Behavior of the Mother Dog

by Bethney Foster
    Instinct and hormones instruct mother dogs in the care of their babies.

    Instinct and hormones instruct mother dogs in the care of their babies.

    Comstock/Comstock/Getty Images

    If your dog has become a mother, don't expect her to be the same cuddly, sweet girl she was before -- at least not for the next couple months. Her priorities have changed and you are no longer her No. 1 concern. She has a lot of responsibility. Those five to eight little lives are completely dependent upon her for food, warmth, protection and training for the next several weeks, and most mother dogs take that responsibility very seriously.

    Constant Attention

    For the first couple weeks after they are born, your mother dog will rarely leave her babies' sides. She will likely only leave the whelping box for a few meals a day and to go potty. Other than that, she will be resistant to efforts to get her away from her babies. When her puppies are 2 to 3 weeks old, their eyes and ears will begin to open. As they begin to play and explore, her responsibilities become less about feeding and warmth and more about ensuring their safety and teaching them proper behavior. Up until they are about 6 weeks old, she will give them her nearly constant attention.

    Responsibilities

    During the first few weeks, your mother dog will spend most of her time nursing her puppies. She'll need extra high-quality food and her water bowl should always be kept full. This will ensure she has plenty of milk for her growing babies. Much of your mother dog's time will also be spent grooming her babies. Her puppies need her grooming attention, which she'll accomplish by vigorous licking, to help them urinate and defecate. She will eat their waste to keep the whelping box clean, an instinct that likely comes from her desire to hide her puppies' scent from predators.

    Protective

    Your once friendly and outgoing dog may not welcome strangers -- or even you -- near her babies during the first few weeks after her puppies are born. She is also experiencing hormonal changes that make her even more protective. Likely, your dog will allow you to handle her babies, if you had a close bond before she gave birth. However, children, other pets and strangers may not be welcome near her whelping box. Provide her a quiet place where she will not be disturbed by loud noises, playing children, other pets or people during the time that she is raising her litter.

    Common Behaviors

    Even a well-trained dog may have accidents in the house for a couple of days after giving birth. This may come from her reluctance to leave her babies even for a potty break. Some mother dogs will paw at the floor, or tear up carpet in corners of the room. This digging instinct is likely an indication that she is trying to find a place to hide her babies because she feels they are unsafe in their current location. If your dog does this, move her whelping box to an area where there is less likelihood of her being disturbed.

    Photo Credits

    • Comstock/Comstock/Getty Images

    About the Author

    Bethney Foster is social justice coordinator for Mercy Junction ministry, where she edits the monthly publication "Holy Heretic." She is also an adoption coordinator with a pet rescue agency. Foster spent nearly two decades as a newspaper reporter/editor. She graduated from Campbellsville University, receiving a Bachelor of Arts in English, journalism and political science.

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