On Mother’s Day, we wrote a post explaining some of the biological and instinctual reasons mother dogs are so good at taking care of their puppies. As we turn our attention to Father’s Day, the story is a little different.

Whereas mother dogs are protective and nurturing, male dogs don’t have quite the same fatherly instincts. At least, not the domesticated male dogs that we have as pets today. These dogs most often display a general disinterest in their puppies. Why is that? To answer that question, it helps to understand a bit about our canine companion’s ancestor, the wolf.

Wolves in general are considered to be great parents, and male wolves in particular play an important role in caring for their pups. Gray wolves, for example, are extremely faithful to their mate and are responsible for feeding her after she has given birth so she can focus on the newborn litter. They are also very protective of the pups, guarding them from danger at all costs. And they are responsible for teaching the young pups important survival skills, such as hunting.

So how did the male dogs we know today become somewhat indifferent to their pups? We likely have ourselves to blame. Humans have taken on many of the roles that a wild dog would otherwise fill. There is no need to hunt for food when humans are able to supply daily meals. We also provide safe homes for puppies, eliminating the need to guard and protect the litter. Today, male dogs are often not even present when their puppies are born, so it’s not too surprising that their paternal instincts have faded over time.

But, one innate characteristic that has stood the test of time is that dogs are pack animals, and enjoy companionship and being part of a group. So, while a male dog may not have a special relationship with his puppies, over time he may play and interact with his kin, just as he would any other dog (or human).