the Foster Team at 956-330-3206 or foster@pvastx.org

 

Meatball Test

For the most part a healthy puppy will always be excited to eat a treat. As a rule of thumb if a puppy is refusing to eat a meatball of canned food they may be sick. If you are concerned your puppy may be sick with either fever, parvo, parasites, or respiratory infection please offer a meatball of yummy food. If they do not eat it, email the Foster Team at foster@pvastx.org

 

Activity

It is important to recognize a lethargic puppy from a tired puppy. Puppies will normally play, play, play then get tired and sleep for a period of time. If you puppy is going through this cycle, that is normal. If your puppy seems lethargic, email the Foster Team at foster@pvastx.org.

 

Socialization

Socialization is very important. Please refer to Puppy Basics. However, puppies that have not had any vaccinations should not be meeting any people outside the immediate household. If you have any questions about how best to socialize your puppy, please contact the Foster Team at foster@pvastx.org.

 

Raising Puppies WITHOUT a Mom

Raising puppies is fun and incredibly rewarding, but it also requires some hard work and close monitoring. Puppies at this age are very delicate and require around the clock feeding and care, much like a human baby; they are also susceptible to what we refer to as fading puppy syndrome (hypothermia and hypoglycemia), so being extremely vigilant is important. Even the slightest sign of illness can quickly turn into a life-threatening situation. Please review this Fading Puppy Protocol so that you are adequately prepared if such a life-threatening situation were to arise.

 

Foster Team Contacts

During business hours: Monday - Sunday, 9am - 7pm, call or text 956-330-3206 

Outside business hours: leave a voicemail or text 956-330-3206, and email foster@pvastx.org.

 

What supplies should I have on hand?

  • Esbilac or GNC formula (preferred brands).

  • Hand sanitizer to use before handling the puppies. Note: puppies under 3 weeks should never be handled by anyone from outside the home, and even after that handling by visitors should be minimal; puppies this young are extremely vulnerable to germs, with parvo being a major concern.

  • Newspapers or puppy pee pads.            

  • Scale to weigh the puppies to be sure they are gaining weight. When the puppies are under 4 weeks, this can be a food scale since most puppies weigh less than a pound when born. You can use a bowl to contain the pup while you weigh it. 

    • Be sure the scale is zeroed out with the bowl on the scale when you put the puppy into the bowl. You don’t want to include the weight of the bowl in the puppy’s weight.

    • At around 4 weeks of age, you’ll need a baby or human scale (if the human scale can read fractions of a pound).

  • Bleach to add to the laundry when washing the towels or blankets.

  • Baby wipes will help to clean up small messes or wipe off the puppies. Just be sure the puppies do not get cold.

  • Heating pad to keep puppies warm; no auto-shut off. It should be used on the low setting and covered with a towel. 

    • It is very important the pups are kept warm and away from drafts or fans. Chilling is the number one danger to newborn puppies. Normally, a mom’s body temperature will keep her pups toasty, so when there’s no mom around it’s critical that they stay warm. But make sure the puppies are NEVER placed directly on the heating pad.

  • Thermometer (in case you need to check temperature)

  • Towels/blankets.

  • Human baby bottles, slow-flow.

  • Stuffed animal for cuddling.

  • Once the puppies reach 4 weeks of age, good-quality puppy food: pate-style wet, kibble, formula if able.

 

Feeding with Formula: Formula should be made at a 1:2 ratio regardless of the recommendation. Formula should be warm but not hot. For guidelines on amounts and frequency of feedings, see the feeding chart addendum on the last page.

 

NOTE ABOUT TUBE FEEDING: In most cases, puppies under 4 weeks can be fed with a bottle, but there are cases--like puppies with cleft palate or those who are failing to thrive--where tube feeding may be necessary. The clinic will determine which method is appropriate and show you what to do.

