Sarah Wilson

Dog Expert

Raise a Better Litter of Puppies: 5 Easy Pieces


Early socialization helped these pups.

Here three pups visit a friend’s home. One of these pups grew up to be a guide dog.

Raising a litter well is hard work whether you’re raising a litter of rescue pups or future show dogs. Too often, though, the focus is on the pup’s physical needs while having no clear plan for nurturing their minds. I know time is short. I know you’re probably overwhelmed. So this list is of things that are not too demanding but still can help prepare your pups for their new life ahead.

There is a lot more that can be done but this is the short list of what I wish was at least done. Here we go:

1) Introduce the Crate

Add a plastic crate  to their sleeping quarters (door removed). They will gravitate to it. If they don’t, start tossing handfuls of food in during feeding time. Puppies  who are familiar with and like crates are calmer and less stressed when crated in their new homes. That’s a win for everyone, including your reputation!

2) Introduce New Things

Every day, add a new thing into their world. A cardboard box or paper bag, a cookie sheet or set of metal measuring spoons. Blow bubbles. Play sound effects. Give them a plastic milk jug with a rope attached or some fun toys. Provide chew toys for them to work on; sending one home with each pup. The possibilities are truly endless. Every time a pup explores something new they get better at exploring something new.

3) Give Solo Time

If you’re watching TV, do it with a puppy on your lap. If you’re doing housework, do it with a puppy in a sling. Short on time? Hire a responsible young person to sit on the floor and play with one pup at a time. In an hour, he or she can give a few precious minutes to each puppy in even a large litter. Solo time every day is ideal but doing any before your pups are taken to their new often alone lives helps.

4) Line Up in the Laundry

A long-time breeder told me she preps her pups for airline travel by crating them atop the washing machine as it does a load. Exposing her pups to sound and movement early prepares them to accept travel of all sorts in a been-there-done-that relaxed way. (Be sure your machines won’t shake them off the top. If you’re concerned, putting the crates next to the machines is good, too.)

5) Boldly Go!

The world is a big place, give your pups some idea about that. I’ve met many,many pups who had never left the room they were raised in.

When I raise litters, at about four weeks of age I put them in my car (crated) and drive them to friends homes for quick visits. Or I take a friend along then park in a shady spot. We carry the pups around for a few minutes each or set up an ex-pen so they can watch the world go by. For safety tips for early socialization, please read: Puppy Socialization: 10 Surprising Do’s and Don’ts

Anyone raising a litter of pups invests hours a day in their physical care. Spend a fraction of that time on the mental/emotional development of your pups and see how much easier the transition to their new homes is and how pleased your puppy people are.

Doing such small things can make such a big difference.

Thank you in advance!


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