Cross-fostering is a technique used in animal husbandry, animal science, genetic and nature versus nurture studies, and conservation, whereby offspring are removed from their biological parents at birth (or shortly after) and raised by surrogates. This can also occasionally occur in nature.
Wolf Cross-Fostering:The alpha bitch will not allow any other Wolves to come around when she whelps, not even the alpha male. Later, she might allow a select female to assist her in rearing and nursing the pups. Female Wolves are able to enter "false pregnancy" after estrus if they fail to conceive. While in this condition they lactate and are able to assist the alpha bitch with nursing the puppies.
Mothering InstinctMaternal instinct is in part due to the hormone oxytocin, which kicks in after a dog gives birth. The hormone causes a mother to accept her babies and makes her want to protect them. There is some debate on whether c-section moms produce adequate levels of oxytocin. We have had many c-section moms that are also spayed at the same time as the are having a c-section to have pups. They are given an injection of oxytocin as a supplement. We have never had any problems with the moms producing milk or mothering pups as a consequesnce.
Reasons To Cross-Foster Puppies:
1. Single Puppy - also sometimes referred to as a "Singleton".All puppies need the stimulation of litter mates early on to develop both mind and body in a healthy way.
The first three weeks worth of stimulation is largely tactile (warmth and touch). Puppies crawl all over one another in an effort to gain access to a nipple. Physical contact and tactile information is quite important at this stage.
This is also crucial for basic muscle development and co-ordination, as the puppy should be walking by three weeks. If a puppy cannot hold its own weight by then, it can seriously affect their physical development. 21 to 49 days presents the first real deficit in a single puppy’s social development. This is where they start to develop rudimentary canine behaviors, and effectively, learn how to be a dog. In a litter, puppies will experiment with all kinds of behavior from competitive and dominant behaviors, to reproductive behaviors and play, with one another. This period is where the pup will recognize himself as a dog.
At about 28 days, the period where puppies are weaned begins. The mother will start to deny access to her teats, and even warn puppies off. This in turn stimulates the development of appeasement and submissive gestures, and teaches the pup a great deal about reading body language and avoiding conflict. Puppies that don’t get this opportunity don’t learn early on how to circumvent conflict with conspecifics and are likely to over-react or misinterpret situation of conflict. Incidentally, this is also a life lesson that is missed when pups are bottle fed. It is through experimentation with litter-mates that a puppy gains his first set of social tools. A single pup obviously has no litter mates with which to observe and practice these behaviors, and often struggles to cope socially later in life, either responding to signals with excessive fear or aggression. In addition, singleton or hand reared pups struggle to develop relationships with con specifics (other puppies) if they were not exposed around this critical period. In a nut-shell, it is imperative to recreate as many of these important lessons as possible. Creating a stimulating and challenging environment from as early as three weeks will ensure better coping mechanisms later in life.
2. Protect The Mother's Health
Each mother is an individual, as human mothers are.
First Time MomsSometimes first time moms don't understand and need to be to be taught how to care for their pups. If they have a large litter (any number over 4) they struggle to nurse all the pups adequately and/or keep them clean thru diapering. (licking the genitals of the puppies to induce bladder and bowel to move). In this case, it is best for the mom and the puppies to try to foster some pups in with another mother.
We want all of our moms to keep solid body weight and mass while raising pups. Sometimes even with additional supplements and fat calories added to their normal diet, this cannot be accomplished. In this case, we want to foster the pups onto another mother so that we can take the burden of raising pups from her body, so that in the big picture she will suffer minimal health impact as a result of bearing pups. This will lengthen her overall life expectancy and state of health as she grows older, after her pup bearing years.
Sometimes, a mom is very stressed and nervous when she has pups. She cannot relax and enjoy her pups as she should. She will bark and jump and worry over every small sound she hears. This is VERY dangerous for the new pups! Also when in a state of agitation, her milk is not likely to let down, and she is spending more time away from the pups. Stress of any kind is not healthy for her or the pups. Also when in this elevated stress condition, she is modeling behavior we do not want the new pups to learn! It is better for their nurturing to have a calm relaxed mom to teach them how to conduct themselves.
Common Questions and concerns
Do Birth Moms Remember Their Pups?
A dog's long-term memory is not like a human's. Dog memory depends more on imprinting, a biochemical process stimulated by sight and smell. Imprinting is an innate behavior or response to a learned stimulus and occurs at a particular time in an animal's life known as "the sensitive time." This happens in a mother dog after giving birth and triggers her protective instinct. This instinct is reinforced as the puppies grow, and if they remain with her through the formative three- to four-month period following their birth, remains with her for life, says animal behaviorist Steven Lindsay. As the puppies mature, Lindsay believes the physiological response is strengthened in both mother and puppies, creating a bond that allows them to recognize each other later in life. When puppies are removed within 2 weeks of birth, complete imprinting does not occur and the mother dog will not recognize her offspring.
Although doggie DNA has changed over centuries, dogs are descended from wolves and the canine maternal memory is rooted there. Wolf puppies remained with the family pack for one to three years until adulthood, so it was natural to maintain family ties. In the wild, keeping the family together served as protection for the pack. Although this is not the case with domestic dog litters, the bitch's instinct to protect the young remains and she will guard them even from dogs she knows who live in the same house. This maternal instinct allows her to remember her offspring if they remain with her through the formative three- to four-month period following their birth, according to Lindsay.