 

Puppies 0-4 Weeks Old

 

Daily requirements:

  • Puppies should be fed at regular hourly intervals stated below. For guidelines on how much they should be eating, see the feeding chart addendum. Generally, feed the puppies until the puppies’ bellies are full but not bloated.

  • Puppies should be kept warm at all times.

  • Puppies should be weighed and weights recorded in the table below.

 

If you see the following symptoms, immediately begin the Fading Puppy Protocol (do not wait to get in touch with the clinic--they can only take the same steps for fading puppies):

  • Extreme Lethargy - not getting up, unable to stand, not responding when pet

  • Gasping for breath

  • Whining/Crying out

  • Cold to the touch

 

The following should be considered red flags (email the Foster Team at foster@pvastx.org):

  • Very watery or explosive diarrhea

  • Bloody diarrhea

  • Not interested in eating for 2 or more feedings in a row

  • Losing 10% of body weight

 

The following should be considered emergencies.

During business hours: Mon. - Sun., 9am - 7pm, call or text 956-330-3206 

Outside business hours: leave a voicemail or text 956-330-3206, and email foster@pvastx.org.

  • Seizures

  • Excessive vomiting

  • At 2-4 weeks old: White or gray gums

  • Lethargy or listlessness

 

0-2 Weeks Old:
 
  • Feeding:

    • Pups are fed at least every 3 hours, 24-hours a day, even you have to wake them up to feed them.
       

  • Care:

    • Puppies are kept on a heating source at all times (heating pad on low).

    • Puppies this young--and up until their eyes open--require stimulation to go potty after each feeding. This is very easy - you just hold the puppy and gently rub a warm, damp cotton ball, baby wipe, or cloth on their bottoms shortly after they have eaten. They should eliminate then.

    • Keeping the puppies warm is critical. Please do not bathe them.

    • Weigh puppies once daily and record their weight in the table below to accurately assess growth. If any of the pups lose weight 3 times in a row, or if any of them drop 10% of their body weight between weigh-ins, email the Foster Team at foster@pvastx.org.

    • Healthy puppies at 1-2 weeks will be round and warm, with pink skin. If you pinch them gently, their skin should spring back. When you pick a puppy up, it should wiggle energetically. Healthy puppies seldom cry.

    • Minimize handling the puppies as much as possible.
       

  • Milestones:

    • Ear canals open between 5 and 8 days.

    • Eyes open between 8 and 14 days. They open gradually, usually starting to open from the nose outward. All puppies are born with blue eyes, and initially no pupils can be distinguished from the irises - the eyes will appear solid dark blue. 
       

  • Behavior:

    • Puppies this young will sleep 90% of the time and eat during the other 10%.
       

2-4 Weeks Old:

  • Feeding:

    • Puppies continue to eat at least every 3 hours, but at 3-4 weeks old can go to every 4 hours, and by 4 weeks old can make it 4-6 hours overnight without a bottle.
       

  • Care:

    • Heat should be provided but they should be able to move away if needed. 

    • At this age the pups can urinate and defecate on their own.

  • Unless your puppies are exhibiting any signs of illness, they should not need any medical care until they turn 2 weeks.

  • At 2 weeks, the puppies will need to be dewormed. The clinic can distribute dewormer on a walk-in basis. This means you do not need an appointment; however, we prefer that you call the clinic at least one hour in advance of when you expect to arrive (during normal business hours) with your foster's name, ID number, and approximate current weight to request the needed medication. Upon arrival, please stay in your car, call the Foster Team at 956-330-3206. They will provide further pick up instructions. Please note that the clinic will not be able to provide any other services at this pick up, so if your foster dog needs to be seen for another reason, you will need to make an appointment through the regular channels. 

  • It’s very important to not expose puppies to the germs in the clinic unless it is absolutely necessary for them to be seen. 

  • Continue to weigh each puppy daily, regardless of outward, visible health. Sometimes puppies this age may appear to be thriving and growing but without measuring food and output there is no way to know for sure how your puppies are doing. Puppies can go downhill very quickly, often within 24hrs.

