Do dogs have paternal instincts?
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Do dogs have paternal instincts?

If you are thinking of breeding from your dog or are seeking a puppy to buy and viewing litters with their dam and potentially sire, you might be wondering what kind of relationship the sire of a litter has with his puppies if he lives with them and their mother all the time.

Do dogs have paternal instincts? No, but they might form bonds with their own litters nonetheless. This article will tell you more about how male dogs feel about parenting!

Male dogs don’t help to raise their young…

Male dogs do not have paternal instincts or automatically recognise that a litter of pups is theirs. They don’t have the drive to protect and care for their young that the dam of the litter does, or that the fathers do in some other species, and they don’t actually know that the litter they fathered is anything to do with them, even if they live with the dam throughout her pregnancy!

In the wild and in pack situations, male dogs will generally accept young puppies within their pack and packs often work cooperatively to defend territories and resources, but do dogs have paternal instincts in the way we understand them? No.

…But they might defend the pups in their territory

Male dogs don’t have paternal instincts. However, they might be protective of puppies that they know and that live within their home if they see the puppies as part of their household, and fellow members of the territory that the father dog in question protects.

Some dogs are naturally far more territorial than others, and so it tends to be male dogs that are territorial anyway that will defend pups as part of the territory; but they may also see their presence as an intrusion instead, so there are no guarantees.

The mother dog might not actually want a co-parent

How a dam or mother dog will react to other dogs (and people) when she has a litter can be really unpredictable. Even dams that are usually submissive, personable, or laid back might be quite defensive about her pups, and this may extend to people she knows well.

The same very much applies when it comes to how a dam with a litter will feel about the presence of another dog. If she knows the dog well and they get on very well, she might accept them alongside of the litter immediately. However, this is by no means always the case.

Some dams will growl and defend her litter and see off any other dog, even her own housemates, or the father of the litter.

So you have to factor in the information that not only do male dogs not have feelings for the litters they father, but so too might the dam not want the father around when the litter is young anyway.

Dogs are social creatures that tend to tolerate each other well

Dogs are what we call a social species of animal, which means that left to their own devices, they naturally seek out and form bonds with others of their kind, as opposed to just coming together to mate or to ensure their survival.

This contrasts with cats, which can be conditioned to get on with or tolerate another cat in the household but that out of choice and in the wild, would only tolerate others for mating, and for queens, her own litter until they’re old enough to fend for themselves.

Dogs then are not a threat to their own young per se, which is not the case for all species. A father dog, for instance, would not recognise a litter as his, but nor would he be likely to attack it or see it as a threat.

This means that the father of a litter and his own puppies might get on well with each other and if they spend enough time together, actually form affection bonds; but in the same way any two dogs would, with no distinction in place as a result of their shared DNA.

Adult dogs give more leeway to puppies than to fellow adults

The sires of some litters that live with said litter are very tolerant of them, often permitting them to climb over them, chew at them, mock-challenge them, and otherwise act in a range of ways that the same adult dog would be highly unlikely to permit from a peer or fellow adult dog.

However, once more it would be a mistake to think that this indicates that the father dog in question recognises and is displaying a paternal urge in this respect.

Said adult dog would likely treat any litter or puppy in the same way once they were used to them, including ones that aren’t related to them at all.

Male dogs don’t have paternal instincts or urges, but they will often be kind to their offspring nonetheless.

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