To a dog parent, there is nothing more exciting than becoming a dog grandparent. You’ve loved every minute you’ve been able to spend with your dog, and now she is having you some puppies. You couldn’t wait to see what they looked like, what their little personalities were like, but now, something’s wrong.

Your dog is acting oddly toward her newborn puppies, and it has you scared. Why is your dog sitting on her puppies? Here is what the experts say.

Why does my dog sit on her puppies?

When a dog mom (dam) has newborn puppies (whelps), she can take to motherhood as most dams do, or she can do the unthinkable and reject her whelps. If a dam does reject her whelps, it can happen immediately, or days or even weeks later. You must keep an eye on new canine families, though, because if the dam does reject her whelps, they will surely die without quick intervention.

Certainly, you’re thinking to yourself — What in the world could make a dam turn on her own whelps? Let’s look into it.

Does she not recognize them as her whelps?

Sometimes a dam does not recognize a litter of whelps as her own, and this will cause her to reject them. This often happens when whelps must be delivered by Cesarean section. It also happens more often in younger dogs.

Are her maternal instincts not working?

Some dams’ maternal instincts just don’t kick in when their whelps are born, causing them to reject their pups. This sometimes happens in young dogs, and it has been documented in dogs that had to be hand-fed themselves.

Could it be a chemical imbalance?

The main reason a dam’s maternal instincts would be lacking is an inadequate oxytocin level in the bloodstream. Usually, oxytocin levels rise during delivery, so a dam who underwent a Cesarean section would lack an adequate level of oxytocin possibly leaving her to be aggressive or just indifferent toward her whelps.

Is she injured or ill?

Maybe the dam just doesn’t feel well enough to mother her whelps. It could be that she is ill or injured and just isn’t up to the task. Here are some possible conditions that could affect a dam.

Mastitis

Typically, mastitis happens when the mammary glands in a dog’s breasts get inflamed most commonly due to a bacterial infection. Another cause can be the accumulation of milk. 

Metritis

Metritis occurs when the lining of the uterus gets inflamed because of a bacterial infection. Metritis most often presents in a dam within a week of birthing whelps.

Agalactia

When a dog just had puppies and should be producing milk but doesn’t, she has agalactia. The two common causes of agalactia are mastitis and systemic disease.

Exhaustion

Could it be that your dam is simply exhausted, and just can’t do it all? Birthing is not an easy task. It’s extremely painful and it’s exhausting. Sadly, it’s too much for many humans, too, and they must seek out help.

Anxiety

Maybe it is all the excitement. Maybe it really is all just too overwhelming. Are there other pets in the home? Is there a lot of noise, a lot of commotion? Are there a lot of people handling her whelps? Maybe she feels like she’s in a whirlwind, and it’s more than she can take.

Injury

There is also a possibility that she was injured during labor. While beautiful and a miracle, labor is quite an unpredictable and harsh process. There is more than one way that your dam could have been injured during birth and have internal bleeding or such.

Is there something wrong with the puppies?

It would be uncommon for something to be wrong with a whole litter of whelps, but quite common for a single pup to have health issues. This would cause the dam to reject only that one whelp to keep the rest of the litter from getting infected or to save her strength and milk for the healthy whelps.

Why does my dog lie on her puppies?

It is actually normal for your dog to lie “on” her puppies, at least it looks like she is lying on them. Under normal circumstances, a dam is just trying to keep them warm and fed.

Under normal circumstances, puppies can get killed quite by accident simply because a dam doesn’t realize she is smothering a particular whelp. That is why a whelping box is so important.

Whelping boxes or nesting boxes are used to protect whelps during birth and “puppyhood.” A whelping box keeps a puppy contained and warm, but it also, very importantly, protects it from being smothered or crushed by its mother.

Why does my dog keep covering her puppies?

If your dog keeps covering her puppies, this could be a good sign…or not. Let’s look.

Is it denning instinct?

Your dog could simply be working off of denning instinct. Denning instinct would cause a dam to cover her whelps to provide shelter for them. This would be a sign of caring for them, but it could be something else, too.

Is she rejecting them?

Whether it’s only one or two of them who were born with problems or whether the whole healthy litter, covering them could also mean she has rejected them. 

How do I stop my dog from lying on her puppies?

If your dog has begun to reject her puppies, there are some things you can do to help your puppies, as well as her. The first thing you can do is try moving the whelping box.

It needs to be in a quiet, serene space, possibly dimly lit. A bedroom closet would make a good home for a whelping box, but leave the door open, so that the dam doesn’t feel trapped and become overly anxious. Putting it in the right spot may help release the hormones that will help her maternal instincts to kick in.

If she is still rejecting her puppies, you may have to keep them warm with towels and blankets and hand-feed them with bottles or syringes. You could also solicit help and aid her pups in latching on, etc. to move the feeding process along, but if you get any pushback from the mother, stop and remove the puppies immediately.

You could also try a synthetic pheromone collar to calm her down. Other than that, consult your veterinarian.

How do I know if my dog is rejecting her puppies?

If you are worried about your dog and her new litter of puppies, there are some sure signs that will signal to you that she is rejecting her pups. Here are some things to look for.

Is she licking them?

Typically, dams lick on each one of their pups to clean them, to put her scent on them to mark or “claim” them, and to stimulate their digestive system. If your dog is not licking on each of her puppies, she is rejecting one or all of them.

Is she distancing herself from them?

Do you find that your dog is sitting or lying apart from the litter for too long a period of time? Is she showing an undeniable indifference toward them? This is a sure sign that she is rejecting them.

Do the whelps cry excessively?

Unlike human babies, whelps are usually quiet under normal circumstances, so if they aren’t getting what they need from their mother, they will cry out. This is a good sign that she isn’t feeding them right.

Does she pick up puppies and move them away from the litter?

If you see your dog picking up some whelps and moving them away from the litter but not others, she is probably rejecting the one or more whelps that she moved. She is separating them from the litter for a reason.

Is she showing signs of high anxiety?

It is physically trying and mentally stressful to birth another being. If she is acting funny at all after birth, you should keep a very close eye on her and her puppies. In worst cases, dams have been known to smother and even eat their whelps.

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.