Longlease Bernese Mountain Dogs Articles and Information

Some tips for new breeders

If you never have bred a litter of puppies and you are planning to have a litter from your female dog here are some tips.

Read as much as possible about getting a litter, there are some very good books about it. Then go to your vet and ask them to do a full health check on your girl because you would like to have a litter of puppies from her. If the vet tells you that your female is OK for breeding then you do the next step.

Study her pedigree to find out what is the best male for the mating. Work with your girl's breeder on this too and make sure that the puppy contract you have does not have a breeding restriction on it, if so you may need to ask for this restriction to be lifted. You can then also ask your local dog club for further help on this or somebody you also know who is a successful breeder. When you have figured out the best male for your female make contact with the owner of the male and ask them to agree with the mating.

Then first you must know exactly when it is the first day when your female comes in heat, if you do not know that day you can go to your vet and they can do a test to find out the best day that your female is ready for the mating. Then you can phone the owner of the male again and tell them when you will bring your female for the mating. I always do 2 matings, the second one 2 or 3 days after the first one.

If you don't know exactly the first day when your female came in heat you will see that in the beginning the blood flowing out is dark red when the time is coming for the mating the flow out will be less and the colour is now more pink. I do not know how it is in other countries but in my country it is normal that the female goes to the male for the mating .

About 5 till 6 weeks after the mating you can perhaps see some different things are changing in your female. In the first place you will see that her nipples will be bigger than normal and that the colour of the nipples will change to reddish pink Then the fur around the nipples will go away [this is for the puppies so that they can find the nipple easily for drinking the milk] The belly of your female will be a little bigger.

The changes above will not say that your female is definitely pregnant, all these changes will also happen if your female has a false pregnancy!

At this point you can also ask your vet to do a scan that will show then if there are puppies in there or not.

However, in an early scan it is possible to miss if there are just one or two pups there so get your vet to scan again at 7 wks to be sure.

By then you should also be able to feel any pups moving!

Place your dog with her butt to you and place both your hands on both sides of the belly, there where the ribs stops and press a little, if a puppy moves in the belly you can feel it, it's like some one is tickling into your hand. It's easy to feel the puppies moving when your dog is carrying several puppies but it is not unusual that the dog carries only 1 or 2 puppies and then it is mostly not possible to feel the puppies moving because then they stay behind the ribs.

If your girl is pregnant do not give her more food than usual, many people think that when a dog is expecting puppies that she must eat more food because the puppies must grow. With my first litter I made this mistake and gave my dog much more food then she got normally. When she came into labour she was in big trouble because the pups were too big!

The normal weight for a Berner pup is 480 to 560 gram but with my first litter the weight of my pups were from 840 to the heaviest one 1025 gram Therefore the mom dog had a very heavy last week, she carried 12 of this size pups and started whelping 5 days before the normal time. The first 3 pups were born normally but then it stopped, I had to call my vet and the other pups were delivered by C- Section. I almost lost this girl by overfeeding her!


Give extra only daily 50 gram boiled cow liver, that's very good for the mother dog and the new coming pups.

If there are really puppies there, you now have to make a whelping box or a special place your female will be happy with to give birth and the puppies will stay in after they have been born. The whelping box must be big enough that the mother and all the pups can easily lay in it. Ask around on this, it has to be big enough that when the mother lies in the box and one or more puppies are behind her backside, the puppies must have the room to get air and wriggle away from the potential of getting crushed. Some whelping boxes come with guard rails to give the pups this space.

I prefer that beside the whelping box is a big pillow where the mother can lay on during the whelping time because it's now very easy when a puppy gets stuck half way in the vulva of the mother to came under the pup with your hand you only have to press on the pillow.

One week before you have counted out when the puppies will be born you must start to measure the temperature of your dog, you use the same thermometer as for people, the normal temperature from your dog will by around 38.5 Celsius. I do not know in Fahrenheit. This you do 3 times a day but put a little vaseline on it before you place the thermometer in the anus of the dog. When the temparature goes down to 37.5 or 37 Celsius, or still lower, then you can expect the puppies will by born within 24 hours.

You must begin to measure the temperature a week before you have counted out when the puppies will be born because if the dog is carrying a very large litter it can be born a couple of days earlier than the day you have worked out. However, what can also happen is that when there is only one or two puppies these will be born some days later......but if on the day you had reckoned on when the puppies should be born and that does not happen, play safe and ask your vet to do a check up!

You must have ready before the big day very many clean towels, clean sponges, several pieces of string, scissors, pencil and paper, a scale, different collar ribbons, two buckets with warm/cold water, bottles, a clock, dry puppy milk and a drinking bottle, vaseline, all items as clean and sterile as possible.

The towels are to put under the butt of the dog when whelping begins because with every puppy born there will also come a lot of fluid and that then will be soaked up. Change the towel after every puppy you also can use the sponge to soak the water up from the towel but still change the towel after every puppy. The clean dry towels you use also to rub the puppy dry till it starts "yelping" and is breathing and is OK, you must work as clean as possible!

