Dog behaviorists commonly refer to the common dog behavior of covering food or toys as “caching” when a canine stores away something of value for later use. Aside from this typical trait that lingers from a dog’s wolf ancestors, many female dogs will also be noticed covering their puppies after having a litter as well. But why would a dog do that? Why do dogs keep covering their puppies?
Dogs will cover their puppies for a variety of reasons, some of which include the following:
- Natural instinct (mothering behavior)
- Protection from predators/safety concerns
- “Denning” instinct
- Underlying health issues in the pups
Let’s discuss this dog’s behavior in detail.
1.Natural instinct (mothering behavior)
Dogs have a natural urge (mothering instinct) to defend their pups. In the wild, a mother would hide her puppies to keep them safe from predators, but in domestic canines, this instinct will still urge the mother to hide her puppies by covering them up with something. In the wild, mother canines often have to birth and then relocate their pups to throw predators off the scent trail. Although this isn’t a concern for domesticated dogs, many of them still naturally try to cover and sometimes even relocate their pups based on their biological impulses.
Dogs that hide, cover, or guard their belongings—puppies included—may be suffering from anxiety or experiencing stress of some sort. This stress and anxiety may also prevail even after whelping, so mother dogs may hide or cover their pups after giving birth to them. These feelings of distress may be caused by living with another dog who steals items, unfamiliarity with a home or the people around the mother dog, lingering and negative psychological effects from an experience, and other possible concerns.
3. Protection from predators or safety concerns
This urge may be quite strong even if your canine and her pups are not in extreme danger. In an attempt to protect her puppies from intruders, the mom might immediately cover her little ones. Although some dogs will cover their puppies, some will still allow their owners access to them due to trust and familiarity. However, some others will conceal them from the view of all individuals—even their owners—until they are ready to be uncovered.
When this is the case, please understand that this is not a reflection of their trust in your abilities or the abilities of others. Keeping their puppies covered is merely a natural inclination to protect them and keep them secure.
4. “Denning” instinct
Naturally, dogs will try to make a hole known as a “den” or a nest a few days before giving birth to their litter in an open environment. After making a den, they will give birth to their puppies and take care of them for the following few weeks. Domesticated canine mothers retain this denning behavior, and this may cause them to cover or relocate their pups to provide an alternative den or nest-like environment for their offspring.
5. Underlying health issues in the pups
Although there are many reasons why a mother dog may hide her pups, health concerns are something to keep an eye out for. Sometimes, a mother dog will try to cover their pups if they are unhealthy or have some underlying medical issues. As a responsible pet parent, always take care of these types of issues by trying to safely check the puppies when possible and contacting a veterinarian if something seems amiss.
Some moms simply want to be alone with their puppies. If you or someone else in your household visits the puppies too frequently, the mother may decide to relocate them or cover them to avoid having humans around. The reason she may be covering the puppies might be because she wants a calmer environment, she’s tired and needs to recover, her puppies need her undivided attention, or she simply does not welcome any visitors while her pups are young and vulnerable.
After giving birth, your dog will most likely want to be in a peaceful area. If the place where the puppies reside is too noisy or crowded, she may decide to cover them to provide a little bit more comfort to the pups. Sound and privacy are frequently associated with each other; however, this is not always the case. A mother dog may easily be tolerant of guests (depending on her personality and preferences), but she may not be tolerant of loud sounds around her pups.
The mother dog and her puppies require an appropriate temperature to survive, especially after such a strenuous situation as bringing the little ones into the world. If the temperatures in the region where they reside are too high or too low, they may cover the puppies to make their nesting spot a more pleasant environment. Even a few degrees higher or lower in temperature can make a significant impact on your dog’s comfort level and behavior.
Some dogs like to have you near them after having puppies, especially if you’re well-bonded and have a close relationship. If their whelping space isn’t very close to the rest of the home or to where you primarily can be found throughout the day, they may get lonesome and behave oddly, such as trying to cover or hide their puppies while you’re away. When a dog is very attached to an owner or often requires a great deal of affection and care, this behavior is more frequent.
Related Reading: Is Getting a Puppy Worth It? Read This First!
