Caring For Jack Russell Terrier Puppies [From birth to weaning]

During the first two weeks of a Jack Russell Terrier’s life and before they open their eyes, 90% of their time will be spent feeding and sleeping. They require minimal care during these first few weeks and providing their mother is doing her job, you will only need to monitor their health, maintain their hygiene, and ensure they are gaining weight.

It is important to be aware that as your puppies grow, you’ll become more involved with their care. From their second week of life, your Jack Russell Terrier puppies will open their eyes, develop teeth, and begin to move around. The weaning process begins the puppies’ transition towards independence and eventually their new homes.

Having a litter of Jack Russell Terrier puppies in your home can be an exciting experience but there are some important things you need to know to ensure they have the best start in life. Here’s a rundown of some things you need to be aware of and monitor…

Important post-natal checks of your Jack Russell Terrier and her puppies

It is important to check the puppies regularly (every few hours) in the first few weeks, especially with a first-time mother, to ensure they are all feeding well, are not trapped somewhere in the whelping box and are warm and content.

Newborn Jack Russell Terrier puppies can be susceptible to disease and infection, so you’ll need to keep a close eye on them. Make sure you thoroughly wash your hands before interacting with your puppies to help reduce the risk of them getting sick from any bacteria that might be on your hands.

Within the first forty-eight hours of birth, it is important to book an appointment with your veterinarian. They will examine the mother to ensure she doesn’t have an infection and she is producing enough milk. The vet will also check the puppies for birth defects like a cleft palate that may require a supplemental feeding regime.  It is important to inform your vet of anything unusual such as vomiting, diarrhea or a puppy who won’t suckle. Your vet will discuss treatments, medications or injections that may be needed during this visit.

Weigh your Jack Russell Terrier puppies regularly

Most Jack Russell Terrier puppies will double their birth weight in the first seven to ten days. It is important to monitor the growth of your puppies because any weight loss in a puppy is a cause for concern. Recording daily weight gain allows you to monitor their condition and progress.

Electronic kitchen scales are ideal for monitoring your puppy’s weight gain, but it is important to remember it is an increasing weight trend that is more important than achieving certain weights. Recording these increases will help you identify any changes as soon as possible.

Sometimes it can be challenging to tell the puppies apart, especially if they have similar markings. Simple ways of identifying each puppy are to mark each pup on the abdomen using a non-toxic, permanent marker pen or by loosely tying different colored ribbons around each puppy’s neck to identify them. There are also puppy ID collars made of soft Velcro you can purchase for this purpose.

If you notice any puppies who are crying or appear cold, they need to be placed on the inguinal (hind) teats as these generally give the most milk and they can gain warmth nestled in closer to the mother’s hind legs. They also need to be checked frequently to make sure they are not being pushed away by the other puppies.

Puppies that fail to gain weight or begin to lose weight may perish within 48 hours if the condition is not reversed, so you should contact your veterinarian as soon as possible. It might be necessary to take over and bottle-feed them for a short period of time.

Keep your Jack Russell Terrier puppies warm!

This is extremely important as newborn puppies are still developing and cannot regulate their body temperature effectively.

The temperature inside the pen or whelping box should be kept between 85 to 90 degrees Fahrenheit for the first five days. Then from day five through to ten, the heat can be reduced to 80 degrees. Each week after that the temperature can be reduced slightly until by the end of their fourth week it is at 75 degrees.

You can use a puppy safe heat pad that is designed to provide warmth without getting too hot to help the pups stay warm. To avoid overheating there should also be a cooler corner of the whelping box that the pups can crawl to if needed.

Jack Russell Terrier puppy health

Intestinal Parasites

Puppies are especially susceptible to intestinal parasites. These are commonly transmitted to puppies across the placenta before they are born or through their mother’s milk after birth.

Treating puppies for worms can begin as early as two weeks of age and then two weeks apart after that up until three months of age. Accurate weights of the puppies are needed so that the proper dose of medication can be calculated. This is another reason why recoding their weights is so important.

Eye problems

Jack Russell Terrier puppies, like all puppies, are born with their eyes closed. After one to two weeks they should begin to open their eyes. If there is any swelling or bulging under the eyelids, discharge or pus, or any other abnormalities, it is critical to contact your veterinarian immediately. If the eyes have not opened by two weeks of age it is also important to seek immediate veterinary care.


The antibodies Jack Russell Terrier puppies receive from their mother’s milk will help protect them from illness in the early weeks. As weaning commences and the puppies nurse less from their mother, these antibodies are reduced. It is important that your puppies receive their first round of vaccinations at six weeks of age to help protect them from illness.

Ensure your Jack Russell Terrier Puppies’ have a clean environment

Newborn Jack Russell Terrier puppies will spend their first few weeks in a space that offers enough room for the mother to lie down and stretch out comfortably without crushing the puppies. A purposely built whelping box is ideal so that the mother is able to come and go freely while keeping the puppies contained.

