A dog carries her puppies for 58 to 68 days before giving birth to them. During the last 3 weeks of pregnancy, abdominal enlargement is noticeable. Between weeks 6 and 7 of the pregnancy, the mammary glands develop. Milk production will begin 1 or 2 days before delivery. You may notice the female dog becoming restless, building a nesting area and having accidents in the house as her time nears. About 24 hours before labour begins, the dog's rectal temperature drops -16.7 degrees C.
For 6 to 24 hours before actual contractions, the female may refuse to eat, act nervous, be restless and want to be alone. A sac of fluid may protrude from the vulva as the contractions begin before the birth of a puppy. A resting period will follow each delivery, lasting anywhere from a few seconds to a couple of hours. Labor, delivery and resting period will repeat for each puppy born. The mother may need to go to the bathroom during this process. Supervise her in case a puppy is born as well.
The mother dog may choose to deliver lying down, standing or sitting. Most puppies will present themselves nose first with the stomach down during delivery, although it is normal for the hindquarters to come first instead. The amniotic sac may still cover the puppy after birth. Following the puppy, its own placenta will arrive attached to the umbilical cord. This process will repeat for each puppy born.
The mother dog will lick the puppy, opening the sac and cleaning it off the puppy's nose so the puppy can breathe. Be prepared to assist the mother if necessary so the puppy can breathe. She will clean the entire puppy and chew through the umbilical cord. She should begin nursing each puppy after cleaning it. The puppies receive antibodies to help them fight disease from the colostrum in the mother's milk, and it must be absorbed during the first few hours after birth. A discharge that includes blood clots will drain from the vagina for a few days after birth, but it should not have a foul odour. The puppies should stay with their mother for about 8 weeks after birth.