When your female dog becomes a mother, it is totally normal that her personality will change somewhat during the first few weeks of the puppies lives, as her priorities change and her new babies take up all of her attention! While everyone who is considering breeding from their dog will surely be aware of this on some level, it is really important to be prepared for the ways in which the dam’s behaviours and personality will differ after the birth, and to accommodate for this as part of your care of the dam and the litter.
Read on to learn more about the behaviour of the dam once the litter is born.
Obviously, once the puppies are very first born, they will take up the dam’s attention almost constantly. This means that she is likely to be unwilling to allow the puppies out of her sight or to leave them on their own even for a few moments, and other than when she is eating or going to the toilet, she is unlikely to move more than a couple of feet away from the litter box. She will also have expended a lot of energy both giving birth and afterwards, feeding the puppies, so she will need time to recuperate and get her strength back. It is important that she has food available to her at all times and can go to the toilet at times that suit her, and that she does not have to worry about getting her needs met.
Depending on the personality of your dog and how she handles having a litter, she may welcome the presence of her very favourite people around her pups, and trust you to look after them for short periods of time while she has a break and something to eat. On the other hand, she might be especially reluctant to leave her litter if there are people present, so judge your dog’s mood carefully and react accordingly.
Nursing the puppies burns a lot of calories, and your dam will need to have constant access to nutritious and palatable food for herself in order to be able to cope with the demands that this places upon her. She will almost certainly eat several times more each day than she needed to before she became a mother, and it is important not to underestimate her desire for food! Make sure that food and of course, clean fresh water is available to her at all times, and topped up regularly.
There are few things more formidable than a new mother protecting her young, and you should be incredibly respectful of your dog’s protective instincts where her puppies are concerned.
You might be keen to invite all of your friends over to see the puppies, or start showing potential puppy buyers what is available, but this is to be discouraged during the first three to four weeks of the puppies lives, as this will almost certainly stress out the dam. Immediately after your dog has given birth and up until the puppies begin to open their eyes, her protective instincts will be at their peak, as the puppies are blind and entirely helpless. Restrict contact with the dam and her puppies to you and your immediate family that the dam is very familiar with only, and respect your dam’s needs to get on with the job of mothering without constant interruptions.
It is of course important to begin handling the puppies and getting them used to the smell, sight, sound and feel of humans, but this must be done with respect for the dam, who will let you know when is a good time and when is not! If she growls, hides the puppies or otherwise resists you handling the puppies, let her have her space and try again later, with a different approach.
If the dam is unwilling to leave her puppies at all when they are very little, you may find that she goes to the toilet in the house, and this should not be punished. Place some newspaper or puppy pads down to provide an area for her to go to the toilet, and of course make sure that you have lots of bedding available to rotate for the litter box, as the puppies will make a reasonable amount of mess too!
Your dam may also become less tolerant than usual and will not be interested in play, so ensure that she has peace and quiet and is not hassled by your children. Snappy behaviour or guarding the litter is also perfectly normal, and should never be punished or told off.
You might also find that your dam moves the puppies, digs up her bed, or digs at the carpet and other soft furnishings in the area of the litter. This indicates that she is not 100% happy with the place where her litter is situated, so move them to another area, or allow the dam to show you where she would like the litter to be, in order to keep her stress levels to a minimum.