Can You Touch Newborn Puppies?

There are many myths surrounding the dangers of touching newborn puppies.

Most of us grew up with the belief that if we touch a newborn animal of any kind, their mother will immediately reject them.

So is this true of newborn puppies, and can we ever touch them safely?

In this article we will answer the question of whether or not a mother will reject her puppies when we touch them, and offer you some general tips on when it is okay to touch a newborn puppy.

Can You Touch Newborn Puppies

Will Mothers Reject Their Puppies If We Touch Them?

You may be shocked to learn that the myth that has always told us mother animals will reject their babies when we touch them is just that; a myth.

Mothers ranging from dogs to birds will not actually reject their babies if a human touches them, so you don’t have to worry about your dog rejecting her babies for this reason.

I have touched newborn puppies many times throughout my career, whether I was assisting with a C-section or caring for a nursing mother.

If a dog does reject her puppies for any reason, it is not due to the fact that a human touched them.

However, you should keep in mind that just because the mother will not reject them, does not mean we should touch newborn puppies freely.

There is still a line of respect that we should not cross, and we should always try to interfere as little as possible.

Unless there is an important reason to handle a newborn puppy, you should always avoid it.

If It’s Not Necessary, Do Not Touch The Puppies

You may not cause a mother to reject her newborn puppies if you touch them, but it is still best to avoid touching newborn puppies when possible.

Puppies are entirely dependent on their mothers for the first 3 weeks of life, and any time away from their mother can negatively impact them.

They rely on their mothers for everything from body temperature regulation to feeding, and we don’t want them to miss out on any second of this.

We should also keep in mind the fact that a newborn puppy does not have the immune defense to fight off harmful bacteria and viruses.

While they will have some of their maternal antibodies, they cannot protect them completely.

By pulling them away from their mother and out into the surrounding areas unnecessarily, we could be putting them at risk.

And last, the bond between a newborn puppy and their mother is special.

Puppies that had appropriate bonding time with their mothers have experienced positive impacts to their adult temperament, showing just how critical this time with their mother and other littermates is.

If we don’t have to, we should not pull a newborn puppy away from their mother.

When Is It Okay To Touch Newborn Puppies?

Though we should avoid touching newborn puppies when possible, there are some times in which it is necessary.

To help you better understand when it is okay to touch newborn puppies, let’s list a few common scenarios below.

The Mother Is Sick

Sometimes it is necessary for us to separate puppies from their mother either permanently or temporarily if the mother is sick.

For example, dogs with milk fever will need to take a break from nursing until they have recovered, forcing caregivers to step in and feed the puppies every few hours.

If it is in the best interest of the mother for any reason, we can touch the newborn puppies if we need to.

We Need To Care For The Puppies

While the mother is always the best caregiver for a newborn puppy, there are some situations in which a mother dog cannot care for her babies properly.

For example, if a newborn puppy is fading and will no longer nurse on its mother, a caregiver will need to step in immediately and offer support to the puppy.

If the puppy will not survive without human intervention, then it is perfectly acceptable to touch them.

Another example is if you would like to monitor the growth of each newborn puppy.

Weighing puppies once every other day is a wonderful way to ensure everyone’s health, so this can be perfectly acceptable when done quickly.

The Puppies Are Not Safe

If you think a litter of newborn puppies is not safe for any reason, it is acceptable to touch them and bring them to a secure environment.

For example, many people stumble upon nursing mothers in unsanitary or unsafe environments, and often require human intervention to care for everyone involved.

This could also include a mother that is attacking her puppies, a puppy that is obviously sick or injured, or even puppies found outdoors in dangerous weather.

You Find Orphaned Puppies

If you find orphaned puppies in any setting, it may be acceptable to grab the puppies and care for them going forward.

This should only happen if you know the puppies have been abandoned by their mother, or if they are in an unsafe situation that requires intervention.

Many nursing mothers will leave their puppies throughout the day to go find food, so it’s important to make sure the mother dog is not simply out scavenging.

You can do this by monitoring the area for several hours to see if the mom comes back, as long as you are far enough away to not be scaring the mother away from her babies.

If the mom does not return for more than 12 hours, it’s typically safe to intervene.

We do still suggest keeping an eye out for the mom even if you take the puppies, as she may require your care going forward as well.

How To Touch Newborn Puppies Safely

If you do need to touch a newborn puppy for any reason, you will need to follow a few safety precautions.

Puppies are extremely vulnerable in this period of their life, so you will need to make sure you have their health and safety in mind.

Let’s list a few of our favorite tips on handling newborn puppies below.

  • Make sure the mother will allow you to handle her puppies. If she is being aggressive toward you, it is either not worth the risk, or you will need to remove the mother from the equation while you grab the pups.
  • Make sure to wash your hands thoroughly, as we never know which type of bacteria or virus is present on our skin.
  • Make sure your hands are not too cold, as this can lower their body temperature if you hold them for extended periods. If you are cold, pick them up with a warm blanket or towel.
  • Make sure you are holding them properly, as some newborn puppies can wiggle out of your hands.
  • Try to keep all newborn puppy interaction short, as you will want to get them back to the warmth and security of their mother as soon as possible.

Did The Mother Reject Her Babies Because I Touched Them?

If the mother is currently rejecting one or all of their puppies, it is not because you touched them.

Mother dogs are extremely intuitive when it comes to the likelihood of their pup’s survival, and is why many mother dogs will reject puppies that are falling behind.

For example, this is why many mother dogs will reject the runt of the litter.

This can also occur when a certain puppy is sick.

Mother dogs may also reject their puppies if they are not feeling well themselves.

Motherhood is challenging for both humans and dogs, and a decline in health may cause the mother to shy away and reject her puppies.

And last, some mothers will reject their puppies without an obvious cause.

Some dogs are just not interested in caring for puppies, and some just don’t know how to.

As you can see, there are many reasons why the mother dog could have rejected her babies.

Why Did The Mother Dog Kill Her Puppies?

Though it may seem shocking, some mother dogs will kill their puppies.

Some dogs will even eat their newborn puppies, causing dog owners to question what could possibly be wrong with them.

Strangely enough, this is actually a natural behavior to certain scenarios.

Mother dogs may kill their puppies if they are in a stressful environment, if the litter is too big to handle, if the mother is feeling unwell, or if any of the puppies are sick.

We know it is hard to imagine, but it happens quite often in the canine world.

Final Thoughts On Touching Newborn Puppies

Mother dogs may not reject their puppies when we touch them, but it doesn’t mean we should do so at every given opportunity.

If you happen to touch a puppy and the mother then rejects that puppy, it does not mean it’s because of you touching it.

A mother dog will reject a puppy for many reasons, not because you touched it.

If you do need to touch a newborn puppy for any reason, just be sure to implement the safety precautions we discussed above.

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