When Can I Touch a Newborn Puppy?

You must have some great self control to not want to touch and hold a newborn puppy and how could you resist all that overabundance of cuteness? It’s not easy but you shouldn’t handle the newborns too much until after their first 2 to 3 weeks of life. There are exceptions, however, that should signal it’s time to intervene and pick up that pup!

Newborn Protection

The puppies’ mother usually handle their newborns tasks without any human intervention. They’ll clean and feed their young and snuggle with them when it’s time to rest. But if mom (who can sometimes become over aggressive) is ignoring or neglecting her pup or pups, then you’ll have to take action and remove those pups! Also, keep an eye on all the pups and monitor their health. If any of the puppies have trouble breathing or have a problem maintaining a proper body temperature and they’re shivering or overly hot, you’ll have no choice but to pick up the pup and rush to the vet!

A Slow Process

Starting slowly is the only way to handle puppies. Handling them in short intervals at first is recommended. A minute or two is enough time for puppy handling for the first or second time.

Avoid Careless Handling

You do not ever want your puppy to have a bad handling experience so pay close attention to what the puppy is doing at the time of handling. If the puppy is nursing then leave the pup alone! Touching and holding a puppy requires it to be done correctly, so if you follow some guidelines, the pup will be happy and also will benefit from human interaction.

A Few Other Bullet Reminders

  • Approach the puppies slowly in a reassuring manner.
  • Back off if the mother is being protective of her litter!
  • Gently pet the newborn pups by running your fingers softly along their back and sides but only AFTER their mother is finished cleaning or nursing them – never interfere with these processes.
  • Lifting a small pup is easy, just slip your hand under its tummy. If the pup is larger, use both hands and make sure you’re supporting the pups’ head. Make the puppy feel safe by cradling its legs near to its abdomen, then snuggle the pups’ legs with both hands.
  • Newborn pups are delicate animals and children should be supervised when around them. Puppies, especially newborns, generally shouldn’t be picked up, carried, or played with until they can walk and their eyes are open (three weeks is the target number here). Adults can hold the puppy and allow children to pet it until the three weeks has passed. Even after that time period it’s best to keep a watchful eye on both pet and child.

In Conclusion…

As always, if you have more questions concerning newborn puppy handling, always check first with your vet for information concerning your particular breed. Keep those pups comfortable and happy!

By Tom Matteo


Banfield Pet Hospital
Dapper Dog Training

About the Author
Tom Matteo has been a freelance writer since 1992. He has written hardware and software reviews for computers and gaming systems, and now writes about animal behavior and care. Tom resides in Bethlehem, PA with his wife, Tina, and their beloved cockapoo, Angel.