Pregnancy is a wonderful and natural occurrence and can be especially exciting when you think of your female dog having a new puppy or two (as I’m sure most dog lovers will agree – the world is a better place with more puppies). Whether you’re looking to prevent it or are looking to get your dog pregnant, below we have vital information detailing spaying/neutering, how early can dogs get pregnant, heat cycles, the signs of pregnancy, as well as dog breeding age limits. Read on to understand more.
Typically, dogs reach sexual maturity between the age of six to nine months. However, the rate at which they mature mostly depends on their size and breed. Smaller breeds tend to encounter their initial cycle before the aforementioned ages (around 4 months) whereas larger breeds won’t reach puberty until much later.
What to expect during sexual maturity
Much like people, young dogs will undergo a lot of hormonal changes as they enter puberty. This includes behavioral changes which is why it’s important to provide them with patience and enough mental and physical stimulation. By doing so, you can prevent them from keeping bad habits and behaviors when they have fully matured.
Spaying and Neutering
Unless you plan on breeding your dog, spaying and neutering are things that are worth looking into as pet parents. Not only will you be less likely of getting an unwanted litter of puppies but you will also be protecting your dog from medical and behavioral difficulties later in life.
Studies show that dogs who have been fixed, are significantly less likely to develop things such as tumors, infections, and prostate problems. In addition, fixed dogs won’t become aggressive or poorly behaved as some are known to mark their territory with urine, challenge other males, or become very vocal during their heat cycle.
When to spay or neuter
Talking to your vet first will ensure you choose the best time to spay or neuter your dog. Generally, most dogs should be fixed around six to nine months of age but they can be fixed sooner if they are in great health. However, allowing your dog to reach a certain age will ensure that they are mature and have ceased growing, which will decrease the risk of orthopedic complications in the future.
You can, of course, spay and neuter older dogs. However, the older they get, the more likely a complication can occur during surgery. This is why it’s always important to consult your vet prior to your decision.
Avoiding pregnancy without spaying
If you’re set on not getting your dog spayed and certainly want to avoid an unwanted litter, it’s necessary to keep a track of her heat cycle. When she comes into heat, keep her away from males at all times (as well as other females as they are likely to become aggressive). On walks, keep her on a leash at all times and avoid letting her out of your sight.
What Age Can a Dog Get Pregnant?
Dogs can only conceive when they go into heat. As mentioned previously, dogs hit puberty at a relatively early age meaning that females will go into their first heat at around six to nine months old, with some small breeds entering at as little as 4 months of age. Large and giant breeds may not have their first heat until they reach 18 to 24 months old. Therefore, female dogs can become pregnant during their first heat cycle but this tends to occur when they are still technically a puppy.
With this in mind, if you want your dog to get pregnant, you may want to reconsider breeding them during their first heat. Just because they may have hit puberty doesn’t mean that they are mature enough to mother puppies.
How long do dogs’ heat cycles last?
Typically dogs stay in heat anywhere between two to four weeks. The duration can vary depending on the individual dog. During this time she may be particularly amenable to male dogs and their advances.
Initially, it may take cycles a while to regulate. If you’re breeding your dog, you may want to keep track of their cycles so you can successfully identify when it becomes regular. From this, you can be certain of when to expect your pooch to go into heat in the future.
How do you know if your dog is in heat?
There are a number of signs that will let you know that your dog is in heat. Physical signs are as follows:
- Swollen vulva
- Bloody vaginal discharge
- Urinating more frequently
- Frequently licking the genital area
There are also some behavioral changes to look out for when your dog experiences its cycle. As mentioned above, she will become more receptive to male dogs but she may also become agitated or nervous leading to nesting tendencies.
How often do female dogs go into heat?
Once their cycles have been established, female dogs will go into their heat cycles every six months. This is another reason why pet parents, and breeders especially, should monitor their cycles when they hit puberty. By doing so, you will eventually be able to predict when they are about to start their heat and will know for sure how long it will last.
The four stages of the reproductive cycle
Stage One – Proestrus
Female dogs will show initial signs including a swelling vulva and bleeding but won’t show any interest in male dogs at this stage.
Stage Two – Estrus
This is the stage where mating tends to happen as your dog consents to the advances of a male dog. This time usually comes with vaginal discharge and a swollen vulva.
Stage Three – Dietrus/Metestrus
The hormone progesterone takes control of your dog’s reproductive system. During this time, it’s possible for your dog to be showing signs of false pregnancy.
Stage Four – Anestrus
During stage four, your dog will cease any sexual activity, will show no signs of heat, and can no longer get pregnant.
Breeding Your Dog
If you’re relatively new to breeding and want to know at what age can a dog have puppies take a look at the following information. You will also need to take into account the details above to ensure that your dogs are healthy before you begin breeding. With this in mind, make sure you take both male and female dogs to the veterinarian so they can have the necessary checks completed to ensure they are both in good health.
