Cats and Dogs
Article Rating
1 звезда2 звезды3 звезды4 звезды5 звезд

Do dog mom remember their puppies?

How Much Do Rescue Dogs Remember From Their Pasts?


You know your rescue dog had a life before you walked into the shelter, but how much of that time do they actually remember? Would your dog recognize their old owners or where they used to live? Can they recall specific experiences whether they were good or bad? For some rescues, forgetting a painful past might be a good thing, but is that even possible? Here’s a closer look at how your dog’s memory works and what scientists think they can remember about their past.

Breaking Down Memory

The question of whether or not rescue dogs can remember their pasts has to do with the power of their memory. We all know dogs have decent memories—how else would they know what to do when you say “sit” or what it means when you get out their leash? The act of remembering, however, is more complicated than we realize. There are different aspects of memory, and the way in which dogs remember is still unclear.

Remembering Past Training With Semantic Memory

Semantic memory is a type of long-term memory that draws on knowledge over experience. People use semantic memory when they study for tests, and babies use it in overdrive as they learn to recognize everything from people’s faces to the colors of their favorite toys. Semantic memory is the brain remembering general knowledge needed for daily life.

When you teach your dog the cue for “roll over,” they use their semantic memory to connect your words with the action you want them to perform. As long as you occasionally reinforce that memory, your dog should hold on to that knowledge their entire life. It’s the reason why when you adopt a rescue dog, one of the first things you should do is determine where they are with training. New owners are encouraged to randomly call out different cues to see if the dog responds.

Thanks to semantic memory, dogs can easily remember things they learned years ago. If your rescue dog was trained before you met them, they won’t suddenly forget those lessons once you adopt them. That training will stick with them even as the rest of their life changes.

Remembering Experiences with Episodic Memory

Knowing your dog can remember past training comes in handy, but that’s not exactly what most dog people think of when it comes to their pets’ past lives. They want to know about the emotional stuff. Did the dog love their old owner? What kind of bed did they sleep on? Did they even have a bed?

This is where things get tricky. When humans remember their pasts, it’s like we’re traveling back in time. We place ourselves in our past shoes and relive the memory like a movie in our heads. Scientists and psychologists call this episodic memory. It’s the ability to relate specific events to places, times, and emotions. It’s a big part of being human, but so far, science is mostly inconclusive about whether or not other animals have the same ability.

A study published in 2016 is the closest we’ve gotten to evidence that dogs think of memories in the same way we do. Animal psychologist Caludia Fugazza led a research team to study memory in dogs. They set up an experiment to determine whether a dog was using their semantic memory or a type of episodic memory to remember a specific cue. You can learn the details of the experiment here. In the end, the results showed dogs have “unexpected potential” to hold on to complex memories. Fugazza doesn’t go as far as to say dogs have episodic memories like humans, but the study suggests dogs might have “episodic-like” memories that allow them to commit certain events to long-term memory.

A crucial aspect of episodic memory is that memories are made without conscious effort. It’s the difference between memorizing a math equation because you know it’ll be on the test and being able to think back and remember where you were when you were studying, what the room looked like, and what color pen you were using. Those memories aren’t going to help you on the test, but your brain remembers them anyway without you telling it to. Because we can’t explicitly ask our dogs to describe their memories, there’s no concrete way to know if they remember experiences like we do. Most scientists say no, but that doesn’t mean they can’t recall things from their past. There’s one more aspect of memory to explore.

Remembering Emotions with Associative Memory

With a dog’s ability to use episodic memory still a big question mark, that brings us to the type of memory dogs use most—associative memory. Associations are emotional connections made to specific stimuli, and they can be either positive or negative. An example of a positive association is how a dog associates fun and excitement with the dog park. They (most likely) don’t remember that day last week when they chased a terrier for a full 30 minutes and then rolled in a mud puddle, but they remember how they felt at the time and associate those emotions to the location.

Dogs make associations with almost everything they come in contact with. The vacuum, their toys, food, their family members—they learn to associate everything with a feeling. It’s how they always remember which toy is their favorite and recognize the people they like and the people they’ve learned to stay away from.

Dogs most likely use a combination of semantic and associative memories to relate their past to their present. So when you go to take your newly adopted dog on their first car trip, and they refuse to enter the vehicle, they could be using their associative memory to recall a negative experience with cars. They likely aren’t thinking back on a specific time they rode in a car and got sick, but because of that experience, they now associate all cars with negative feelings.

