We’ve always joked that our dog, Moses, tends to mother his younger, non-related sibling, Lewie. Moses (Mo) likes to keep his eye on Lewie and tends to be a bit protective of him. He even lets Lewie suck on his ears - gross, we know!

Mo is a male Anatolian Shepherd that we rescued 7 years ago. When we got Mo, he was extremely fearful of many things - people - especially men in hats, popping noises (hunting guns, fireworks), and loud engines. One thing he loved was other dogs, so when Mo was turning 4, we decided it might help him to have another dog around. Enter Lewie (Lew). Having had a Labrador years ago, we knew this breed’s sweet nature and playfulness could be a good match for Mo, so we brought Lew home at 8 weeks old. We could see the bond was instant. Mo looked over Lew, let Lew eat all of his food without a growl, allowed Lew to jump and play all over him, and slept in Lew’s gated playpen with him. We started to joke that Mo was like Lew’s mom…and it turns out that he just may be!


Mo is actually exhibiting an interesting behavior. Some dogs have an innate ability to nurture and care for other dogs, exhibiting maternal behaviors that extend beyond their own offspring. It’s known as alloparenting.

Alloparenting, which is essentially taking care of and nurturing the offspring of others, is a behavior seen not just in humans but also in various animal species, including dogs. A fascinating study from 2021 published in the journal "Animal Behaviour" dove into the factors influencing alloparenting in dogs. The study found that female dogs, especially those with previous maternal experience, tended to show more alloparenting behaviors towards unrelated puppies. Another intriguing study by researchers at the University of Veterinary Medicine in Vienna, Austria, looked into how oxytocin, a hormone linked to maternal behavior, plays a role in fostering alloparenting in dogs. Their findings revealed that dogs with higher levels of oxytocin were more inclined to exhibit nurturing behaviors towards puppies, regardless of their relations.


What is interesting to us is that Mo, a male rescue who was never a parent, exhibits this behavior. That being said, Anatolian Shepherds are categorized as Livestock Guardian Dogs (LGDs) and are uniquely designed to care for other animals.

Anatolians are most commonly found on farms and are used to protect sheep and goats. As puppies, Anatolians are placed with a flock and the flock becomes their family. Instinctually, it’s the Anatolian’s job to guard, protect, and care for their flock so it seems that Lewie is Mo’s flock (and we are a part of it too). And, although we’ve never tasked Mo with protecting and caring for Lew, it’s just in him to do this.

It’s just proof pawsitive that that Moms come in all shapes, sizes…and sexes.  Now off to take Lew shopping to buy Mo a Mother’s Day gift!"

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