Early life experiences and the environment have a powerful influence on future behavior. Good maternal care helps puppies develop into healthy, well-adjusted dogs. Common maternal behaviors include touching, licking, grooming, and nursing her puppies.
Newborn puppies are “altricial” animals – meaning they are born helpless. They are blind and deaf, with limited ability to move. Maternal care is essential to their survival, nourishment, and protection.
In the first few weeks after birth, the puppies’ mother warms, feeds them, and cleans them. These behaviors contribute to the bond that forms between them. This bond is critical for a puppy’s survival. Maternal care contributes to a puppy’s normal social development.
Behavioral problems can occur when puppies don’t have a solid foundation of maternal care. A calm, quiet environment for moms and their puppies in the first few weeks after birth supports good maternal care.
Mother dogs provide warmth, food, and safety for their puppies. Maternal behaviors like nursing and grooming are important for healthy puppy development.
Lezama-García, K., Mariti, C., Mota-Rojas, D., Martínez-Burnes, J., Barrios-García, H., and Gazzano, A. (2019). Maternal behaviour in domestic dogs. International Journal of Veterinary Science and Medicine, 7(1), 20-30. DOI:10.1080/23144599.2019.1641899
Maternal Care Library
Bare BoneS – if you only have a few minutes for the basics
SNACKS – If you want to learn more
Kibble – If you want to take a deep dive into the SCIENce
Basal Cortisol Concentrations Related to Maternal Behavior During Puppy Development Predict Post-Growth Resilience in Dogs
Sampling Maternal Care Behaviour in Domestic Dogs: What’s the Best Approach?
Characterizing Early Maternal Style in a Population of Guide Dogs
Level of Maternal Care in Dogs Affect Adult Offspring Temperament
Influence of Maternal Care on Behavioural Development of Domestic Dogs (Canis familiaris) Living in a Home Environment
Maternal Behaviour in Domestic Dogs
A Review of Maternal Behaviour in Dogs and Potential Areas for Further Research
Additional Resources to Support Dogs in Other Environments
SHELTER & RESCUE
Dogs living in shelter or rescue kennels face challenges specific to their living environments. Practical applications for their management and care may also differ. Additional resources for their caretakers, including those caring for dogs in home-based foster systems or rescue networks, are provided to support efforts to improve, maintain, and protect their welfare.
Dogs living in homes as family pets face challenges specific to their living environments. Practical applications for their management and care may also differ. Additional resources for their caretakers, support the human-animal bond, keep pets in their homes, and improve, maintain, and protect their welfare.
Research & Teaching
Dogs living in research or teaching kennels face challenges specific to their living environments. Practical applications for their management and care may also differ. Additional resources for their caretakers are provided to support efforts to improve, maintain, and protect their welfare.
Applications for Research & Teaching
Effects of Maternal Investment, Temperament, and Cognition on Guide Dog Success
Bray, E. E., Sammel, M. D., Cheney, D. L., Serpell, J. A., Seyfarth, R. M., Marshall-Pescini, S., & Parker, K. J. (2017). Effects of maternal investment, temperament, and cognition on guide dog success. maternal care development puppy