  • Avoid too many guests. Minimizing exposure will help keep the puppies healthy.

  • Puppies this age should be kept indoors to avoid exposure to parvo and other illnesses.

  • At 3 weeks, puppies will start cleaning themselves. Please continue to avoid bathing them. 6 weeks is the earliest we recommend bathing puppies. If there is a specific reason why you think you need to bathe your foster puppy (e.g., urine scalding), please email the Foster Team.
     

  • Milestones:

    • Eyes are opening now, and the puppies are beginning to hear sounds. Adult eye color will begin to appear at 3-4 weeks, but may not reach final shade for another 9-12 weeks. Puppies begin to see well, and their eyes begin to look and function like adult dogs' eyes.

    • Puppies are beginning to move around some and trying to stand up. Puppies begin to crawl at around day 18 and can stand at around day 21.
       

  • Behavior:

    • Puppies will begin to play with each other, biting ears, tails, and paws even before their teeth have come in. Their milk teeth are cut during this period. They learn to sit and touch objects with their paws.

    • Puppies begin their socialization phase. Normally, they would have been strongly influenced by the behavior of their mother for the next several weeks. To socialize puppies without a mom, increase the amount of handling, and get them accustomed to human contact. It is important not to expose them to anything frightening; children may seem intimidating and should be supervised closely while visiting to ensure gentle handling.

 

Puppies 4-8+ Weeks Old

 

Daily requirements:

  • Puppies should be allowed to free feed and should have easy access to fresh food and water.

  • Puppies should be weighed and weights recorded in the table below.

 

If you see the following symptoms, you must immediately begin the Fading Puppy Protocol (do not wait to get in touch with the clinic--they can only take the same steps for fading puppies):

  • Extreme Lethargy - not getting up, unable to stand, not responding when pet

  • Gasping for breath

  • Whining/Crying out

  • Cold to the touch

 

The following should be considered red flags (email the Foster Team at foster@pvastx.org):

  • Decrease in appetite

  • Diarrhea that is not improving in 72hrs

  • Losing interest in playing with littermates

  • Suddenly being “bullied” by littermates

  • Losing 0.5lb in a 24hr period.

  • Bloody diarrhea

  • Vomiting

 

The following should be considered emergencies. 

During business hours: Mon. - Sun., 9am - 7pm, call or text 956-330-3206 

Outside business hours: leave a voicemail or text 956-330-3206, and email foster@pvastx.org.

  • Seizures

  • White or grey gums

  • Lethargic or unresponsive

  • Temperature of above 102 degrees F (at rest)

 

4-5 Weeks Old: 

  • Feeding:

    • At this age, you will need to start to wean the puppies with gruel.

    • Gruel is watered down, warmed canned food--pate style, not chunky-- that is blended and made into a thin paste. If your puppies are eating the gruel well and seem hungry they can be started on canned puppy food.

    • Ideally gruel is diluted with puppy milk replacer. If this is not available, water is used as the alternative. If you would like to purchase milk replacer to use, PVAS recommends Esbilac. Royal Canin Puppy Mousse is an excellent food to use as gruel for the early weaning process because it already has formula in it and is the perfect consistency. Both of these can be found at most pet stores.

    • Weaning should be a gradual process that occurs over several weeks. Introduce the puppies to gruel in a shallow plate. You can begin by placing one puppy by the plate of gruel and hoping for the best - if she starts eating, great! Her littermates will probably copy her and do the same. But without mom around to show them, many puppies do not have a clue about feeding from a saucer. The puppies will walk in it, slide in it, and track it all over. Some puppies may prefer to lick the gruel from your fingers, if this is the case; slowly lower your finger to the plate and hold it to the food. This way the puppies will learn to eat with their heads bent down. Be patient, sometimes it takes two or three meals before they catch on. If they do not seem interested enough to even sniff your finger, try gently opening the puppies' mouth and rub a little bit of the food on their teeth. Hopefully this will result in the puppy starting to lick your finger. If they're still not getting the idea, you can take a syringe (without a needle) and squirt a small amount of gruel directly into their mouths. 

