We were trying to pick out a border collie puppy and met the puppies’ mom. She looked fearful, gave us the death stare, barked, and snapped at us and was extremely distrustful. Her behavior was a bit erratical, after a couple of minutes at some point she was comfortable enough to lie down show her belly, but then while treating her, she snapped again.

Maybe we made a sudden movement she didn’t like? The puppies are 3 weeks old. We are not sure if this is just maternal aggression or the personality of the dog. In any case, we are a bit worried that the new puppies will take on this personality, e.g. fearful/aggression towards strangers. The breeder commented that the dog has made a huge travel in the last months, and she might be stressed out and hasn’t adjusted well. But it also sounded like she doesn’t do that well with strangers. We need some advice!

Do you think it’s still a good idea to get one of the puppies if the puppy mother shows this much aggression?

2 Answers 2


I would not choose a puppy that comes from that mother. Defensive or protective maternal behavior is one thing, but that sounds like fear aggression to me. Not only does it potentially predict a puppy with a similar reactive personality, but it may point to other husbandry and care problems with the breeder, since it seems that the mother is not well socialized, and/or not adaptable.

Ideally a pup will start to be socialized to humans before it is ready to leave its mother, which is probably going to be difficult or impossible for that litter. Sorry to tell you, but personally I would look for a different litter at least, and probably a different breeder.

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    I doubt that the puppies would become agressive problem dogs, but if they aren't properly socialized with different dogs and humans at that age, they might become anxious later. It's absolutely normal for a mother to protect her offspring, but not socializing the pups because of mom does more damage than good.
    – Elmy
    Dec 18, 2018 at 7:25
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    Any breeder worth their salt would say don’t pick a puppy from this litter. Inherent traits like this can be passed down to puppies. Breeders would typically wait around 2-3 days for the mothers to allow their owner near the pups (which the immediate protective instinct calms significantly in this time, doesn’t go, just reduces) which when it comes to selling them is obviously key.
    – UIO
    Dec 24, 2018 at 23:50

Motherly instincts were affecting "Mom's" behavior. She didn't know you and here you were picking up her babies and examining them. Seriously? Who said you could do that? Do you see her point? The breeder probably should have had you wait until she had weaned the pups (4th week) before inviting you in to handle them. Go back next week and check the pups out again. This time say hello to "Mom" first and ask the breeder to separate the boys from the girls before you look at the potential pups. I'm sure you'll see a different attitude from "Mom Dog".

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