Once your bitch is in labour and begins delivering the puppies, here's what you need to do.
As each puppy is delivered, they may still be partially or fully enclosed in their placental sac, or this may deliver separately. As soon as the puppy is completely free of the birth canal, remove them from the placental sac (this is easy to pull apart with your fingers) and use a haemostatic clamp to clamp the umbilical cord, tie it off and cut it. Once the first puppy is delivered, remove the placental sac, clamp and cut the cord, check the puppy over and make sure it is breathing comfortably unaided. Weigh the puppy and note down your results, then attach a light paper collar to the puppy to identify them- different colours can be used for quick identification as you may not have decided on the names for each puppy at this point!As soon as you can, give the first puppy back to the dam to nurse until the next puppy is delivered. Keep an eye out for the delivery of the placental sac from the first puppy if this was not delivered with the puppy- you will need to keep a check on the number of placentas delivered, as this should match the number of puppies in order to make sure that no placenta is retained inside of the dam, which can cause problems later on. As the birth of the next puppy becomes imminent or if the dam is particularly restless and is moving around a lot, remove the previously delivered puppy to a warm box nearby and within sight of the dam until the next delivery is completed.As soon as the second puppy is delivered, return the first puppy to the dam to nurse before repeating the above procedure on removing the second puppy from the placental sac, clamping and cutting the cord, checking them over, weighing and tagging them and keeping an eye out for the placental sac coming separately. As before, put the newest arrival back with the dam to nurse until she begins to deliver the third puppy, and so on.
It's important to note that a placental sac which is delivered along with a puppy may belong either to that puppy, or to the one that came before it. You should keep the placentas to one side and be able to match the total number of placentas to the number of puppies delivered once the labour is complete. Remember that the final placenta may not be delivered until up to an hour after the last puppy, and it can be easy to forget to check with everything else that is going on at the time!Ideally the dam should not be left unsupervised, even for a couple of minutes, until the entire labour is complete and all of the placental sacs have been delivered, as the dam may eat some of all of the placentas. This is in no way harmful to the dam, and is in fact natural behaviour in the wild. The placentas are rich in nutrients and vitamins that can actually be beneficial to the dam to replace some of the energy and nutrients lost during the delivery. Lots of breeders and dog owners allow or enable the dam to eat around half of the delivered placentas deliberately. So that being the case, why shouldn't the dam be left unsupervised in case she potentially eats some of all of the placentas? Well, simply because you will find it hard to correctly match the number of puppies to the number of placentas if the dam has eaten some of them without your knowledge! Even if you can count the same number of placentas remaining when you return to the room as when you left it, the dam may have delivered another one in the interim without your knowledge and then consumed it, which will leave you with an odd number at the end and potential concern over a retained placenta.A retained placenta can be a big problem, as it may necrotise in the womb and lead to infection, fever and illness which can severely affect both the dam and the milk she produces for the puppies. It is entirely possible that placental matter may be reabsorbed into the dam's body without incident, but you need to know if a placenta has been retained in order to seek veterinary advice on what to do and to accurately monitor the dam.
Calcium is very important for the dam during delivery, and she will be using up her body's store of calcium reserves fast. Keep a calcium supplement drink nearby and offer it to the dam in between deliveries. Vanilla ice cream is also a good source of calcium and you should try to encourage her to lap some if you can.
Once the final puppy has been delivered and all of the placentas are accounted for, you may if you choose, allow the dam to eat some of the placentas as mentioned above. Offer the dam a palatable nutritious broth, water and again some melted ice cream or calcium. The process of labour uses up a lot of energy for the dam, and her job of raising the puppies has only just begun!Keep a close eye on the puppies for the few hours immediately after the birth, to make sure that they are all healthy, starting to nurse, and that the dam is not showing any signs of rejecting any or all of the puppies. If you suspect she may be rejecting one or more puppies, you must not leave her unsupervised with the puppies, and should seek veterinary advice as a matter of urgency. If the dam appears to be trying to harm any of the puppies, which can happen on rare occasions, you must remove them from her immediately.It's vitally important that all of the puppies start to nurse within 24 hours after the birth, in order to benefit from the essential nutrients and antibodies present in the dam's milk. If any of the puppies are not nursing or seem unable to nurse, again, seek veterinary help as soon as possible.Within 48 hours of the final puppy's birth, take the dam and all of the puppies to the vet for a quick check over and some advice, even if both the dam and the puppies appear to be doing well.