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Nesting Behavior of a Pregnant Dog

| Updated September 26, 2017

A pregnant dog’s behavior changes as she prepares for her pups' arrival. Powerful hormones cause the changes. She seeks out a safe place to birth and later to care for her puppies. Nesting is a normal part of a healthy pregnancy in dogs.

What Is Nesting?

When a female dog is preparing for the birth of her puppies she will tear newspaper, rip blankets and gather toys in a designated area to create a nest and to fulfill a mothering instinct. She even carries around toys when not in her nest as a way of protecting her litter.


It’s common to see a dog excessively groom herself before the birth of puppies. This too is a part of nesting. She licks constantly in anticipation of her litter.

Other Behavior

A pregnant dog paces and appears anxious and uneasy just prior to labor. She seeks out privacy. Once settled, the dog returns to her nest and prepares to birth (whelp) her pups.


Hormones trigger the nesting instinct in dogs. Ovaries release progesterone and the anterior pituitary gland produces prolactin.


Pet Place says a dog exhibits nesting behavior within days of giving birth. A typical dog pregnancy term lasts as long as nine weeks with whelping starting on days 58 to 68.