Celebrate the Whippet Breed

Raising Single Pups

Article by Margaret Norkett, Kemar Whippets

Is it a Litter or a Lit?

Litters of one or two puppies present the breeder with some unique challenges. From the birth process extending through the early weeks of puppy-hood, there are some pitfalls waiting on the unsuspecting. BUT, there are also some big positives to raising a small litter.

ith a breed of dog that usually produces litters of 4, 5 or more puppies, the expectant bitch sometimes has her pregnancy go completely undetected and a surprise occurs one day when this little one arrives! Even when fairly certain the bitch is in whelp and preparations are made, trouble can occur. Difficulty with whelping is a frequent occurrence with the small litter. The single puppy is often quite large - after all, he hasn't had to compete for nourishment during the gestation period. Large pups can be difficult for the dam to birth naturally. Coupled with their often times large size and the lack of other puppies to stimulate contractions, labor can be prolonged and result in the necessity of at least intervention by human assistance and at worst, a cesarean section. Even when born naturally, the puppy can be blue and require resuscitation efforts to give us a live whelp. Once the pup is on the ground, steps to make sure it stays warm are necessary since the pup does not have the benefit of siblings to help maintain body heat. Newborn pups cannot regulate their body temperature easily and require the presence of the dam and siblings to stay warm. A heating pad turned on low or just a lamp hung close overhead can provide plenty of warmth for the newborn. If the pup is weak at birth, helping it nurse may also be one of the chores involved. This can be as simple as holding the pup to the nipple to as complicated as tube feeding the puppy. Good footing is helpful so the pup can get around to find Mom and the milk bar. Good footing also helps to prevent and or correct a condition often referred to as 'swimmers'. A pup with this condition cannot get its feet under it and the chest flattens out. Some breeds seem to be more predisposed to this condition than others. Once again, the lack of competition for sustenance can result in a large, overweight puppy; another good reason to give the pup the ability and room to get around. Your singleton pup is now 5 weeks old and very cute and playful. He is biting and chewing everything in sight, though, and those needle teeth HURT! What can you do? Puppies bite and chew each other and the yelps of pain and retaliation by the recipient of the bite are what teach the pup to control his biting. You can simulate the yelps easily with your own cries of pain, but how do you retaliate without being a puppy abuser? Holding the puppy's mouth closed while making eye contact and giving a 'no bite' command in a firm voice, then releasing the mouth and praising for no biting is an effective method of teaching the young pup when to refrain from biting. Offering him something he is allowed to bite afterwards and praising him give a positive reinforcement to his making the right choice. Singletons are very easy to spoil. All your attention is lavished on the one 'baby' who gets his wish granted with lightning speed. While this is not necessarily a bad thing, if you expect your puppy to go to a new home at some point in his lifetime, there are some things your puppy will benefit from your training him to accept. Singleton puppies need social interaction both with other people and with other dogs in order to become pleasing dog-citizens. Taking him to new places to experience different surroundings and letting him intermingle with carefully chosen older dogs will help to round out your puppy's character. Training your puppy to accept being crated will enable him to handle being left alone for periods of time. Grooming issues such as toenail trimming, baths, brushing/combing and teeth brushing are issues many dogs take objection to. All puppies should be trained to accept these basic grooming tasks calmly. Singleton litters often result in an exceptional dog-human bond, provide a nurturing experience to bar none and are a prime example of the miracle of life. Singleton puppies often grow up to become very special dogs that relate exceptionally well with their raisers or with special needs humans. They are often more outgoing; more easily trained in service tasks and prefer the company of people rather than other dogs. Raising the singleton can be an experience you won't forget for many reasons!

