The first thing most animal-loving people want to do when they see a puppy is hold him and cuddle with him. However, newborn puppies should not be held on a regular basis until they reach 3 weeks of age. They do benefit from human touch though.
Once the mother has cleaned her puppies and they are nursing, approach slowly in a comforting manner, says certified professional dog trainer and behaviorist, Jessica Jacobson of Dapper Dog Training in New York City. Jacobson suggests using a gentle touch and running your fingers down your puppy's sides and back. You can slide your hand slowly and gently under his body.
Take care not to upset the mother dog, and do not approach if she is being protective. It may take a few days before your mother dog is comfortable with you touching her puppies.
The First Three Weeks
Both Jacobson and the American Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals agree that puppies should not be held, carried or played with until 3 weeks of age, which is when their their eyes open and they can walk. Until this happens, it is best to limit handling of puppies and stick to gentle petting.
Do not allow young children to handle or be around puppies less than 3 weeks of age without adult supervision. On occasion, an adult may hold a puppy for a young child to pet.
After Three Weeks
During the time puppies eyes open, they begin to develop their senses of vision and hearing. According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, this is a critical time for socialization. They recommend holding puppies for brief periods a few times each day.
How to Lift and Hold a Puppy
It is important to lift and hold a puppy properly to avoid scaring him and hurting him.
- Slide one hand under his rib cage near his front legs.
- Use your other hand to support his butt and back legs.
- Lift him slowly up to your chest. Do not let his back legs hang.
- Bring him in close to your body so he feels secure and comfortable.
- Be very gentle and talk in a soothing voice to make him feel even safer.
When setting a puppy down, do not lower him partway and drop him. Make sure all four paws are solidly on the ground so the puppy feels safe and doesn't get scared.