This is not a common thing with the American Bulldog type (given that they are just not aggressive by nature!).
So, this is not something that I personally worry about.
But yes, dog aggression does happen and believe it or not, it does between the dam and her puppies.
What do we mean by this?
Let’s start first with understanding what is dog aggression.
As stated in www.animalhumanesociety.org, “Aggression is defined as the threat of harm to another individual involving snarling, growling, snapping, biting, barking or lunging.”
From the definition itself, we now know that in this article, we will be talking about the aggression of the mother dog (dam) towards her puppies.
Unfortunate as it sounds but there are some breeds and dogs for that matter, that shows these signs to their young ones for several reasons which we are about to find out.
Why A Dam Becomes Aggressive
It is important to understand the reasons and triggers to a dam’s aggression most especially if being aggressive is not one of the known “characters” of your dog (for example, my American bulldog).
By understanding the possible triggers that cause aggression.
Then it would be a lot easier for the owners to control and prevent it from happening.
To get to know this much better, let me tell you about one common type of aggression that your dam may be going through after giving birth to your new loving puppies!
This is very common and even for American bulldog owners just like me.
This is one of that I was expecting to see from my Bella.
When a mother dog gives birth, there are hormones that go up to their brain.
It forces them to make sure that their puppies survive and are well protected from any danger lingering around.
We all know that puppies, just like any other newborns, are helpless.
Therefore, it is the mom’s job to protect them and make sure that nothing bad will ever happen to them.
This is the same with humans.
And most often than not, all other animals in the kingdom.
Speaking as another mom, my neck is literally on the line in making sure that my baby is well protected and free from any harm.
Now since our topic is revolving around aggression of a mom towards her puppies, there are only two triggers to this behavior and these are STRESS and PAIN!
After giving birth, your dam will be in so much stress and pain.
There will be times that alongside the stress and pain, there are additional contributors that will make them show aggression towards their puppies.
Below are some examples:
Bred at a young age
Just like human beings, a different level of maturity is expected.
For some mother dogs, when bred early, they do not understand yet that they already have offspring to take care of.
Instead, she sees her puppies as a threat, adding the fact that they are still in pain and a high amount of stress after giving birth.
If a mother feels that her litter area is too small for her puppies or that the number of puppies she has is too much for her to take care of.
She might tend to show aggression leading to hurting them to put them “out of misery” of the current situation.
Presence of sick puppies among the litter
When there are sick puppies in her litter, there might be instances that the mother dog would hurt these or even go to the ends of killing them.
Just so she can focus on the healthier ones.
Take note that this is not being done by the mother dog in purpose, but merely because of survival.
Lack of recognition
Once a mother has newly given birth to her puppies, there will be times that she won’t recognize them and just see them as threats instead.
This example normally happens with dogs who give birth through C-section.
When this happens, then you can expect the mother dog to be aggressive with her puppies.
Pain when nursing
Pain during nursing the puppies may happen at several times.
First, is right after birth.
If the mother dog is experiencing mastitis, (infection of the mammary glands), it will be difficult for her to nurse due to the pain and in turn, will be aggressive towards her innocent puppies.
Pain during nursing may also be felt by the mother dog when her puppies are 3 weeks old and above.
This is the time when the puppies start to have their tiny teeth which may hurt their moms accidentally during the nursing process.
When your mother dogs get hurt then it is inevitable that she will also aggressive signs towards her puppies unknowingly.
All these are possible reasons why your mother dog behaves aggressively towards her pups.
It doesn’t have to be just one of these reasons mentioned but it can also be a mix which will then make that strong statement that your mother dog is really showing aggression signs.
How to Determine if the Dam is Already Aggressive Towards Her Puppies?
Now that we are all clear of what are the possible triggers and reasons why a mother dog will behave aggressively towards her puppies, the next thing to know now is how do we, owners, know when this is already happening.
What are the signs that would show us and convince us that our mother dogs are already behaving this way?
Not settling down with her pups
From how it sounds, you might think that this is just normal behavior of a mother dog but, it may already be a sign that your mother dog is going to show aggression towards her little ones.
