Pattern of Nipple Use Before Weaning Among Littermates

An interesting paper published in the journal Ethology on puppy nursing behavior. The abstract does such a good job of summarizing the findings that I’m just going to present it as is. I’ll point out to pay special attention to the lack of preference and agonistic behavior.(ie no fighting for nipple).

Cesar Millan has claimed that the most dominant puppy gets preferential access to the nipple of his choice. This is yet one more study that refutes the claims made by the dog- jabber.

DOI: 10.1111/eth.12030
The Pattern of Nipple Use Before Weaning Among Littermates of the Domestic Dog


Suckling provides a well-defined and functionally significant context in which to study mammalian sibling competition and the possible consequences of this for long-term differences in individual behavior, physiology, and life histories. There have, however, been surprisingly few studies of suckling behavior, even in species as accessible as the domestic dog. In a first approach, we filmed the suckling behavior of 10 litters (47 puppies) of various dog breeds in their owners’ homes during the first postnatal month before the start of weaning. The pattern of nipple use was very similar across litters but very different to that of the better-studied pig or cat. Puppies showed only weak preference for particular (central) nipple rows, they often switched nipples during nursing sessions and showed no evidence of teat consistency in which each littermate uses primarily one or two particular nipples. They also showed very little agonistic behavior that could be interpreted as contesting access to nipples. The present findings provide a reminder of the diversity of suckling patterns among altricial mammals and of the need for more comparative information to better understand the reasons for and functional significance of such differences.


5 thoughts on “Pattern of Nipple Use Before Weaning Among Littermates

  1. Pingback: That’s Damn Interesting! Lovely Links 11-01-2012 | The Doggie Stylish Blog

  2. Ha! Barring pathologically large litters (where there is no way the mother can even raise all of the puppies naturally, and some must be bottle fed), I have always thought that nipple competition was a silly concept. How the pups are fed once weaned, on the other hand, I suspect may make a difference in later behavior. Know of any studies on that?

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