At what age can a dog have puppies? When to start and when to stop (2023)

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Pregnancy is a wonderful and natural event, and it can be particularly exciting when you think about your dog having a new puppy or two (I'm sure most dog lovers will agree - the world is a better place with more puppies ). Whether you want to prevent this or get your dog pregnant, below is important information on neutering/neutering, how early dogs can get pregnant, heat cycles, signs of pregnancy and age limits for dog breeding. Read on to understand more.

sexual maturity

Typically, dogs reach sexual maturity at six to nine months of age. However, the speed at which they mature depends mostly on their size and breed. Smaller breeds tend to enter their first cycle before the age mentioned above (around 4 months), while larger breeds reach puberty much later.

What to Expect During Sexual Maturity

Similar to humans, puppies go through many hormonal changes as they enter puberty. This includes behavioral changes, which is why it's important to offer them patience and enough mental and physical stimulation. This way you can prevent them from maintaining bad habits and behaviors when they are fully mature.

neutering and neutering

Unless you plan on breeding your dog, spaying and neutering are things worth investigating as a pet parent. Not only will you be less likely to get an unwanted litter of puppies, but you will protect your dog from medical and behavioral problems later in life.

Studies show that dogs that have been repaired are significantly less likely to develop things like tumors, infections, and prostate problems. In addition, stationary dogs are not aggressive or badly trained, as some have been known to mark their territory with urine, challenge other male dogs, or become very vocal during their heats.

When to spay or neuter

Talk to your veterinarian first to ensure you pick the best time to spay or neuter your dog. In general, most dogs should be repaired around six to nine months of age, but they can be repaired sooner if they are in good health. However, allowing your dog to reach a certain age will ensure that he is mature and has stopped growing, reducing the risk of orthopedic complications in the future.

Of course you can spay and neuter older dogs. The older they get, the more likely they are to have complications during surgery. For this reason, it is always important to consult your veterinarian before making your decision.

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Avoid pregnancy without spaying

If you are determined not to have your female spayed and want to avoid having an unwanted litter at all costs, it is necessary to keep an eye on her estrus cycle. When she comes into heat, always keep her away from males (as well as other females as they are likely to become aggressive). Always keep them on a leash when they go for a walk and don't let them out of your sight.

At what age can a dog get pregnant?

At what age can a dog have puppies? When to start and when to stop (1)

Dogs can only get pregnant when they are in heat. As previously mentioned, dogs go through puberty relatively early which means that bitches will start their first heat around the age of 6 to 9 months, with some small breeds not arriving until 4 months of age. Large and giant breeds may not come into heat until they are 18 to 24 months old. Therefore, bitches can become pregnant during their first heat cycle, but this tends to occur when they are technically still a puppy.

With this in mind, if you want your bitch to conceive, you should reconsider breeding during her first heat. Just because they've reached puberty doesn't mean they're mature enough to father puppies.

How Long Are Dog Estrus Cycles?

Dogs usually remain in heat for between two and four weeks. The duration may vary depending on the dog. During this time, she is particularly open to male dogs and their advances.

Initially, it can take a while for the cycles to settle down. If you are breeding your dog, you may want to track their cycles so you can successfully determine when they become regular. This allows you to be sure when your pooch will come 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 your dog is in heat. Physical signs are as follows:

  • Swollen vulva
  • Bloody discharge from the vagina
  • urinate more frequently
  • Frequent licking of the genital area

There are also some behavioral changes to look out for as your dog experiences his cycle. As mentioned above, she will become more receptive to male dogs, but she can also become restless or nervous, leading to nesting tendencies.

How often do bitches come into heat?

Once their cycles are established, bitches will go into their heat cycles every six months. This is another reason why pet parents, and breeders in particular, should monitor their cycles as they hit puberty. This way you will eventually be able to predict when they will start their heat and you will know for sure how long it will last.

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The four stages of the reproductive cycle

Stage One - Proestrus

Females will show early signs such as a swollen vulva and bleeding but show no interest in males at this stage.

Stage Two - Estrus

This is the stage where mating usually occurs when your dog consents to a male dog's advances. This period usually comes with vaginal discharge and a swollen vulva.

Level Three - Dietrus/Metestrus

The hormone progesterone takes control of your dog's reproductive system. During this time, your dog may show signs of a false pregnancy.

