JEREMY HUNT SAYS: Breeding a litter of gun dog puppies, rearing them properly and selling them responsibly is a serious business from start to finish.

I think you need to go into this venture with your eyes wide open and not expect that any stage of rearing puppies is easy if you are to undertake the task correctly.

I can only comment from my own experience of many years – I know others may do things differently- but once a litter is born I monitor the bitch and her puppies constantly.

That means during the night too in the early stages.

Caring for the bitch and ensuring she is fed well but little and often, kept clean and comfortable and allowed to relieve herself regularly is essential.

She is doing the most important job and she needs your full support.

Leaving a bitch with puppies alone for several hours would not be something I would ever contemplate.

You need to ensure the bitch has a whelping box that is large enough to cope with her and her litter comfortably.

You may consider allowing the bitch and her puppies to remain in the house – say in a large whelping box in a utility room or similar- for the first two weeks or so to help you keep a close eye on them.

Once you start to offer solid food and the puppies begin to move around you will need to provide plenty of room for them especially if it’s a large litter.

If they are to be moved to an outside kennel or building you will have to ensure some form of heating can be provided.

A litter of puppies soon needs room to move around in as they venture away from their dam so an additional, but contained, area beyond the whelping box is needed otherwise things will start to get very messy.

The four to eight-week stage is when the hard work starts. There is constant cleaning up to do to do and the litter will need feeding four times a day.

And even if you have them all ordered and sold to their new homes by eight weeks – and inevitably there are often stragglers that hang around for longer than that – a litter of eight or nine eight-week-old labrador puppies demands a considerable amount of daily care if you are doing the job properly.

Time is a precious commodity for us all these days but time spent watching and observing a litter is the key to successful rearing.

If problems are to be spotted early – like puppies that aren’t sucking, loose motions, unevenly emptied teats on the bitch and a host of other things – and dealt with quickly, you must be prepared to dedicate enough time to really managing the dam and her pups with real commitment.