Margaret & the Hounds of Kemar


Article by Karen Lee

I have only reared one singleton, but did not have any problems. I have a few comments based on that experience and the experience of a few other friends. First of all, you have to be a lot more patient with the labor and delivery process of a singleton. It is likely to not only be a large puppy for the breed, but also, I believe, that the start of degredation of the placentas is one of the main hormonal triggers of labor, so with one puppy only, your bitch is likely to have a longer pre-labor, and then dialate more slowly and reach active labor more slowly, and with a big singleton puppy, she does not have the pressure of upcoming puppies behind it to help push it out, so she will typically take a longer time to push out that one puppy than would be normal in a multi-birth litter. But since she does not have a large litter to deliver, if she does have to push for awhile and gets tired, so long as the singleton is born it is of no consequence that she became tired getting him out. My bitch worked forever on her big singleton male, but he finally plopped out squirming and healthy. If your fingers are small, your nails short, and VERY clean, you can do something which is called 'feathering' to help stimulate contractions. You can put a finger up your bitch and press with the flat of your finger UP against the base of her tail. This simulates the feeling of a puppy in birth position and causes involuntary contractions. I do this and I feel it is safer than pit, because the contractions are timed when I feel she really does need a bit of extra help, and they are not strong enough to cause uterine tearing or rupturing. Sometimes when you do this, the puppy will be pushed forward enough to tell if it is a breech birth (you may feel a foot) or a headfirst (you should be able to make out the outline of nose and mouth) delivery. Allow extra time for a breech singleton. The bitch's contractions work more efficiently on a hard, round, bony skull than on the relatively squishy and moveable pelvis and hindquarter; consequently, it takes less time to work a headfirst positioned puppy through the pelvis.

After the puppy is born, you have to watch out for excessive weight gain. I put my singleton in a big kiddie pool with the mother. That made him have to crawl around more to get to her. Whippets aren't prone to swimming but if you are writing this for an all-breed club, you need to mention that singletons and small litters are thought more prone to "swim" in some of the shortlegged, big-bodied breeds like Corgis. Anything which makes singleton have to use his legs and work his body to get to the milk bar is a good thing. Give him PLENTY of traction. After puppy is up and running about, the main thing that he/she will need is extended contact with the dam and if you have other young dogs who are good with puppies, they should be allowed to play with, roll, and discipline the puppy under supervision. The main issue with singletons is that they have very high self-esteem, which is good, but they might not learn bite inhibition and how to play nicely since they have no littermates to spar with. This can cause problems later if Singleton Pup has to go live in a multi-dog situation. Singletons should get a lot of handling by people, and should be taught early on with verbal corrections and shakes to the scruff of the neck, etc. how much pressure from the teeth is too much. Other than that, a singleton puppy nearly always is the most delightful and charismatic puppy you could want to have! I loved raising mine. He was never a very doggy dog and always thought he was just like folks. He showed fantastic, was a blast to finish, then I placed him in a companion home with an older female. His owners have really enjoyed his 'high self-esteem'. :)

Karen Lee


Article by Kyle Sibinovic, Shaldra

I agree with Karen's response. I have had singleton puppies several times over the years, but only one whippet and she was healthy. It took her mother as long to deliver the singleton as it had taken her to deliver the 10 puppies in her first litter. She simply paced the kitchen floor for hours, refusing to stay anywhere else but where she could pace. During the entire time she would walk, stand by one of us or take little drinks of water. She wanted out to the yard about every hour and one of us walked her to be sure she did not have the pup while outside. The puppy was healthy, weighed in at the same weight as the larger two pups from the first litter and grew like a weed. She lived in her mother's 500 airline crate in the whippet room off the kitchen and made friends with the house whippets starting when she was about 3 weeks old. She has never been willing to play with most of the dogs here, is more people orientated than dog orientated and has her AKC and ASFA field championships as well as a CD. From day one she has enjoyed good health.

