Raising Puppies

For Breeders and Fosters

(Newborns -12 weeks)

Raising puppies is a lot of work. There are health concerns like illness, keeping them well fed, vaccinated etc. and most breeders and rescues do an excellent job of it. Unfortunately, there is something that is often greatly overlooked when raising puppies is likely to be a contributing factor to the epidemic of dogs in shelters; training neonates for optimal emotional wellbeing. Even purebred dogs are being given up and the reasons are routinely listed as issues with house training and other behaviour problems. It’s true that owners are often not prepared for the reality of having a puppy, but how those dogs were originally raised also plays a huge factor.

Most articles on raising newborn puppies seem to be about taking care of their health and maybe how to begin potty training. Thankfully, if you know what to look for it is possible to locate information on bringing up newborn pups. New puppies are information absorbing sponges and the easiest time to stop problems like fear and house training issues are before they start.


You can start the exposure to sounds even before birth. Try playing recordings of every sound that dogs may come in contact with for the pregnant mother or newborns. Their ears won’t be fully open and that’s perfect since they’ll be starting with the sounds muffled and can become used to the sounds as they gradually become more able to hear them. Some ideas:

  • wind chimes
  • doorbells
  • phone rings
  • alarms
  • cars
  • babies
  • dogs and other animals
  • arguments
  • children’s noisy toys
  • vacuums
  • music
  • knocking at the door
  • construction


Get your puppies ready for vet checks and grooming by doing some brief handling practice every day. It’s important to always do these within the pup’s comfort zone and help them learn to relax and enjoy themselves. Things to get them used to include:

  • Being gently restrained in various positions
  • Having their ears and mouth examined
  • Being brushed (try using soft and then more bristly toothbrushes)
  • Having their paws handled and nails trimmed and filed
  • Having their rear ends checked
  • Baths
  • wearing muzzles

Diverse Environments

By the time the pups start exploring outside the whelping box there should be many different types of textures under their feet and things to explore. Try to offer mini playgrounds for puppies to play on like in this adorable video. Some other ideas:

  • Linoleum
  • Gravel
  • Sand
  • Grass
  • Prickly welcome mats
  • Carpet
  • Teeter-totters
  • Skate boards
  • Tunnels
  • Dangling objects
  • Sprinklers
  • Shallow water (while supervised)
  • Stairs


You can expose the puppies to many scents to improve their ability to get along in their future home including the smells of babies, cats and whatever else you can think of. Since newborn pups already have the ability to smell you can start this right away. Give pups blankets that have been used by infants or other pets to get pups used to the smells. You could even leave containers with used hamster bedding, diapers and cat litter- just make sure the puppies can smell but not play in or eat them! Other ideas:

  • Baby diapers and blankets
  • other dogs blankets
  • farm animals and waste
  • small animal bedding and waste
  • various cultural cooking like curries; this can help pups not be affraid of people who look and smell different from the people raising them.


Socialize with as many people as possible. This includes people of every age, race, and gender. This makes places like care homes and elementary schools great places to bring young puppies for socialization. Also check out Tammy’s great article on socialization here. Other ideas:

  • People wearing costumes
  • Masks
  • Beards
  • Hats & hoods
  • Teens
  • Children
  • Infants & toddlers
  • Men
  • Old folk
  • People with disabilities
  • People using wheelchairs and walkers

Potty Training

Try to change and wash bedding often, as soon as it’s soiled if possible. Offer a potty area that is kept clear and distinct for the puppies to learn. Also, I recommend adding soil or grass to the potty area so that the puppies begin associating eliminating with outdoor smells. You can read two of our articles on house training here.

and here.

Chewing and Brain Games

Once the puppies are starting to eat solid foods always provide them with several chew toys; preferably with food inside to make sure the puppies always have something apropriate and rewarding to chew on. You can also provide dispenser toys which are excellent for puppies as they make them physically and mentally work for food in a fun way.

Other Considerations

Something that I learned from an APDT course on the social and emotional development of puppies is that it’s best for pups to stay with their mother until 12 weeks. People often become concerned as the mother can become snappy with her pups after around 6 weeks and feel that it’s best to take the pups away when this happens but this is actually an important part of their education. A good mom will begin to teach her puppies dog manners and raise them to be respectful with other dogs.

My heart goes out to everyone who is putting in all the effort and work it takes to raise puppies. There is always more you can do, so it can be really overwhelming; what’s really important is to do your best. Try to imagine everything that adult dogs might experience and how you can build positive associations around it for the puppies. Just like for human/business relationships, the ideal ratio for positive to negative experiences is 5:1. Think about that. That means you might want to try taking dogs to visit the vet a minimum of five times where only fun things happen; treats and toys, no shots or checkup! Here are some other things to try getting puppies comfortable with:

Resources to dig deeper:

Kikopup: Puppies Playing (Adorable and lots of great examples of things to add to puppy play pen) https://youtu.be/MBwnsid1XE8

Puppy Culture: https://shoppuppyculture.com/pages/puppy-culture-1

Association of Pet Dog Trainers (APDT): Puppy Socialization webinar http://www.trainyourdogmonth.com/events/webinars/100136/

Breeding Better Dogs: Early Neurological Stimulation https://breedingbetterdogs.com/article/early-neurological-stimulation

Dog Star Daily: Puppy Personality Development https://www.dogstardaily.com/training/puppy-personality-development

American Kennel Club (AKC): Raising Newborn Puppies https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/news/raising-newborn-puppies/

Written by Nea Deptuch, Dog Trainer at Tammy’s Training Canine Services

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