The Runt of the Litter: How to Help Him Grow Up Happy and Healthy

Ask some people and they’ll tell you the runt of the litter is the worst choice you can make when choosing a pup. Ask others and they’ll say he’s the cutest one of the bunch. The runt often isn’t able to put his best foot forward for potential owners because he’s small, scrawny and seemingly not too bright. But if you look deep enough you just might see a certain something in his eyes.

In large litters there’s almost always a runt who is much smaller and punier than the others. Often picked on by the others, the runt can sometimes appear timid or non-responsive to those looking for a new pet. But after breaking him away from the rest of the pack you just might find you really did get the pick of the litter.

Before purchasing the pup ask the owners if you can get an evaluation of the pup’s health from a vet. The pup should have a complete checkup to determine if he is simply smaller than the others or if he’s sickly. If he is sick or has serious problems he may not make it to adulthood. If you decide to go ahead with the purchase make sure the pup is immediately given vaccinations and checked for worms.

One thing that many runt owners do by mistake is overfeed the pup. Since it’s often small for its age some people think that feeding it more will help it grow faster. Not true. The pup will grow at it’s own rate, if fed properly, and no amount of extra food will help the dog. In fact, overfeeding a pup is almost as bad as under-feeding it and can lead to joint problems, digestive problems and other ailments.

Treat the pup like any other dog: give it love, attention, and understanding. The runt is no different than most other animals. He needs and wants your companionship and affection. More than anything, though, the runt needs your understanding. He may not be as advanced as his brothers and sisters but he isn’t stupid. Treating him like he is will only create a meek dog that quivers when addressed. Be patient if he has trouble learning the basics – he will. Reward him for good behavior rather than punishing him for bad behavior and you’ll end up with a well-behaved dog.

Allow the pup to struggle, if he must, to accomplish certain things. Let him fight to get up steps, for example, rather than picking him up and carrying him every time. He’ll become stronger and more sure of himself.

Be sure your pup takes vitamins, eats right, gets regular checkups, and lots of exercise. He’ll grow up as normal as any dog, and who knows, you might discover that your dog is a champion among champions.

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