Why might an English bulldog become aggressive when she has puppies?

Why might an English bulldog become aggressive when she has puppies?

Breed Facts

The English bulldogor more commonly known as just "Bulldog", is a hugely popular dog breed in the UK, and there is a high level of demand for English bulldog puppies, which is met by a wide range of different breeders from those for whom breeding dogs is their business right through to private owners of a single dog who just want to have one litter from their own pet.

If you are planning to breed from your own English bulldog, you should do lots of research first, into everything from how to plan a healthy litter to how to find suitable homes for your future pups and vitally, the unique mating and delivery challenges of the English bulldog breed as a whole and what they mean for you as the dam’s owner.

Assuming that you make a responsible, informed decision to breed from your English bulldog and do all of the necessary research first, you should be able to expect a happy, healthy pregnancy, delivery and start to the litter’s new life. However, some dams (including those that are usually very relaxed and personable and never aggressive) may display signs of aggression when they are caring for their litter, and the English bulldog is no exception.

Whilst it is not hugely common and certainly not normal for an English bulldog dam to become aggressive to other people (or dogs) when she is caring for a litter, this is something that can happen from time to time.

Knowing why this happens and the most common triggers of aggression in a nursing dam can help you to prevent problems from arising, or address them if they do – and so this is what we will look at within this article. Read on to find out why an English bulldog dam might become aggressive when she is caring for a litter.

What causes a dam to become aggressive once they have a litter?

Most dams that are good natured in general won’t become aggressive when they have a litter, but those mother-dog hormones and natural protective instincts are very strong when the pups are young, and your dam is likely to be hugely protective over her pups. This can lead to even small changes or challenges that your dog would normally take in their stride becoming amplified in the dam’s mind and seen as a threat, which may manifest as defensive aggression.

This aggression might be directed at people, other dogs within the home or other pets like cats – and you might find that the dam will be fine with one person (usually the person that cares for them and spends the most time with them, as they are trusted by the dam) but wary around other people – particularly strangers or even children that live with you and know the dog well.

Next, we will look at some of the factors that can contribute to a normally personable English bulldog becoming defensive or aggressive when someone is around her litter.

Too much interference

When you have a new litter of puppies, you and all of your family (and possibly friends) will probably be really excited about it and keen to spend lots of time with the pups handling them and playing with them.

This is important in order to get the pups used to people and being handled – but it should also be carefully managed and limited so that it does not disturb or upset the dam, and make her feel as if her and her litter aren’t getting any time and space.

Too much stimulus

Too much going on in the room where the dam and litter live will make most dogs anxious, and this can include too many people coming and going (particularly passing close by), a bed that is in a busy area of the home, or too much activity around the litter, such as if the dogs are in the kitchen and the whole family is coming and going for mealtimes.

Place your dam’s whelping box in a quiet room where they can be left alone, and keep other pets out of the room until you are sure your dog is ok with their presence.

Not enough peace and quiet

A noisy environment can stress out a dam, although this is less likely to happen if she is used to the normal noise and comings and goings of the home. Avoid loud music, yelling and overexcited conversation around the dam and litter, particularly when the litter is very young.

The presence of strangers

Entering a room with a dam and litter, as well as getting close to their bed and interacting with them is something that should be handled slowly and calmly, taking your cues from the dam’s reactions. During the litter’s first few days of life, only the human family that she lives with should get close to the pups, and even after this point, one or at the most two people who are calm and know how to handle a nursing dam is all that should be allowed up close to the litter whilst they are small.

Having a crowd of several people all talking and wanting to touch the puppies at the same time will be daunting for any dam, even if they are people she knows well.

When it comes to strangers – like prospective puppy buyers visiting the litter – wait until the litter is at least a few weeks old and the dam’s responses have been tested as she becomes more relaxed, and manage viewings carefully, asking people to leave the litter alone if the dam becomes distressed or has had enough.

Incorrect introductions or handling

When it comes to approaching a dam and litter and handling the pups, this in itself needs to be handled with care. Always respect their space, let the dam come to you, and take your cues from the dam’s behaviour. Never go to pick up a puppy without getting the dam’s approval, and know when to leave the litter alone.

A health issue or complication

If your dam is feeling under the weather or something is wrong (such as a complication during or after delivery) she will be less tolerant than usual, and defensive aggression or a change in mood might be your first sign that something is amiss.

If your dam has previously been fine with people around her litter, this might be the cause – so ask your vet to check her and the pups out.

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