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Do Male Dogs Recognize Their Own Puppies?

↯ Key takeaway points

  • Domesticated dogs do not have paternal instincts, unlike their wolf ancestors
  • Male dogs may show jealousy, indifference or love towards their puppies
  • It is recommended to prevent the father from meeting his pups until they are at least 20 days old
  • Male dogs may form bonds with their puppies, but it is a gradual process
Written by Jay
BsC (Hons) Animal Behaviour & Welfare graduate with a passion for advocating for misunderstood animals.
Practicing small pets and equine veterinarian and junior teaching assistant in Veterinary Medicine.
Published on
Wednesday 18 November 2020
Last updated on
Thursday 6 July 2023
do male dogs recognize their own puppies
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It is common knowledge that mother dogs adore and recognize their own puppies. However, many breeders wonder do male dogs recognize their own puppies? If so, is this the influence of hormones, or could they even be aware of the bitch’s pregnancy?

This information can be useful for socialization as well as preventing possible mourning from the father being denied access to his puppies. However, if the answer to the question “do male dogs remember their puppies?” is a no, then breeders do not need to worry about the father missing his puppies.

Do Male Dogs Know Their Puppies

A quick answer to this complex question is that male dogs do not really recognize their puppies. However, it is difficult to conclude this fully. Male dogs are able to understand that a litter is now part of the household. They are also able to recognize that a litter belongs to a particular female. It is also fair to conclude that most adult male dogs understand that these are puppies and not fully grown dogs, so many will treat these puppies with much more care and patience. However, there is no direct proof that a male dog will recognize his own puppies.

Although it is impossible to definitively conclude that a male dog does not recognize a litter of puppies as their own, it is generally considered that they do not. Male dogs will be introduced to the puppies and learn about them as new members of the household. For them, they have not had the development of hormones as the puppy grows as the mother has. Their association towards the puppies is not directly genetic, but instead, that of a new playmate or friend to cuddle. Their opinion of the puppies is simply that of a new little friend and they do not realize that they are the parent of them.


Do Male Dogs Have Paternal Instincts?

Domesticated dogs do not have paternal instincts towards their puppies. The dogs we have today have descended from Gray wolves, who have a more generalized paternal instinct. Male wolves will protect their offspring as well as help to teach them important life skills, such as hunting and play.

However, our wonderful fur pets do not have these instincts and it is most likely because of our influence. In the same manner that dogs no longer look to hunt, those without selectively bred hunting instincts, of course, they no longer need paternal instincts. Humans have intervened with everything from breeding to birth and raising the pups, therefore, parental roles have changed.

As humans have intervened with dogs’ breeding processes and the raising of the pups, male dogs are no longer needed for the birth, protection, nor teaching pups how to hunt. Therefore, their role has basically been eliminated. As male dogs no longer hold a paternal instinct, they may be rough, aggressive, or accidentally injure a pup if they are introduced to them too early. Therefore we recommend preventing the father from meeting his pups until they are at least 20 days old. Even if his intentions are pure, a large dog could easily injure or kill a puppy.

How Will a Male Dog React to His Puppies?

You cannot make a prediction without judging your dog’s breed and character. From aggression to affection, each male dog will be different, which is why it is crucial you are very cautious during their first meeting. From jealousy to care, your dog’s predicted traits and current may allow you to understand their most likely reaction to their litter.


Some dogs may feel jealous of the attention puppies are receiving from their mother, other animals in the household, and especially from you. Jealousy can cause your dog to be indirectly or directly aggressive. The best-case scenario of jealousy manifesting itself through behavior is avoidance. Your male dog may simply remove himself from the situation and avoid the litter altogether. He may sulk a little so be sure to give him attention!

Some males may try to gain the attention of you and others by placing themselves between you and the litter. This can be dangerous for two reasons. Firstly, the male could step on a puppy and cause it serious harm. Furthermore, the mother may attack the father to protect her puppies. There is also the possibility that the father may deliberately attack the puppies out of jealousy. With his teeth and strength, he could easily cause them life-threatening injuries.


As many male dogs don’t have paternal instincts, there is the possibility they may be indifferent to the puppies. This may be displayed through initial interest that is quickly lost, or your male dog consistently ignoring them. A lot of breeders prefer when their studs behave this way. As even those dogs that are very loving towards their pups are in close confines with them and could accidentally step or injure a puppy if aggravated too much.

Indifference in dog behavior from the father towards the litter is the most common reaction in studs. Therefore, many breeders will attempt to prevent their stud dog from meeting a litter until and if it is necessary.