    • Bottle feed as needed to keep pups from crying with hunger. 

  • Be sure that the puppies always have access to fresh water in a low, stable bowl. 
     

  • Behavior:

    • Begin housebreaking at four weeks of age. This can be done by using a pile of newspapers or training pads in a corner. After each feeding, place the puppy on the papers, for him to go to the bathroom. Be patient! He may not remember to do this every time, or may forget where to find the papers, but he will learn quickly. Be sure to give the puppies lots of praise when they first start using their papers. It is a good idea to confine the puppies to a relatively small space, because the larger the area the puppies have to play in, the more likely they will forget where the papers are. Keep the papers clean and away from their food. 

 

5-6 Weeks Old: 

  • Care:

    • Feed gruel 4 times a day. Thicken the gruel gradually by reducing the amount of water mixed with it and gradually mix in dry puppy food. Introduce dry food and water. For reluctant eaters, try mixing some puppy milk replacer into the gruel or tempt the puppy with some meat-flavored human baby food mixed with a bit of water. The familiar formula taste and smell or the baby food’s meat flavor is often more appealing to the picky eaters than dog food. Once the puppy accepts the formula-based gruel or baby food, gradually mix in dry puppy food until the puppy has been weaned like the other puppies.

  • At 6 weeks, puppies can be bathed to be kept clean but should be blow dried and fed immediately after.
     

  • Milestones: 

    • At 6 weeks, PVAS foster puppies have their first visit to the medical clinic. At that appointment, they will receive a microchip, annual Bordetella vaccine, and their first DAPP shot; they will then be given DAPP boosters every 2-4 weeks until they are 5 months old. To make an appointment at the clinic or for information on a wellness clinic, please email the Foster Team. Because they are so young, puppies must stay outside of the actual clinic where they might encounter sick dogs; normally for the puppies’ first and second appointments you will be asked to stay in the car and call the clinic when you arrive, so a tech can come out to attend to the pups.
       

  • Behavior: 

    • At about 5 weeks, puppies can start to roam around the room, under supervision. The strongest, most curious puppy will figure out how to get out of the nest. The others will quickly follow. 

 

6-7 Weeks Old: 
 
  • Feeding: 

    • By this age the puppies should be eating dry food well. Feed the puppies at least 3-4 times a day. If one puppy appears food-possessive, use a second dish and leave plenty of food out so that everyone can eat at the same time. Although the puppies may not eat much at a single sitting, they usually like to eat at frequent intervals throughout the day. 
       

  • Behavior: 

    • By this time, you have "mini-dogs." They will wash themselves, play games with each other, their toys, and you, and many will come when you call them. Be sure to take them to their papers after meals, during play sessions, and after naps. These are the usual times that puppies need to eliminate. 

 

7-8+ Weeks Old: 

  • Feeding: 

    • Offer dry food at least 3 - 4 times a day. Leave down a bowl of water for them to eat and drink at will. Do not feed the puppies table scraps. 
       

  • Milestones: 

    • At 7 weeks PVAS foster puppies are made available for adoption on the website, and you will be asked for photos and names if you haven’t already submitted them. Please remember that because they are not fully vaccinated, puppies cannot do meet and greets with a potential adopter’s dog.

  • At 10 weeks PVAS foster puppies are given a surgery date to be spayed and neutered as long as there is no medical reason to wait. The surgery date may be a few weeks in the future depending on how many other dogs are currently scheduled. Puppies that weigh less than 2 pounds or that are sick will not have surgery until they are well and weigh at least 2 pounds. Puppies who were considered Distemper exposed and are cleared can be scheduled for surgery immediately, provided they meet the other criteria. Puppies considered Distemper watch or confirmed Distemper must be clear of symptoms for a total of 30 days before they can be scheduled for surgery.