There’s still no clear-cut answer as to what your dog is capable of remembering and what they’re not, but all together, evidence shows rescue dogs can indeed remember certain aspects of their past lives. Specific events and details are most likely beyond them, but they generalize things into feelings that stay with them long-term. Your dog’s memory doesn’t work the same way yours does, but it’s safe to say they remember significant aspects of their past that could possibly include the people they spent the most time with and meaningful places they visited. Now, if only they could tell you about what their life used to be like.

Do Dogs Eat Their Babies?

When your dog’s expecting pups it’s an exciting time, there’s little in this world cuter than a box full of puppies, but alongside the excitement there’s worry too, because not all pregnancies go to plan. It’s not a nice subject, but sometimes mother dogs can hurt their pups. This might leave you wondering if they’ll get hurt or even thinking do dogs eat their babies?

Let’s take a look at reasons why mother dogs eat their babies.

Do Dogs Eat Their Puppies?

It’s not common, but yes dogs do sometimes eat their babies. It’s not something that happens a lot but it does occur.

39,216 People Couldn’t Ace This Quiz

Think You Can?

Eating their young is not a behavior confined to canines. Other mammals like bears, hedgehogs, rats, primates, plus insects, birds, and reptiles sometimes eat their young too. Usually, if a mother dog eats her babies there’s a reason for it.

Husky mother with her litter of puppies.

Why Do Dogs Eat Their Babies?

If a dog eats their babies it’ll usually happen in the first few days after she’s given birth. Here are the main reasons why it can occur.

Antibiotics (and Alternatives) for Dogs: Reviewed

The 5 Best Bark Collars for Large Dogs

Victor Dog Food: Reviews, Recalls, Pros & Cons, and More


‘Do dogs eat their babies’ sounds harrowing but it’s not always done on purpose.

New mommas or inexperienced ones can sometimes accidentally kill or eat a newborn pup because they’re born in a sac that the mother pulls off with her teeth. Mother dogs also eat their placenta and this can result in a mix up, especially if the pup was stillborn. Dogs eat placenta to benefit from its nutrients, it’s totally normal and takes place in wild animals too.

Don’t Recognize Them

Another reason why dogs eat their babies is that the mom doesn’t recognize them as hers. This can be the case for new mother dogs or dams that have given birth and haven’t quite grasped what’s happened to them.

It can also happen at birth via cesarian section because special hormones are released when a mom dog gives birth and these trigger the bonding process. These bonding hormones aren’t always released if there’s an intervention and a mom waking up from a general anesthesia may panic when surrounded by loud puppies that she doesn’t know are hers.

Make Prey Noises

Puppy noises sound cute to us and will often trigger a natural mothering instinct in dogs, but sometimes their squeaks coupled with their jerky uncoordinated movement mimics dogs’ natural prey such as mice, rats and birds so the natural reaction to hunt and kill may kick in.

Some experts think this is more likely in dogs with a rodent killing background like terriers rather than larger breeds like gun dogs for example.


Mastitis is a very painful condition brought on by nursing. It’s when a dam’s teats get swollen, sore and even infected by the constant feeding. Puppies look weak and defenceless to us, but they have a vice-like suction grip on mom’s teats and if they’re sore, it can really hurt her to feed them.

She may snap and become aggressive due to mastitis pain. On rare occasions, this may lead to killing and eating the babies, but is more likely to lead to rejection.

Puppies breastfeeding from mother outside on grass

Stress or Fear

Dogs gets scared and stressed like we do! Pregnancy is not only tiring, worrisome, and painful it leads to a whole new world of obligation. This can be very stressful to mom dogs who may lash out at her insistent young.

There’s also household or background stresses to consider. Other pets may stress mom out if they get near her or the pups, plus noises, strange smells, and visitors that want to see and hold the babies can all become overwhelming for her.

Sickly Pups

Pups can be born sickly with inherited or congenital diseases. This isn’t always easy for us to spot, but mom might and she can take action of her own accord such as rejecting or even killing and eating a sick puppy. This is a natural reaction to keep the rest of the litter safe.

Stillborn Pups

It’s the same with stillborn pups. The natural reaction for a dam is to remove the dead baby from the litter. This can mean burying them in the bedding, moving them to another part of the house, or simply eating them.

