Why Is My Dog Still Nesting After Giving Birth

Normal Nesting Behaviors

Nesting refers to the instinctual behavior in pregnant dogs where they seek out a safe space to give birth and care for their puppies. According to the Daily Paws article “Dog Nesting: Is Your Dog’s Bedtime Habit Nutty or Normal?”, nesting behaviors typically begin 1-2 weeks before labor is expected to start.

Common nesting activities include digging at bedding or flooring, collecting blankets and towels to arrange a nest, shredding paper or cardboard, seeking out small enclosed spaces, and becoming protective of the chosen nesting area. The Spruce Pets explains in “Reasons Why Dogs Make Nests” that these behaviors help satisfy the pregnant dog’s instinct to create a warm, comfortable, and safe environment for whelping and caring for puppies after birth.

Duration of Nesting

Nesting behaviors in pregnant dogs typically begin 1-2 weeks before labor starts and involves a dog getting comfortable in a “den” area where she plans to deliver her puppies

According to the American Kennel Club, nesting behaviors persists for several weeks after the puppies are born as the mother dog cares for her new litter in the den area she has chosen.

The nesting instinct continues as long as the puppies rely on their mother. As the puppies grow more independent and start exploring outside the den area, the mother dog’s nesting behaviors gradually diminish.

So it’s perfectly normal for a mother dog to continue showing nesting behaviors for 2-4 weeks after giving birth as she nurses, feeds, and cares for her puppies in the place she has prepared. As long as she is attentively caring for the litter, there is no cause for concern.

However, if excessive nesting persists more than a month after delivery with signs of stress or anxiety, it’s a good idea to consult your veterinarian.

Caring for Puppies

In the days and weeks after birth, mother dogs continue to care for their puppies in important ways. Mother dogs will continue nursing and feeding the puppies, typically every 1-2 hours. It is important for the mother dog to eat a high quality diet to maintain her health and milk supply.

Mother dogs also spend time grooming the puppies, licking them clean and stimulating them to urinate and defecate. The mother will clean up after puppies as they start to eliminate on their own. Grooming also allows the mother dog to monitor each puppy’s health (VCA Hospitals).

To protect the puppies, mother dogs will stay close to the litter and keep the puppies grouped together. By keeping the puppies together in the nest or whelping box, the mother dog can better watch over and bond with the entire litter. Moving the puppies into the main living areas of the home too early can cause stress for the mother dog.

Recovery from Labor

Physical recovery from labor can take several weeks, as giving birth takes a huge toll on a dog’s body (PetMD, 2022). The mother dog needs adequate rest, nutrition and care as she recovers from the strenuous labor and starts producing milk for the new puppies. It’s common for the mother dog to continue resting and nesting with the puppies even after labor, as she still feels the need to recover. The mother may have sore or enlarged mammary glands, bloody vaginal discharge, appetite changes and behavioral changes as her body regulates (VCA Hospitals, 2022). Providing a nesting area, proper nutrition with puppy food, and limiting stressors can support the mother dog’s recovery in the weeks after birth (WikiHow, 2022). Monitor the mother dog closely and contact a vet if symptoms like vomiting, diarrhea or lethargy arise. With time, rest and care, the mother dog should make a full recovery within a few weeks.

Anxiety and Stress

Labor and caring for a new litter of puppies can cause anxiety and stress for a mother dog. The process of giving birth along with the arrival of puppies is a huge change to her routine that can be mentally and emotionally taxing (Royal Canin). Nesting allows her to create a safe space away from all the activity and changes happening within the home. The enclosed, comfortable area helps relieve anxiety and gives her a quiet place to rest and recover.

It’s natural for a mother dog to feel stressed and anxious after giving birth as she adjusts to her new role and responsibilities. Providing a proper whelping area or nest gives her a peaceful retreat so she can destress. Her continued nesting behavior shows her instinct to protect her puppies by keeping them in a secure den (WagWalking). As long as she is caring for the puppies properly, her desire to spend time in the nest is likely just a sign she is still adapting to motherhood.

