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Canine Behavior/Issue / Concern Regarding Doberman Bitch Behavior toward Litter


QUESTION: We have a nearly 4 year old Doberman who just had her first litter of 8 pups on 12 Feb.  The first 2 days went really well but from day 3 to the present she is growling and sometimes barking at her pups.  We think sometimes she is trying to discipline or otherwise attempting to correct or keep some sort of order.  She has not bitten any pups yet, but the outbursts are somewhat unnerving.  We did note some sore around several teats and applied Eucirin cream.  Also clipped pups nails.

Also worth mentioning, we have 2 other adult Schnauzers who we have sequestered.  The Dobie's whelping room is not where she normally sleeps so a thought that the bitch is jealous and taking it out on her pups may also be a factor.

Our Vet has provided calming herbal pills but the growls and barking continues.  She does nurse as expected and is otherwise a good mom.

Please help us understand what's happening with our girl.

ANSWER: Hi, Daniel. How are things going now? To answer your first concern, some bitches have a harsher mentality than others so as long as she is still nursing and not rejecting, her aggression shouldn't be an issue to that extent. On the note of the soreness, I am wondering if she is producing enough milk as as this age the pups shouldn't be causing any soreness from teething yet. Possibly suckling too hard trying to get milk out?

On the note of the whelping room. Unless she is attempting to relocate the pups, the area shouldn't be in question. Also, if it was jealousy, she would reject the pups or make more of an aggressive contact. How are the other dogs in the house doing? And is there any stress or tension?

Please feel free to follow-up with me. Thank you

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Thank you so much for your advise.  We did increase the bitch's calcium intake plus the Vet placed her on a 5 day regimen of Oxcytocin due to continued volvo bleeding.  Any barks, and they are few and far in between, now are purely the bitch correcting her pup and life is now much better.  We have all (humans too) fallen into a routine.

And this brings me to my next question.  We are somewhat concerned with puppy
#1.  He is the runt and continues to flounder at below 85% of average litter
weight.  There is a 6 ounce difference between him and the next smallest pup.  
I've documented daily weight results since whelping.  Unfortunately I have no reference point to compare this pup or litter with.  Do you know of or possess any data (tables, charts, etc.) regarding puppies weights in either a breed specific or size category.  Even a reference to an authoritative book or the Internet would be helpful.

Thanks again for being available to us,


Hi, Dan. Sorry for the delay in the response. Hope things are still going well and glad to hear that a routine is adapting. I did do some research and found this website, to be a good resource for you. There is not a chart or anything like that, however it does mention that there can be a 10oz weight difference, having newborns weighing from 10-20oz at birth and gaining approximately the same percent weekly. I'm not worried about that size difference, only if it was not gaining any weight. Was it checked for a heart murmur? That can greatly affect the growth. I actually went through this scenario with a litter I had and it was a very noticeable growth stunt, but a strong murmur. So if it seems to be gaining weight and is nursing/eating well, I wouldn't worry about that.

Thanks for touching base and let me know if there's anything else I can help with.  

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Melissa Burg, RVT/Behavior Consultant


I have experience with multiple obedience issues, including anxiety, different types of aggression, introductions to a new pet and basic obedience situations, such as housebreaking, excessive leash pulling and excessive barking. There are several approaches to each behavior issue, depending on the animal's environment, as well as the breed, sex and age. I can also help you decide whether the problem sounds medical or behavioral.


I recently graduated with a Veterinary Technician degree with an emphasis in behavior and obedience training. I spent 5 years working in animal shelters where I trained shelter dogs in basic obedience and corrected behavior issues and educated adopting owners how to continue the training at home.

"Pawfect Pets;" a weekly column on canine and feline health and behavior tips.

Associate's Degree in Veterinary Technology from Des Moines Area Community College in Ankeny, Iowa.

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