There’s also a risk that natural instincts might kick in and she’ll kill the living pups too. Pregnancy and nursing periods create a whole lot of hormones and emotions that make natural instincts more likely.

She’s Too Young

Young dams are more likely to reject their litter or behave in ways we’d consider un-maternal. Most experts recommend waiting at least a year before a dog has pups, but because dogs mature at different speeds, two years is considered a better amount of time to wait.

Bitches younger than two may not have the maturity to cope with a litter of demanding pups because she’s really still a pup herself. If she becomes desperate to escape the situation it can lead to cannibalism.

Will Mother Dog Kill Babies If I Touch Them?

As we’ve seen, pregnancy and after the birth period can be troublesome times because there are so many hormones and instincts kicking in. Most experts say it’s a myth and touching puppies won’t lead to the mother killing them. However, it’s best to keep some distance and only pick up or remove puppies that are sick.

Introduce yourself slowly, and let mom have time to settle. In most cases a family pet is pleased to show off her puppies, but hormones are tricky things!

Some dog breeders recommend waiting three weeks before picking up puppies and to go by the mother’s reaction to your presence in her space.

Mom Labrador retriever and puppies

How To Stop Dogs Eating Their Babies

Sometimes there is nothing you can do to stop a dog from eating her babies, but good practice before and after delivery will help to make it less likely.

Remember it’s very rare and the likelihood is low, but here are some steps to follow to make a smooth delivery and safe after the birth environment for mom and her babies.


Before a dog gives birth she will needs these things:

A Safe Place

Dogs will start nesting as their delivery date approaches. Nesting is a natural reaction and mom will try to make a safe place for her new family away from predators. Let her have a quiet undisturbed area of the house to make her nest in and don’t interfere with the setup. A crate or large high-sided dog bed is ideal.

Provide warm washable blankets so she can easily make it comfortable. She may chew them up or take fabrics from the house, so anything that’s precious ought to be locked away for the time being!

A safe place to give birth will help keep her calm as the big day approaches.

A Good Diet

Being pregnant is hard work and it requires high-quality food. An underweight and hungry pregnant dog will be anxious and liable to make poor decisions.

By the time she’s ready to give birth, she should eat around 25% more than her usual amount of food. Increasing it gradually means she can make the best use of the nutrients.

After she’s given birth, keep up the high quality food, she’ll need the nutrients to provide milk for the hungry pups.

During the Birth

Chances are the birth will go smoothly and mom will love her pups off the bat, but there are a few issues that can occur.

She panics

Be there for your dog, but don’t interfere with the process. Sit nearby and reassure her she’s safe. It usually takes anything from six to twelve hours for all pups to emerge, so patience is required.


Usually, the mom will lick herself and a pup will appear in a sac that she will deal with, but if she’s strained and nothing happens after 30 minutes there could be a problem.


Any green or smelly discharge that appears before a pup is born can be a sign of infection.

No pups appear

If you know there are more pups, but she’s stopped trying to give birth, they could be stuck.

Fits or seizures

Weakness, spasms, tremors or fits of any kind indicate trouble.

If any of the above occur, call a vet for advice. Prompt treatment can prevent mom rejecting or eating her pups because she associates them with trauma.

The Following Weeks

The days that follow are the riskiest and the most likely time period a dog will eat her babies. It’s critical mom has the best care to avoid it.


Peace and quiet is important so mom can bond with the pups and not get stressed over noises or other pets/children she might associate with danger.

Good Food

Nursing is hard work, so mom will need good quality dog food to keep producing enough milk. If she cant produce enough, she may kill one or more pups to save the rest. It’s rare, but can happen.

Don’t interfere

It’s tempting to get involved, but you should never take responsibility away from mom. She needs to be the one giving care, because it strengthens the bond.

Do Dogs Eat Their Puppies?

So we’ve discovered that mom dogs do sometimes eat their puppies and there are numerous reasons why this may happen. It’s not common, but with good practices you can help minimize the likelihood of it happening.

Up Next

  • How Long Are Dogs Pregnant For
  • The Best Dog Pregnancy Test for 2022
  • When Do Puppies Open Their Eyes?

Ready to discover the top 10 cutest dog breeds in the entire world?

How about the fastest dogs, the largest dogs and those that are — quite frankly — just the kindest dogs on the planet? Each day, AZ Animals sends out lists just like this to our thousands of email subscribers. And the best part? It’s FREE. Join today by entering your email below.

Link to main publication