Your dog has just given birth to a litter of puppies, and all you want to do is go in there and celebrate with her. But hold on. Your dog's priority now is to care for her puppies, and she probably won't act quite like herself. Don't worry, though; once your dog has raised her puppies and her mission is accomplished, her behavior will change again, and she'll start to act more like herself.
Behaviors of a Mother Dog After Birthing
Worrying for her puppies
A dog who has just become a new mother will often intensely focus on her puppies. You may notice that your mother dog licks her puppies almost constantly. This behavior helps to create a bond between the mother and puppies, but it also serves to help stimulate the puppies' digestive systems.
Some mother dogs may act like they're searching for something in your house. Some may go as far as to try to "dig" in your home, often in a carpeted area. If you notice your dog doing this, she may be indicating that she doesn't feel safe. It's best to leave your dog alone with her puppies in a quiet area where they won't be disturbed. Check in on them from time to time, sure, but give them a chance to bond and let the mother welcome your company once she feels safe and in control.
You may be surprised to see that your normally friendly dog suddenly shows aggression toward you and others once her puppies are born. This is a common behavior in new mother dogs, and it's driven by hormonal changes that your dog undergoes as she gets closer to giving birth. Your dog may snap or growl at people who get near her and her litter, especially when the puppies are young.
It can be tempting to want to show off the new puppies to your friends, but this can stress the mother dog even more. Instead, only bring in one or two people whom the mother dog knows well. Respect your dog's privacy as she bonds with her litter, and remember that she's reacting instinctively if she does act aggressively toward you.
Urinating in your house
Your dog, who was so well-housebroken, may seem to forget her training in the days after she gives birth. Some mother dogs are so focused on their litters that they are reluctant to leave them for any reason, even to go outside to relieve themselves. You'll probably notice this behavior the most in the first 24 hours or so after your dog has given birth.
After 24 hours have passed since your dog gave birth, you can take her outside to encourage her to relieve herself. Just don't keep her away from her puppies for too long. She should gradually relax with this arrangement, realizing that she'll be brought back to her puppies again. But if your dog continues to relieve herself in the house, or has trouble relieving herself, then it's time for a trip to the vet to get her checked out.
Handling your dog’s behavior
When your dog has given birth to a litter, the best thing you can do is give her some time alone with her puppies. Provide your dog with a quiet place where she can feel safe with her litter. Check in on them from time-to-time, but don't get any more involved with the puppies than you have to be.
You should look for behaviors in your dog that indicate that something is wrong, such as unusual nervousness, loss of appetite, or listlessness. You should also make sure that she's caring for all of her puppies. It's possible for a mother to reject some or all of her puppies if she doesn't feel well or if her maternal instincts don't kick in. If you witness this behavior or other concerning behaviors, take your dog and her puppies to the vet right away.