You are here:

Canine Behavior/Aggression towards puppies


Hi, my Doberman had pups 8 days ago, it was Avery traumatic birth I had to rush her to the vet as the first pup was breach. She had three dead pups and he had to preform an emergency c section on her, he managed to save four pups and he also spayed her. I brought the pups home and fed them through the night and picked her up the following day and all was going well she was very attentive to them I did notice however as the days passed that they were looking underweight so I started to supplement feelings (puppy lac). I would say by day four I started noticing aggression towards the pups, growling and snarling teeth and roughing them up in general, even if they are not nursing but just lying quietly on the side, and first I thought it was a pain thing from the section but it's clearly not its behavioral. Her dog house is private to her and during the day I hear her snarling at them I have started to take them away from her when I hear that behavior as well as when I feed them but usually put them back to nurse her but I find that it's becoming worse and I am frightened her kills them, I find sometimes when I leave the house and return that her saliva is on their necks like she has been roughing them up. What should I do, should I take them away permantly and feed them or do you think you have advice for this behavior? I am stumped as I really want what's best for mother and pups but I am so nervous for the pups.


Ask your veterinarian what sort of inexpensive scale you need to purchase.  You are going to have to nurse these puppies.  Ask him what sort of liquid nourishment to use (I'm almost certain he has some on hand), how much to give each puppy, what times day and night to feed (yes, I said night).  Ask him when you should weigh each puppy (what time(s) of day), you CANNOT merely observe weight gain.  Then Google: how to wean handfed puppies from the bottle to food.  It has to be done precisely, as the dam would do it; the bottle cannot just suddenly be refused.  The dam would normally begin to wean her puppies slowly, allowing them to nurse but then leaving them as they learn to eat on their own.  Ask your veterinarian WHAT and HOW to feed these puppies solid food as you begin to switch them over.  The food should be prescription diet mixed with cottage cheese (or anything else the veterinarian suggests).

SHE WILL KILL THOSE PUPPIES.  She is not bonded to them; she was removed from them (for good reason, veterinary emergency) long enough for her to see them as prey or interlopers.  SHE DOES NOT "KNOW" they are her puppies.

When you removed the puppies because she snarled at them, you rewarded her apprehension and hesitancy.  IT'S TOO LATE to fix that.

They are already eight days old; within five weeks or so, they will be eating on their own.  However, their eyes are not yet open; they need a "whelping" area.  You can easily build one if you have wood shelving and hammer/nails.  Your veterinarian will most likely advise you about this, too.  You will have to stimulate these puppies for them to eliminate (urinate and defecate); your veterinarian will teach you how to do this.

Now: the puppies SHOULD NOT BE RE-HOMED UNTIL THEY ARE COMPLETELY WEANED FROM HAND FEEDING AND ARE EATING NORMALLY AND ARE ABOUT TEN WEEKS OF AGE.  Choose homes carefully, very, very carefully.  I've had several Dobes and this is one of my favorite breeds but incorrect handfeeding, abrupt removal of handfeeding and lack of socialization will render them probable problem dogs.  Around your "whelping box" keep very clean (always) newspaper because they will begin to climb out of the whelping box to eliminate (this is normal; dam sometimes pushes puppies out but dogs generally do not eliminate where they sleep/eat.  There is a lot to know about how to manage neonate pups; as soon as their eyes are open, each puppy should be removed from the others, independently, at least once a day for five to ten minutes, then returned: one puppy at a time.  You can also build another whelping box in another area where each puppy, after being removed from litter mates in original box, and after being held and coddled, will be placed BY ITSELF in the other area.  This is what happens in the "wild" and it makes for a stronger, more confident dog in future.

Socializing is absolutely required.  Invite friends over for a fifteen minute "pass the puppy party" at least three times a week once their eyes are open.  Pass out beer and pretzels (not to the puppies LOL) as incentive.  "Pass the puppy parties" means each puppy, independent of the others, will be cuddled, hugged, kissed and loved for a few minutes, then passed to the next person.  Three people is sufficient.

For information on how to socialize young puppies and introduce positive reinforcement training AND house training (by ten weeks they should be on their way to being house trained, they will still make "mistakes" but not for long) go to Dr. Ian Dunbar's site:  There you will find videos, free training videos, and articles on just about any subject you need.  

Canine Behavior

All Answers

Answers by Expert:

Ask Experts


Jill Connor, Ph.D.


I have spent my entire professional life rehabilitating the behavior of the domestic dog and I can answer any question regarding any behavior problem in any breed dog. I have answered more than 5,000 QUESTIONS on this site in the past (almost) eight years. If you are a caring, committed owner and need advice, I'm here for you. I am personally acquainted with my colleagues (Turid Rugaas, Ian Dunbar, etc.) who were members of an elite group in EGroups that I founded: K9Shrinks. THERE ARE NO QUICK FIXES for serious behavioral issues; not only is it unprofessional to offer same, it is also unethical. IF I ASK YOU SUBSEQUENT QUESTIONS, I NEED YOU TO INTERACT WITH ME. More information equals more credible answers and a more successful outcome. If you want ANSWERS THAT WORK, participate in any way I request. I'm quite committed to working on this site for YOUR benefit and the benefit of YOUR DOG. Help me in any way you can.


30 years of solving serious behavior problems in domestic dogs; expert in dog to human aggression; Internet columnist for for 5 years; former radio talk show host, WHPC.FM, Garden City, NY "Bite Back" (1995 through 2000). List owner, international animal behavior experts, Seminar leader: "Operant Conditioning and Learning"; "Aggression in The Domestic Dog"; "Solving Problem Behaviors" -- conducted for various training facilities on Long Island from 1993 through 2000. Former clinical director of "Behavioral Abnormalities" in conjunction with Mark Beckerman, DVM, Hempstead, New York.

Member, APDT (UK); Psychologists in Ethical Treatment with Animals

Harcourt Brace Learning Direct: "The Business of Dog Training" "The Fail Safe Dog: Brain Training, not Pain Training"

Ph.D., UC Berkeley

Past/Present Clients
Board of Directors: Northeast Dog Rescue Connection; The Dog Project; Sav-A-Dog Foundation; etc. Pro Bono counselor: Little Shelter Humane Society My practice is presently limited to forensics. I diagnose cause of dog bite, based upon testimony before the Court, for attorneys and insurance companies litigating dog bites, including fatal injuries. I also do pro bono work for bona fide rescue organizations, humane societies, et al, regarding such analysis in an effort to obtain release for dogs being held for death in municipal shelters in the US.

©2017 All rights reserved.