Preparing for Large Litters
Whenever a bitch gives signs of having a large litter, it is well to make provision for a foster mother before the whelping takes place. Find a bitch due to whelp as close to the date of your own bitch as possible, for in this case the foster mother will take much more kindly to the new puppies.
Should her own be two weeks old or so, it will be a difficult matter to make her take the younger ones, and if she does, they will have a hard struggle to hold their own against the larger ones at feeding time. If this foster mother is to be brought to your own kennels, have her there several days in advance, to give her time to become accustomed to her new surroundings, and also to give you time to treat her for fleas and lice.
When bringing a foster mother to your own kennels, it is as well to bring one or two of her own young with her. Try putting one of your puppies in the nest with her, and watch her closely. She will probably look superior and pay no attention to it. Be ready to interfere should she snap at it, but if she allows it to nurse, leave it there. Make sure that she does not kill it as soon as your back is turned.
If she accepts one puppy, try her with another, and still another. Once she has commenced to mother them and licks them off, the battle is half won. Leave them with her for a time and see how she acts toward them. If you wish to give her a test after she has had them with her for some hours, allow another dog to go near the whelping box. If she growls at this dog and seems to be about to take measures to defend her new family, your worries concerning the acceptance of her foster puppies are at an end.
Another method of introducing the new puppies to the foster mother is to entice her out of the box for a few minutes. While she is gone, smear all the puppies, both her own and the new ones, with some substance such as the milk powder already mentioned, mixed with water. This will make them all smell more or less alike. If she licks them and allows them to nurse when she returns, all should go well. Do not take it for granted, however, but keep watch on her until she shows signs of being ready to defend her new children.
Keep in mind that the foster mother is in new surroundings and may not feel at ease. Do all you can to make her at home, and should she resent your presence, do not lose your temper. No matter what the situation, you can do far more by kindness than you ever can by force.
Many bitches are savage at whelping time. If a bitch is inclined that way, she is more likely to be cross in a strange kennel acting as foster mother to some puppies for which she has no love. Feed her as well as you do your own bitch. She is doing the same job for you, and she requires just as careful treatment. It is quite as important that her milk should be as good and her supply as free as that of the real mother. If these conditions are maintained, the puppies will thrive as well or better than with their own dam.
So far I have been speaking of using foster mothers in cases where the litter was too large for the mother to handle. However, accidents do happen, and sometimes the bitch may die during whelping. "When this is the case, a foster mother is an absolute necessity unless bottle feeding is to be resorted to, and this means work. Plenty of it!