Originally published in the AKC GAZETTE – February 2022
Puppies... even the word makes you smile. Puppies are the lifeblood and the future of the breed. Fortunately, Welsh Terriers are usually good whelpers and great mothers, but that doesn't mean that your involvement with their rearing should be minimal. From the planning, to the whelping, to the rearing, the litter is your responsibility.
Assuming your bitch was successfully bred and is pregnant, feeding during pregnancy is the next important step. Most Welsh are great eaters, and a well-balanced, top-quality food will suit her for most of her pregnancy, just gradually increasing the amount.
Somewhere around day 21, she will probably go off feed for a day or two, a good sign that she is pregnant. Then in week six you will need to add some puppy food, milk, or meat to increase the protein level a little and keep her eating, particularly if she will be having a large litter. If she appears to be carrying just one or two puppies, you will probably only need to increase the amount, not change the content. She will probably not eat a lot during the last week. If her temperature is normal and the vaginal discharge is clear or milky it should be of no concern.
Puppies shift position during the last few days, and a hollow appears in the loin area, unless the litter is large, in which case the change may not be noticeable. At this time the vulva enlarges and softens and the discharge increases. At some time from 12 to 4 hours before whelping, the temperature drops and then goes back to normal, when pre-labor starts. Note that the time between the drop and return may be short, and you could miss it.
Most Welsh are good whelpers. Mine are usually quiet, nesting but not whining or yelping during the process. Most terriers have a high tolerance for pain - a requirement in a dog used for hunting vermin. They do not stop if it hurts, but you need to watch for other signs of distress that might need your attention.
A problem that occasionally comes up is that many Welsh are resource guarders. Terriers can be over protective of their things. "Mine" is part of their mindset. They guard their toys, their food, their crates, and often their newly whelped puppies. Watch for the body language that says they may be overprotecting and may resent your taking away a puppy - a tenseness of the neck, a clenching of the teeth, a sideways look at you that indicates possible aggression toward you or the puppy. You may need to hold her muzzle while removing or returning a puppy. If you have been paying attention, when she was a puppy, you will have already solved the resource-guarding problem, but always keep it in mind when handling puppies for the first few days. Always feed her outside of the whelping box, so she doesn't think the puppy is a threat to her food. For help with resource-guarding problems I recommend a book called Mine, by Jean Donaldson. I think this book should be part of any dog breeder's library, as well as for anyone who trains dogs.
Recently I got a four-part DVD series titled Puppy Culture: The First 12 weeks, by Jane Killion. It discusses the research in brain development in very young puppies (up to 12 weeks) and how to raise puppies who are more reliant and more responsive to training using techniques that start at three or four days, before the puppy can see or hear: The studies are well researched, and the information well presented. The fascinating information in the series will be part of my puppy rearing with the litter that was whelped two days ago. The stronger, better developed, and more able to learn our puppies are when we place them in their new homes, the happier they and their new families will be. The techniques should also make for better show dogs.
Next time I do a "suggested reading" article I will include it, so if you have used the series, your feedback wouJd be most appreciated.
May your next litter be your best litter ever: The breed is in your hands.
Welsh Terrier Club of America
AKC Gazette – February 2022, 2017
Welsh Terrier Column
Reprinted with permission from the AKC Gazette