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What are Maternal Behavior Problems?

Female dogs usually have a built-in mothering instinct and know exactly what to do when their puppies are born. However, sometimes your dog just does not know what to do with her puppies after they are born and she could care less about taking care of or nursing them. On the other hand, your dog may be excessively mothering to the point where she is trying to care for and nurse puppies that are not hers. She may or may not have had her own puppies and may even guard and clean stuffed animals as they were her puppies. It is not a hereditary disorder and can happen in any breed of dog. These disorders are thought to be caused by certain chemical imbalances in your dog after birth similar to when a human mother has postpartum depression.

Maternal behavior problems in female dogs includes both lack of maternal behavior (mothering) and excessive mothering to her own or other dog’s puppies. These behavior problems can be dangerous if the dog does not take care of the puppies and nurse them.

Maternal Behavior Problems Average Cost

From 367 quotes ranging from $300 - $5,000

Average Cost

$550

Symptoms of Maternal Behavior Problems in Dogs

Symptoms are different for each type of maternal behavior problems.

Lack of Maternal Behavior

  • Does not clean her puppies
  • Abandoning her puppies right away and often
  • Will not let her pups nurse
  • Insufficient care of pups
  • Does not protect her puppies from others
  • Attacking her pups
  • Killing the pups (especially if aggravated by people)
  • If other animals come around she may attack her pups

 Excessive Mothering Behavior

  • Tries to take puppies that are not hers
  • Trying to nurse other dogs’ puppies
  • Guards puppies that do not belong to her and will not let the mother have them
  • Cleaning stuffed animals or puppies that are not hers
  • Guards stuffed animals and other objects as if they are her own pups

 Types

Lack of Maternal Behavior includes dogs that do not take care of their young.

Excessive Mothering Behavior includes female dogs without puppies that try to take care of and nurse other dog’s puppies.

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Causes of Maternal Behavior Problems in Dogs

Most often a hormone imbalance is responsible for either of these disorders, but there are other reasons that can cause these behaviors.

 Lack of Maternal Behavior

Stress or Fear

  • Sometimes your dog has too much stress or is afraid she will not feed her babies and may even attack them. It is important to give your new mother and her pups a nice, quiet place to be away from others.

Illness of the Mother

  • If your new mother is sick or in a lot of pain, she may not feel like taking care of puppies and will not want to nurse or clean them. Until your dog is feeling better you may have to take care of the puppies yourself. Contact your veterinarian right away to determine what you should do.

Puppy’s Health

  • Having sickly or deformed puppies may make your dog reject them. It is their natural instinct to focus on the healthy pups and either leave the sick one to die or kill it herself. If you see this is happening you can easily take care of them puppy yourself with a little help from your veterinarian.

Cesarean Section

  • If your dog had to have a cesarean section, she is likely to have mixed feelings about her pups. During a normal birth, the mother produces oxytocin, which increases the hormones to give her the urge to take care of her puppies. If your dog gets a cesarean section, she will not get this boost of hormones that help urge her into motherhood.  

First Litter

  • If your dog is having her first litter of puppies, she may just be scared or overwhelmed; not knowing what to do. You can try to help her by urging her to nurse and speaking softly in a positive tone. If she still does not nurse or becomes aggressive, it is best if you feed them and care for them yourself. Speak to your veterinarian about getting some milk supplements.

Too Many Puppies

  • Sometimes the mom just has too many to care for and needs some help. Get some supplemental milk and help her with her tasks. Do not use regular milk. It has to be milk specially made for feeding puppies.

 Excessive Mothering Behavior

Hormones

  • If your dog is stealing other dog’s puppies and trying to feed and clean them, it is a hormonal issue due to an increase in progesterone. This usually occurs in female dogs that have not had puppies and are in heat. It is best to separate your dog from the puppies and their mother while your dog is in heat. If you do not plan on breeding your dog it is important to get her spayed as soon as possible.
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Diagnosis of Maternal Behavior Problems in Dogs

After giving your dog’s medical history and the reason for your visit, the veterinarian will do a physical examination. Your veterinarian will also run a CBC and urinalysis to rule out any medical reasons for the maternal behavior problem.

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Treatment of Maternal Behavior Problems in Dogs

If your dog is not taking care of her puppies because she is sick you will need to get her back to good health, but otherwise there is no medical treatment for maternal behavior problems in female dogs. If she is in heat and you do not plan on breeding her, you should get her spayed as soon as possible. This is a routine surgery that is very safe with very few risks. Not getting your dog spayed can lead to ovarian or breast cancer as well as uterine infection.