The pieces of string are to tie off the umbilical cord, scissors to cut the cord. Be careful here not to pull the cord as you can cause an umbilical hernia, too close to the pup's belly and it could bleed to death. Ask your vet or breeder friend more about this or if a novice have someone with you to show you how to do this.

Pencil, paper and the clock, so you can write down what time the puppy is born, if it came with the head in front or feet first , if the placenta also came out together with the pup or later without a puppy. Write also if it is a male or a female.

The scale is so you can record the weight of each puppy after it is born.

The colour from the ribbon is to give each puppy a different collar ribbon so you can recognize always each puppy.

Trusting that the whelping will go normally however.......

If the pup does not respond to Mom's attention and yelp and breathe when born, first clear out any mucous from it's mouth, then take the nose and the mouth of the puppy in your mouth to suck out the fluid from the lungs then take the puppy in both of your hands with your thumbs over the back of the puppy and press a little and swing the puppy up and down between your legs. If you have newspapers on the ground then you can see if there is fluid discharge from the pup's lungs, will come out of the mouth or nose of the puppy. Hopefully this will get the pup breathing.

The buckets are, for an emergency! One for warm water about 45 degrees Celsius and the other for cold water about 20 degrees Celsius, this is for when a puppy is born and it did not yelp after you have dried it with the towel, rubbed it, done everything else and is still not breathing. Put first the puppy in the cold water {of course not the head only the body] keep it for 5 till 6 seconds and then put it in the warm water, bucket change from warm to cold about 5 times when the puppy is still not yalping then listen, if you hear a heart beat and the puppy is breathing stop with the water. Then there is possibility of water in the lungs, You can do now two things, put the nose and mouth from the puppy in your mouth and try carefully again to suck the water out of the lungs one or two times, listen if the puppy starts to breath, if not put the nose again in your mouth and blow carefully some air through the nose of the puppy into the lungs, then press very carefully on the ribs of the puppy the air out of the lungs and try gently heart massage. Ask you vet for more details here!

The dry puppy milk is if for some reason the mother has no milk or in the worst she dies during whelping,then you must feed your puppies with bottles!

Back to the whelping! - As soon as a puppy is born and dry, put it on a nipple by the mother, let it drink and watch the puppy till you see that it really is drinking. If you see that the mother is starting to have a new puppy take all the already born puppies away and lay them in the whelping box with the warm water bottles where you have clean bedding. Mostly two puppies will be born close after each other but when the time between two puppies is longer then 2 hours you must phone your vet and ask him to come to your place, Your mother dog is probably too tired already and has no strength to push the remaining puppies out of her body, then she might need an injection to give her more strength.

Also important is that after 3 or 4 hours that your dog is whelping go in your garden and let her do pee or poop but take always a clean towel with you because through the fact she is walking a puppy can by born. If it is night time take a light with you and let the dog walk in front of you and let the light shine on the dog's butt so you can see everything that happens.

More on whelping - Very important is that when a puppy is stuck in the vulva and is half out - do not pull it out, you help pull carefully when the mother is pushing. As soon as the mother stops with pushing, you stop with pulling and try it again when the mother pushes again.

If the whelping has gone well it is still very important is that you ask your vet to do a check the next day to make sure that after the pups are born nothing is left behind! Can be anything from a still born pup left behind or placentas not delivered that can cause infection!

If all these things are too complicated for you then you should already have organised with your bitch's breeder or other well known breeder to help you the first time. You can also ask your vet to do the whole whelping.

You must then weigh the puppies every day on the same time and write the weight on paper for each pup so you can make a list and see if every pup is getting enough food, normal is that in 24 hours the pup will be 100 to 150 gram heavier, for example the pup with the red ribbon whose weight was 490 grams when it was born, the next day the weight is 610 gram, the weight of the pup is correct and it's feeding well. If the weight is not correct then you have to feed the pup with the bottle of dry puppy milk with distilled water.

When the welping time is very close the mother dog will mostly try follow her instinct and will dig a hole in your garden and will let the pups by born in that hole. [Therefore it is bether to let her out on leash the last days before the welping] If this still happened and she will not came out that hole when you call her, my advice is let the first pup be born in that hole then you can take it out and bring the puppy in your house to the place where you want the other pups to be born,the mother dog will follow you without any problem, she will follow her pup.

If you force her to get her out of the hole before the first pup will be born then the chance is very great that she will stop the whole welping process for hours, [animals can do this] and that gives only problems. When your female has made a hole and will not came out then you have to stay with her all the time till the first pup is born even when it will happen in the night. You must have with you a clean towel to put the pup in before you walk to your house and when it happens in the night also a good light, so that you can see what happens.

This is my experience from the litters and pups I have reared in the past, of course there are other ways also, every experienced breeder will have some different methods but this is to share with you how it has been for us.

My advice is do not take a litter if you do not know how to handle it!

It's very easy do a mating but I can tell you to do every thing correctly, it is still a lot of work even when everything goes without any trouble.

8 'til 9 weeks is a very long time before your puppies go to their potential trusted new homes - and then still a lifetime of care keeping contact with those puppy owners!

Willem Wijnberg
from the Netherlands





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