The motherly instinct is strong in many dogs. It isn't at all uncommon for female dogs to become fiercely protective of their wee litters, a natural reaction. This is referred to as "maternal aggression." Mother dogs direct this aggression not only at fellow dogs, but also to people once in a while.
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While a mother dog is busy nursing and otherwise looking after her litter, meetings with other canines aren't usually a good idea. Mother dogs can get extremely defensive of their youngsters during this crucial time, and the last thing they need is to worry about other dogs posing risks to them. If you're caring for a nursing mother dog and her puppies, keep her away from any other canines that might be in your home. Do this until the little ones become a little more independent and self-sufficient. No matter how mild and peaceful the mother dog might usually be, never doubt the potential of her intensely protective urges. If another dog even so much as walks over into the puppies' general direction, aggressive behaviors could potentially begin -- and quickly. Prevent that unpleasant scenario from happening and isolate mother dogs and puppies away from all other animals.
Aggression With Humans
Although it isn't unheard of for mother dogs to be aggressively protective of their offspring around people, fierce behavior focused at other canines is significantly more prevalent. Fierceness aimed at animals in general -- think cats -- is a lot more common in mama dogs after whelping.
Not All Dogs Are the Same
Don't assume that all canines act the same after giving birth to their litters. While one dog might show a lot of classic maternal aggression, growling up a storm during nursing sessions, for instance, another might not give off even the tiniest inkling of it. Some mother dogs show zero defensive patterns regarding their litters, resting spots or vital belongings.
Maternal aggression typically goes away after all of the puppies in a litter are totally through with nursing and are eating only solid puppy food. Getting mother dogs spayed also frequently helps with stopping any aggression from ever coming back.
Always be extremely careful around animals who show any signs of aggression, whether to people or to other furry creatures. Aggression can be extremely perilous to canines and humans alike. If a mother dog is behaving in a worryingly aggressive manner, seek veterinary help just to make sure that her behavior is in no way related to pain or health-related issues. If it's not, look for a professional pet behavior expert to help your doggie get through this problematic behavior and eliminate it permanently. It's way too dangerous to try to solve it by yourself.
By Naomi Millburn
Great Plains SPCA: Understanding Aggressive Behavior in Dogs
VCA Animal Hospitals: Aggression in Dogs - Overview and Diagnosis
The Official Website of the City of Austin, Texas: Nursing Mother Dogs and Their Puppies
Do Over Dogs; Pat Miller
Click & Easy; Miriam Fields Babineau
Toledo Area Humane Society: Understanding Aggressive Behavior in Dogs
Cullen's Archangel Rescue: Aggression
About the Author
Naomi Millburn has been a freelance writer since 2011. Her areas of writing expertise include arts and crafts, literature, linguistics, traveling, fashion and European and East Asian cultures. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in American literature from Aoyama Gakuin University in Tokyo.