Are you curious about when dogs can have puppies? If your answer to this question is yes, then you’ve landed in the right place. As a dog owner, welcoming new puppies into the world is one of the best experiences. As such, you might be interested in breeding your dogs to experience this joy. However, there are criteria to follow, especially regarding their age.
While dogs can produce puppies into their senior years, this doesn’t mean that having puppies is healthy for them at this age. Pregnancy can be hard on a dog’s body, even in its prime. Thus, this article will include everything you need to know about breeding your dogs, including their age of fertility.
At What Age Are Dogs Sexually Mature?
Before going any further, let’s touch on when a dog is considered sexually mature. Your dogs won’t go into heat until they’re at least six months old. However, sexual maturity depends on the dog’s breed and size. While smaller breeds reach sexual maturity at four months, larger breeds may not be sexually mature until two years.
Unless your dog has reached sexual maturity, it won’t breed. In addition, it’s important to remember that sexual maturity is not the same as being physically mature. In some cases, a dog can produce puppies before physical maturity. However, it’s not recommended to breed your dog before they are fully grown. You must allow your dog to mature before reproducing, as pregnancy takes a toll on its body.
Male and female dogs have different reproductive systems and cycles. Next, we will discuss the difference between when male dogs can breed and when female dogs can breed.
At What Age Can a Male Dog Breed?
In general, males become fertile earlier than female dogs. Thus, male dogs can breed as young as four months, depending on their breed. As we mentioned earlier, larger breeds will take longer than smaller breeds to sexually mature. Consult your vet if you’re unsure whether or not your male dog is fit for breeding.
On average, a healthy male dog can continue to sire puppies into his old age. As such, most professional breeders often retire male dogs much later than female dogs. The retirement age for male dogs ranges between ten to twelve years old.
While male dogs are retired from breeding around the age of 12, this doesn’t necessarily mean he’s no longer capable of siring puppies. In other words, a dog older than 12 years old can still impregnate a fertile female. However, his fertility might be lower than when he was young.
How can you tell if your dog’s fertility has decreased due to their old age? Well, you’ll know when your male dog might be too old to breed if his mate’s litters are growing increasingly smaller and weaker. This is a sure sign that his sperm is no longer fit for reproduction.
At What Age Can a Female Dog Breed?
Female dogs can breed once they’ve reached sexual maturity and start going into heat. This can happen as early as six months. As with male dogs, the age at which a female dog will become sexually mature depends on its size and breed.
From the age of six months and on, female dogs can carry puppies for the majority of their adult life. Female dogs older than 12 years of age can even still produce puppies. However, allowing your female dog to get pregnant at this age can have severe complications. Older female dogs will have difficulty when it comes to labor, risking not only her puppies’ lives but their own as well.
Older female dogs may also have difficulty producing enough milk for their puppies. As their bodies age, the hormones responsible for producing milk will become less abundant. Thus, your female dog will have a more difficult time keeping her puppies fed. In this case, newborn puppies may die if not adequately bottle-fed by their human caregivers.
Due to the above complications, most breeders will retire their female breeding dogs around the age of six or seven years. If you’re thinking of breeding your dog, consider whether or not you want to risk her health and any potential puppies she’ll be carrying. Moreover, consider conception rates, the health of your dog, possible delivery complications, and recovery time.
If your female dog is too old to breed, consider having her spayed. Spaying your female dogs is generally better for their health and will curb any potential behavioral issues. Alternatively, you can talk to your vet for more information on how to prevent unwanted pregnancies.
What Is the Best Age for Dogs to Have Puppies?
As you know, dogs can have puppies at any time during their life. It might surprise you that most dogs attain sexual maturity when they’re still puppies themselves. However, the best age for dogs to have puppies is when they’ve surpassed physical maturity. In smaller breeds, this could be as young as a year old. In larger breeds, it’s best to wait until they’re at least two years of age.
The female heat cycle
As you know, female dogs will come into heat for the first time at the age of six or so months. However, you shouldn’t breed them during their first cycle. You need to wait for your female dog to fully mature before breeding, which might be three or four cycles later. Females dogs will go into heat every six months for their entire lives.
Female dogs go through four stages of the heat cycle, i.e., proestrus, estrus, diestrus, and anestrus. The proestrus stage lasts for nine days. During this time, female dogs produce a bloody vaginal discharge to attract males.
The diestrus phase lasts for 60 to 90 days. During this stage, your female won’t want to mate. Instead, she’ll ward off any interested males that approach her. You may notice that your female dog will become easily agitated during this time.
Next is the estrus cycle. During this stage, the female will become more receptive to males. The estrus stage lasts for nine days on average but can vary between four and twenty-four days. Thus, the estrus cycle is the fertile period of a female dog.
Last but not least is the anestrus stage of the heat cycle. Female dogs cannot get pregnant during this stage. During this four-month period, female dogs will continue to ward off interested males. Once this stage of the cycle is complete, the cycle resets.
How Long Are Dogs Pregnant For?
The pregnancy or gestation period of a dog typically lasts between 57 to 65 days, with the average being 63 days. If you plan to breed your dog, it’s essential to keep track of the exact date that your dog was bred. As a result, you’ll be able to estimate a birth date.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
Is it okay for a one-year-old dog to get pregnant?
Your dog can reach puberty and become fertile at the age of six months. However, you should not allow them to breed until they’ve finished growing. Smaller breeds will more often reach adulthood at one year of age, making it safe for them to be pregnant. On the other hand, larger breeds can take up to two years to fully mature. Thus, if you have a larger dog, it’s probably best to wait another year.
How many puppies can a dog have at once?
Most commonly, litters are five to six puppies in size. However, a litter can also range anywhere from one to twelve puppies. The number of puppies your dog will have will depend on their breed, as well as how many litters they’ve had. A dog’s first litter is more likely to be the smallest.
What is the oldest age a dog can be pregnant?
Generally, dogs can get pregnant throughout the entirety of their life. However, the recommended maximum age a dog should get pregnant is between eight to nine years. Breeding a dog older than that may lead to unnecessary health complications.
How often can a dog breed?
In general, dogs can breed several times a day. Males dogs, since they don’t undergo pregnancy, can breed multiple times with multiple mates each day. As for how often a female dog can successfully produce puppies, the answer is between two to three litters a year. As we noted earlier, a female dog goes into heat every six months.
What foods should dogs eat during pregnancy?
Like humans, pregnant dogs require certain nutrients to ensure a safe and healthy pregnancy. When caring for a pregnant dog, focus on their calorie, vitamin, and mineral intake. There are various dog foods targeted specifically toward pregnant canines.
So, when can dogs have puppies? The answer to this question is between four to six months of age after reaching sexual maturity. However, if you plan to breed your furry friends, ensure that you breed responsibly. Allow your dogs to reach physical maturity before thinking about trying for puppies. Doing so will encourage a healthy pregnancy and decrease the chance of any behavioral or health-related problems.