Many pet owners worry that their dog will get sad when their puppies leave. There are things you can do to make the process much easier. However, how a dog reacts also depends on their temperament and if it’s their first litter. 

Do dogs get sad when their puppies leave?

Much depends on the circumstances. When a dog is pregnant, her body releases hormones that promote motherly instincts. This process is quite similar to the process in humans. 

However, as the puppies grow older, the hormones slow, and the mother begins pushing the pups away. They will still remember and recognize their puppies, but the strong bond fades. 

Timing

Timing is one of the most important factors when removing puppies from their mother. If the puppies are removed too early, the mother is likely to mourn them. She needs time to perform her job and allow hormones to return to normal. 

Puppies should never be removed earlier than 7 weeks, unless there’s a problem. One potential problem is maternal aggression. When this occurs, the mother is aggressive towards her pups and can even harm them. The other potential issue is health problems with the mother. If she is unable to care for them physically, they may need to be removed. 

These problems are rare, however. Many times puppies are removed early because the owner assumes they are ready. Puppies are a lot of work for the owner as well as the mother, so they may also be eager to return to pre-puppy life. 

Most puppies should be removed between 7-9 weeks. However, some breeders recommend waiting until 12 weeks. Instead of a magic age number, watch for signs the mother is ready for the puppies to leave. 

They should be completely weaned. The mother will gradually have less interaction with them, and may snap at them if they try to demand attention. 

Keep in mind that feeding young puppies is only one of the jobs a mother performs. She also teaches puppies how to be puppies. They learn dog etiquette and social skills from their mother and their siblings. 

Gradual Removal

It’s important to remove puppies one at a time. When the first puppy leaves, she will still be occupied with the other puppies. She will realize one is gone, but will be less inclined to mourn. Gradual removal allows her to get used to her puppies leaving one at a time. 

What Happens if Puppies Aren’t Removed? 

We know that removing puppies too early can be traumatic and cause behavioral problems for puppies. However, what happens if the puppies stay in the same household with their mother as they grow older? 

One issue is the puppies may not develop close human relationships. Because they have a close bond with their mother, they don’t need as much companionship from their owners. If they have siblings in the home as well, it may be even more of an issue. 

Some mothers want their puppies to leave. They may growl or bite the pups because they don’t want to interact with them. Puppies are high-energy and demanding. After a mother has raised her pups, she may want time to herself. 

If the mother is aggressive, this can also cause problems with socialization. The puppy may learn to fear other dogs because interactions with their mother have not been pleasant. 

Owners may believe that if the pup has its mother to socialize with, they don’t need to meet other dogs. They are less likely to find puppy playmates or take the puppy on excursions. This can lead the puppy to fear new situations. 

When a dog is afraid, they have a fight-or-flight response just like people do. This means your dog will either cower or try to run away from the scary situation, or they will act aggressively. This can be unsafe for you and your dog. 

Mourning Mothers

Even if you follow all the rules, some mothers have a hard time when pups leave. It’s possible that they have stronger maternal instincts, or that the hormones responsible for bonding remain higher for them. 

Wild dogs leave their mother when they are ready. However, wolves, which wild dogs descended from, live in packs with family members. Wolves stay with their mother and siblings. 

A mourning mother may search for her puppies, seem sad, lethargic, or uninterested in activities. Her appetite may decline. She may whine. Some mothers adopt plush “puppies”. They will carry them around and groom them just like real puppies. Others adopt puppies from other litters, or even another animal like a cat. 

Watching Them Go vs. Searching

If you’ve ever seen a mother searching for a lost puppy, you know it’s heartbreaking for the dog and owner. One way to minimize this is to allow the mother to watch the puppies leave. 

Allow her to meet the puppy’s new parents. If you schedule a few sessions to allow the puppy to get accustomed to its new owners, include the mother in these as well. This lets her know her puppies will be taken care of, and she is less likely to search for them if she sees them leave. 

Do dogs remember their puppies?

