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Canine Behavior/Mother being to "motherly"

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"Dear Madeline, I have read you biography and I promise to read and rate your response within three days. I understand that your time is valuable, that you are spending at least 45 minutes of your time in response to my question,  and I understand too that when questioners read and rate your responses fairly that you make random donations to animal shelters to help homeless animals. In interest of being appreciative of your time AND helping shelter dogs and cats, I agree that I will rate your response and give you fair feedback."
Dear Madeline,
I have a healthy 6 year old bitch that gave birth to her third litter of puppies almost exactly a year ago. In this litter of 13 pups, 8 died. It was her only litter where she lost any of them. She took it well for loosing a little over half her litter. She is a wonderful mother, but to take some pressure off her we helped her raise them so she would not be too stressed (as she didn't have enough teets to feed some of them). We raised the remaing pups with no problems and then properly weaned them and gave them away at 9 months after potty training. Out of all of them, I decided to keep a single pup. This pup spent the next few months with no problems, growing at a healthy pace and learning quickly. Its been a year since my bitch whelped and everything seemed fine until late month when my bitch started strange behavior. She will not stop trying to make my 1 year old pup "suckle". I put that in quotations because that is what she seems to be doing. She goes over to where he is laying, lays on her side and "nudges" him towards her tummy. He used to let it slide and ignore her, but it started to become more frequent and now he growlesand nips her because he is stressed by it. I talked to my vet and I was advised to split them up for a week. I did just that and after about a week and a half I let them see each other again.she didn't do it for a couple of hours but then out of no where she started it up again. When I tried to intervine she became upset with me and barked for a bit (which she never does). Now I am back to square one of separation. Do you have any idea as to why she does this? How can I stop this? I have never seen her do this with my three other dogs even when they were her pups age (She is my oldest). I love all my dogs ecpecially her,since she was the first addition to my farm home, and would do anything to keep them together. But if I have to I will split them up, I just hope we can be a happy family again. Thank you for your time, any advise you be greatly welcome.

Answer
Hi Jessie,

Thank you for your question submission and for taking the time to review my bio.

Although your question describes behavior, it really is more of a medical question, and I'll answer it briefly with the caution that what I'm about to write should NOT be taken in place of the advice of a veterinarian's medical check of your breeding bitch and the veterinarian's advice. Please defer to your veterinarian in this matter. My thoughts here are offered only as a guide for what you should discuss with your veterinarian regarding this matter.

When was the last time your breeding bitch was in heat? If it was eight weeks ago or less she may be experiencing a false pregnancy. If she's licking her teats, this can exacerbate or prolong the symptoms of false pregnancy and the behaviors, one of which could be trying to get her now-adult pup to lactate, and doing so can prolong the false pregnancy symptoms. Symptoms of false pregnancy are due to decrease in progesterone levels and increase in prolactin levels. If these hormone levels have not gone back to mormal within eight weeks of her having been in heat, there could be a problem. Two common problems which might prevent hormone levels from going back to normal are imbalances in thyroid hormone levels or liver problems.

You could have her hormone levels checked, but if she's having a problem with her thyroid and/or her liver, you may not be able to get an accurate reading of her hormone levels. Ask your veterinarian if it would be wise to check hormone levels, thyroid and liver function, and whatever other tests your veterinarian might recommend for this issue.

In the meantime, you could put an Elizabethan collar on her if she's licking her teats which might work to allow her hormone levels to go back to normal, assuming she came into heat within the last eight weeks AND assuming her thyroid, liver and other functions are normal.

Another thought: if nothing unusual is found with your breeding bitch and everything is normal with her, I would look to her adult offspring for a possible medical issue in him to which she could be responding. You don't say whether or not her male offspring is neutered. If he is intact, is it possible he bred with her and she is pregnant? You say that your vet gave you advice, but was she actually seen by your vet?  As well, breeding bitches around intact males with whom they don't breed have a statistically higher incidence of taking longer to have their hormone levels go back to normal after a heat, so if he's not neutered you may want to consider neutering him, otherwise, if this does turn out to be a false pregnancy, it could happen again, and he could actually impregnate her.

Last, you say she's trying to get your male offspring to lactate. Since I can't see what's going on, I wonder about two other possibilities: 1. That she might have a urinary tract issue of some kind going on, and trying to get your male dog to lick might be her way of trying to get some relief. 2. That she is displaying a submissive behavior as your adult male is maturing, which makes sense to me in your description of her posture when she goes over to where he's lying down, and his resulting growling at her. I may be off base here, and you would know best having seen the behavior, but I felt I had to offer this possibility.


