Do Male Dogs Know Their Puppies? A Guide About Father Dogs

As a rule, male dogs do not usually recognize their puppies as human beings do with their children. They typically do not show paternal instincts towards their litter. However, a male dog may or may not show paternal instincts with all puppies in general.

Where It All Started: Male Wolves

Male dogs do not typically nurture their own litter any more than they would any other puppy. With this in mind, it may come as a surprise to learn that male wolves are extremely protective and nurturing with their offspring and faithful to their mates.

In fact, the paternal instinct of the male wolf is so strong that he will often be very attentive to the mother dog. He will hunt and feed her when she gives birth so that she can spend all of her time nursing and caring for their pups. Male wolves also take the time to teach their cubs how to hunt and fight.

Male Dogs Didn’t Inherit Those Fatherly Instincts

Unfortunately, when it comes to domesticated dogs, those paternal instincts are not there. Domesticated male dogs may show a gentle nature or even seem protective of puppies’ vulnerability, but they basically treat all puppies the same.

The most likely reason for this is because humans domesticated them. Parental roles are different for dogs that are born into a human family. As pets, most male dogs have people who feed their puppies, protect them, and take care of the mother dog’s every need. That eliminates their need to care for or even recognize their puppies.

If human owners are bringing food to a mother dog, there is no need for the male dog to go hunting. And when we hire professional dog trainers to teach our dogs everything, there is no need for a male dog to have fatherly instincts and teach their puppies important life skills.

Many Male Dogs Have Paternal Instincts

Although they do not recognize their own puppies, male dogs are pack animals and do have paternal instincts. While they may not understand that a certain litter belongs to them specifically, most dogs still enjoy being social with the rest of their pack, and will show father instincts to both their own offspring and the cubs of other dogs.

It is important to note that this is not true of every dog. An empathetic dog will likely be gentle, protective, and playful with his own litter and another dog’s litter. However, they still do not recognize their own puppies as any different from others.

A Stud Dog May Become Aggressive

The best-case scenario is that some male dogs will exhibit friendly behavior towards their puppy. However, other father dogs may show a general disinterest in their offspring. Breeders should always take caution because even the friendliest father dog can be aggressive towards their litter from the very first meeting.

In other circumstances, a male dog may act fine towards his pups at first, but show signs of jealousy regarding the attention and love the puppies get from the mother dog and humans. The father dog may trample over the puppies to try and get between them and the humans.

This action can cause the mother dog to defend the puppies by attacking the father dog. A dog fight inside your home and near your puppies can be dangerous for canines and humans alike, so it is vital to watch for signs of jealousy from the father.

Even before they begin to treat the puppies aggressively, these father dogs may recognize them as competition and act out. These pets may ignore their young, stop being affectionate, or try to push new puppies away.

At times, this will be shown through hostility and destructive behaviors, but other times, the male dog may simply hide away from you, the mother dog, and his puppies. In such cases, giving the stud dog extra attention, an extra treat, and more one-on-one time with his humans may help de-escalate the situation.

Keeping the Male Dog Away From His Puppies

Because the threat of aggression is so high, it is best to keep male dogs away from their puppies for at least the first twenty days. While it may seem that some dogs have paternal instincts, two male dogs could react completely differently toward their puppies.

After this twenty-day time period is over, the father dog should be introduced to the litter, since doing so can help the puppies learn to socialize. Pups can pick up on social cues for how to react to male dogs through this interaction.

You should proceed slowly when allowing the father dog to meet his puppies and keep an eye on both the mother dog and the father dog for any signs of threatening behavior. As long as the father dog is gentle and playful with the puppies, the interactions can continue.

FAQs – Do Male Dogs Know Their Puppies?

The question of “do male dogs know their puppies” can be complex. On the one hand, it can appear as though dogs know their puppies and have paternal instincts. On the other hand, it is obvious that they do not.

This can be confusing, so we’ve decided to break it down into a few simple Frequently Asked Questions.

Can a Father Dog Love His Puppies?

The answer to this question may surprise you, but yes, a male dog can grow to love his offspring. He can also grow to love the offspring of other dogs. A dog who is empathetic to vulnerable creatures can grow fond of puppies and other animals.

In such cases, you will see the father dog be protective, nurturing, and playful. You might even see him grieve if one of the puppies dies. These male dogs can show love for the puppy, but this is not paternal. It is strictly empathic.

Does a Father Dog Know If Puppies Are His?

Even these empathic male dogs cannot know if a certain litter of puppies belongs to them. In fact, male dogs who react in a caring way toward their puppies are very likely to act in the same manner with another dog’s litter.

They may form bonds and be playful, gentle, and loving, but it isn’t instinctual. These loving dogs would likely act in the same manner towards any animals, such as a litter of kittens, other puppies, or even chickens and ducks, as is often seen on a farm.

Why Would a Father Dog Attack His Own Litter?

As mentioned, there are several reasons why a male dog might become aggressive toward his own puppies. First of all, he doesn’t even recognize the pups as his. 

He also might become jealous of the attention that the puppies get from their mother and any humans in the home.

Male dogs also might become hostile to their puppies if dog breeding processes are being carried out between other dogs in the home where the puppies are. Breeders sometimes have more than one female in heat at a time, which can cause aggression in both male and female dogs.

Male dogs might also become disruptive if they are feeling anxious or over-stimulated. In such cases, it is a good idea to separate the male dog from other dogs in the house and give him extra attention, love, and treats.

Will Father Dogs Be Sad When Their Puppies Leave?

If the male dog has formed a bond and been loving and empathic towards his offspring or enjoys playtime with his puppies, he may show signs of grief when the puppies leave the home. This is not due to paternal instinct, however.

In such cases, it is no different than a dog missing its friend. It would be the same if a neighbor’s dog moved away. The dog may miss the puppies and even seem to grieve for them in some cases, but those feelings will pass, and the dog will grow to enjoy time with other dogs.

Final Thoughts

Breeders should be aware that there is a strong possibility that certain breeds of male dogs may be aggressive toward their young. While wolves are very gentle and paternal, domesticated dogs don’t recognize their puppies when they are born, so a stud dog could harm them.

Mother dogs tend to do just the opposite. Female dogs recognize their puppies, and their most common reaction to their litter is to be affectionate, gentle, and protective, even with their first litter. They can often be seen gently carrying their small pups and found cuddling with them.

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