Every pooch mama adores her ‘babies’, with a mother’s instinct to provide love and protection for her helpless tiny puppies from the moment they are born, and it’s easy to see why. Puppies are born deaf and with their eyes closed because the short 9-week gestation period does not allow for the development of their hearing and vision in the womb. Unable to see, hear or walk, newborn puppies are completely dependent on their mother, and these first few weeks of life are extremely critical as a result.

As soon as her pups appear – and on average that could be five or six bundles of fur – mum gets down to the business of cleaning them up and teaching them how to nurse. The little ones have her complete attention and care for their entire first three weeks, even though for 90% of that time they are sleeping!

During the third or fourth week, the young puppies will slowly experiment with distancing themselves from their mother. This development occurs naturally as they become less reliant on her milk and more accustomed to solid foods. They will begin to spend periods of time away from the comfort of her immediate presence, only briefly at first and then for longer, as they gradually learn to be more independent. Mum will understand that they need to start fending for themselves, as the growing pups must eventually be able to stand on their own four feet.

For the puppies, it’s an exciting and stimulating time as they begin to test their boundaries and investigate their immediate surroundings. During this period they will also strengthen their human social bonds and become more trusting of people. For the pooch mum, it’s all about encouraging her offspring to become self-reliant although, sadly for her, by around the age of eight weeks or thereabouts her pups will have probably moved on to their new forever home.

Do puppies and their mothers remember each other after separation?

In most circumstances, a mother and her pups are unlikely to see one another again once they have gone their separate ways. However, according to numerous studies, dogs may recall a family member some years later. This may be a result of their keen sense of smell, or of ‘imprinting’, a form of learning where a very young creature (such as a puppy) focuses its attention on the first thing it sees (its mother) and thereafter latches onto her. From infancy into adulthood, this is the case throughout the animal kingdom.

Dogs also have ‘associative memory’, an ability to recall repetitive instances occurring throughout their lives. This, I’d like to think, generates a lasting sense of familiarity long after any maternal instinct has faded.

When it comes to motherhood, pooch mums are as proud of their puppies as any human mother is of her children. Their mothering skills are heart-warming and there are few things more wonderful than watching a mother dog engage with her puppies and seeing the pleasure she derives from raising and nurturing them.

Training treats