The Best Size of a Litter
The question of the most desirable size for a litter is a controversial one. Some breeders make a hard-and-fast rule as to size and either dispose of the weaker-looking puppies or give them to a foster mother. I think this is being a little too standardized, however.
Some bitches have more difficulty in feeding five puppies than others of the same breed would have in looking after eight. Common sense must be used here, for no rule can be made to govern it. I have seen a bitch feed eight puppies with as little difficulty as she had encountered with six in a former litter. The individual bitch must determine the number of puppies it is wise to leave with her. If the size of the litter is not limited to her ability to feed it, the bitch is very apt to emerge from her period of lactation in a nervous, run-down condition which will take many weeks of careful nursing to overcome. Looking at it from a purely financial angle, you are protecting your investment by limiting the size of the litter.
If you have built the groundwork for healthy puppies from the start, do not spoil it by allowing them to receive a severe set-back immediately following birth by being undernourished. A bitch's milk will go only so far, and if you ask her to look after more puppies than she is able to, all will suffer equally. All, that is, with the exception of the pup specially chosen by the bitch—but more of him later.
When the size of the litter is limited and the weaker puppies removed from the dam, three courses are open.
- They may be destroyed painlessly
- They may be fed on bottles
- They may be given to a foster mother.
Before anything drastic is done, be sure that you choose the right puppies to remove. I have seen a puppy which was very nearly destroyed at birth grow up to go best in show. So be warned and do not make any snap judgments. When possible, put the ones thought to be undesirable with a foster mother for a few days at least. If your judgment is borne out and it is found that they are not going to be of good type, it is better to do way with them. If they are raised, sell them to a pet shop without the papers, and do it through a third party so that the purchaser will not be able to say, "Oh, this is one of So-and-so's dogs." Every poor specimen you sell is a reflection on your blood line if it can be traced to your kennel, and will do a lot more harm than good.
Some breeders keep poorly bred or cross-bred bitches as foster mothers. When the time approaches for one of the top-flight bitches to be bred, a poor-type one is also mated, so that her litter comes just before the purebred bitch is due to whelp, if possible. In this way a foster mother is ready waiting when the important litter arrives. The poor-type puppies are disposed of, and she is given some of the others to care for. Other breeders depend on finding a bitch with a small litter which can accommodate one or more extra young ones.