Mother dogs, especially during the first few days should be totally looking over their puppies, nursing and cleaning them.
If you start to see signs that your mother dog doesn’t seem to like the idea of her puppies being with her and not being able to settle and relax with them around, then observe her closely.
Refusing to nurse her puppies
There may be several reasons why a mother dog will not want to nurse her puppies when she knows for a fact that they are totally dependent on her.
If your mother dog is in pain, then she will stop nursing her puppies.
If the puppies continue to go near her, which they will CERTAINLY, and while still in pain, then she will be aggressive with them.
Growling at her puppies
This is a clear sign that she is already showing aggressive behavior towards her little ones.
At one point, the mother dog will growl at her young ones when they get too rough and needs to be put in order.
Most often than not, the mother dog will growl for other reasons than just keeping her puppies in place.
She can be cranky because of the pain and stress she is feeling for just giving birth.
Mother dog can also have a hard time producing milk because of a larger litter which then increases her stress level and exhaustion.
These are more of the initial signs that your mother dog is showing aggressive behavior towards her puppies.
A more severe sign, from its definition, is when you see your mother dog, biting, hurting, snarling or even barking at her young ones.
When you see this behavior, then it is high time to intervene and check this with your veterinarian for a better approach.
What to Do When This Happens?
Since we have discussed each of the factors that contribute to this behavior, we can now get to some better solution on what we need to do when we see it happening.
If your mother dog’s aggressive behavior is due to lack of recognition, then it is important for her to have “bonding” time with her puppies.
You need to leave her alone with her puppies as much as possible and keep strangers away, so she learns that these are the puppies that she needs to look after.
If your mother dog is already exhausted and stressed with taking care of the rowdy bunch, take her out for a walk.
A quick trip outside can relieve her stress and give her some fresh air.
So that when she comes back to her puppies, she will be delighted to see them again.
Manage your dog’s environment
Keep her as comfortable as you can.
If she is showing signs of anxiety and cannot settle with her puppies near her, keep them away for a few hours and let her relax.
Normally, this should do the trick and she will be back to be the loving mom again after relaxing.
Feed your mother dog some high-quality canned dog food
A full stomach will help her relax and settle in with her pups, plus, the extra moisture in the canned food will help her produce milk.
Keep in mind that when she feels that she is unable to produce sufficient milk for her puppies, it can trigger aggression towards her young ones.
If the aggressive behavior is caused by mastitis (infection of the mammary glands), put the puppies in a warm box to keep them protected from their mom.
And take all of them to the vet or have a vet drop by your place for further checking and observation.
If your mother dog has bitten or hurt any of the puppies, it is a good idea to keep them away and bottle feed them instead.
This way you can prevent any further instances of aggression while keeping the puppies well fed which they need to survive.
Keep an eye on your mother dog.
If your mother dog shows the initial signs of aggression like not settling with her puppies or not wanting to nurse them, make sure to keep a close watch.
Remember that these behaviors can lead to something more serious that you will not want to miss.
These are the basic things you need to do when you start seeing aggressive behavior with your mother dog towards her puppies.
The best thing to do is to observe them closely to ensure that the puppies will not get hurt.
If anything goes out of control then it is a good idea to separate your mother dog from her puppies.
And bring them to the vet for a professional observation.
Hopefully, no one will ever get to see this behavior from any of their mother dogs but if it does happen that such aggression is observed, you will now know what needs to be done.
The most important thing to remember is that you need to know all the possible factors that might trigger and lead your mother dog to be aggressive.
When you know all these facts and have done your due diligence in checking and noting down your observations, now go to your checklist and see if it is high time for you to intervene or not.
Remember that there will be times that your mother dog will have to growl at her puppies (which is normal, by the way) and one good example is when weaning them around 7 weeks old (and older).
Eventually, they will need to stop nursing from mom since they are already eating solid dog food.
When this process starts, you will see that your mother dog will growl at the pups when they push their way to get more milk from her.
When this happens, relax, as again, this is normal.
Again, just observe and keep a close eye on both the mother dog and her puppies.
Take note of every unusual behavior that she displays.
And when it gets way different from what you are expecting, your vet should just be one call away!