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Recovery of Maternal Behavior Problems in Dogs

Your dog will recover as soon as her hormones level out, which takes 2 to 4 days in most dogs. Regular visits with your veterinarian will keep your dog healthy and happy.

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Maternal Behavior Problems Average Cost

From 367 quotes ranging from $300 - $5,000

Average Cost

$550

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Maternal Behavior Problems Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

Need pet health advice? Ask a vet

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Ask a Vet

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Valley bulldog mix

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11 months

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Unknown severity

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0 found helpful

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Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Frantically Panicing Panting And Wont Sleep

She has been frantically looking for her pups when they are all next to her panting alot won't sleep for long period of time and is tearing my house up while crying all pups are accounted for and everyone is okay she panics when I leave room what is going on with her

today

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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0 Recommendations

Thank you for your question, I'm sorry that she is having such distress. Without being able to see her, it is hard to say why she is having these problems, other than she is very young to have so many puppies. If she is nursing the puppies, this may calm down over the next few days as she gets used to them, as she may just not know what to do. It may help to give her some sort of other surrogate puppys like a stuffed animal of some kind, and see if she calms down with that. If she does not, it would probably be best to have her seen by a veterinarian to make sure she is okay. I hope that all goes well for her and the pups.

today

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German Shepherd

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Three Years

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Unknown severity

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0 found helpful

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Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Pooping In House

She recently gave birth to 11 puppies, we currently have 9 alive puppies the other two died during birth. This is her first litter and she is starting to having multiple pooping accidents in the house. She will go outside but she does not go to the bathroom while outside. What can I do to help her feel more comfortable outside?

July 28, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Ellen M. DVM

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0 Recommendations

Hello, thank you for your question. I am sorry to hear that your dog is having accidents in the house, but congratulations on the puppies! It may be that she isn't wanting to leave her puppies long enough to go to the bathroom outside. As the puppies get older, she will likely be more and more comfortable leaving them long enough to go outside. You may need to set up some potty pads or something in the same room as the puppies, but away from them so that they cannot accidentally walk through her fecal material. If she is having diarrhea or seems unable to control her defecation, I recommend calling your veterinarian and talking to them about that. I would continue to let her outside to see if she will defecate, but it may take some time until the puppies are old enough for her to be more comfortable leaving them. Best of luck! Please do not hesitate to contact your regular veterinarian if you are worried about the mother or the puppies at any point.

July 28, 2020

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bella

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Shih Tzu

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5 Years

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Mild severity

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2 found helpful

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Mild severity

Has Symptoms

Anxiety

my dog just recently gave birth about 1 week ago and she does nurse them and lick them but sometimes she snaps and growls at them and whenever i leave the room she whines and barks non stop till i return and sometimes she'll wander off to follow me and stay with me and leaves her pups alone and she scratches the floors a lot and whines in a super high pitched manner or just cry randomly. she'll sometimes leave her pups to cry excessively and ill have to demand her to go back to her pups. im just wondering if this is normal behavior or ??

July 20, 2018

bella's Owner

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3320 Recommendations

This isn’t normal behaviour, some dogs (like humans) are attentive mothers while others are more neglectful, you should ensure that Bella is doing her part of being a mother and ensuring all pups get nursed but there is no real management of this just supervision. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

July 20, 2018

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Riva

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mongrel

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13 Years

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Moderate severity

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2 found helpful

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Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Nurturing A Toy,

She had puppies at some point when she lived with her past owners which was many years ago. Yesterday she got a chance to sniff a neighbors dog which is a small breed and since then she began acting very strange. She has one toy in particular that she used to like and play with as a regular toy then she pretty much ignored it for several months and all of a sudden since yesterday's event she began picking it up, always keeping it by her side, licking it, keeping it safe next to her, if we take it from her she becomes stressed (panting and frantically looking around)and immediatelly goes to search the whole home for it so she could bring it back by her side. The strangest of all is that if we squeak the toy she almost every single time licks the toy then begins licking her nipples. Is she by chance checking if she can give it her milk? It's very strange and heartbreaking in a way. I think it has something to do with Excessive Mothering Behavior. She ignored that toy for months and now she honestly freaks out being without it (what seems like nurturing) which honestly was a 360 change in her behavior in a day so I wonder if it was because of her encounter with that younger and tiny female dog? Is there something I can do for her?

July 3, 2018

Riva's Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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1611 Recommendations

Riva may be going through a false pregnancy, in which case letting her have the toy and letting her mother it is the best thing to do for her. If she isn't spayed, that may help her.

