Can a mama dog feel post-pawdum after her litter of puppies trots away to a new forever home?
That depends on the mom, said Kristen Collins, director of anti-cruelty behavior services on the ASPCA Anti-Cruelty Behavior Team.
“Some mama dogs seem quite pleased when relieved from puppy duty. Raising and nursing pups is hard work! Others show signs of stress when pups are taken from the litter,” said Collins.
Signs of stress could include searching for the puppies or seeking more attention from pet moms and dads. Body languages to look for to identify stress are: ears back, tail down, pacing, whining or barking or panting, said Collins.
To help cope with the stress of losing their litter, Collins suggests taking the pups be taken from the litter one at a time. Also, making time early on for brief periods of separation from the pups can help the mama get used to being away from her babies.
The gradual process of weaning the pups from their mom can start when the puppies are 3 to 4 weeks old and end at 7 to 8 weeks old, said Collins.
“When it’s time for pups to permanently leave mom, keep mom busy with plenty of exercise and quality time,” said Collins. “Give her things to chew and play her favorite games every day. Mental and physical exercise may help distract her if she’s anxious about the absence of the puppies.”
Waiting until puppies reach 10 to 12 weeks to go to their forever homes may be a wise choice, said Collins, as they can be physically healthier and learn life lessons through interaction with mom and littermates.
“Ensure that the pups have plenty of opportunities to meet many people and other animals, experience new things and explore the world. If your set-up or lifestyle doesn’t allow you to provide thorough socialization, it’s likely best to let the puppies go to their new pet parents at 7 to 8 weeks of age,” said Collins.
Creating an area that allows a dog mama to leave but keep the pups in place can help facilitate the mama in weaning her pups. The puppies can be introduced to solid food at 3 and 4 weeks of age.
“Boost the pups’ interest in food and help mom get used to being away from her litter by taking her on short walks or off-leash romps during puppy feeding times,” said Collins. “Mom might look for the pups when you return home, but she’ll likely enjoy her outing with you while you’re away together.”