 

Vaccination

Until they have been vaccinated, you should carefully restrict their exposure to any disease. This means checking with visitors to make sure they have not been around any sick dogs and ensuring they always wash or sanitize their hands before handling the puppies. 

 

Puppies that have not been fully vaccinated (usually around 20 weeks) should not be allowed on the ground in any public area where other dogs have been, e.g., pet stores, dog parks, and even neighborhood parks.

 

Dehydration

Puppies stay hydrated by drinking water and eating canned food. Most puppies will adequately hydrate themselves. You can do a quick elasticity test. Pinch a little skin between your thumb and forefinger on your pup's back. When you release it, it should pop back into place immediately. If you are concerned your puppy is becoming or is dehydrated, email the Foster Team at foster@pvastx.org. Puppies should always have access to clean water.

 

Temperature

Your puppy's temperature does not need to be taken regularly. However, if you are concerned a puppy is too cold or running a fever it is best if you can take a rectal temperature. It is not difficult to take a rectal temperature but is easiest with two people. Using petroleum jelly or a similar substance insert the thermometer into the rectum. A normal temperature is between 100.5 and 102.5.

 

Hypoglycemia

Puppies will quickly become hypoglycemic if they miss even one meal. Just like a baby, puppies need to eat 3-4 times a day and always have access to fresh food. If puppies become even slightly hypoglycemic they can begin to go downhill very quickly. 

Signs of hypoglycemia are:

  • wobbliness

  • listlessness

  • seizures

If your puppy has a decreased appetite, email the Foster Team at foster@pvastx.org

 

Anemia

Puppies are also susceptible to anemia. Anemia is a loss of red blood cells that, in puppies, is most often caused by an infestation of fleas or intestinal worms. The easiest way to check for anemia is to look for white or very pale gums. Normal puppy gum color is close to salmon pink. If your puppy's gums are white or grey, send a text to the Foster Team at 956-330-3206. Attaching a photo is helpful. 

 

Parvovirus - signs and symptoms

Parvovirus is a highly contagious, serious, life-threatening condition that affects the intestinal tract and causes severe vomiting and diarrhea. PVAS has a Parvo ICU and successfully treats the virus. The key to survival is early detection. The signs and symptoms are:

  • Decrease or loss of appetite

  • Vomiting

  • Diarrhea in conjunction with one of the above

  • Lethargy

 

If your puppy is experiencing any of these symptoms, email the Foster Team at foster@pvastx.org. If you do not receive a response within 3 hours, send a text to the Foster Team at 956-330-3206.

 

Meatball Test

For the most part a healthy puppy will always be excited to eat a treat. As a rule of thumb if a puppy is refusing to eat a meatball of canned food they may be sick. If you are concerned your puppy may be sick with either fever, parvo, parasites, or respiratory infection please offer a meatball of yummy food. If they do not eat it, email the Foster Team at foster@pvastx.org

 

Activity

It is important to recognize a lethargic puppy from a tired puppy. Puppies will normally play, play, play then get tired and sleep for a period of time. If your puppy is going through this cycle, that is normal. If your puppy seems lethargic, email the Foster Team at foster@pvastx.org.

 

Socialization

Socialization is very important. Please refer to these resources: Puppy Basics and The Puppy's Rule of 12. However, puppies that have not had any vaccinations should not be meeting any people outside the immediate household. If you have any questions about how best to socialize your puppy, please email the Foster Team. 

 

How to Bottle Feed Kittens and Puppies (20 min. video)

Kitten and Puppy Bottle Feeding Problems and Solutions (7 min. video)

Bottle Baby Puppies (58 min. video)

How to Stimulate an Orphaned Kitten or Puppy to Pee or Poop (6 min. video)

 

What to Expect When Your Pregnant Foster Dog is Expecting

Thank you for fostering a pregnant dog! If you have never had experience with a pregnant dog that delivered puppies in your home, this document will hopefully help answer your questions and provide you with helpful information for your foster dog’s delivery and afterwards.

