First, let’s understand that every litter does not have a runt. Now that we got that, we need to understand what exactly is a runt? To understand that, you have to understand how dogs breed. Let’s say a dog is bred on Monday, then again on Thursday, then again on Saturday. This is a total of 3 breedings in a week span. Unlike humans, it is possible for the female to get impregnated on all three of those breedings. Did you get that? A Rottweiler female can breed to a Rottweiler on Monday and a Boxer on Thursday and have half a litter of Rottweilers and half a litter of Rottweiler/Boxers mixes. A Rottweiler can breed to Rottweiler Stud #1 on Monday and Rottweiler Stud #2 on Thursday and have puppies from both; you would simply have to DNA each puppy to know who the father of each puppy was. I don’t understand why breeders use that method but some do. I am giving you all these example scenarios so you can understand that dogs can fertilize eggs multiple times, but they only have one labor; all the puppies are all born on the same day.
Okay. Now understand that puppies grow like crazy the last week of pregnancy. A dogs pregnancy is only 2 months long, so a week’s time is a big deal as you can imagine. Let’s go back to our first scenario. Our female was bred 3 times in one week. Two months after her first breeding, she begins to go into labor. She has 12 puppies. We have 6 that are huge, 3 that are slightly smaller, and 3 that are even smaller. The customers call them the “runts” of the litter. The last set of 3 puppies to be delivered could have simply been from the third breeding, and therefore, had one less week in the womb. As a result, they are smaller, but by no means any less quality. The runts are full of personality. As you can imagine, they have to fight harder for their share of the food and toys. They are in no way inferior. They are just a few days behind on growing. They might continue to be smaller the first few weeks of life, but they catch up very quickly.
Let me give you another example. If you have two sons and one was born a month premature, I am sure that premature son was smaller at birth. However, the premature son can easily be there larger brother today. It is the same thing in dogs. The word “runt” is so misunderstood. It refers to an animal who is inferior or has not fully developed. This is not what the small pups in a litter are. I do not call any pup a “runt”. I simply say he or she is smaller than their siblings, but in no means a “runt”. I have had the smallest pups end up being the largest dog in the litter at 1 year of age. Don’t hate the runt people. Embrace the runt!
Written by Liz Gutierrez
(You can see from the photos that Paris started off as the smallest pup of the litter and has clearly bloomed into a beautiful, and large, Rottweiler)