What to think of when you're rehoming your litter
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What to think of when you're rehoming your litter

Dogs
Breeding

Congratulations – your dog has successfully reared a litter of puppies! Well done on making it to this point as it is often a tiring but very wonderful experience for all involved! Sadly, you probably can't keep all of the puppies so most or all of them will now probably need new homes – how is this likely to work?

 

How old are puppies when they leave Mum?

By Law, puppies have to be at least 8 weeks old when they leave home for the first time. By 8 weeks, most puppies are independent and self-sufficient although still have plenty of physical and behavioural needs and changes to deal with. 

 

What should puppies have before leaving home?

It is a good idea to worm puppies regularly – usually one every fortnight from 2-3 weeks old – with a suitable safe puppy wormer. External parasites (fleas and ticks) should also be covered.

Legally, all dogs must have a microchip from 8 weeks old, registered to the current owner who is usually the breeder. The microchip should then be updated with the details of the new owners.  

Ideally, puppies should have a professional veterinary health check and start their first vaccination course between 6 and 8 weeks old, to be protected from Distemper, Hepatitis, Parvovirus and Leptospirosis. This is vital as puppies are very vulnerable to these diseases. The second injection is usually 2 to 4 weeks later and can be done with the new owner. Vets are also the best option to provide microchipping.

All this information should be passed on to the new owners, along with details of the puppy’s food and daily routine so that sudden changes are kept to a minimum. This will help puppies settle in faster and minimise the shock for them. 

There are puppy contracts now that provide a good template for all this information and give reassurances to both breeder and new owner about the puppy. These are non-binding but can be useful to keep all information open, available and transparent.

 

How do you prepare a puppy for leaving its mother?

As the puppies approach 6 to 8 weeks old, it is useful to start increasing the time when the mother is not right there with them. This could involve leading Mum to a different room for meal times or taking her out in the garden without the puppies for a toilet break. You can gradually increase the length of time this happens for. This means the puppies get used to being alone and become comfortable with being independent. Take the opportunity to expose the puppies to different people, sights, smells and experiences to help socialise them while they are still learning about the world. You can also get them used to having their feet, ears, tummy and tail touched so they realise this is normal and are more likely to be tolerant as adults. 

It is also worth making sure the puppies are in a well-established daily routine in terms of exercise, feeding, play and sleep. If the new owners continue this routine then the puppies are more likely to settle quickly. 

It is an emotional but exciting time as your puppies head off to their loving new homes – follow these tips and you should make the transition as easy as possible for all involved. 

Written by veterinary Greg Steele, MRCVS.

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