Myth Buster

Popular Myth:

You shouldn’t touch puppies until they have their eyes open.

We’ve probably all heard it, right? Dad said: “don’t touch the puppies until their eyes are open.” Well, according to research done at Purdue University, waiting to handle pups is not a great idea and here’s why.

Written By: Purdue University


#1. Early handling may improve puppy health

Daily gentle handling of puppies from 3 days to 3 weeks of age may benefit puppy health. Daily weight checks are opportunities for gentle handling and health monitoring. During this early handling, caretakers can check for any signs of illness. Early handling may also have long-term health benefits for dogs. Stress can make dogs more susceptible to illness, but early handling may help them cope with stress better. This effect may last throughout their lifetime.

#2. Early handling can be safe

With proper precautions, early handling introduces minimal risk to the puppies’ health. Recommended precautions include washing hands before handling or wearing gloves. Wash your hands and change your clothes after interacting with dogs or puppies who may be sick. Appropriate handling is gentle, quiet, and brief – lasting only 30-60 seconds per puppy.

Gentle, quiet, early handling is unlikely to cause the dam to reject her puppies. Instead, puppy handling may improve maternal care. When puppies return to the nest, their mothers may increase grooming. Maternal care can improve puppies’ physical and behavioral development. The positive effects of high-quality maternal care may last a lifetime. It is important to always monitor the dam and make sure is comfortable with the puppy handling.

#3. Early handling may improve puppy behavior

Early handling may lead to dogs that are better able to tolerate stress. Early handling may help dogs be adaptable to different situations and environments later in life. Dogs who can cope with challenges will be happier and healthier throughout their lifetime

#4. Handling procedures can be simple

Daily, gentle handling is enough! Using a structured handling protocol such as early neurological stimulation (ENS) is good. But simply picking each puppy up and holding them can be just as effective. The Croney Research Group compared the effect of different types of handling on puppies. In this study, some puppies received daily, gentle, handling. Other puppies in the study received a series of handling exercises. Both groups of puppies responded similarly to stressors. Even simple interactions such as daily weight and health checks may benefit puppy welfare.

Handling your puppies beginning at 3 days of age can be easy and support health and behavior in puppyhood and beyond! And let’s be honest, who doesn’t want to cuddle puppies a little bit?

Submitted by - Purdue University

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