Basic care

Can You Touch Newborn Puppies?

María Besteiros
By María Besteiros, Expert veterinary assistant and canine/feline hairdresser.. November 6, 2019
Can You Touch Newborn Puppies?

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Having newborn puppies or kittens at home is always brings great joy, but also many questions. Did your dog just have puppies? Are you are tempted to pick up them up, but not sure if you should? They look fragile, and perhaps you have heard that the mother dog will reject her newborn pups if a human touches them. At AnimalWised we are here to answer the question "can you touch newborn puppies?" and give you advice on how to handle and care for these new arrivals.

Even though it is usually okay to touch newborn puppies, they are very delicate at this stage and you should take certain precautions before deciding to pick one up. Keep reading to find out all you need to know about what happens if you touch newborn puppies, and exactly when and how you can start handling puppies.

You may also be interested in: Can You Bathe An Unvaccinated Kitten?
  1. Is it bad to touch newborn puppies?
  2. When can you touch newborn puppies?
  3. How to handle newborn puppies
  4. How to care for newborn puppies

Is it bad to touch newborn puppies?

It is not necessarily bad to touch a newborn puppy, but there is no one-size-fits-all response. Many mother dogs - especially if they are our pets - will not mind humans touching their young puppies. However, newborn puppies, like all newborns, are delicate, and it is easy to unwittingly hurt them. So, you can touch a newborn puppy, but there are factors you should consider before picking one up. For example:

  • You are a stranger: it is not a good idea to touch the puppies of an unknown dog. As a mother, she will be protective of her young. If you are a stranger, she will probably try to stop you from touching her puppies. If you try to touch the newborn puppies in such a situation, you will cause the mother dog unnecessary stress and risk getting hurt yourself if she bites or scratches you.
  • It is not necessary: on the other hand, if puppies are be your own dog's, she may allow you to touch them. However, pause for a moment to consider whether you really need to. Try to put animal welfare before your own desires. No dog is a toy, and a newborn puppy is even less so. They are delicate and vulnerable, which means that any mishandling can cause them damage or even death in a matter of hours. Therefore, rather than asking yourself, "can i touch the newborn puppies?", try asking yourself why and for what purpose you want to hold them.
  • They are still with their mother: puppies that are snuggled with their mother should not be picked up unless absolutely necessary. Newborn puppies cannot regulate their own temperature and require the body heat provided by their mother and siblings to stay warm. If you remove them, they can very quickly catch cold, which could be fatal. You should also never touch a newborn puppy when it is nursing. If you need to examine it, wait for it to finish feeding before you pick it up.

Can You Touch Newborn Puppies? - Is it bad to touch newborn puppies?

When can you touch newborn puppies?

However adorable they may be, resist the temptation to pick up newborn puppies unless you have to. The mother dog is usually capable to taking care of all the puppies' needs in the first weeks, and you shouldn't have to interfere. Once the puppies are about three weeks old, they will begin to move around on their own. This is when you can begin to pet them and interact with them more.

You should only touch or pick up a newborn puppy if you observe that it is sick, if the mother abandons it, or in the case of orphaned puppies. Even if you do decide that it is necessary to touch the newborn puppies, do so with great care and following the guidelines set out in the following section.

How to handle newborn puppies

As we have explained, there are certain situations in which you can or have to touch newborn puppies. However, you should never be careless. Make sure you are handling the puppy correctly so as not to harm it. The first thing to keep in mind is that your hands should not be cold. You can touch newborn puppies with your bare hands, but make sure you have washed your hands properly and that they are at body temperature. Of course, if you want to play it safe, you can wear gloves.

To pick up a newborn puppy, open your hand and circle their body, keeping your thumb on one side, between the front and back legs, and the rest of your fingers on the opposite side. This is the easiest way to pick up newborn puppies if you have to move them or put them into a box or carrier, for example.

To hold a newborn puppy, it is more common to run your hand under its belly, keeping one or two fingers between its front legs to cradle it. This is the position normally used when bottle feeding orphaned puppies. If you are caring for an orphaned pup, look at this article homemade newborn puppy formula and how to administer it.

If you decide to touch a newborn puppy, you must ask yourself why. If you need to check its temperature, for example, you can gently place a hand on the puppy, without having to pick it up. If you are still unsure, and even though they are small, you can use a thermometer. Do this only with great care, lubricating the tip and introducing it into the anus. This sort of maneuver is best performed without picking up the puppy or removing it from its mother. As we have said, if you simply want to pet the puppies, it is best to wait until they are three weeks old. You can also consult the vet for more specific advice on handling your puppies.

Can You Touch Newborn Puppies? - How to handle newborn puppies

How to care for newborn puppies

Now you know when it is okay to touch newborn puppies, and some tips on how to handle them. Here are further guidelines for proper newborn puppy care. If the puppies are with their mother, you shouldn't intervene but simply observe and make sure that the mother and pups stay healthy. Look after the family by providing them with a clean and warm space and giving the mother dog adequate food and plenty of water for the lactation stage.

How to care for orphaned newborn puppies

In certain unfortunate circumstances you may have to look after newborn puppies that are orphans. Remember that they will need special care and attention. First of all, it is important to feed them frequently, using a formula created specifically for puppies. While feeding the pups, you may have to hold them. Follow the instructions given above for holding newborn puppies when bottle feeding. It is also vital to keep the puppies warm. You can do this by placing them in a warm box with an open top and using blankets.

The newborn puppies will also need your help to urinate and defecate. Normally the mother dog regularly licks each puppy's genital and anal area, stimulating the elimination reflex. You can help produce the same effect by wiping the puppy's genital and anal area with a damp cotton or gauze pad soon after each feeding. Here is more detailed information on how to make a newborn puppy poop, and other advice on caring for orphaned puppies.

Remember to keep an eye on a newborn puppy's navel. Make sure it stays clean and dry to avoid infections. Also monitor the newborn puppy's eyes, which will stay closed for the first 7-8 days. An inflammation in the eyes, before they open, could indicate an infection and will need veterinary treatment. In fact, it is always a good idea to consult the vet with any questions you may have when caring for an orphaned newborn puppy.

When can puppies be separated from their mother?

Finally, whenever possible, puppies should be kept with their mother and siblings for at least eight weeks. Newborn and young puppies are at a very sensitive stage of life. To ensure proper development it is best for them to be socialized with their mother and siblings during this time. Once the puppies are 2 months old, they can be given up for adoption. If you have just adopted a puppy, take a look at the video below explaining all you need to know about caring for puppy dogs.

If you want to read similar articles to Can You Touch Newborn Puppies?, we recommend you visit our Basic care category.


Carlson, L. D., and Fiffin, J. M. (2002). Dog Owner's Home Veterinary Handbook. John Wiley & Sons.

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What did you think of this article?
My Donerman puppies were able to move around from birth they kinda crawled around and wiggled the full perimeter of the whelping box
Thank you however put this out. My dog is expecting puppies soon and last time she did not let the puppy nurse.
Matthew Nesbitt (AnimalWised editor)
We are very glad this can be helpful to you!
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Can You Touch Newborn Puppies?