Producing a healthy litter of puppies is one of the greatest accomplishments for any dog breeder. A dog's gestation period is 63 days, and most females give birth within three or four days of their due date. However, labour can be a difficult process and can last for up to 12 hours. It can be necessary to progress a dog's labour if there are long gaps between puppies.
Set up the whelping box in a quiet room one week prior to the dog's delivery date. The dog will be restless and look for a place to nest before going into labour, and the whelping box gives her a place to rest up for the impending birth. Dogs can stop their labour for hours at a time if they are uncomfortable, so leave her alone when she is in the box.
Take the dog's temperature twice a day in the week before delivery. A dog's normal temperature is 37.8 degrees C and will drop by approximately two degrees within 24 hours of the start of labour.
Watch the dog closely for signs that she has gone into labour. Signs of labour include licking of the genitals, turning and pawing at her bedding and reluctance to eat. The first puppy will be born within an hour of the onset of labour, with each remaining puppy arriving in 15- to 30-minute increments.
Stimulate her nipples to begin milk production. Lactation causes the dog's body to release hormones that stimulate contractions. Wash and dry your hands, holding the nipple gently between your fingers and rubbing it back and forth until a drop or two of milk is expressed.
Massage her abdomen gently if she seems to be having trouble passing a puppy. Stand the dog up and place a hand on each side of her abdomen, rubbing your hands in circles from the ribs back toward the tail. Large puppies often get stuck in the birth canal and need to be readjusted before they come out. Use light pressure to prevent hurting the mother and any puppies still inside the uterus.
Walk the dog to progress her labour. Buckle the collar around her neck and clip the leash to the collar, encouraging her to follow you. Offer her a couple of her favourite treats to keep her going if she is reluctant to follow you. Walking stimulates the abdominal muscles and helps the puppies to settle lower in the birth canal, stimulating contractions.
Call your veterinarian if more than 30 minutes pass between each puppy. Puppies often enter the birth canal the wrong way and can die from the force of the contractions.
Never attempt to pull a puppy out of the birth canal. Allow the female to take a short break and push on her own to avoid injuring mother or puppy.