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Do Mother Dogs Miss Their Puppies?

↯ Key takeaway points

  • Mother dogs can miss their puppies, but it depends on factors such as age, hormones, and breed.
  • Puppies can recognize their mother and siblings from 4 to 5 weeks of age.
  • Mother dogs can recognize their puppies even after a long period of separation.
  • Dogs have a strong sense of smell and can remember their mother's scent.
  • Separating puppies from their mother should be done gradually and at the right age to avoid distress.
Breeding Business is passionate about all sorts of domesticated pets. They have written dozens of articles across the web.
Practicing small pets and equine veterinarian and junior teaching assistant in Veterinary Medicine.
Published on
Friday 18 September 2020
Last updated on
Thursday 6 July 2023
do mother dogs miss their puppies
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Many breeders, especially first time breeders, have great concerns about removing puppies from their mother. Owners often ask “do mother dogs miss their puppies” and vice versa. No dog lover wants to remove puppies from their mother too early or in the wrong mother.

If you want a very quick summarized answer, then it is it depends. However, if you want to understand the influencing factors and how you can help your bitch and her litter have an easy transition, read on! We will fully answer and explain all the circumstances leading to a mother dog missing her puppies.

Do Mother Dogs Miss Their Puppies?

The answer to this question depends on the circumstances. Factors such as the age of the puppies, the hormonal influence of the mother, and even her breed can influence the answer to this question.

It is important to note that there is evidence that mother dogs do miss their puppies. As they are able to recognize and form bonds with each puppy. Furthermore, pregnancy and birth increase your bitch’s motherly instinct through hormones. This is at its highest during pregnancy and straight after birth, it then decreases after time.

However, by the time your pups are 7 to 8 weeks old your mother dog may actively try to avoid the puppies. Their teats will start to become sore due to sharp puppy teeth. Their rambunctious nature will cause her to look for her own solace. Gradual space from this age will actually bring your mother dog relief as she can have some time to herself. She can rest and avoid naughty puppies climbing all over them. However, to remove all the puppies at once would almost definitely lead to mourning. Therefore the separation should be gradual or removing one puppy at a time for re-homing. One study made the conclusion that the more experienced a mother is, the less of an emotional attachment she will feel towards her litter.

Do Mother Dogs Remember Their Puppies If Reunited?

Many researchers study mother dogs and their recognition of their young. One journal conducted by Hepper (1994) researched “Long-term retention of kinship recognition established during infancy in the domestic dog”.


Two choice tests were used to detect the memory between multiple family relationships between canines. They looked at mother and puppy relationships along with sibling relationships. Not only did they want to discover if recognition was possible, but also if owners could recognize it after separation time. Breeders will remove puppies from their mother to re-home them. Both breeders and owners have wondered if they mourn the loss of these relatives. By testing their memory perimeters it helps us to understand this more.


Puppies can recognize their siblings and mother from 4 and a half to 5 weeks of age. Similarly, a mother dog will properly be able to recognize their puppies from this age range according to the study. They not only found that mothers and puppies are able to recognize one another, but that this can be done so after much time as past. If a breeder separates a puppy at the usual age of 8 to 12 weeks from their mother, they are still able to recognize her at the age of two years. Similarly, mothers will also recognize their offspring at this point in time. Research needs to be further conducted to see how long mother and puppy relationships can be remembered by one another, however.

It was also discovered that mother and offspring relationships were recognizable for longer periods of time than sibling relationships. This hints towards the memory operating on different mechanisms for these differing relationships. It may also hint that the hormonal influence within dogs causes the bond between puppies and dogs to be much stronger than that of siblings. Hence why they remember each other more so than siblings.

mother dogs remember their puppies
Mothers and puppies are able to recognize one another even after much time has passed.

Dogs Recognize Their Mother’s Scent Even When They’ve Grown Up

Gillis et al. (1999) researched “Scent-Mediated Kin Recognition and a Similar Type of Long-Term Olfactory Memory in Domestic Dogs (Canis Familiaris)”. They wanted to see if olfactory(smell) stimulation could activate and give evidence towards offspring remembering their mother.


Gillis et al. (1999) would offer a towel to offspring which smelt of either their mother or human caretakers. Gillis would define a human caretaker as an owner who had hand-reared a puppy. Researchers would then analyze and compare the reaction along with the time spent smelling.

All the dogs used in the experiment were purebred for an ease of comparison and to eliminate external variables such as crossbreeding. Eight dogs were used to evaluate the olfactory response between a dog and the smell of their mother. Researchers would record that the puppies were separate from the mother from 7 – 68 months. Whereas nine dogs were used in the category of human caretaker with the separation period ranging between 11 – 39.


It was discovered that offspring spent more time sniffing a towel with their mother’s scent, than a towel with the scent of a female of the same breed. This displays scent-mediated kin recognition from the behavior of the dog. In the condition of the human caretaker, the dogs spent longer sniffing their caretaker’s towel than one that smelt like a stranger the same sex as the owner, with a dog the same sex as the tester dog. This shows that dogs can form emotional bonds between species and these can lead to recognition, stronger memories of certain subjects, and even link towards mourning and missing certain family members.

Future studies need to be conducted to relate this evidence to mourning and loss and understanding what dogs’ capabilities are for these feelings. However, this study does demonstrate that biological and emotional bonds are formed between a dog and their loved ones and carers.

Do Dog Moms Miss Their Puppies – FAQs

We have created a thorough FAQ to make sure you feel fully informed on the topic of whether or not mother dogs miss their puppies.

Do puppies miss their mom?

At the beginning of their lives, puppies will not only miss their mom but need their care in every aspect. However, at the age of 8 – 12 weeks, as long as their new owners care and socialize them properly through their growth, they will not miss their mum. That is not to say they will immediately settle into their new home even if you provide the best care.

Puppies require time and space to settle and each breed and individual is different. Be patient with your dog and be sure to always purchase a puppy from a reputable breeder and that they are old enough. Taking a puppy away from their mother too early can disrupt their normal development and even affect them later in life.

Is separating puppies from their mother cruel?

It is not cruel as long as you do so properly and at the right time. You must remember that in nature, canines may separate from their original group and join others to avoid inbreeding. Furthermore, as dogs today are domesticated, it would be cruel to consider releasing puppies into the wild. You may be wondering if all puppies should be kept with their mothers in large social groups. Firstly, this is just not practical.

Dogs can have litters of 1 to 13 puppies depending on the breed. Owners would require a very large house and open schedule to care for each dog properly. Furthermore, mothers often feel relief when breeders remove puppies at the right age. They finally get some peace and quiet and their teats get a rest too.

Do mom dogs love their puppies?

Nearly every canine mother loves every single one of their puppies. This is hormonally influenced initially and they are incredibly protective of their young. The older pups get, the more they can develop a relationship with that dog as opposed to something purely biological. Then, it becomes the same as any doggy friendship.

However, some puppies may be rejected by their mother due to biological illness in the puppy, a lack of motherly instinct, or other reasons that many breeders and behaviorists are still researching.

Do dogs miss their puppies when they are taken away?

If dogs have their puppies taken away too early or all at once, then they will miss them. As long as puppies are removed from eight weeks onwards and are given to owners gradually and not all in one go, she will soon be feeling herself. If a litter is removed from a mother all in one go this could greatly upset her due to the immediate change causing anxiety.

Mother dogs can miss their puppies if their individual circumstances are not considered. Plan everything before even mating her to a male to make sure the separation of her litter is not too sudden or all at once.

One comment on “Do Mother Dogs Miss Their Puppies?”

  1. Malina

    What can I do to calm my mother dog after the pups are gone

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