July 4, 2018

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Meechie Monroe

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Miniature Schnauzer

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6 Years

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Moderate severity

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2 found helpful

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Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Maternal
Odd Behavior

My dog is exhibiting some odd behaviors long after she has given birth. Her pups are 5 weeks old now and she is on her 3rd liter and had not exhibited these behaviors before. Her liters have been 2 years apart each. This particular liter even though they are 5 weeks old she has not attempted to ween them off and her milk has dried out for the most part and we have been giving the puppies water-soaked puppy kibbles. Another odd behavior is eve after multiple bathroom trips outside during the day, she will urinate and deficate in the house at night when we usually leave her out and she’ll be fine. Another odd behavior is that she will normally leave her pups when nursing or watching them if she see’s or smells food when I’m eating or in the kitchen. On morning I was making food for her pups which she’s likes very much and eats as a treat. Her pups are big now and we’re trying to nurse and they had pushed her in a corner. I called her name and she didnt jump and leave them. I went and picked her up away from them to come get a treat and she didn’t eat it AND she ran back to her pups. I called her name again and she continued to ignore me and sat by her other owners bedroom door with the puppies fighting her for milk. I put them in their large cage with their meal where they are kept and she still didn’t want the treat. Their poops are large and she still wants to eat them, and the last thing is that we don’t keep her in the cage with her puppies anymore because she started scratching to get out like a week ago and we put her in her own crate. She had a huge accident in her crate which has never happened before even after multiple bathroom trips before we left the house for the day. She is showing some very weird behaviors and I’m not sure why they are starting so late after whelping.

June 16, 2018

Meechie Monroe's Owner

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3320 Recommendations

This is some strange behaviour and since it is most likely a purely behavioural problem there will not be a simple or straightforward solution. I cannot think of anything that may help in this situation for Meechie Monroe apart from separating her fully from the litter of puppies; it is a drastic action and she may continue to defecate and urinate in her crate when she is alone. I would recommend checking in with your Veterinarian to ensure that there isn’t anything medically wrong but I believe this is purely behavioural. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

June 17, 2018

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Bella

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Siberian Husky

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3 Years

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Mild severity

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0 found helpful

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Mild severity

Has Symptoms

Excessive Mother

Okay so I own two dogs. One is a Siberian husky and the other is a Belgian Malinois. They both went into heat at the same time and were bread by my neighbors dog. Anyways when I’m not around my husky will go into my other dogs kennel and try to feed her pups. They scream and cry and don’t want to be fed by her and when I call her out of the kennel and goes back to her own litter she whines and pouts but then starts feeding her own and leaves the others alone. My malinois does nothing to stop her from trying to feed her pups. My husky is very dominant towards my malinois. Anyways i don’t know what to do other than just let my husky feed my other dogs pups as well.

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Twilight

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Siberian Husky

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9 Months

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Fair severity

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0 found helpful

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Fair severity

Has Symptoms

N/A

I have a very young mother. She is very attentive & stays with her pups. My question is there is one that is a runt that she pays extra attention too & keeps trying to move her. I don't think she's trying to bury her or reject her because she is being more attentive to her. I'm just concerned because she keeps carrying her around like she's trying to hide her. Is there something I can do to ease her so she stops doing this??? She has her own area with for her & the pups. The pups are a week old.

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Heidi

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Miniature Schnauzer

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4 Years

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Moderate severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Pregnant

My dog was attacked by a cat at 4 months and has been scared of all animals and toddlers ever since except for the male that lives with us and one other poodle they have daily walk with in our community. Now she and our male have mated and she is Pregnant. I am worried that she will be scared of her our pups. Is this a possibility?

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Artemis

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Mix breed

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1 Year

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Moderate severity

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0 found helpful

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Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Diarrhea

My dog just gave birth and is pooping everywhere and I dont know why she didn't do that before, anyone knows why ? It doesn't matter what I do she still goes and in the couch in any corner it doesn't matter. I keep her in the room at night and she wait until I let her out and goes everywhere. Why ?

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Gulabi

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german sheperd

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3 Years

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Serious severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Over Protective

Our German Shepherd littered 7 puppies + 1 still born. After 10 days, mother started picking up a particular puppy and carrying everywhere in the house. This is being observed for last 7 days. Even after all puppies are fed, she picks up this particular male puppy and keeps close to her. She continuously licks puppy keeping it wet all the time. The puppy is healthy and like others. Unable to understand this behaviour. Also at times, mother tries to dig the earth. Can anyone please share the probable reasons and solution to challenge. Due to this behaviour, puppy screams whenever mother picks him.

Maternal Behavior Problems Average Cost

From 367 quotes ranging from $300 - $5,000

Average Cost

$550

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