Yes. Dogs do remember their puppies. Studies have shown that mothers can recognize puppies from 4-5 weeks of age. Since dogs can’t speak in words, researchers use behaviors to determine what’s going on in their mind. 

Mothers were given towels that smelled like their pups two years after they’d left the litter. The mothers spent much more time sniffing the towel with their pup’s scent vs. towels from other dogs of their breed. 

A follow-up study found that even after 10 years, a mother would recognize her pups in this manner. 

Do Fathers Recognize Their Pups?

There hasn’t been significant research on fathers and puppies. Most fathers have little or no interaction with puppies, and we don’t know if they realize the puppies are theirs. 

Mothers carry the puppies during pregnancy. They birth them. They feed and groom them. It’s clear that the puppies are their offspring. However, all the father needs to do is mate with the mother. They may never see each other again after this. 

If the father is around the puppies, he will likely recognize them as friends. Dogs can remember other dogs they’ve met years later. 

Wolf packs are run by a father and mother. The father is the head of the pack, or the alpha. However, dogs in the wild have a different system. The strongest male and female are the alphas. 

Do puppies cry when they leave their mother?

The first few days after adopting a new puppy can be very difficult. They seem to cry frequently, particularly when left alone. It leads you to wonder if they are crying for their mother and siblings. 

Puppies Miss Their Mother

Yes, puppies seem to miss their mother. They’ve left their mother and their siblings, the companions they’ve had for their entire lives. They’ve also left their familiar environment for a new one. 

It’s impossible to say what proportion of puppy angst is due to missing their mother, and how much is being in a strange place or away from siblings. However, it seems clear that missing their mother plays a role in their sadness. 

How Long Do Puppies Cry For Their Mother? 

The first 2-3 days are typically the most difficult. The puppy may cry frequently, particularly when left alone or at night. It’s a difficult time for everyone, but remember it passes quickly. 

How to Ease the Transition

One way to ease the transition is to provide stability and routine. Place their food and water in the same place. Feed them at the same time. Put them to bed at the same time. Take them to the bathroom at the same time each day. This stability will help ease their anxiety at being in a new place. 

You’ll also need to give them plenty of attention. This makes it easier for them to adjust to their new home, and begins the process of bonding. Your puppy will soon begin to view you as its parent. 

Compassion and consistency are key. Once you determine rules, everyone in the family should enforce them. 

Should You Adopt Littermates?

It seems sensible that adopting two puppies from the same litter would make the transition easier. However, adopting littermates often results in behavioral problems. 

It’s thought that this occurs because littermates are so closely bonded. They don’t have to develop individuality, and they may have a hard time forming a close bond with their owner. 

They miss out on key aspects of development. This can lead to an inability to cope with new things as they get older. 

Signs of littermate syndrome include fear of new stimuli, intense separation anxiety, and difficulty learning obedience. Many owners assume that because the dogs interact with each other, they don’t need to be socialized with other dogs. When they meet an unfamiliar dog, they don’t know how to interact with them.  

Do puppies remember their mother?

Yes, just as mothers remember their pups, puppies remember their mother around 4-5 weeks of age. Studies performed show dogs continue to remember their mother and siblings two years later. 

Should Puppies Visit Their Mother? 

Some owners bring the puppy back to visit their mother. This hasn’t been formally researched. However, anecdotal reports vary. Some puppies and mothers seem happy to see each other again. They may be excited and play or lick each other affectionately. 

Other mothers and puppies are not pleased to get together. Some puppies act afraid when they meet their mother again. 

It may also be confusing. Research has shown that dogs, even as adults, act like children with their caregiver. It seems that they see owners as their parents. This means that seeing a biological parent could cause some confusion or conflict for some dogs. 

Author

I created and currently manage Pet Dog Owner, the website you can go to when you have questions about your dog's behavior. It is my hope that you find Pet Dog Owner to be a helpful resource. It is also my hope that it will help you to improve your relationship with your dog. You can read more about me and my website here.