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Whether a large litter means puppies of smaller sizes is something dog breeders have questioned about for some time. 

This is a good question after all, considering the fact that, domestic dogs come in a vast array of shapes and sizes, which means you'll also encounter great variances in weight. 

Research has provided some answers, offering us the possibility to delve deeper into the subject. 

Example of a Labrador Litter

A healthy pregnant Labrador is generally expected to give life to a fairly large litter comprising anywhere between 8 and 10 puppies. 

At birth, these puppies will weigh an average of 12 to 20 ounces. 

Their weight will vary, but to a great extent it will ultimately depend on how many puppies are born to the litter. 

As general knowledge, the bigger litters appear to produce smaller puppies, and vice versa, but is there any truth to that? Why would a large litter produce puppies of smaller sizes? 

Research has revealed some interesting findings. 

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Weighing your puppies will help you keep track of their growth and you can recognize early signs of trouble.

The "Total Litter" Formula

Several studies of the past have focused on investigating the weight of newborn puppies of different breeds. 

Many of these studies appeared to reach a consensus: yes, the weight of individual puppies decreases the larger the litter size. 

This ultimately leads us to believe that there is truth to to the "total litter" formula. 

In this formula, basically, the total weight of the litter is about 10 to 15 percent of mother dog's weight, leading to smaller puppies in a larger litter (Meyer et al. 1985).

Problems With Large Litters

Large litters of puppies are a sign that mother dog is in top health and will give her pups the best possible start.

 However, there are some disadvantages. For instance, a large litter can result in a low growth rate, with the puppies having weaker immune systems and fewer opportunities to fight for food. 

However, the negative side effects of large litters can be offset by possible supplemental feeding and observing the puppies' growth and development.

The Importance of Weighing Puppies 

Perhaps in the good old days, you were used to seeing puppies raised without the use of scales and all those sophisticated things we see today, but getting a weight on your puppies provides you with valuable information.

Weighing your puppies will help you keep track of their growth and you can recognize early signs of trouble so that you can take action quickly.

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You should start weighing your puppies from the first day they are born. 

Generally, you should expect puppies to gain about 10 percent of their birth weight every day. Then, after 10-12 days of age, the puppies' birth weight should double.

Keeping a puppy weight log and chart are valuable tools so that you can keep track of your puppies' development. 

You should weigh your puppies daily at the same time of the day and you should see regular gains on a daily basis. 

If you notice at anytime that one of more of your puppies are not gaining weight or their weight is declining, you may want to consult with a vet and see what is going on.

Warning: mother dog may not like you touching her puppies, especially in the very first days. You may want to weigh the puppies in those brief periods of time when mother dog goes out to potty or when she goes to another room to eat.

Tips for Proper Weighing

A postal scale or a digital kitchen scale may be suitable for weighing your newborn pup, but many breeders nowadays like using baby scales.

If you are lucky to have a scale that is suitable for weighing the puppies and your puppies are overall mellow, you can simply place them on the scale.

Keep in mind that a newborn puppy may be uncomfortable in being moved away from his familiar surroundings and wants to stay as close as possible to his mother and litter mates.

It is therefore normal for your newborn puppies to hate being lifted by you and placed on a cold scale.

To keep the puppies from feeling the coldness of the scale, you can place a small mat or blanket over the scale, but you will first have to weigh the mat, then the puppy on the mat, and then subtract the weight of the mat for an accurate reading. 

Be extra careful that the puppy doesn't fall off the scale and don't forget to disinfect the scale!

Tip: in order to register the weight of your puppies, you will need to tell one from another. An easy way to do this is using colored identification collars for newborn puppies or using a non-toxic marker to color the nails

Should You Worry About Smaller Pups?

Weight can vary quite widely from puppy to puppy within the litter.

However, size doesn’t matter at this point; there are always chances that the smallest puppy grows up to be the largest adult.

On top of that, the small size appears to be an issue mostly during the neonatal phase, with most puppies reaching normal sizes as they develop. 

However, once again, if you notice at anytime that one of more of your puppies are not gaining weight or their weight is declining, you may want to consult with a vet and see what is going on.

References:

  •  Daniela Alberghina, Mauro Gioè, Marco Quartuccio, Giovanni Majolino & Luigi Liotta (2021) Puppy growth rate during early periods of labrador retriever development: role of litter size and photoperiod of birth, Italian Journal of Animal Science  

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