Stage Four - Anestrus

During the fourth stage, your dog will stop all sexual activity, show no signs of heat, and is no longer able to conceive.

breeding your dog

At what age can a dog have puppies? When to start and when to stop (2)

If you are relatively new to the breed and want to know at what age a dog can have puppies, check out the information below. You also need to consider the above details to ensure your dogs are healthy before you start breeding. So make sure you take both male and female dogs to the vet so they can have the necessary check-ups to ensure they are both in good health.

Completing health tests reduces the chances of passing genetic diseases to the puppies. So having your dogs health screened gives you peace of mind that the litter they carry are healthy puppies and, more importantly, that your bitch is likely to remain 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 first. As a general rule it is never advisable to breed a dog younger than 2 years of age as some female dogs may take some time to become fully sexually mature and mentally ready for conception. Your veterinarian can carry out the necessary examinations and provide you with clarity about your dog's individual health condition.

A veterinarian may be able to advise you on the ideal time to breed your dog, as it is important to consider your dog's mental development and well-being before, during and after the breeding process.

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Why you shouldn't breed dogs in their first heat

Although female dogs are physically ready to father a litter, they may not be mentally prepared for it. That's because they're behaviorally immature - remember that at around 6-9 months of age, when they go into their first heat, they're still puppies themselves. As such, the pressures of carrying, giving birth, and caring for newborn puppies can cause them to become stressed or anxious. As a result, this can negatively impact their quality of care for the puppies, which will cause problems in their development.

There are studies that state that pregnancy too early can lead to psychological and physical problems for both the mother and her litter. For example, early breeding can pass on genetic defects and aggressive behavior.

From what age can a male dog breed?

Like bitches, a male male will reach puberty at around six to nine months, depending on size and breed. In some cases, male dogs can father puppies as young as five months old. However, as with females, it is recommended that you wait until the male is fully grown before mating with other dogs. Not only will he be less likely to pass on behavioral or health problems, but he will be more fertile once fully developed.

When is a bitch too old for breeding?

A dog's fertility, in both males and females, starts to decrease after the age of 7, but that doesn't mean they can get pregnant any longer. However, it's important to understand that if older dogs do become pregnant later in life, labor and subsequent puppy care can be more difficult for them, which can lead to stress and potential health issues. Therefore, breeding dogs older than seven years and considering withdrawing them from a breeding program is not recommended.

For reference, AKC rules do not register a litter from a mother and male older than 12 years at the time of mating. In addition, they will not register a litter from a mother and male that is less than seven months old at the time of mating. However, other kennel clubs limit the age limit for breeding a bitch to eight years.

Summary of Responsible Breeding

For the safety of your dogs, litters, reputation and professional role, you must thoroughly understand what it means to be a breeder. If you are considering becoming a breeder, make sure you do your research. There are a variety of valuable resources online to help you get started. It is recommended that you look through the American Kennel Club archives to find important information.

How to tell if you have a pregnant dog

At what age can a dog have puppies? When to start and when to stop (3)

There are some clear and obvious signs that your dog is pregnant, including a bloated tummy, enlarged nipples, increased appetite, nesting behavior, irritability, etc. Since you can't rush to the store for a canine pregnancy test, there are options Your vet can safely tell if he is expecting a litter of puppies or not.

Palpation, X-rays, ultrasound, and hormone testing are four of the options your veterinarian may use to determine if your dog is pregnant. Your dog's circumstances will help your veterinarian determine which method is the appropriate method.

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How long does a dog pregnancy last?

A dog's pregnancy usually lasts between 57 and 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, visit the following page from PetSide.

Preparing for puppies

Caring for your pregnant dog requires a lot of work. You must first take her to the vet immediately for additional assistance.

During the dog's pregnancy, you need to keep a constant eye on her, provide a quality diet, and make sure she has access to fresh, clean water. You should check in with your vet regularly and make sure you offer him your unconditional love and support while he carries his puppies.
Another handy tip: If your household is busy, complete with children and/or other dogs, set out a whelping box for her. A whelping box provides her with a safe place to nest and possibly give birth to her pups.

If you know your dog is expecting a litter, take a look at this guide to the best dog supplements for pregnant pooches. In addition, we have a related article that describes how to deal with newborn puppies and if/when to do so.

Frequently asked Questions:

Q: How old does a dog have to be to breed?

A:It is recommended that pet parents and/or breeders wait until the dog is fully mature, which can vary widely by size, breed, and individual cycles.

Q: Do dogs have breeding seasons?

A:There is no specific time of year that is considered a dog's breeding season. A bitch is ready to mate when she is in heat, which may depend on her estrus cycle.

