Wild dogs in India provide an interesting example by which to examine mother-offspring conflict and the weaning process.
These canines have large populations in urban areas and rely almost entirely on the discarded food waste of humans for their diet.
Food competition is intense in these free-ranging dogs, and females have the added burden of bearing a litter of pups every year.
In the early weeks after birth, mom exclusively lactates for her pups and she remains very protective of them. However, after the six-week point she will begin to supplement her pups with solids.
Around the ten- or eleven-week mark, mom abruptly weans her pups; from this point on, her own pups are competitors for food.
It’s an interesting conundrum, and the abrupt changeover from nurturer/mentor/food source to competitor must come with a suite of psychological changes for any of the canine moms involved.
Wild dog mothers lose a lot of weight when they suckle pups, so it’s imperative for them to regain their weight and energy stores soon after weaning. Moms are generally in a very poor state of health toward the end of suckling a litter of pups, but they can regain their body condition by focusing on themselves again once the pups are weaned.
In the cuttroat world of street dog life, there isn’t time to remain nurturing when one must focus on staying alive.
This post is an adapted excerpt from my book “Wild Moms: Motherhood in the Animal Kingdom“