During the first few weeks the mother will clean up her puppies’ waste, but for a larger litter she may need some help keeping up. Once the puppies open their eyes and become more mobile, usually around the second or third week, the cleaning will require more of your attention. Ensure that the bedding is changed daily to maintain a hygienic environment for the puppies and reduce any smells.

When should your Jack Russell Terrier puppies start to move around and explore their surroundings?

Around the two-week mark Jack Russell Terrier puppies are opening their eyes and trying to stand. By the three-week mark, they should be moving around and perhaps trying to climb out of their whelping box and by four weeks they will be able to walk, run, and play.

A Jack Russell Terrier puppy who fails to meet these developmental milestones is at great risk for death or permanent impairment. It is important to speak with your veterinarian if you observe any abnormal development in your puppies.

Weaning my Jack Russell Terrier puppies


Weaning typically begins around three weeks of age, however, if the litter is unusually large, weaning can begin a little earlier to prevent the mother from becoming overly fatigued. Jack Russell Terrier puppies that are hand raised can begin the weaning process sooner and can be offered soft foods from the moment their eyes are open.

Around the three-week mark Jack Russell Terrier puppies start to develop teeth. Puppy teeth are sharp and tend to irritate and hurt the mother when she feeds her puppies. The mother initiates the weaning process and begins moving away from her puppies, leaving them for longer and longer periods of time.


Start with a flat saucer (one with a heavy base will stop the milk getting tipped over), filled with a puppy milk-replacement formula and place it in the puppy’s enclosure. A good way to introduce puppy milk to your Jack Russell Terrier pups is to dip your finger in the formula and wet the puppies’ noses and mouths.

This process should be repeated two or three times a day until the pups begin to drink the milk replacer on their own. It typically takes one to four days. Avoid using goat milk or cow milk as these can upset their tummies.

After successfully introducing a puppy milk-replacement formula, a puppy mush can be offered to your Jack Russell Terrier puppies. Puppy mush is made from dry puppy food or canned puppy food that has been mixed with water or puppy milk.

Dry puppy food needs to be crumbled and soaked for about 30 minutes to soften it before being given to the puppies. You are aiming for a porridge-like consistency so that puppies can easily lap up the mixture. If the puppies have trouble lapping up the mush, experiment with the amount of liquid to achieve the desired consistency.

Puppies prefer their food at body temperature, so if possible, it is best to have the puppy mush at a lukewarm temperature. It is also a good idea to feed the puppies away from their mother and other animals and also away from their sleeping area. An area inside where they can be contained would be a good place to feed them.

As the puppies get older, slowly decrease the amount of milk replacer or water until they are eating the puppy mush with little, or no moisture added. This process should be completed by four to six weeks of age at which time they can transition onto canned or dry puppy food.

Socializing your Jack Russell Terrier puppies

Poorly socialized Jack Russell Terrier puppies can develop behavioral problems like hyperactivity, over reactivity, emotional rigidity, anxiety, fear, and aggression. Puppies need to be socialised so they learn how to communication and relate to other dogs and humans and develop into happy, well-adjusted dogs.

From three weeks through to twelve weeks old is a critical period for your Jack Russell Terrier puppies’ mental and social development. Practical ways to socialise your puppies include:

Three to six weeks

  • Allow them to become accustomed to different surfaces like carpet, smooth floors, tiles, cement, etc.
  • Take the puppies outside to start exploring the natural environment. It is best to supervise this to begin with.
  • Ensure all members of your family hold and play with the puppies so they are used to being held and touched.

Six to twelve weeks

  • Introduce the puppies to drinking and eating from a bowl (see here for more information), wearing collars, walking on a lead and different grooming tools.
  • Begin separating the puppies one at a time in a crate for short periods of time to get them used to being alone.

Putting Together a Puppy Starter Pack

Regardless of whether it is the new owners first Jack Russell Terrier puppy or not, it is a good idea prepare a puppy starter pack to accompany each puppy to their new home. This helps the new owner familiarize with the puppy, its routine, normal care, as well any comforts to help the puppy settle in.

The ideal puppy starter kit will contain:

  • some food for the first days, which should be the same food your puppies have been eating at home
  • a toy the puppy has slept with that has the smell of the other puppies on it
  • a pamphlet/information sheet about caring for Jack Russell Terriers  
  • important documents and vital information – registration papers, health check documentation, vaccination, worming and flea treatment records, and a contract of sale.


Breeding For Dog Owners Caring From Birth To Weaning | VCA Animal Hospitals (

Weaning Puppies: How to Wean Puppies and When to Start | PetMD

Breeding For Dog Owners Caring For Newborn Puppies | VCA Animal Hospitals (

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