Pregnancy & Delivery
Keep mama happy!
Mama is the pups' buffer to the world.
If she's stressed,
they will be too.
Science shows that maternal stress during pregnancy can have a negative impact on puppies physically and psychologically. We fosters can't control what happens before our mamas get to us, but once they're in our home we can do our best to create as stress-free an environment as possible.
If your foster mama obviously loves human affection, shower her with it. Is she reaching her head toward you when you sit nearby? Choosing to come to you? Plopping her head in your lap? Wonderful. Full speed ahead. Studies have revealed that puppies can feel it when you stroke mama’s side, and that pups who’ve experienced that tend to be more docile!
On the other hand, if mama is not showing all those good signs, don't stress her out by forcing her to interact with you. Watch her body language carefully. Give her a little space, and let her be the one to close the gap. (Sure, you can use a bit of ham to sweeten the deal.) Mama has likely been through a lot the week before she got to you, and may feel much calmer if she has a moment to catch her breath without having to figure you out.
As for any furry occupants of your home . . . If your new mama is all waggy and reaching to meet your (trustworthy) resident dogs, great! Let her enjoy them. But if not, use gates to keep them not only out of the room but down the hall. Even hearing them sniffing at the door could contribute to a lot of stress.
Once Pups Are Born
(This guide is on enrichment rather than the fundamentals of care, but of course THE most important thing is always the family’s basic health needs. Make sure you have a good resource at your rescue group for all of the that!)
Throughout puppyhood, keep in mind that mama dog is the puppies’ buffer to the world, and as long as they're nursing (when oxytocin is released) or simply near her, they'll feel at their best.
Conversely, if mama is stressed, the pups will be too. Therefore, if any of the enrichment activities described in this guide upset mama, step back and try again later. The first priority is keeping her settled and calm.
Here are some indicators that mama is stressed:
Intensely staring at you or puppy
Can’t settle in one spot in the box
Just like with humans, a happy mama goes pretty far toward a happy home!
PHOTOS: Pregnant Cookie landed in a shelter, and then with us. We had almost three weeks to get to know her before delivery. She was the kind of gal who wanted to be smack in the middle of our pack, so we happily obliged. That's her looking up from a snuggle with our dogs -- both foster-fail mamas!