Completing health tests will reduce the chances of genetic diseases transferring to the pups. So by having your dogs’ health examined, you will be sure that the litter they carry is composed of healthy puppies and, importantly, that your dog will likely stay healthy throughout her pregnancy.
How old does a dog have to be to breed?
If you’re thinking of breeding your puppy it’s important to consult your vet beforehand. As a general rule, it’s never wise to breed a dog aged under 2 years as some females can take some time to fully sexually mature and be mentally ready to conceive. Your vet will be able to complete the necessary examinations and provide you with clarity regarding your dog’s individual health status.
A veterinary professional can potentially recommend the ideal time for you to breed your dog as it’s important to consider your dog’s mental progression and well-being before, during, and after the breeding process.
Why you shouldn’t breed dogs during their first heat cycle
Although female dogs are physically ready to conceive a litter they may not be mentally prepared. This is because they are yet to mature behaviorally – remember, at six to nine months old, when they go into their first heat, they are still puppies themselves. Therefore the pressure of carrying, giving birth, and caring for newborn puppies may lead them to become stressed or anxious. As a result, this may negatively affect her quality of care for the pups which will lead to problems in their development.
There are studies that state that getting pregnant too early can also result in mental and physical problems for both the mother and their litter. As an example, early breeding can pass on genetic defects and aggressive behavior.
At what age can a male dog breed?
Like female dogs, a male dog reaches puberty at around six to nine months depending on the size and breed. In some cases, at just five months old, male dogs can sire pups. However, like females, it’s recommended that you wait until the male has reached maturity before you pair him with other dogs. Not only will he be less likely to pass on behavioral issues or health problems but he will be more fertile once he’s fully developed.
When is a female dog too old to breed?
A dog’s fertility, both male and female, dwindles from the age of seven but that doesn’t mean that they can longer become pregnant. However, it’s vital to understand that if older dogs conceive later in life, the labor and the following puppy care can be more difficult for them, resulting in stress and potential health issues. Therefore, it’s not recommended to breed dogs past the age of seven and consider retiring them from any breeding program.
For reference, the AKC rules will not register a litter of a dam and a male dog that is older than 12 at the time of mating. In addition, they will also not register a litter of a dam and male dog that are younger than seven months at the time of mating. However, other kennel clubs will cap the breeding age limit at eight years old for a female dog.
Responsible Breeding Summary
For the safety of your dogs, litters, reputation, and job role, you must thoroughly understand what being a breeder entails. If you are considering becoming a breeder, make sure you do your research. Online you can find a multitude of valuable resources to help you get started. It’s recommended that you take a look at The American Kennel Clubs archives to find important information.
How to Tell if you Have a Pregnant Dog
There are some clear and obvious signs that your dog’s pregnant including a swollen stomach, enlarged nipples, increased appetite, nesting behavior, irritability, etc. Since you can’t exactly take a quick trip to the store for a dog pregnancy test there are ways your veterinarian will be able to confidently determine if they are expecting a litter of puppies or not.
Palpation, X-rays, ultrasounds, and hormone tests are four of the options your vet can use to identify if your dog is pregnant. Your dog’s circumstances will help your vet dictate which method is the appropriate method to use.
How long is dog pregnancy?
Dog pregnancy typically lasts anywhere between 57 to 68 days, around nine weeks, with most dogs giving birth around day 63 on average.
For more information, including specific details about a dog’s pregnancy, take a look at the following page by PetSide.
Preparing for puppies
Taking care of your pregnant dog requires a lot of work. You will first need to take her to the vet immediately for extra support.
During dog pregnancy, you must keep a close eye on her at all times, make sure she has a high-quality diet and make sure she has access to fresh, clean water. You will want to check in with your veterinarian regularly and make sure you offer her your unconditional love and support whilst she carries her pups.
Another handy tip: If your household is a bustling one, complete with children and/or other dogs, set up a whelping box for her. A whelping box will provide her with a safe space to nest in and potentially deliver her pups.
If you are aware that your dog is expecting a litter, take a look at this guide for the best dog supplements for pregnant pooches. Additionally, we have a related article detailing how to handle newborn puppies and if/when to do so.
Frequently Asked Questions:
Q: How old does a dog have to be to breed?
A: It’s recommended that pet parents and/or breeders wait until the dog is matured fully which can vary greatly depending on their size, breed, and individual cycles.
Q: Do dogs have breeding seasons?
A: There is no particular time of the year that is considered to be a dog’s breeding season. A female dog will be ready to mate when she is in heat which can depend on her heat cycle.
Q: What is the oldest age you can breed your dog?
A: Generally, dogs can conceive at any point in adulthood but you should reconsider when they reach around 7 years old as older dogs can suffer during and after pregnancy.