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Do Male Dogs Recognize Their Own Puppies? Asked & Answered

Photo of Tamsin De La Harpe

Written by Tamsin De La Harpe

do male dogs recognize their own puppies

Have you ever wondered if male dogs recognize their own puppies? Male dogs are known for their protective and loyal nature towards their owners and family. However, there’s still much to discover on whether they extend this protectiveness to their offspring or if they even know their puppies.

Unlike males, a female dog’s maternal instincts are without question (usually). Just give her a comfy dog bed in the area of her choosing in a safe whelping box, and she will spend most of the time with her pups. However, how a male dog will behave around puppies, even his own, is not as straightforward.

Some suggest that the bond between a male dog and puppies depends on breed, temperament, and time spent together. We’ve looked at sources like the book Canine Communication to understand how male dogs can recognize and bond with their puppies.

 Suppose your male dog wants to mate and finally finds a female in heat and sired puppies. As per nature, the male dog’s job is over. The dam (mother dog) picks up from there until the puppies wean off milk (also see our article on if dogs can have an abortion).

While some male dogs may show affection towards their puppies, most are indifferent towards them. Some male dogs may even get aggressive towards their puppies. 

Picture this. A mama dog just had a litter of the cutest puppies you’ve ever seen. At first, dad dog hangs back, keeping his distance. That’s because mother dogs can be fiercely protective when their puppies are just a few weeks old. 

This just goes to show that nature didn’t bother giving male dogs a paternal instinct, and the mother dogs know this. 

Now, here’s a fascinating tidbit: any male dog, not just the biological father, can exhibit caring behavior towards puppies. Therefore, male dogs may get extra careful around a bunch of puppies, no matter who the father is. 

In part, this is because dogs generally raise puppies together as a family, with everyone pitching in. That is, the first critical weeks, the mother is on her own to make sure they survive, but once they are big enough, they join the pack, and the whole pack will protect, care for, and feed them.

Unlike mama dogs, whose maternal instincts are triggered by hormones during pregnancy, birth, and lactation, dad dogs’ paternal behavior isn’t controlled in the same way. It seems that just the sight of any puppies, no matter the father, can trigger this considerate and tolerant side.

A review of wolf social behavior found that it took a pack to raise a litter. It also found that the wolves showed preferential treatment to the young, regardless if they were their own puppies. This can explain why most male dogs will instinctively become more forgiving around any puppy, not just their own.

And Do Puppies Recognize Their Father?

Puppies mostly recognize their mothers through scent and sound since they spend most of their early life with them. However, they can also recognize the father, but only as another dog they have grown up knowing instead of a familial recognition. That means if they did not grown up with their father, they have no reason to recognize him.

Think of adopted human babies. They have no reason to recognize their biological parents unless they grow up with them. But because they’re dogs, they also don’t necessarily have a concept of “mother” or “father.” Instead, they have a concept of “pack,” with some dogs in a pack forming a closer bond than others.

Among my own dogs, I have a young Bullmastiff called Jack, and his mother, Nina. The two are very close. It is possible that Nina still remembers that he is her puppy, as she still spends time cleaning his ears and grooming him. They have the same mannerisms and gentle souls, and one can definitely say they are “in sync.” However, it’s impossible to say if they understand the terms “mother” the same as we do, and they likely don’t.

Now Jack’s father has sadly passed away. But as two adult male Bullmastiffs, I would never have introduced the two dogs. It is impossible to say one way or the other if Jack and his father may have recognized each other, but same sex aggression between the two male dogs would probably have overridden any kind of familial recognition, if it existed.

Do Male Dogs Interact With Their Puppies?

Just like people, dogs are individuals, so there’s no “one-size-fits-all” answer to how males treat their puppies. Some male dogs turn into playful pals, bounding and tumbling around with the pups. Others might act like grumpy grandpas, avoiding or ignoring the energetic youngsters. Some are nervous and uncomfortable. In some cases, a male dog might even show aggression toward puppies, so it’s always important to monitor these interactions closely.

Wild dog dads play a crucial role, from helping feed the puppies to teaching them the ropes of dog life – like how to hunt, care for a pregnant female, and defend territory. It’s around seven weeks old when puppies start really learning from an adult male’s behavior. However, domestic male dogs don’t play nearly as crucial a role in a puppy’s life.

The video below shows a Rottweiler who is curious and friendly meeting his puppies:

On the other hand, this Boxer dad is far more overwhelmed by his litter:

So, there you have it! Male dog behavior around puppies can be as diverse as the spots on a Dalmatian. Remember, each dog is unique and will react in his way. Always supervise interactions between adult dogs and puppies to ensure everyone is safe and happy!

Do Dad Dogs Love Their Puppies?

Male dogs, also known as “sires” when they are a dad, may not show any signs of affection towards their puppies. In fact, most male dogs are indifferent to their puppies and do not display any signs of love or attachment. Instead, they may be tolerant of the puppies and occasionally play with them. They can also be aggressive from time to time.

It is important to note that some male dogs may even be jealous or aggressive towards their puppies, especially if they feel threatened or perceive the puppies as a potential threat to their resources or territory. This behavior is more common in unneutered male dogs, as they tend to be more territorial and protective of their resources.

Breeds known for affection, such as Golden Retrievers and Labrador Retrievers, will naturally be more loving towards their puppies.

How do Dogs Recognize Each Other?

Scent Recognition

Dogs have an incredible sense of smell, and it is no surprise that they use it to recognize each other. This is the main way dogs recognize each other, explaining why canine greetings involve sniffing each other’s butts.

Visual Recognition

Visual recognition is another way dogs recognize each other. Dogs rely on visual cues to identify themselves, such as the shape of their body and the color of their fur. 

