Do Father Dogs Recognize Their Own Puppies? | Pet Keen

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Mother dogs care and nurture their young and most certainly recognize their own puppies. This is apparent in the fact that they will reject litters they did not give birth to while carefully nursing and nurturing their own. But what about father dogs? Do male dogs recognize their own puppies? Male dogs do not appear to recognize their own puppies, but it’s difficult to make a conclusive statement about whether this is the case. Male dogs treat puppies differently than adult dogs, but it’s hard to determine whether this is a simple recognition that they are babies or they know they belong to them.

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Reading: Do male dogs know their puppies

Do parent dogs have parental instincts?

It is generally recognized that male dogs do not recognize their own puppies and do not harbor parental instincts. their parental instincts are generalized rather than specific to their own litters.

dogs recognize puppies as immature members of the pack and treat them differently from adult dogs. even male dogs can become protective of puppies, but this behavior is not specific to the puppies they have fathered. while wild dogs, like wolves, exhibit parental behavior, domestic dogs do not. this is probably the result of decades of human intervention in the life and breeding of dogs.

Because humans have been actively involved in the processes of dog reproduction and the rearing of litters of puppies, male dogs are not kept in close proximity for the birth and rearing of puppies. they are not required to provide protection or search for food. they are also not necessary to teach the pups their role within the pack hierarchy. these jobs are done by human owners.

Because male dogs do not actively integrate into their families after breeding, some male dogs behave roughly or aggressively towards their puppies. others naturally adopt pups into their pack. There’s no way of knowing how a male dog will react to his litter, so it’s best to introduce a father dog carefully.siberian husky father dog sniffing the puppy

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How Do Father Dogs React to Their Puppies?

every male dog is different from his puppies. Reactions range from affectionate to aggressive, so it’s crucial to be careful with your first encounter. There are several traits that parent dogs exhibit when they first meet their puppies:


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Some dogs react jealously to new puppies because of the attention they receive from their owners. even the mother often receives more affection (after all, she has just given birth or is actively breastfeeding). this can lead to direct or indirect aggression by a male towards the mother and young.

At best, jealousy is exhibited as avoidance. parent dogs may simply walk away from the situation or avoid interacting with the puppies altogether. be sure to give him love and attention if he’s upset to make sure he knows he’s still a valued member of the family.

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Some dogs display jealousy by physically interfering with their interactions with puppies. this behavior can be dangerous. even if they don’t intend to harm the puppies, they can do so by stepping on them. mothers are very protective of their pups and will have no problem attacking a male dog that gets too close.

There is also the possibility that the parent dog will behave aggressively towards the puppies and attack them. an adult dog can easily kill or seriously injure puppies.

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Without parental instincts to draw them to their puppies, many parent dogs are simply indifferent. they ignore them or have no interest in interacting with them at all. while this seems cruel to us, it is the most common reaction of parent dogs and one that does not endanger the puppies.


While not common, some parent dogs will react lovingly to their puppies and assist in their care. They can be found cuddling their cubs, cleaning them, or even gently carrying them in their mouths. Owners who have experienced this behavior often see it as proof that parent dogs recognize their puppies, but this is not necessarily true.

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Dogs that are naturally more affectionate and loving may simply recognize the vulnerability of puppies and act accordingly. more than a case of parental instinct, it is usually the result of an empathic dog.

bulldog father and daughter sleeping

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Should Father Dogs be Kept Away from Puppies?

A good rule of thumb is to keep male dogs away from their litters for the first 20 days. this is because the pups are extremely vulnerable during this time and there is no way of knowing how the male will react.

After 20 days, it is beneficial to allow the puppies to interact for socialization purposes. make sure the first few visits are supervised to make sure the parent displays friendly behavior and does not show reticence or aggression towards the puppies.



Parent dogs do not recognize their puppies. They may be affectionate and empathic with puppies, but it’s not out of parental instinct. parent dogs have a wide range of reactions to young puppies. this is normal, but for this reason, males should be introduced to puppies carefully and under supervision.

featured image credit: kinga_fabik, pixabay

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