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Copyright 1999-2018 by crazyforDOGS (SM)

Motherhood is hard work!:

In the first few weeks of her puppies' lives, a mother has little time to herself. The puppies must be kept safe, warm, fed, and clean. Keeping them clean is a particularly time consuming task. In the beginning puppies even need help to relieve themselves. The larger the litter, the more work!

Puppies cannot walk right away, but they can squirm and crawl. They can tunnel in their bedding and get trapped -- or temporarily misplaced! They can climb on top of each other, forming little puppy pyramids. Sometimes a puppy can slide off another puppy. If the puppies are in a whelping box, they can end up outside the box and have to be retrieved.

During the time the puppies need care, the mother still has to eat, sleep, and take care of herself. She can't take care of her needs and the needs of her puppies at the same time. She needs some help.

In the wild, a mother dog's pack-mates, possibly her own mother, or sisters, but any female, will help her with the puppies, and bring her food. A domesticated dog has a human pack to help. If the litter is very large, humans might have to help with feeding the puppies. They certainly will keep an eye on the puppies while the mother is eating or outside. They will help retrieve the separated puppies. They can help keep the puppies warm with wrapped hot-water bottles. People can even help puppies relieve themselves.

One thing only the mother can do -- give the puppies her smell. When the mother licks her puppies she is cleaning them, but she is also giving them a common smell they can all recognize. This smell is the first family bond.

Source: A Dog's Life: A year in the life of a dog family, by Jane Burton and Michael Allaby, Howell Book House, Inc., New York, 1986, pp. 26-27.