Although uncommon, it is not unheard of for a stud dog to instantly begin to care for their litter. A male dog may be found cuddling their litter, cleaning them, and even gently carrying them in their mouth. Is this proof that male dogs recognize their puppies? Not necessarily. Dogs of a gentle nature and more cuddly may recognize the vulnerability of puppies. This may be an independent case of paternal instinct or, more likely, a very empathetic dog.

Dogs are very empathetic creatures, some more so than others. Those that are particularly so maybe be able to understand that puppies are vulnerable in more ways than one and attempt to protect or care for them. Therefore, it is not necessarily recognition, but compassion to those that are more vulnerable.

male dogs and their puppies
Gentle dogs may recognize their puppies more.

Do Male Dogs Recognize Their Puppies – FAQ

We have found the four most searched questions about father dogs’ recognition of their pups and answered them for you below.

Can a Male Dog Tell if Puppies are His?

There is no evidence to suggest that a male dog can tell if a litter is his. Some breeders argue that due to their dog being so gentle and compassionate with their pups, they can in fact recognize their litter. However, there is no definitive proof that this is the cause.

Studies point towards empathy and a recognition of puppies’ vulnerability being a more believable statement. There is another option, that he may be doing so because of his temperament and individual characteristics. Some dogs are simply more gentle and affectionate than others. This can be due to their breed, environmental influence as well as genetic influence.

Should the Male Dog Stay Away From Puppies?

For the first twenty days of a puppy’s life, male dogs should stay away from the puppies. However, after this period it can actually be beneficial for the father to meet the puppies. This is because it helps to properly socialize the puppies during their sensitive period. You need to make sure that the father is displaying friendly behavior and is not showing any aggression or reluctance to meet the puppies according to the dog aggression ladder.

The first meeting must be properly monitored and not forced in any way as this can lead to aggression and injury. Instead, Allow the father and puppies to approach on their own and separate them if any negative signs occur.

Why do Father Dogs Attack Their Puppies?

There are multiple reasons why father dogs may attack their puppies including jealousy, the allowance of another mating, and anxiety or over-stimulation from the puppies.

If a dog is jealous of the puppies getting your attention, he may try to get your attention. If he is not achieving his goal then he may become frustrated and attack the puppies. This, of course, will not be planned. It could occur whilst you are holding them or if one is between you and the father. Aggression may also occur as once the bitch no longer has a litter, then she is eligible to mate with again. This instinctual drive may induce aggression.

Furthermore, if you allow puppies to constantly free roam without the father having a place to escape, they may snap at the puppies due to them harassing him. This can be incredibly frustrating for the father and this feeling can lead to them snapping at the puppies.

Do Male Dogs get Sad When You Take Their Puppies?

If a male dog has already bonded with the puppies and formed a friendship, then they may be sad when a puppy is re-homed. However, the general re-homing of a puppy will most likely not affect the father as they do not have a natural paternal instinct.

So overall, male dogs do not recognize their puppies. However, this does not mean they cannot form bonds with them. It just means that this will be a gradual process as opposed to instinctual behavior.

3 comments on “Do Male Dogs Recognize Their Own Puppies?”

  1. Daniel Bogin

    So many replies that are inaccurate. I will point to an obvious absurdly false answer. Someone was speaking on the genetic ancestry of dogs and how they descended from Grey wolves, and how most likely humans have bred out their hunting instincts, except for certain breeds that have been bred for that purpose. I have been around dogs most of my 50 years. I can say with great confidence that most dogs have a prey drive. It may vary greatly from bread to breed, and even more so from the individual dog, but I am confident that “hunting”, and prey drive has most certainly not been bred out of dogs. When I see a response like that it makes me wonder if much of the information is accurate. In the wild, canines are at least a little bit hungry most of the time. I wont bore anyone with details of (AgRP) neurons, and how it pertains to animal behavior, but in simple terms, a hungry dog is going to show more aptitude to kill and eat a nearby squirrel then a dog who is always well fed. The original post questioner I think was trying to ascertain if a male dog could recognize his own puppies. Perhaps there is a genetic scent or pheromone that he recognizes etc. It’s not a far fetched concept. It certainly would be a useful trait for continuing his genetic line in a Darwinian sense. I will also point out that general intelligence seems to vary tremendously in dogs. This is no surprise when you look at how much variance there is in the species compared to most other animals dogs appear to be an anomaly when it comes to variance within a species.

    1. agnes dudas

      My puppies are 6 week,and daddy see them first time,that happiness what he’s do,never will forget!
      Check my Facebook to see the video!

  2. Amy Dorough

    My male Pitt knows his litter did the first one also. He goes in and cleans them and the no. Just sits there. He does not like other male dogs but when his first litter was born I kept the 2 males and Titus likes and cleans them ans momma dog per

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