Why is my bitch not interested in her pups DSC 2942
July 22, 2021

Why is my bitch not interested in her pups?

A mother dog’s instincts will typically kick-in whilst she is giving birth to her litter of puppies; she will want to clean them and allow them to feed so they can absorb the rich nutrients from her colostrum, which is crucial for the first few days of their development. There may, however, be an occasion where a bitch may not act accordingly after giving birth, and she may seem disinterested in her pups which can cause great concern for their welfare. If this does happen, you may be left thinking why your bitch isn’t interested in her pups and what you can do to aid her. Here are the reasons why this may be the case, and what you can do to assist your dog and her puppies, if intervention is necessary.

Why is my bitch not interested in her pups DSC 1712

By Emily Roach, Paws in Work guest blogger.

maternal instincts.

Mother dogs are usually protective of their new-born pups and will make sure that they start feeding them straight after birth, as well as keeping them clean and helping them to defecate by licking them for stimulation. Sometimes this intuition may not be so apparent, as this can arise when the mother dog is too young and may not have developed the necessary hormone, oxytocin. This hormone induces milk production and nurturing behaviour after the pups are born, and without it the mother may not know how to react. The process of labour can be overwhelming for some dogs; the feeling of stress may prevent them from wanting to help the puppies feed.

Some stray dogs who have fallen pregnant may feel extremely overwhelmed and confused from being taken into new surroundings, such as a shelter as well as having to give birth; this in-turn can lead to the rejection of puppies. There may just be no specific physical or mental reason as to why a mother dog may not naturally take care of her puppies; sometimes things just don’t work out. It’s important to remember motherhood may not be such a breeze for some dogs, so try not to put pressure on yourselves or your dog as she may pick up on this.

medical causes & other factors.

As well as behavioural reasons of mother dogs not interacting with their puppies, medical factors can also have an influence on certain actions. There is a link between dogs who have c-sections rather than natural births, which may be a reason that they are struggling to bond with their pups. The mother will be recovering from her procedure which may affect her ability of lactation and her tolerance of the litter trying to nurse on her.

This can subsequently lead to aggression towards the puppies and even rejection. This is when intervention such as bottle-feeding would be needed as puppies are reliant on their mother’s milk until around 7 weeks of age. Some female dogs, however, need to have a c-section for their own safety, this is commonly an issue with brachycephalic breeds such as Boston Terriers, English and French Bulldogs and Boxers. Always seek guidance from your vet on what is best for your bitch having a safe delivery, depending on her physical needs.

There are additionally a range of causes which involve the mother dog trying to feed her puppies, but she physically can’t. One example is that the mother simply cannot produce enough or any milk at all, this is a rare occurrence and is thought to be caused by genetics. This may happen if the mother dog has given birth to a large litter and hasn’t supplied enough milk to feed all the pups substantially. This issue can usually be helped by improving your dog’s diet to supply her with enough nutrition to feed a large litter. Always make sure you consult your vet first for a clear diagnosis and how best to move forwards when looking after your dog and her puppies.

Why is my bitch not interested in her pups 202001 PIW Intituit 6699

The most common cause for a dog not feeding her pups is canine mastitis, which is a bacterial infection which can cause feeding to become very painful for the mother as swelling develops. This can also cause the infection to spread to her milk which can make the milk toxic and unsafe for the puppies to drink. The milk may look different, and the pups may reject drinking it themselves. Please ask for veterinary advice if you notice any of these symptoms.

Some mother dogs might be susceptible to more serious conditions such as metritis and milk fever, both of which can be life-threatening to her and the puppies if they are unable to obtain adequate nutrients in the crucial first few weeks. Both of which can cause symptoms such as fever, restlessness, and pain; the mother will not want to feed her pups. Emergency veterinary attention is required for both diseases and the pups will have to be fed via bottle and formula whilst mum takes some time to recover.

what to do when a mother rejects one puppy.

In some cases, a mother dog may reject one puppy rather than the whole litter, there can be a variety of reasons that triggers this. For example, the mother may detect a form of weakness in a particular puppy, such as a birth defect, which enables her to sense that their chances of survival aren’t as strong as their littermates. She may refuse to nurse them or give them any attention and even try to separate this puppy from the litter, because she will want to provide the other pups with her undivided attention. If you have noticed that this puppy is continually being isolated, you should take it to the vet for diagnosis and how to aid the puppy’s recovery. You will also need to help by feeding the puppy from a bottle and keeping it warm, as its mother would’ve.

what to do if your mother dog is biting her puppies.

Your dog may try to bite her puppies, especially during the weaning process. This is most common at the point of the puppies being old enough to transfer fully to solid food, typically around 2-3 months of age. This is a behavioural issue rather than the mother dog having difficulty establishing a bond between herself and her pups, or one of the pups becoming ill. This is simply due to the puppies developing sharp teeth which then becomes highly agitating and uncomfortable for mum as her pups constantly try to feed.

As the pups become older, their mother will gradually decrease the time she spends looking after them. She may become more irritable with them as time goes on and they pester her for her milk! This is natural behaviour and establishes boundaries between a mother dog and her puppies; they will learn how to gain their independence through this. On rare occasions, the correction a mother will give her pups may be aggressive, so it’s important to observe her with the puppies when they get to this age. The mother dog may also mimic biting, or she will gently correct her puppies if they show signs of aggression towards their siblings or if they’re generally pushing limits! This is all part of the healthy progression of socialisation and teaching the puppies when it’s appropriate for them to use their mouths for communication purposes and how to carefully interact with one-another. This will also benefit the puppies and their future owners, as they begin to teethe and learn what is and isn’t acceptable to chew on.

Check out our advice on how to handle the phases of puppy biting and teething.


It can be a challenging and conflicting time when your dog gives birth, especially if its her first litter. In most cases, its best to let nature take its course and allow your dog to nurture her puppies. There are, however, certain scenarios, just like those previously mentioned where your dog is unwell, or the pups are in danger. This is when intervention may be necessary and lifesaving for both mum and her pups. There may be instances when the puppies are crying out for attention and you’re not sure how to act; this is not only during the first few weeks of their lives but also applies when they’re in their new homes.

Here’s our guide on how to differentiate a puppy’s cry and how to act appropriately.

With the right amount of care, observation, and potential involvement, you can help ensure that your mother dog is content and has the very best outlook on raising healthy, confident and happy puppies!

Need some help with socialising your litter of puppies? Paws in Work are here to help. Get in touch with our breeder team today to find out more about our socialisation programme and how it can help your litter of puppies and their development.

more puppy news
What's the perfect age to re-home your puppy?
Puppy welfare
September 20, 2023

When can I bring my puppy home?

We know all about the excitement of a new puppy coming to live with you in their forever home, but this transition needs to happen at a point in their development where the puppy will be able to adjust properly.

If my puppy cries, should I pick them up?
Puppy welfare
October 31, 2019

If my puppy cries, should I pick them up?

My puppy is crying. What do I do? should I pick them up? It’s a good question. At Paws in Work we’re always aware of the needs of the puppies who come with us to our events...

puppy on a blanket
Puppy welfare
September 25, 2019

How to overcome your puppy’s fears

Even when they are given all of the love in the world, your puppy friend may well show some signs of anxiety in certain situations. Let’s have a look at some of the most common things a puppy might be fretting about.

We have heaps of puppy news to keep you updated on - sign up!

Subscribe to our mailing list to receive updates and promotional offers, our latest litter availability, and to stay in touch with our blog.