Many new breeders want to know whether their mother dog will miss her puppies when they go to their new homes.
But it is not a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’ question – the answer depends on the conditions under which the puppies are removed and the individual personality of the dog.
Mother dogs will form a bond with each of their puppies and recognize them as individuals. Mothers can even recognize their offspring up to two years after they have been removed from her care!
So every mother has the potential to feel upset by the loss of her puppies. How she feels will depend on her breed, her hormones, and how old the puppies are when they leave.
How Long Do Mom Dogs Miss Their Puppies For?
The hormones released during pregnancy and birth, specifically oxytocin, will considerably increase the mother dog’s maternal instinct. Oxytocin is known as the hormone of love and jealousy, which explains why mother dogs are so fiercely protective of their young whilst showing deep care and affection towards them.
The dog’s hormone levels will reduce gradually over time after the birth, and the intense maternal instinct will fade.
Some dogs retain their maternal instinct even after all of her puppies have been rehomed. They can display unusual behaviours like carrying around soft toys or caring for other dogs.
If you keep one of the puppies from the litter, the mother will likely form a close bond with it over time. This bond will be more akin to a dog friendship than a mother-child relationship.
There have been studies which suggest that the more litters a mother has, the less attached she becomes to the puppies. This would make sense given that she will begin to expect them to be taken away.
It is widely known that puppies should stay with their mother where possible until they are at least 8 weeks old. This gives the mother time to teach the puppies important life lessons and social skills, like grooming and interaction with other dogs.
By this time, the mother’s teats will have begun to feel sore due to the puppies developing sharp teeth.
The puppies will be getting bigger and more active, making the mother feel more tired. She will likely begin to avoid her puppies for portions of the day to get some much needed rest and space.
Remember that the bigger the litter, the harder work it is for the mother and the more rest she will need.
Some mother dogs of certain breeds are able to remain with their puppies until the litter has reached 12 weeks of age- it depends on the temperament of the breed and personality of the individual dog.
Even so, make sure your mother dog has an area where she can take time for herself away from the puppies when she needs it. This will help to avoid her snapping at the puppies or accidentally injuring them, and will reduce her stress levels.
Is It Cruel To Take Puppies Away From Their Mother?
It is recommended that you begin the process of separation gradually. Separate the puppies from the mother for a small amount of time each day, and try to remove only one puppy at a time.
If all of her puppies are removed after the mother has spent all her time with them for 8 weeks, she will certainly grieve for her loss. A sudden loss of this nature can also cause extreme anxiety.
When each puppy is removed, the mother may look for it for several days. If all of her puppies leave at once she may become frantic. Looking after the remaining puppies will be a good distraction for her.
Dogs are aware of how many puppies were in their litter- if a stillborn puppy is removed during labor, the dog will look for it later.
Some new breeders feel cruel for removing a mother’s puppies, but it is important to remember that this also happens in nature. Whilst some pups will stay with their mothers in the wild, in most canine species a proportion of them will leave the pack to start their own group.
It would be more cruel to keep the full litter of puppies with the mother, as she would feel overcrowded in her own home and would struggle to get the rest she would need.
It is possible that some puppies will be rejected by their mothers due to illness or a biological issue. Keep an eye out for this if you are breeding as the rejected puppy may struggle to get enough food and could lack socialization.
How a dog reacts to motherhood will depend largely on their breed and their individual personality. Jack Russells are not well known for their maternal instincts, whereas gentle breeds such as Labradors and Golden Retrievers are.
If your dog is struggling as her puppies leave the home, try distracting her with fun outings and plenty of attention. Reduce her food back down to pre-pregnancy levels as this will help to encourage her milk to dry up.
Make sure the mother has access to the puppies when she wants it, so she doesn’t feel out of control.
It may help for the mother to see her puppies interacting with their new families before they are taken, so she is not left confused about what happened to them.
Remember that having a litter of puppies takes its toll on the mother’s body. Make sure she has regular check ups with a vet. They will make sure that she is healing correctly, her body is recovering, and there are no complications with mastitis or hip displacement.
Do Puppies Miss Their Mum?
Puppies rely on their mothers for every aspect of their care, so it is only natural that they will miss their mothers when they move on to their new home.
As long as they are properly socialized, they should settle into their new home and will usually stop pining for their mothers by the time they reach 12 weeks of age.