Changes to Routine

It’s common for a mother dog to continue nesting behaviors even after giving birth as part of adjusting to the major changes in her routine (Source). Caring for a new litter of puppies requires the mother dog’s full attention. She spends most of her time nursing, cleaning, and watching over the puppies in the first few weeks. This significant change from her normal routine can cause continued nesting behaviors as she focuses on her puppies.

The nest provides a dedicated, safe, and comfortable space for the mother dog and puppies. By continuing to nest, she is adjusting this space to best suit the needs of her litter during this transitional period. As the puppies grow and the mother’s routine stabilizes, prolonged nesting behaviors usually taper off within a few weeks after birth.

Hormonal Changes

A dog’s hormones shift significantly after giving birth, which can lead to continued nesting behaviors. In particular, levels of progesterone and oxytocin change dramatically. Progesterone levels drop sharply after delivery of the puppies. At the same time, oxytocin levels remain high to stimulate maternal bonding, nursing, and contraction of the uterus [1]. The combination of declining progesterone and elevated oxytocin can cause some dogs to experience persistent nesting instincts even though the puppies have already been born.

These hormonal changes are normal and help the mother dog care for her new puppies. However, the shifts can be extreme and lead to abnormal behaviors. If the nesting continues more than 2-3 days after whelping, it may signify that the dog’s hormones are severely imbalanced.

False Pregnancy

Some dogs exhibit nesting behaviors even when not actually pregnant. This is known as false pregnancy or pseudopregnancy, and it occurs due to hormonal fluctuations in an intact female after her heat cycle. Though not pregnant, her body still thinks it is, leading to mothering behaviors like nest building and milk production. According to PetMD, the most common symptoms of false pregnancy including restlessness and nesting.

False pregnancies are caused by high progesterone levels after the female dog ovulates. Her body responds physiologically like she is pregnant even without a pregnancy occurring. The nesting behaviors stem from hormonal and maternal instincts. Typically, false pregnancies in dogs resolve on their own within 2-3 weeks. As long as the dog is healthy otherwise, the nesting behaviors are not dangerous.

When to Seek Help

While nesting behavior is normal after giving birth, it should start to subside within a few weeks as the mother gets more comfortable with her routine. If a dog continues to show nesting behaviors more than 6-8 weeks after delivering her puppies, this could be a sign of an underlying issue.

According to this article on complications after birth, prolonged nesting could potentially indicate infection, uterine disease, or retained placentas: https://pethelpful.com/dogs/Dog-Problems-After-Giving-Birth. It’s important to watch for other concerning signs like lack of appetite, lethargy, vomiting, diarrhea or abnormal vaginal discharge.

Additionally, a mother dog that seems uninterested in her puppies or is not properly caring for them over an extended period may be experiencing anxiety, stress or depression. This forum thread recommends closely monitoring the dog in these cases: https://www.petforums.co.uk/threads/nesting-behavior-after-pups-are-born.122840/.

If you notice any of these red flags, it’s important to consult your veterinarian right away. Prolonged nesting paired with other symptoms likely indicates an underlying medical or behavioral issue that requires professional treatment and care.

Providing Proper Care

It’s important to allow your dog access to her nesting area and materials after giving birth so she feels comfortable tending to her puppies. Make sure she has soft bedding like blankets and towels that she can fluff and arrange into a nest. Limit disruptions to this area so she feels it is a safe space to care for her puppies.

Closely monitor your dog’s food and water intake, as lactating requires extra nutrition and hydration. Feed a high-quality puppy food and provide fresh, clean drinking water at all times. Check the mother dog’s mammary glands to ensure good milk production to nourish the puppies. Weigh puppies daily to ensure they are gaining weight and watch for signs of dehydration or illness so you can get veterinary care if needed.

While it’s normal for a mother dog to care for her puppies in the days after birth, contact your vet if you notice signs of maternal neglect, such as no interest in the puppies or not letting them nurse. With attentive monitoring and proper care, you can ensure the health of both the mother and her puppies.

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