Mother dogs discipline their pups without harming them, even though their behavior might seem aggressive to humans. For example, mother dogs might use their mouth to restrain or direct pups to stop what they're doing, but the adult dog knows how much pressure to use to avoid hurting her puppy.
Avoid trying to intervene when you see a mother disciplining her pup; she knows what she's doing. Understanding how a momma dog disciplines puppies will help you avoid reacting the wrong way to this training and will help you mimic some of it as you raise your pup.
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Mother dogs growl to puppies
A mother dog can let a puppy know she's unhappy by emitting a low growl. The mother doesn't even need to move from her spot in her bed, on the couch, or wherever she is located. Her pup understands that this growl is disapproval since it occurs when the puppy is performing an action. He'll connect the growl with what he's doing and understand that momma wants him to stop.
Mother dogs are assertive without being aggressive. Growls differ from snarls, which are more defensive, aggressive, and threatening. For example, if a puppy is bothering the mother while she's trying to sleep, the mother will give an annoyed growl rather than a threatening snarl.
Mom dog correcting a puppy with restraint
One way mother dogs train and discipline puppies is to restrain them. Mothers often do this by taking their mouth and putting part of the puppy's head into her jaws. The mother does not bite her puppy; she simply controls the pup's head to prevent the pooch from continuing her movements.
In some cases, the mother might use one paw to gently press the pup's head and body toward the ground. This prevents the pup from continuing to chase another animal, bother a sibling, climb or jump on a piece of furniture or other object, or continue actions the mother wants stopped. This will also often cause the puppy to roll over on her back afterward in the submissive position, signaling that she got the message.
Mother dogs herd/pick up puppies
Another way mother dogs discipline pups is by picking them up by the scruff of the neck and carrying them away from the "scene of the crime." A mother dog can also get puppies out of an area by herding them, either by putting herself between the pup and the area/object and walking him away or by using her snout to gently nudge and push the puppy away from the area and toward the direction where she wants the pup to go.
After the mother has relocated the pup, she might continue to stand between the pup and the area from which he was relocated and then stare at him or growl at the pup if the puppy tries to go back to the off-limits place.
Mother dogs look for submissiveness
One of the main ways dogs acknowledge that they are submissive to another dog or a human is to roll onto their back, bare their tummy, and put their paws in the air. This is the signal that the dog agrees that the other dog is in control and that she will no longer challenge the lead dog's authority.
Mother dogs not only growl at or restrain their pups but they also look to see that the pup understands what just happened by acknowledging the mother's position.
Use positive reinforcement with dogs
When you see a mother dog teaching puppies, don't try to mimic everything you see. A puppy will understand his mother's growls and barks better than a human's. Avoid negative commands, light slaps, or other negative actions when training your pup and use positive reinforcement. It's better to get a dog to want to act in a positive way rather than trying to get him to stop the behavior just to avoid a punishment.
If you see a mother who isn't responding to a pup, she might be rejecting him because he's the runt or is ill, and she doesn't think he will survive. She then concentrates her efforts on the pups she feels will live and thrive.