Now what I want to address briefly is what it is like when the reason for a singleton is death in utero of the rest of the litter and the survivor is born with an infection. Several years ago we had a litter of dobermans in which there were 4 stillborn and 1 survivor. The survivor weighed in at 540 grams which is an ok weight for a doberman newborn, but was in trouble from the start. Her mother was ill, had to be on antibiotics, fortunately Amoxicillin and the pup was also very ill. Respiratory and blood infections - her weight dropped to 265 grams and then she turned around - she was determined to live. We make her a small incubator with high humidity and alternated feedings every two hours between her mother and tubing her with goats milk (3/4), Newborn (1/4) and a little honey added (works ot to a tablespoon per 4 oz of formula). (our old vet swore by this mix and it has worked for years for us). She also received initially pediatric amoxicillin which was changed to Keflex when she did not improve. The every two hour feedings were required for almost three weeks and then, we were able to lengthen the time to four hours and by 5 weeks to 4 feedings per day. She ate her puppy kibble soaked in formula until her weight reached an acceptable level and her growth was way behind what I was accustomed to in my pups. She never would play with her kennel mates, even though she was with them with supervision from 5 weeks on, she preferred to be with people, she lagged behind in growth and by the time she was 9 months old was only 18 inches tall ( most of my dobe girls are 24 to 25 inches by 7 or 8 months). She ended up a 26 in bitch weighing about 65 lbs. She finished in Canada, was pointed here, passed her tests for schutzand school, but I did not send her and she had one litter. She had 8 pups, was a terrific mother and would let all of us handle the pups from day one, not being at all guardy as is so common in most dobe bitches. She wanted her pups in the middle of the kitchen from day one. She was a very different dog, initially a lot of work, but she was really a very nice dog to live with and to take places. She lived to be 15years old and was healthy until about 3 months prior to her death. Over the years, I have found that if the mother is willing to nurture the puppy, whether she is able to nurse the puppy or not, your chances of raising the puppy successfully to be a normal well orientated adult are much greater. Just my experiences and thoughts.

Kyle Sibinovic


Article by Joan Van Doornick, Roadhouse Whippets

On November 13, 2001, our Whippet "Eclipse" delivered one little bitch. I have not raised a singleton puppy since the early '70's (an American Cocker), but am greatly looking forward to bringing up this one. She was born blue and still after a long but fairly gentle labor. It took quite a bit to get her going, and frankly, I was not sure she was going to make it through her first night. She was very weak and could not nurse at all without help. I don't tube feed. I did get her nursing very late on her first night and was up with her for most of it. She gained strength as the night wore on. She has gone from 10.5 oz (300 gr) on Nov 14 to almost 14 oz (nearly 400 gr) today and is strong and greedy. I am now relaxing, enjoying watching her and admiring her.

What great little time wasters puppies are! This is the first puppy born in our home for almost 11 years. I think you might understand how very precious she is already to us. With the earlier singleton puppy, I remember introducing him into the family pack much early than I would have inflicted a gang of baby monsters on the adults. He was doted upon, but also taught the manners needed to be a good canine citizen. Having only one, it was ever so easy to take this puppy almost everywhere with me. He turned out to be one of the most confident, brightest and best mannered young dogs I have ever had the pleasure to know. I think it will be much the same with this one. American Cockers are more prone to being 'swimmers' than I think sighthound babies are. What I found was that his dam adjusted her milk production accordingly... demand tends to determine the amount of production. He did grow a bit more quickly than most puppies of his breed, but at maturity was not unusual in size at all. There was no hint of anything remotely 'swimmer'. I don't foresee this problem with this little bitch puppy. I am greatly looking forward to raising up our little "Miracle". [NOTE: As a follow-up, Joan later wrote:] The baby Whippet girl is the fattest, most content puppy ever! She had fat rolls on her little 'wrists' and when she ends up on her back, she has perfected a unique roll over. I am sure that eventually she will 'even out' but for now, she eats and sleeps and yawns and only complains if her mom bumps into her. Eyes should start opening any day... she loves cuddling into your bend of elbow and falls fast into little jerky puppy sleep. All the dogs have had a peak at her now... they are either horrified or deeply interested. None have any idea how their lives are soon going to change :-) but then, neither do the cats who think the whelping box is a pretty neat place to curl up.
Joan Van Doornick
Roadhouse Whippets