How Puppies Were Raised in the Wild

Updated on November 15, 2016

Puppies are born blind and deaf

An Insight into the First Days and Weeks

Once puppies are delivered into this world, they are very vulnerable creatures. They cannot see and they cannot hear. All they must rely on is their sense of touch and smell. Their sense of smell will tell them who their mom is and their sense of smell will direct them towards their very first source of food, a special type of fluid produced by their mother for the first 24-48 hours. This type of milk is often known as ''mother's gold'' because it is a thick yellow golden substance that will provide the puppy with all the essential nutrients and immune system boosters to protect them from diseases for some time.

In a litter of pups, the most assertive pup will suckle the most and will therefore, receive the most of these antibodies while  the most submissive will receive the least amount.

In a domestic setting, this colostrum covers the timeframe from the when the puppy is born until the time the puppy has completed its whole vaccination boosters. However, there will be a delicate phase where the antibodies are tapering off and yet the vaccines are not yet effective. This small window of opportunity may cause a disease to strike.

In the wild, the level of antibodies absorbed through the colostrum will diminish gradually and the puppy must rely thereafter only on its own strength and immunity to make it in the tough world of survival.

Quite often, out of a litter some puppies may not make it. Either because of disease, a hereditary disorder or a malfunctioning organ. These puppies may appear to be healthy and strong the first day suckling the colostrum well, and in the next days they may weaken and stray away from their mother and siblings.

As cruel as it may seem, the mother may help this pup up to a certain point. Because in nature dogs must rely on survival, the mother may give up on the puppy if it appears not to be healthy and strong enough to suckle. Her energy must be concentrated on the stronger pups allowing them to feed and survive.

In a domestic setting such puppies are often called ''fading puppies''. They sometimes can be helped by owners stepping in and trying to help these little fellows survive. If they do get better they may gain enough strength to go back to their mom and siblings and continue to suckle. However, in nature such puppies are not given this opportunity, and therefore, very likely succumb.

In nature, mother dog will rely on her instinct to keep the den clean. She will stimulate the puppies to urinate and defecate by licking their rear. Licking the pups is also a great way for her to bond with them. She will also ingest the pup's waste to ensure a good level of hygiene. Dens indeed are never dirty, mother dog works hard on keeping it clean.

In a domestic setting, this is what helps puppies with crate training. Because a crate is similar to a den, puppies have an inherited instinct to not want to soil where they sleep and live.

Mother dogs in nature are generally quite protective about the puppies during their first few days and weeks. All it takes sometimes is to give other dogs a stare, to keep them away from her litter. The pups are very vulnerable creatures at that time, mostly feeding and sleeping 90% of the time.

In a domestic setting this is when mother dog may growl to the owners. However, this behavior often gradually dissipates as the puppies grow more independent and are less vulnerable.

After about 15 days a puppy's eyes will open and a few days later they will capable of fully hearing. This is when the pups start to be able to eliminate without their mother's intervention. They also start to stand on their legs.


Members of wolf packs often lend a hand in rearing puppies

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Disciplining and Correcting Puppies

As the pups grow, mother dog must teach their pup their limitations. Mother dog will have no problem disciplining her pups consistently and effectively. She will grab the pups by the scruff and give a light, but effective correction with an inhibited mouth.

As time goes by, mother dog will start taking distance from the pups. The pups will grow interested in meeting other pack members. A pack of dogs is often composed of eight to ten members. Meeting various other dogs often creates mixed feelings. There will be dogs that may not tolerate the pups and will growl to be left alone, whereas there will be other pack members willing to play with the pups or simply accept their company.

When dealing with the older dogs, the pups will roll on their back showing their bellies in submission and respect and sometimes may urinate as well. These are the first signs of submission. In a domestic setting, this sometimes takes place when owners scold pups or intimidate them with their body posture. This is defined as '' puppy submissive urination''.

On the contrary of what is thought, in nature dogs perform ''alpha rolls'' on their own. No dog forces a dog to do an alpha roll as humans do. Forced alpha rolls in nature are rare events and only take place when the ''alpha roller;' has a serious intent to injure or kill by biting the neck. These are mostly in captivity.

In a wolf pack, other pack members would naturally step in to lend a hand in raising the pups. Pack members with strong nurturing instincts would assume the role of ''nannies'' and take over.

Pre-adolescence is a critical stage in dogs. Most dogs reach adolescence from the age of 6 to 8 months. Dogs are teen agers often until the age of three. Puppy-hood is a very short period of time in a dog's life. This is when the pups will want to explore more and join the pack in longer walks.

They learn further the respect the elder pack members . A pup that gets too near to another eating dog will be quickly corrected with a growl or snap. The puppy learns quickly. They will therefore, wait to inspect for leftovers once the elder ranking dog has left the scene. Corrections rarely draw blood. They are mostly symbolic gestures of force without doing major harm. This is referred to as "ritualized aggression"..

As the dog becomes adolescent he will reach his rebellious stage. He will display testing behaviors such as putting their head on the other dog's shoulder or attempt to take other dog's food. If they are interested in a mate, they will even challenge elder dogs. Once adult, the adolescent dog may separate from the pack, mate and form its own pack. The birth of a new litter will therefore unfold another life cycle, repeating over and over again.



This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.

Questions & Answers

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      • Kathryn L Hill profile image

        Kathryn L Hill 

        6 years ago from LA

        very insightful.

      • profile image

        Rock 

        8 years ago

        Awesome article, it really gave me some insight and ideas to use in my own dog training.

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