 

Foster Team Contacts

During business hours: Monday - Sunday, 9am - 7pm, call or text 956-330-3206 

Outside business hours: leave a voicemail or text 956-330-3206, and email foster@pvastx.org.

 

Pregnant Dog Anatomy:

Here is a picture of the pregnant female dog reproductive tract. You will immediately notice that a pregnant dog has a different anatomy than a pregnant human. The puppies are in separate sacs that appear like a cluster of grapes and pass individually through the dog’s birth canal.

Before Birth:

  • Treat as you would any other dog – plenty of food, water, and trips outside to go potty. She won’t normally be up to taking long walks, but may enjoy a short stroll. Pregnant dogs sleep a LOT. 

  • Feed dry puppy food, feel free to also give wet food if you want.

  • One study has found that pregnant dogs who are well loved and get lots of belly rubs while pregnant give birth to more well-adjusted puppies. We don’t know if that’s true, but we encourage you to go totally overboard on the love – as much as mama will tolerate!

  • You may notice some clear/cloudy discharge after/while mama potties – this is totally normal and a sign that you might be getting closer to birth day. If the discharge is any other color, you probably want to contact the Foster Team to get their opinion.
     

How do I know if my dog has gone into labor?

While some dogs will differ, a pregnant dog that is going into labor will typically begin looking for a place to have her puppies. She may start digging in the yard or try to hide in a place where her puppies will be protected. If you notice your dog is trying to get under bushes or dig a hole, she may be nesting. It may be helpful for you to take her out on a leash to potty - especially if your foster dog is large and will be too heavy for you to move if she goes into labor while hiding. Most dogs will stop eating and refuse food or even vomit. Some will pant heavily, and if a place is ready for her she may go into the whelping area (see below). There is also a temperature method – take mama’s temperature twice daily at the same time every day, recording the temperatures. It should be about 100 – 102 degrees. Once you see a sharp drop, below 98 degrees, pups should be born within 24 hours. However, this totally varies based on the dog – some dogs just run a lower temperature and it makes it hard to tell.

 

What kind of place should I make for my dog to have her puppies?

The ideal whelping area is an enclosure that momma dog can easily step out of but has sides that are  high enough to keep the puppies contained for at least the first few weeks. At PVAS, we use the blue plastic “kiddie” swimming pools. They can be purchased at most large discount stores, in season, or at pet stores. These pools work well for most dogs but if you have a very small dog then you may need to use something even smaller. 

 

The whelping box or pool should be placed in a low-traffic, quiet part of your home where the momma dog will feel more secure. If you have a utility room, spare bedroom, or bathroom that is ideal. Do not put her in a garage or other external area unless it is climate controlled.  If you cannot put the momma and pups in a separate room, put them in a quiet space in your home. You can also use a X-pen around the delivery area to keep others away from the momma and her pups. The X-pen can also be surrounded with sheets so that the momma feels more hidden and secure. Keep all other pets away from the momma and her pups.  

 

After giving birth momma may be very protective of her new family. Because other animals and people getting too close may create stress for the momma she may growl or show other warning signs to stay away. If this behavior is severe enough to be of concern, please leave a voicemail or text for the Foster Team at 956-330-3206.

 

What supplies should I have on hand for delivery?

Before momma dog delivers you should gather a few items that will be helpful during the delivery or for the aftercare. These include: 

  • Hand sanitizer. You can use this during delivery when needed and keep it handy for visitors to sanitize their hands before touching or handling the pups. Note: As the puppies get older, socialization is very important, but when they are newborns, try to limit the amount of handling that is done by strangers.

  • Newspapers and puppy pee pads to help absorb some of the discharge during delivery and to use once the puppies get a little bigger.

  • Old towels and old blankets can also be used in the whelping box or pool while the momma delivers and then washed with laundry soap and bleach. 