What should you do if your dog is keeping her babies covered up?
Keeping an eye out for indicators of a medical problem in your dog (and the puppies) should be your priority. Unless you notice any significantly unusual behaviors or physical signs of problems, proceed with the rest of the checkup process as described below.
Rule out the primary issue
If your canine is covering her puppies, there is a good reason for this. This behavior may be due to any of the possible reasons mentioned above, so you’ll have to figure out what the root cause of this behavior is or what the main stress factor is! Once the problem is identified, you can then remove the problem factor or make other changes as necessary to provide or keep a better environment for your dogs.
What to do when your dog is hiding her puppies
If your dog appears to be seeking solitude or covering her puppies constantly, try not to bother her because it’s her instinct to do this. Provide her with a quiet space where she will not be bothered. As the owner, you must keep an eye on both mom and the puppies while keeping any unwanted guests at bay.
Another consideration is that the environment should be as calm as possible. If your dogs appear to prefer a colder or hotter environment, you may want to alter the thermostat or provide other means of helping them regulate their body temperatures and be more comfortable, such as adding a fan to the room or providing more blankets.
Covering the mother’s whelping box or other nest-like area yourself might also help the situation. Your dog will then trust you more, and the pups will feel more secure in their surroundings. This is a great way to show support to your mother dog and effectively involve yourself with the growing puppies.
Is it possible for pups to suffocate under their mother’s care?
If puppies become stuck behind or underneath the mother (or in any other positions that may be hard to navigate), they can be easily squished or suffocated. Keeping an eye on the litter is a necessary precaution to ensure that none of the puppies are rejected by their mother, which would then leave them needing constant monitoring and human intervention.
What causes dogs to smother their puppies?
A dog’s stress level may rise if the dog does not have access to a peaceful, secure environment in which to raise its young puppies. It may be possible that there are too many visitors around the litter or that the litter is too large for the dog to handle. The mother dog’s high levels of stress may lead her to do something unimaginable, and this may include smothering her pups. Additionally, weak, disabled, or otherwise medically unfit pups may also occasionally be smothered or rejected by their mothers because they are seen as unfit for the overall environment or litter.
Should mother dogs be allowed to sleep with their puppies?
Puppies should be kept with their mom and littermates until they are eight to twelve weeks old. However, having a mother is especially important during the first eight weeks of a pup’s existence. When a mother rejects one of her pups though, it becomes necessary for humans to intervene to provide the proper care that the mother will no longer be doing.
After producing pups, why is my dog peeing in the house?
When a mother dog has recently given birth, there is a lot of trauma in their pelvic region that can cause difficulties with maintaining their house-broken status and relapsing on potty training. It’s perfectly normal for mother dogs to struggle with urinary incontinence and leakage after giving birth, and this will eventually return to normal. If it persists for numerous weeks, be sure to contact your veterinarian to make sure she has healed up properly from birth.
Does covering a dog cage make a difference?
A crate cover or blanket can aid in the reduction of anxiety and the soothing of dogs by restricting visual stimulation, which in turn can assist in minimizing excessive excitement and barking. If you keep your very nervous dog in a covered cage or crate, he or she will be less likely to respond to movement outside the window or in other sections of the building.
If mother dogs and their puppies are housed in a suitable crate, this may also provide comfort and reduce the mother dog’s anxiety as she’ll feel secure from having herself as well as her pups covered and separated from anything that could lead to overstimulation and stress.
What is the reason for my dog’s constant shifting of her puppies?
Constantly shifting one’s puppies or relocating them numerous times is a technique for keeping the puppies safe from predators. A mother dog’s instinct forces them to hide their pups from any kind of environmental stress, and if covering is not sufficient, she may simply move them to an entirely different location.
Related Reading: Why Are Puppies Super Hyper After Vaccination?
Family Dog Expert Author
Hi there! I’m Stuart, a devoted dog lover and family dog expert with over a decade of experience working with our furry companions. My passion for dogs drives me to share my knowledge and expertise, helping families build strong, loving bonds with their four-legged friends. When I’m not writing for SirDoggie, you’ll find me hiking, playing with my beautiful dog, or studying music.