Why Would A Mother Dog Move One Puppy

Why Would A Mother Dog Move One Puppy? 8 Reasons Why

Ever asked yourself why would a mother dog move one puppy instead of all of them? It may seem strange, but there are actually several reasons why a mother dog might do this. In this article, we’ll delve into the fascinating world of canine behavior and explore the different motivations behind this peculiar action.

So, if you’ve ever been curious about why a mother dog would move one puppy, get ready to learn all about it.

The Role of Maternal Instincts

Maternal instincts in dogs are a powerful force that governs many behaviors, including the decision to move one or more puppies. These instincts are hardwired into a mother dog’s brain, guiding her actions to ensure the survival and well-being of her offspring.

From the moment her puppies are born, a mother dog is driven by these instincts. She cleans her puppies, feeds them, keeps them warm, and protects them from potential threats. One of these protective behaviors is the act of moving her puppies. This might seem odd to us, but to a mother dog, it’s a natural response to certain situations.

For instance, if a puppy is sick or weaker than its siblings, a mother dog’s instincts might prompt her to isolate it from the rest. This behavior serves two purposes. First, it protects the rest of the litter from potential diseases. Second, it allows the mother to provide the weak or sick puppy with extra care and attention, which might increase its chances of survival.

Similarly, if the mother dog perceives a threat in their environment, her instincts will drive her to move her puppies to a safer location. This could involve moving the entire litter or just one puppy, depending on the situation.

In essence, a mother dog’s instincts are geared towards ensuring the survival of her puppies. Whether it’s through feeding, protecting, or moving her puppies, these instincts guide her actions and help her navigate the challenges of motherhood in the canine world.

8 Reasons a Mother Dog Would Move One Puppy

Here are 8 of the most common reasons why a mother dog would choose to move just one of their pups:

1. Health Issues

One of the common reasons a mother dog might move one puppy is due to health issues. If a puppy is sick or weaker than the others, the mother may instinctively isolate it to protect the rest of the litter. This helps prevent the spread of potential diseases and keeps the others safe from harm. (1)

2. Environmental Factors

Another reason could be environmental factors. If the mother senses danger or a threat in their current location, she might relocate her puppies to a safer spot. This could be just one puppy or the entire litter, depending on the situation.

3. Nesting Behavior

Dogs also have strong nesting instincts, so it’s not uncommon for a mother dog to move her puppies for nesting behavior. If she feels that the current location is not suitable or comfortable enough, she may move her puppies to a different spot that she deems more appropriate.

This can happen even within the home setting, where she might transfer a puppy from a whelping box to a quieter or more secluded area.

4. Attention Distribution

Lastly, attention distribution plays a role as well. Sometimes, a mother dog might move one puppy to better manage her litter. By relocating a more dominant or demanding puppy, she can give equal attention to all her pups.

5. Disease Prevention

Preventing the spread of disease is another crucial reason why a mother dog may move one puppy from the litter. By isolating a sick puppy, the mother can minimize the risk of the disease spreading to the healthy puppies.

This is especially important in the wild, where attracting predators may be a concern. By removing the ill puppy, the mother can reduce the scent that predators could detect and protect the rest of her litter.

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6. Environmental Threats

Environmental factors can also play a role in a mother dog’s decision to move one puppy. If the mother perceives a threat in their current environment, she may move her puppies to a safer location.

This could be due to loud noises, sudden movements, or other factors that the mother deems as potentially dangerous. Moving just one puppy allows the mother to swiftly respond to a perceived threat while keeping the majority of her litter safe.

7. Nesting Instincts

Nesting behavior is another reason why a mother dog may move one puppy. Dogs have strong nesting instincts, and if the mother feels that the current location is not suitable for her puppies, she may move them to another area she deems more appropriate.

This natural behavior can even occur within the home, where the mother may relocate a puppy from a whelping box to a quieter or more secluded spot. By moving one puppy, the mother ensures that her entire litter is in a safe and comfortable environment.

8. Balancing Attention

Lastly, attention distribution can be a factor in a mother dog’s decision to move one puppy. Sometimes, one puppy may be more dominant or demanding than the others, monopolizing the mother’s attention.

In these cases, moving the dominant puppy can help the mother balance her attention among the rest of the litter. By doing so, she ensures that all the puppies receive the care and affection they need for healthy development.

FAQs about Mother Dogs and Their Puppies

Here are some common questions people have about mother dogs and their puppies

How long does a mother dog stay with her puppies?

A mother dog typically stays with her puppies full-time for the first few weeks, feeding them and keeping them warm and safe. After about three weeks, she might start to spend more time away from the litter, but she will still keep a close eye on them. By the time the puppies are around eight weeks old, they are usually weaned and ready to start living independently.

How can I tell if a mother dog is stressed?

Signs of stress in a mother dog can include excessive panting, pacing, loss of appetite, and aggressive or overly protective behavior towards her puppies. If you notice these signs, it’s important to provide a quiet, comfortable environment for the mother and her puppies and to consult with a vet if the symptoms persist.

Can I touch the puppies?

It’s generally best to minimize handling of newborn puppies, especially in the first week or two. However, some interaction is usually okay, provided you have clean hands and the mother dog is comfortable with it. Always supervise children around newborn puppies and make sure the mother dog is okay with the interaction.

When should the puppies start eating solid food?

Puppies typically start the weaning process around four weeks of age. This is when they can begin to be introduced to small amounts of puppy-appropriate solid food, while still nursing from their mother. By around eight weeks, most puppies are fully weaned and eating solid food exclusively. Always consult with a vet for the best advice on feeding puppies.


There are several reasons why a mother dog might move one puppy from the rest of the litter. Whether it’s due to health issues, environmental factors, nesting behavior, or attention distribution, this instinctual behavior aims to protect the well-being and safety of the entire litter.

When we understand and respect these behaviors, we can better support and care for mother dogs and their puppies.

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