  • Scale to weigh the puppies to be sure they are gaining weight. This can be a food scale since most puppies will weigh less than a pound when born. You can use a bowl to contain the pup while you weigh it. Just be sure the scale is zeroed out with the bowl on the scale when you put the puppy into the bowl. You don’t want to include the weight of the bowl in the puppy’s weight. 

  • Bleach to add to the laundry when washing the towels or blankets.

  • Baby wipes will help to clean up small messes or wipe off the puppies after they are a few days old. Just be sure the puppies do not get cold.

  • Heating pad to keep puppies warm. It should be used on the low setting and covered with a towel. 

    • It is very important that the momma and pups are kept warm and away from drafts or fans. Normally momma’s body temperature will keep the puppies warm enough, but if you need to move them from momma the heating pad can be useful. Make sure the puppies are NEVER placed directly on the heating pad.

 

What happens during delivery?

Nature is amazing, and your foster dog will know what to do during the delivery of her pups. You may notice contractions before a puppy is delivered. There is no need to touch the dog while she is having contractions. Puppies can be delivered anywhere from a few minutes to 2 hours apart. It's completely normal for momma to be tired, panting, and uncomfortable after giving birth, and bloody vaginal discharge is also to be expected. 

 

If Mom becomes too exhausted to lift her head to care for the pups or seems to be in distress, check her gum color. Gums should be bubble gum pink. If they are white or gray, call or text the Foster Team immediately. In addition, if you observe any of the following, please contact the Clinic’s emergency line immediately:

 

  • Mom is hemorrhaging blood (bloody discharge is normal, but bright red streams of blood from her vulva is not).

  • Mom is unable to stand or fainting.

  • Mom is screaming or moaning in pain.

 

For delivery-related matters, please limit your use of the Clinic’s emergency line to the specific matters above. If you suspect that mom may still have pups inside but she isn't showing any of these signs of distress, call or text the Foster Team at the number above.

 

During the delivery of each pup the mom will do everything necessary. She will tear the sac with her teeth and pull and chew on the umbilical cord. You might feel like the momma dog is being too rough with the pups but this is normal, and there is no need to interfere with the process unless momma is not doing what is necessary, e.g., if she does not tear/clear the sac, you will need to do so per the section below. Momma will eat the placenta and delivery sac. She will lick the puppy to get it clean, and this will stimulate the puppy to breathe and begin to move around to find a place to latch onto one of the momma’s teats. 

 

What should I do to help my dog?

In general, your job during delivery is minimal. Basically, you just observe to make sure everything is going well and the momma does not appear to be having difficulty with the delivery. Once the puppies are born just watch them to make sure all are “wiggly” and starting to nurse. If you have questions or feel like something might be wrong, contact the Foster Team to answer your questions or provide you with further directions.

 

If something is going wrong, you may need to intervene to help. This is rare but if momma does not do any post-delivery care - clearing the sac, cutting the cord, licking the puppy to get it to breathe, etc. - you may need to help her. If any of the pups are left with their head still in the sac and seem limp, you may need to intervene and clean away the sac, rub them gently with a warm damp cloth to clean them off, and stimulate them. If necessary you can use a bulb syringe to clear their throat and blow into their mouth a few times. Once they start moving, put them on momma’s teat to nurse. Although this sounds very scary, remember that in nature, or if momma was alone, the puppies would likely not survive in this situation. So anything you do is likely to help save their lives. At the same time also remember that it is not uncommon for some puppies to not survive. Some may be stillborn or die shortly after birth. Just providing a warm, safe place for momma to deliver has already increased their chances of survival!

 

How should I care for the puppies?

Your interaction with the puppies should be minimal. The most important thing is to watch to see that each of them is moving and has started nursing.

 

As the puppies are born, note the date and time of each puppy’s birth.

