Dog pulls bedding out of cage
May 29, 2011 7:51 AM   Subscribe

Why does my foster dog drag her bedding (and puppies!) out of her dog crate?

I am fostering a dog and her 2 week old puppies. Someone found her living outside in a rural area a few weeks ago. She's going to a more permanent foster home in one week.

We've set her and her puppies up in a large dog crate with several blankets and towels. For the most part, this has been fine, and she willingly goes in there to nurse the pups. The pups are healthy and spend most of their time sleeping. Several times now, though, the mama dog has pulled all of the towels and blankets out of the crate and stashed them around the house -- under my bed, in the closet, in the middle of the hallway, in the living room, etc. When she pulls the towels and blankets out, she pulls the puppies out too. We find them lying in the middle of the room, crying, or tangled up in the towels she's moving.

What is going on? What is she trying to do and why? How can we get her to stop?

Possibly relevant: we think the dog is an Australian cattle dog (a/k/a a blue heeler). She weighs about 25 pounds. There are three puppies. The crate is large and has plenty of room for her and the pups. We have it set up in a quiet room, out of the main traffic areas of the house.
posted by southern_sky to Pets & Animals (11 answers total)
Have you tried just leaving the crate bare?
posted by tomswift at 8:00 AM on May 29, 2011

The 'under the bed' and 'in the closet' make me wonder if she's trying to find a more secure den because she feels like the crate is exposed. But then the 'middle of the hallway' and 'in the living room' make me think that this is not the case or else the dog is really bad at finding secure hiding places. Or perhaps is easily distracted.
posted by rmd1023 at 8:14 AM on May 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

Can I suggest you pile the towels up outside the crate and let her form her own den? She may not want them at all; she may not like the way they smell.
posted by DarlingBri at 8:21 AM on May 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

My fiance, whose family bred German Shephards, thinks she is worried someone is going to take the puppies and/or towels so she is trying to hide them. She may have been in a situation before where her things were taken from her and she is trying to protect them.

He also said "dogs are like people, they can be shitty mothers too."
posted by radioamy at 9:08 AM on May 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

She may feel the crate is unsafe because they could become trapped in there. At any rate, I would chalk it up to the vagaries of an unsocialized dog, and just deal with it patiently and without any sort of punishment. (Not that you would punish, but I'm just saying.)

And what a lovely thing you did, taking in a foster dog.
posted by BlahLaLa at 10:30 AM on May 29, 2011 [4 favorites]

She and her puppies were taken out of her original place by people. You are people. She doesn't quite trust you.

Were the towels washed in a detergent with any scent? That might be driving her bonkers.

If this is her first litter of puppies she might be very confused, because puppies are weird, and a lot of work to suddenly have. At 25 pounds, there's also the possibility that she's only just reached sexual maturity without actually being a grown up dog.

Have you tried just leaving her alone with the puppies and no towels? See where she takes the babies. (However, try not to have it be possible for her to get them up into a box spring. That's not fun. Puppies in a box spring. Kittens are worse.)
posted by bilabial at 10:56 AM on May 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

My dog will move his binky blanket and his resting pillow around the living room before laying down, almost every time. He won't go to another room, because he wants to stay where I am, but seems to have a "nesting" urge to build a fresh, clean nest.

Same could be true for Mama dog. She might feel the existing nest is "soiled"/"used", and want to build a new one somewhere else. However, having limited resources, she has to reuse the bedding.

I am not proposing a solution here, but it might be her motivation.
posted by IAmBroom at 11:34 AM on May 29, 2011

BTW: avoid washing the bedding at this point, because they smell like her children. If they get urine-spotted, try washing without soap, or if necessary, use a fragrance-free soap.

But really, let Mama have the security of familiar smell.
posted by IAmBroom at 11:39 AM on May 29, 2011

Yeah, it's the hiding thing and some-dogs-are-bad-mothers thing. Look for a way to set up the mother and pups in their own den -- e.g. not just a crate, but an enclosure they can have all to themselves, like a room, or a fenced off area where they can be really alone and not get the sense that they're being forced to share anything with anyone.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 12:42 PM on May 29, 2011 [2 favorites]

If this is a wire dog crate, she is likely feeling insecure. She would likely be more comfortable in a Vari-Kennel style crate, or at least if you cover the wire crate with a sheet or blanket. I might also try moving the bed somewhere quieter if it's not already somewhere safe and quiet (where she is moving the bedding to the most is likely the best spot). This dog is not only dealing with being a new mom, but also being in a new place. Thank you for looking after her and the puppies.

(As an aside, play ESPN a LOT around the puppies - it's a super-easy way to desensitize them to loud male voices. Memail me if you want any help, I breed dogs).
posted by biscotti at 12:55 PM on May 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

Dogs like to be somewhere sheltered, especially when feeling insecure (as a new mother with pups will do). They like their backs to a wall, or other sheltering divider, and they like a roof over their heads. The tighter the space, the safer they feel. In the wild, female dogs and wolves dig a hole under a tree to give birth. When stressed, our previous dog used to wedge himself under the bed (and frequently had to be helped out). Our current dogs use their bed (in the corner) a LOT more since we put an old kitchen table over it.
I would put the dog crate in a corner (against two walls) and put something over it, like a table, to make a little "cave" for her. If this is impractical, put a cover such as an old blanket or a thick sheet over the top, one side, and the back of the crate, making sure that you leave the air holes uncovered on one side and at the front, so they don't overheat.
posted by Susurration at 6:50 PM on May 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

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