Having a litter of puppies can be an exciting event. I’m sure that by now, you have read a ton of articles, you’ve put in the time with your dog and now you have a beautiful litter. And you may be wondering how on earth do you mark newborn puppies.
Thankfully, we are going to go through ways for you to mark your puppies as well as the reason why we mark them.
Why Should I Mark Newborn Puppies?
First, I should mention that not all breeds need to be marked. Some have a variety of colors and markings that make marking not necessary. However, a large amount of breeds have set colors and markings that can leave you unsure which puppy is which, especially when they are very young.
And that is the main reason why you mark newborn puppies. To tell them apart.
But you may be asking, why is that important?
There are actually many different reasons. First, when they are born, you want to mark down weights, if there are any complications or something seems off with the puppy, such as not nursing properly. By having the puppy marked, you can identify the puppies not doing well easily and can continue to monitor.
Second, marking puppies helps you keep track of your puppies. I generally weigh my puppies twice a day for that first week of life to make sure they aren’t fading, or any other complications that can arise. After that first week, I switch to once a day, and slowly move to once a week by 7 weeks of age. I keep a chart for each puppy and mark down color, any markings the puppy has (which can be very limited in English Mastiffs) and sex of the puppy. Then I mark down weight and anything that I need to worry about, as well as milestones for the puppy: when eyes open, when they first eat solid food, etc.
Third, marking puppies, especially with a large litter, can make it much easier to keep track of who has fed and who hasn’t. I try to do a boy/girl feeding schedule for large litters, but sometimes that split isn’t even so then I do a feeding schedule according to how they are marked. For example, red, blue and green puppies (male and female) nurse together for every feeding.
Finally, marking helps with puppy selections and knowing which puppy is going to which home. You can mark down the selection on the puppy chart and it helps to keep your files in order.
As you can see, marking can be utilized in a number of ways to make it easier for the breeder and the families who are watching the puppies grow.
How to Mark Newborn Puppies?
There are a number of ways that you can mark newborn puppies. I have my preference for them but every breeder has their own preferred way to mark them.
What you want to look for when you are marking a puppy is:
- Something non-toxic
- Non-permanent but doesn’t wash off easily
- Something that can’t twist or choke the puppies
- Easy to replace
- Inexpensive to replace as needed
Now that you know what to look for in your marking material, let’s look at how to mark your newborn puppies by looking at the materials you can use to mark them.
Marking With Permanent Marker
I know I said don’t use permanent but I don’t really think of permanent marker as permanent since it does fade and does wash off. However, this isn’t usually my preferred way to mark puppies because I have to search for the marking instead of just looking down and seeing it.
With permanent marker, you want to find one that is not non-toxic. You can either use multiple colors or one color and do different designs. I find multiple colors are better since you don’t have to worry about the design wearing off in parts.
Take the permanent marker and make a design or marking on the belly of the puppy where there is no fur.
With this type of marking, you really need to check the mark frequently. Remember, mom is licking the area and will rub it off. In addition, the marking will fade over time on its own.
One drawback to this type of marking is that it doesn’t work well on breeds with darker skin.
Marking Yarn or Ribbon
When I first started breeding, this was my go to for marking puppies. Yarn is easy to use, inexpensive and you can change it out frequently as it gets dirty or the pups grow and the collar stops fitting.
With yarn or ribbon, get multiple colors. If you are having a hard time finding a variety of colors, you can double them up. For example: red ribbon with flowers on it for one boy and one girl and so.
All you need to do to use it is to measure it large enough to fit your puppies, where you can slip a finger between the puppy and ribbon. Knot together to form a loop and replace as needed.
One of the cons with ribbon or yarn is that it can get frayed very easy. I have also seen other puppies get their legs slipped into sibling collars. It can get messy easily and depending on color choices, can be hard to see what the color is once it gets dirty.
Finally, I have had yarn slip off of puppies, which means that you can make mistakes on marking if more than one puppy loses their collar.
Marking With Velcro Collars
I love velcro collars and use them with my puppies all the time. They are very inexpensive to purchase and you can find them in a variety of colors. Velcro collars are exactly what they sound like. They are a strip of velcro. You cut the velcro and form it to create a loop that fits securely around the puppy’s neck. You can cut it a bit longer and adjust the velcro as the puppies grow.
One negative with the velcro collars is that they can sometimes attach to other collars and pull free of one puppy or another. Once they snag, you have to replace as the velcro isn’t as strong as it was originally. Much like the collars you see with yarn, they get dirty quite easily and are not easy to wash.
Another thing that can happen with velcro collars is that some puppies can get rubbing sores on their front legs where the collar touches their legs. I have never experienced it and it could be due to the velcro collars I use.
Overall, I like them, but they are not my go to collar to use. Some breeders will start with yarn, move up to velcro collars once they get big enough.
Marking Newborn Puppies Number 4: Nail Polish
This is one of my least favorite ways to mark a puppy simply because I find it wears off so quickly. The only time that I have ever used it effectively, after using it once for one litter, was when two puppies going to two families were flown in the same crate. Since collars are not allowed on the puppy in the crate, I painted toenails of one puppy so they could tell their little girls apart.
However, many breeders find nail polish very easy to use and effective. You can have dozens of colors to choose from and they are easy to differentiate. You can also mark different feet to mix up the marking when you have closely related colors.
It is affordable and can be applied quickly as needed. It doesn’t get dirty like collars do so that makes it a bit easier than other ways to mark your puppies.
A downside is that, like permanent marker, it can be licked off with mom so it is important that you use non-toxic. This can also mean needing to apply it to the toenails on a daily baiss.
Another negative for nail polish is that it can be hard to see when you look at the puppies. In addition, you have to wait for it to try before you put the puppy back with his litter or mom since it will rub off before it can dry.
Marking With Break Away/Puppy Collars
This is actually my preferred choice of collar and I use them right from birth. However, this isn’t possible with every breed. My pups tend to be over a pound at birth, so that is a pretty big puppy. I also switch to larger collars as the puppies grow and by 8 weeks old, they are in a 12 to 15inch collar.
But when they are newborn, I use newborn puppy collars. They are easy to put on the puppies. I find, expense wise, they are not too bad. They cost more than yarn or permanent marker but one collar lasts for several litters so then the cost is pennies when you look at the use. I tend to double up on collars when I purchase them.
They are easy to wash. I stick them in a lingerie bag and toss them in the washing machine. In addition, you can double up colors like you do with yarn or ribbon.
A downside to these collars is that sometimes they can fall off, especially if you can’t get them tight enough for really small puppies. As mentioned earlier with velcro, I know some breeders who eventually upgrade their puppies to these after they reach a few weeks old.
As you can see, there are many different types of ways that you can mark newborn puppies. With experience, you will find the perfect way to mark your puppies that work for you and your puppies.