Q: What is the oldest age you can breed your dog?

A:In general, dogs can become pregnant at any point during adulthood, but you should reconsider when they are around 7 years old, as older dogs can suffer during and after pregnancy.


What age should you stop letting your dog have puppies? ›

Many vets suggest that dogs of normal health should be retired from breeding around 8 years old. The strictest standard to retire a dog from breeding is 5 years of age. Consult your vet when considering breeding a dog older than 5 years old.

At what stage do they stop being puppies? ›

Puppies typically develop the emotional maturity and temperament of an adult dog between twelve and eighteen months of age, although they may continue to occasionally exhibit puppy behavior like chewing and nipping until they're about two years old.

Why should puppies over 12 weeks be avoided? ›

Scientifically, here's the reason why: puppies go through a critical socialization period from 6 to 16 weeks of age that will dramatically impact their behavior for the rest of their lives. During this period, their brains are like tiny sponges – soaking up everything they experience and filing it away for the future.

How many days will a female dog accept a male? ›

While frequency varies according to breed and individual dogs, usually dogs go into heat about twice a year or every six months. Each estrus period lasts about 18 days. Male dogs will be attracted to a female dog for the full 18 days, but the female dog will only be receptive to males for about half that time.

How many days is a dog in heat before they bleed? ›

1. Proestrus: The beginning of heat lasts between 7 and 10 days. During this time, the vulva begins to swell and your dog begins to bleed.

How do I know when my dog has finished her season? ›

Heat usually lasts between 2-4 weeks. Early in the cycle, a female dog may not be receptive to male dogs, although some are receptive through the entire cycle. It can be shorter or longer and you'll know the cycle is over when all her vulva returns to its normal size and there's no more bleeding or discharge.

What happens if you take a puppy away from its mom too early? ›

If a puppy is separated from its mom before the eight week mark there is also the likelihood that it will be particularly sensitive to psychological and physical disturbances. The separation from their mothers, littermates and familiar environments may result in fear, distress and impaired learning.

Why you shouldn't let your dog have puppies? ›

When done correctly, breeding a litter can be very expensive. There's veterinarian care, vaccines, food, puppy supplies, supplies needed for the dam such as a whelping box, supplements, and money to pay for any emergencies that may happen such as an emergency c-section and sick puppies.

What happens if a dog has puppies too early? ›

Truly premature puppies may be small, thin, and have little or no hair. Mothers will often reject premature puppies and these puppies soon die of hypothermia (low body temperature). Survival is possible but they require an enormous amount of care and often have to be hand fed since they are unable to suckle.

Is it cruel to not let my dog have puppies? ›

It's a very common misconception that a female dog should have one litter before being spayed (neutered). Not only is it an out-dated concept, with no evidence to support that breeding a litter is either physically or psychologically beneficial to a dog.

What is considered over breeding a dog? ›

Overbreeding occurs when a bloodline is continuously mated, amplifying negative attributes of the breed. It also puts the dog giving birth at increased risk of issues like dystocia, difficulty in passing the foetus through the pelvic canal, when it is forced to have more litters than its body can safely handle.

Should you leave your dog alone while giving birth? ›

Most dogs prefer to give birth alone and without interference, so it's your job to make sure that she has a clean and comfortable space in which to do so, away from other pets in a quiet, private area.

Does having a litter change a dog? ›

Pregnancy and giving birth can greatly change a dog's body — much like how it does in humans. Physical traits are good indicators on how to tell if a dog has had puppies in the past. Enlarged nipples or teats are extremely common in mother dogs.

Can I leave my dog alone with her newborn puppies? ›

Mom can be away from puppies for less than two hours in the first four weeks. By week three, the mother may walk away from their puppies for three or four hours at a time but not more. As you approach the four-week mark, the mother can leave her puppies for up to six hours at a time.

How many times is it OK to breed a dog? ›

A best practice is 4-6 litters per dog

Most reputable breeders will cap even their fittest, best mothers at around 4-6 litters so that she can be spayed while she is still young and at her healthiest.

How many litters should a dog have in a year? ›

Number of Litters for Female Dogs

It's possible for a female dog to have a maximum of three litters a year. Female dogs can go into heat between the ages of six to 12 months and do not go into menopause. Assuming a dog lives to the average age of 11, this means a dog could have up to 30 litters.

What is the most overbred dog? ›

According to PETA, the labrador retriever is the most overbred variety of dog in the United States. Not coincidentally, they are also the most popular dog in the United States.


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