I am not a breeder, nor am I a veterinarian. This question doesn't fall within my normal realm of expertise and what I respond to on Allexperts, so please defer to your veterinarian as soon as possible on this matter and feel free to use my response simply as a guide for what you might ask your veterinarian.

I hope all is well with your breeding bitch. I, too, would be concerned, as there's a possibility there may be a medical component which is affecting her behavior, and you'll want to address it as soon as possible. In the meantime, I would continue to keep her and her one offspring separated, as the relationship between the two could be permanently affected if they continue disputing, and then you would have a behavior issue on your hands between the two of them.


Best of luck,
Madeline Friedman, M.A.

Canine Behavior

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Madeline S. Friedman, M.A.

Expertise

I respond to public questions only. I'm not a veterinarian & do not respond to medical questions.Suggestions: Submit a question in one area of priority, as what I am able to address in this venue is limited. Provide as much detail re: the behavior & issue as you can. Tell me how & if behavior is a change from previous behavior & when the changes occurred. Let me know what you think may have triggered such changes & what you have tried so far to resolve it, & what the results were. Let me know what you want help with & what are your concerns & questions about the behavior. I have set up a payment/donation to myself for responding to questions. I donate most of it to animal shelters & rescues. I keep a small portion for my time. The minimum donation is $25.00 on PayPal. When I see that a donation has been made, I will respond to your question. You will be prompted to make the donation before submitting your question. When you have read & rated my response fairly, which must be at the time you read it, I will refund $5.00 back to you IF YOU REQUEST that I do so in your rating comments. If I ask for more details, please respond as a "follow-up" & not as a new question. If I don't respond to your question, I will refund your donation less $5.00. DO rate me fairly at the end of our exchange. I will be pleased if you DO nominate me for volunteer of the month - why not, if I was generous in my response? I may suggest something you were not necessarily ready to hear, but I am honest in the interest of helping your dog, & that is my goal. Please keep that in mind. Please do NOT contact me privately about Allexperts questions through my e-mail or website unless I have invited you to do so. That is an invasion of my privacy - thank you for respecting it. If you would like to contact me for actual dog training & behavior consulting, you may contact me through my Web site.

Experience

Own & operate dog training & behavior consulting businesses, Hoboken Dog Trainer, and ny-njDogTrainer, in the NYC & NYC Metro areas since 2002. Work with thousands of dog owners & their dogs, & shelter & rescue dogs. Active volunteer in dog shelters and rescues (rescues being "no kill" and shelters being municipality-run urban shelters that can and do euthanize dogs). AllExperts volunteer in "Dogs, Category 701" and "Dog Training" and "Canine Behavior" since 2006. When you submit a question, please make sure it's being submitted in the appropriate category as I volunteer in two different categories. Make sure you agree to the Virtual Contract (the instructions I outline for question submissions) and agree to read and rate my response when I answer in the body of your question. I make donations to various animal non-profits based on YOUR ratings. If you don't rate my response, or rate it unfairly, you have just denied a dog rescue org or shelter a donation. Keep that in mind.

Organizations
Professional Member of APDT for five years Founding Member of Animal Behavior Associates Behavior Education Network Former Board Member of IAABC, appointed by Founder Former Member of IPDTA in Canada Founding member of Behavior Education Network

Publications
Chronicle of the Dog (APDT, peer publication, numerous articles) Popular Dog Series magazine, numerous entries AOL in Everydayhealth.com Tonowanda News Morris County News Vermont News Boston NOW New York A.M. Polo Trace Newsletter The Dodo AOL

Education/Credentials
Counseling Psychology, Caldwell College Animal Science, Rutgers University Master of Arts Degree Permanent New Jersey State Teaching Certification (teach public school and university level) Numerous workshops, lectures, and seminars on dog training and behavior Ongoing self-motivated study in my area of expertise

Awards and Honors
Best Canine Coach Award, 2006, Rondout Valley Instructor's Training Course Society of Illustrators, second place international competition Jellybean Photographics, second place international competition Fashion Institute of Technology "Commitment to Illustration" award

Past/Present Clients
Testimonials from a number of clients appear on my Web site at www.ny-njDogTrainer.com under "Reviews." My customers include: Puppy owners wanting to get their puppies off to the best start; owners of mature dogs who want their dogs to have more obedience skills; fosters and owners of rescue dogs or shelter dogs; customers with special needs who need to train or retrain their dogs; housetraining and housebreaking; owners who have behavioral issues with their dogs such as house accidents, aggression towards humans, aggression towards other animals, inattentive dogs, unmotivated dogs, overly-exuberant dogs; and, more.

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