May is the month to celebrate mothers. All mothers, including our canine companions. Mother might be a title, but mothering is a job. Some dogs are so good at mothering they will do it for any young animal who needs it, just like their human counterparts. As their maternal instincts are generally quite good, dogs have been known to “mother” orphan animals they find.
There are a number of reasons a dog would take on another baby. Their pack mentality is part of it, as is biology. Female dogs are most likely to respond to another mammal due to scent. One expert explains it by saying “All mammals have certain pheromones—simply biological scents—they give off, and they have a certain communication value”. These scents tell the mother dog that this is a baby in need. The pack mentality kicks in and their instincts take over, causing them to see this tiny orphan as part of the pack needing support.
Experts don’t know how much of a dog’s willingness to nurture and bond with a young animal from another species comes from empathy. Most dogs have the emotional maturity of a human toddler. and empathy isn’t really found in children until they are a year or two older than that. It is more likely that their willingness to provide nurturing has more to do with instinct, biology and their response to stress.
Whatever the reason, it’s one more trait to love the dogs in our life for. And one more reason why they are such special companions.