Auditory Recognition

Dogs also use auditory recognition to identify their puppies. They recognize their puppies’ barks and whines and can distinguish them from other dogs’ vocalizations. Dogs can even recognize their puppies’ unique vocalizations, such as their individual barks and whines.

How Does A Male Dog Behave Around His Puppies?

Paternal behavior is not controlled by hormones, meaning that not only the father of the puppies exhibits such behavior. In fact, any male of the species can display caring behavior, as initiated by the image of the puppies.

With bitches, maternal behavior is controlled in part by hormones released during pregnancy, birth, and lactation, explaining why their behavior changes after mating.

Why Do Father Dogs Growl At Their Puppies?

When father dogs growl at their puppies, it can be alarming and confusing for dog owners. However, this behavior is not uncommon and can be attributed to a few different reasons.

Firstly, older dogs can find puppies irritating and overwhelming. Puppies are full of energy and can be quite boisterous, which can be overwhelming for an older dog. As a result, the father dog may growl as a way to warn the puppies to go away and leave him alone. Read our article on when do puppies calm down to learn more.

Secondly, a father dog may not care that the puppies are his. Unlike humans, dogs do not have a sense of familial connection and may not recognize their own offspring. Therefore, the father dog may view the puppies as intruders, especially if they are near his food or bed.

Lastly, it is common for older dogs to correct puppies with a growl and nip on the neck for intruding on their space. This is a natural behavior that helps to establish boundaries and teach the puppies proper socialization skills.

Why Do Male Dogs Kill Puppies?

Male dogs are known to kill puppies, sometimes even their own offspring. This behavior can be disturbing and confusing to pet owners. However, there are several reasons why male dogs may exhibit this behavior.

The major reason males may kill puppies is simply that they have a low tolerance for them. While most male dogs have the instinct to at least tolerate puppies, even if they don’t like adult dogs, some males don’t inherit this instinct. This is especially true because domestic dogs don’t have to be good fathers, the way wild dogs often do. 

One reason male dogs may kill puppies is due to instinct. In the wild, male dogs may kill the puppies from another pack. This behavior is instinctual and serves as a way to eliminate competition. This means the male dog didn’t take the young ones as part of his pack.

Another reason male dogs may kill puppies is stress or anxiety. If a male dog feels threatened or stressed, he may act out aggressively towards puppies, including his own. This behavior is not intentional but rather a reaction to outside stressors. 

Additionally, male dogs may kill puppies if they perceive them as sick or weak. In the wild, male dogs may cull weak or sick puppies to ensure the survival of the rest of the litter. However, this reason is often observed in the mother dogs, not males.

While it may be distressing to witness a male dog killing puppies, it is essential to understand that this behavior is often rooted in instinct and not intentional malice. Pet owners should take steps to ensure the safety of puppies, such as keeping them separate from male dogs until they are older and stronger.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Do male dogs bond with their puppies?

Male dogs can form a strong bond with their puppies. The bonding process happens when the male dog spends time playing with them and gradually accepts them as part of the pack.

Do Female Dogs Recognize Their Puppies After Years?

Female dogs may recognize separated puppies for up to 1 or 2 years. It’s important to note that female dogs bond more with the dogs she lives with at home. So, if you reunite a puppy and her mother after several years, they may warm up as friends instead of family.

Do male dogs show paternal instincts toward their puppies?

Domestic male dogs usually lack paternal instincts because they don’t undergo any hormonal or mental changes upon birth. The care and preferential treatment they show puppies is generalized and not limited to only the puppies they have sired. 

Do male dogs play with their puppies?

Yes, male dogs can play with their puppies and may even initiate play sessions. Play is an important part of a puppy’s socialization and helps them learn essential skills, such as bite inhibition and social cues.

Do male dogs help raise their puppies?

Male dogs usually don’t help raise their puppies and the mother will keep him away for the first four to five weeks or so. Some males may play with their puppies when they are older and teach them valuable social skills, but this is not always the case. 

Do male dogs recognize their mother?

Male dogs may recognize their mother through scent and sound, notably if they spend time with her during the early stages of their lives. However, the extent to which a male dog recognizes his mother can vary depending on the individual dog and the circumstances.

When can A father dog see his puppies?

The father dog can see his puppies after around 5 to 6 weeks. Introducing him to them gradually is essential to avoid overwhelming the mother dog and the puppies. The father dog may initially observe the puppies from a distance and gradually become more involved in their care as they grow and develop. But many dogs won’t show more than tolerance towards their puppies.

Final Thoughts

Male dogs don’t recognize their puppies as their own, but they may get friendly and caring around them. While some male dogs may exhibit protective and nurturing behavior towards their offspring, others may show indifference or aggression.

 Dog owners must monitor their pets’ behavior and provide proper socialization and training to ensure a positive relationship between the male dog and its puppies.

Meet Your Experts

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Tamsin De La Harpe


Tamsin de la Harpe has nearly two decades of experience with dogs in rescue, training, and behavior modification with fearful and aggressive dogs. She has worked closely with veterinarians and various kennels, building up extensive medical knowledge and an understanding of canine health and physiology. She also spent two years in the animal sciences as a canine nutrition researcher, focusing on longevity and holistic healthcare for our four-legged companions. Tamsin currently keeps a busy homestead with an assortment of rescue dogs and three Bullmastiffs.

Tamsin de la Harpe has nearly two decades of experience with dogs in rescue, training, and behavior modification with fearful and aggressive dogs. She has worked closely with veterinarians and various kennels, building up extensive medical knowledge and an understanding of canine health and physiology. She also spent two years in the animal sciences as a canine nutrition researcher, focusing on longevity and holistic healthcare for our four-legged companions. Tamsin currently keeps a busy homestead with an assortment of rescue dogs and three Bullmastiffs.