This will be helpful information for the Foster Team as you can tell them exactly how old the puppy is -  in hours or minutes. Weigh each puppy as soon after delivery as possible, but wait at least 2 hours after momma has stopped laboring.  Note the color of the puppy and any special markings for each puppy so you can tell them apart. Taking a picture of each puppy can also help you keep track of them. Once you have weighed the puppy, put it back near the momma and watch to be sure it starts to nurse. Record the information and then move on to the next puppy until you are finished with each puppy. Using a spreadsheet during the delivery can be helpful, especially if your momma dog has several puppies. Puppies can be called Puppy 1, Puppy 2, Puppy 3, etc., until you give them names.

You can use this spreadsheet template for tracking purposes.

After delivery, what should I do?

Once you are sure that the momma has finished delivering her pups, the first thing to do is to clean up the whelping box or pool and put down clean, dry blankets or towels. This is where the heating pad may be useful. You can make a bed for the puppies in a plastic bin and set it on top of the heating pad while you are cleaning the whelping area. Using newspaper and or puppy pee pads to layer over blankets and towels may help to keep them clean longer. Regardless, there will be daily washing of dirty laundry. 

 

Momma will probably want to eat and drink once her delivery is over. Be sure to have plenty of food and water available. Momma should be eating puppy food and will eat much more food than usual while she is nursing. Most bags of puppy food will indicate how much to feed a nursing mom daily. In addition to dry food you can mix a can of wet puppy food for a yummy mix for momma to eat. Provide her with as much food as she will eat. You can also leave a bowl of dry food out for her to eat at will. Lots of water will be needed too. Replenish the water as needed.

 

Continuing Care of Mom and Puppies:

Please see the following documents:

Raising Puppies With a Mom

Raising Puppies Without a Mom

Fading Puppy Protocol

 

A graphic showing a pregnant female dog's reproductive tract
 
 

What to Expect When You're Expecting
(Foster Puppies)

Puppies are fun, cute, and snuggly. Who can resist a puppy? Puppies are also a lot of work. This handout is a general outline of the things of which you should be aware when considering fostering a puppy. 

 

  • Puppies will not be housebroken and will need your help to learn this.

  • Puppies will cry at night and other times when they are left alone and are scared.

  • Puppies will play bite and will need your help to learn that this is not okay.

  • Puppies will chew things up in your house so they will need to have plenty of toys offered to them to help avoid prized possessions from being destroyed.

  • Puppies should be contained at all times when not being closely monitored or they can wreak havoc in your house/apt. We recommend an x-pen/playpen or small gated off area like a bathroom or kitchen where they cannot get ahold of anything valuable or dangerous. The floor should be covered with several puppy pads/newspaper. 

  • Puppies will need to eat at least 3 times per day, and possibly more based on age and size.

  • Puppies will need your help to get them adopted. We put puppies on our website at 7 weeks of age. So for each puppy under 10 weeks, we will need at least 3 great photos for our website, and for each puppy 10 weeks or older, we will need both these photos and a short biography. And just like any foster dog, you will need to correspond with potential adopters via emails and arrange meet and greets with potential adopters and your puppy(ies).

  • Puppies will need your help to bring them to their medical appointments, and you will need to adhere to their strict schedule for vaccinations and preventatives. For example, puppies need dewormer at 2 and 4 weeks of age, and puppies need shots every 2 weeks beginning at 6 weeks of age.

  • Puppies cannot be placed on the ground in public areas where other unknown dogs have been until they are fully vaccinated. For example, apartment complex parking lots/grassy areas, dog parks, restaurants, coffee shops, pet stores, and vet clinics. You must carry the puppy in these locations. 

 

If you have concerns about any of the items listed above, consider very carefully before offering to foster a puppy, and email the Foster Team at foster@pvastx.org anytime with questions . Moving puppies to different fosters can be detrimental to their emotional health, as well as their physical health due to the increased exposure to germs.

 

On the plus side, puppies are very rewarding and will give back to you with unconditional love!