What Does Dog Nesting Mean? – Breeding and Whelping Guide

Dog nesting

When dogs are pregnant, they can exhibit a wide range of behavioral changes. This becomes particularly prominent towards the final weeks of a dog’s pregnancy.

If you would like to understand more about these pregnancy-related behavioral changes, we are here to help! Not only will we explain what dog nesting means, but we will also go over some signs you might notice if your dog is about to start the nesting process.

From there, we will even explain what you should do when your dog has begun nesting. By understanding the various stages of canine pregnancy, you will be able to help your dog have a comfortable and healthy pregnancy.

Table of Contents

So, What Is Dog Nesting?

In dogs, nesting is an instinct that is often described as a motherly drive to prepare a safe and comfortable area for a pregnant dog to give birth to puppies.

For some pregnant dogs, this nesting instinct could be displayed by behaviors like dragging blankets and discarded clothing items to a particular location in the house. It could also take the form of rearranging cushions and pillows on a specific piece of furniture. 

Some dogs in the nesting phase of their pregnancy will begin hiding away in quiet corners of the house, like the laundry room, a spare bedroom, or even in the back of a closet.

Are Dogs the Only Animals that Have a Nesting Phase?

No, not at all! Birds might be the most notorious nesting animals, but the truth is that every type of mammal will nest in one way or another during pregnancy. This is even true of humans!

Pregnant women often find themselves tidying their house more frequently towards the end of their pregnancy. Many also find they prefer comfortable clothing, blankets, and bedding.

In that sense, a dog’s nesting instinct is somewhat relatable.

Why Is Your Dog Nesting?

pregnant dogs will begin nesting for the arrival of puppies

As mentioned, pregnant dogs will begin nesting as a sort of preparation for the arrival of puppies. It is also done to ensure the birth is as comfortable as possible. 

Rather than give birth suddenly and without preparation, a pregnant dog will often find a comfortable location and even begin enhancing how comfortable that location is by fetching blankets and other soft objects.

This is simply a natural component of a dog’s pregnancy cycle and often occurs shortly before the dog begins whelping, which is the medical term for the process of giving birth to puppies.

What about Nesting Dogs that Are Not Pregnant?

While it is less common, some non-spayed female dogs will begin nesting even when they are not currently pregnant. This process is linked to a situation referred to as “false pregnancy.”

In simple terms, false pregnancy occurs when the symptoms of pregnancy are mimicked by a non-spayed female dog that is in heat but is not pregnant. This display of maternal behaviors can include the nesting instinct. 

Dogs undergo this false pregnancy process because their ovaries produce hormones that trigger maternal instincts while the dog is going through heat. 

While it can be a natural process and not something dog owners need to be overly concerned about, some dogs can experience anxiety throughout false pregnancies. If this is the case for your dog, you can speak with a veterinarian about hormonal treatments that can help reduce the dog’s stress and anxiety.

What Are Some Common Signs of Nesting?

dogs common signs of nesting

While we discussed some of the signs that dogs will display when they are beginning the nest, the following are some of the other common symptoms of the nesting instinct:

  • The dog will pace around the house and even circle a particular area
  • Dogs will gather blankets, soft clothing, pillows, and other soft fabrics
  • The dog might begin ripping up loose papers, especially discarded newspapers
  • You may notice the dog repeatedly rearranging toys, pillows, and other objects in their environment 
  • Repeated scratching at furniture, cushions, curtains, and other things in their living space
  • The dog may seem to hide away in small places, like closets

In most cases, a dog nesting will display a combination of several of the signs outlined above. 

If you notice that your dog has suddenly begun to display these new behaviors, there is a good chance that they have started the nesting phase of their pregnancy, which also means they are close to giving birth. 

What Should You Do if You Notice That Your Dog Has Begun Nesting?

In most cases, nesting is not something that you need to be overly concerned about. That said, there are specific scenarios where a dog’s nesting behaviors could be a concern.

The Dog Is Becoming Destructive Due to Their Nesting

It can be a little concerning if your dog’s nesting efforts are becoming somewhat destructive. For example, some dogs nesting will scratch at soft furniture, which can cause damage. 

If this is the case, you can attempt to separate the dog from the item that they are damaging, as the nesting process should not last for more than a few days.

You Are Not Aware That the Dog Is Pregnant

Of course, nesting behaviors can also be concerning if you are unaware that your dog is pregnant. Some canine pregnancies surprise their owners. If your female dog is not spayed and is beginning to nest, visit a veterinarian to confirm that the dog is not pregnant.

The Dog’s Nesting Is Disrupting Their Routine

If your dog’s nesting behavior is disrupting their daily routine, meaning they will not do anything other than nesting-related activities, it could be worth bringing up with your veterinarian.

This could signify that the dog is experiencing anxiety, which you can manage with the correct, vet-recommended efforts.

How to Help Your Nesting Dog

If your dog’s nesting is not destructive and you are aware of their pregnancy status, you can make efforts to help your dog manage their nesting instincts. For starters, you can supply your dog with soft materials you do not mind getting ruined, like old bedsheets, towels, clothing, or anything else that is soft.

You can also help by making sure that your dog has access to a safe and quiet area that is relatively private, like a clean closet, empty bedroom, or even just the laundry room.

Overall, nesting is a normal process heavily linked to pregnancy in dogs. While you should not be overly concerned about it, you may want to bring it up to your veterinarian at your dog’s next pregnancy checkup. 

For More Information

If you want to know more about nesting and other canine pregnancy behaviors, we recommend reading the American Kennel Club’s guide – Gestation Period – How Long Are Dogs Pregnant?

Daily Paws also has a helpful article titled – How Long are Dogs Pregnant? – A Week by Week Look at What is Happening.