When mama dog gives birth to a wonderful batch of healthy puppies, you may feel enticed to call all your friends and family to admire the lovely sight. Don't. Chances are the sight of people crowding in your home will cause unnecessary stress, and mama dog may feel compelled to greet all the newcomers with a flashy demo of her pearly whites. You can't blame her though; the response is often the result of powerful hormones and natural mothering instincts.
Beware: Hormones at Play
Many dogs may not appreciate having people around their newborn puppies, but it's not mama dog's fault. If your once-friendly pooch has become unapproachable after giving birth, blame the hormone prolactin. Right before giving birth, progesterone levels suddenly drop, while at the same time the levels of prolactin rise. This hormonal change is responsible for stimulating nesting and protective maternal behaviors, according to the American Kennel Club Breeder's Handbook.
Do Not Enter
Being nervous the first few hours and days after giving birth is very normal for a mama dog. You will notice how reluctant she may be to leave the puppies to go eat, drink and eliminate. This behavior makes perfect sense since newborn puppies are born deaf and blind and are completely vulnerable, helpless creatures. People visiting and crowding over mom and pups will invade the dog's need for space and privacy and only cause unnecessary stress during this delicate time. Make sure the whelping area is quiet, secure and free of human traffic.
Allowing people to visit the newborn puppies is the wrong way to handle the situation. Having people over can interfere with mama dog's care for the litter. While she may appear to not mind a few visitors, in reality her routine may be disrupted and this may have serious repercussions, up to the point of interfering with mama dog's ability to produce milk for the puppies, according to Kirby Mountain Sporting Dogs. Most importantly, right after whelping mother dogs produce colostrum. Also known as "mother's gold," colostrum is a fundamental immune system booster that all puppies must ingest in adequate amounts within 24 hours of birth before it turns into regular milk.
Even if your dog does not seem to mind the presence of strangers around her newborn pups, you must think twice before having visitors come over. Visitors parading through the house may bring serious infectious diseases right when the puppies are more susceptible. Parvo disease can be easily brought in by a visitor's shoes, and a deadly disease as such is capable of wiping out an entire litter of puppies within 48 hours.
Green Light/Red Light
Mama dog may dislike having visitors in the home, but you and other people living in the household may be exclusively given the green light and a general pass from this form of aggression. However, some nervous new moms may also dislike having familiar people around. In such a case, exercise great caution when working around these dogs, and it's not a bad idea to keep momma kenneled for a while. Luckily, maternal aggression is a short-lived problem simply triggered by a natural concern of a mother for her offspring.
By Adrienne Farricelli
American Kennel Club: Breeder's Handbook Maternal Behavior
Kirby Mountain Kennels: Can I Visit the Puppies?
Virginia Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine: Nutrition of the Neonate/Orphaned Animal
About the Author
Adrienne Farricelli has been writing for magazines, books and online publications since 2005. She specializes in canine topics, previously working for the American Animal Hospital Association and receiving certification from the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers. Her articles have appeared in "USA Today," "The APDT Chronicle of the Dog" and "Every Dog Magazine." She also contributed a chapter in the book " Puppy Socialization - An Insider's Guide to Dog Behavioral Fitness" by Caryl Wolff.