Think maternal instinct will always kick in once the puppies are born? Think again. The truth is that -- although rare -- some female dogs do reject their puppies. This is often an emergency situation, where you'll have to take over and become the surrogate mom, bottle-feeding the puppies and making sure they get enough care and attention.
Observe Mom during the first couple of days after birth. Mothers will rarely leave the newborns' side, except to go to the bathroom or eat. If you catch Mom sleeping or hanging out away from the puppies, that's a bad sign.
Look at the amount of licking going on. Moms lick young puppies constantly -- to clean them, to encourage urination and defecation and sometimes simply to mark them as hers. If the puppies are lying around still covered in amniotic fluid or if you don't see Mom constantly licking their butts to get them to pee, it might be a sign that she's not interested in them.
Listen to the amount of crying going on. Newborn puppies are quiet -- they either eat or sleep most of the day, usually buried against Mom's tummy. Puppies will feed every two hours, but not necessarily all at the same time, so as a result, there's almost always one puppy feeding at some point. If Mom is refusing milk or just leaving the puppies alone, they'll cry -- as loudly as they can.
- Rejection can happen for many reasons. Sometimes Mom is in pain after birth -- for example, with a case of mastitis -- and she simply can't handle feeding the puppies. First-time moms sometimes can't handle the puppies, especially in the case of a large litter. If the problem is physical, caring for Mom might solve it, and then she might agree to go back and care for the puppies. But you'll still have to care for and feed them in the meantime.
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