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When is the Best Time to Mate a Dog?

Ashley Bates

If you have a healthy and capable purebred female, the idea of breeding might have crossed your mind. You might be looking to carry on your female’s genes to a new litter of puppies. Or, you might love the breed you have so much that you want to perfect it.

No matter your reason, fertility cycles are essential things to track when you’re aiming for a successful canine pregnancy. Learning about all of the requirements, medical attention, and practices of breeding can make all the difference.

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What Is Dog Breeding?

Dog breeding is the practice of mating two quality dogs within the same breed to produce improved qualities or specific traits. Dog breeding should always be professional, maintaining the breed’s integrity with all proper registration and licensure.

When you breed dogs, much more goes into it than just letting nature take its course and then raising puppies. It takes time, resources, and financial obligations to breed dogs successfully. You need to take all appropriate avenues to protect the health of your dam and her litter.

two sheepdog mating
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Responsibilities of Dog Breeding

When you plan to breed your dog, you’re taking on responsibility for all lives included. You have to create a proper living space for the mother, arrange adequate vetting, and find a stud. Dog breeding is incredibly time-consuming and shouldn’t be taken lightly.

Some responsibilities you have as a breeder include:

Studying Intently About Breeding

Before you start breeding dogs, you should study as much as you can about pedigrees, registrations, and all factors that go into it. Talk to other breeders so you can get tips, too.

dog breeder with puppies
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Adhering To All Vet Appointments

Your dam will have lots of vet appointments, even before she’s pregnant. You have to faithfully take her to all appointments to know when she’s ready to breed, has a clean bill of health, and can carry a healthy pregnancy to term.

Some breeds might also require a cesarean, which will need to be scheduled before the due date approaches.

Maintaining Diet For The Female

Females require an abundance of nutrition while they are pregnant. They need high-quality, high-protein dog food—and some breeders give additional health supplements during pregnancy.

Administering Medication or Supplements

If your pooch requires particular medication or supplements throughout the pregnancy, you need to learn how to administer them appropriately.

pet owner giving pill medication to dog
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Birth Assistance

Sometimes, things don’t flow smoothly with birthing. Pups can become lodged in the canal. Stillborn pups can block the birth of other live puppies, too. You need to be ready to intervene at any point in the process.

Keeping Dogs Clean

Once the puppies are born, you have to keep the whelping area completely clean, dry, and secure. Puppies will require daily bedding changes.

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Find New Suitable Homes For Puppies

You need to come up with a method that works for you when you find puppies new homes. Many breeders offer deposit contracts or require the screening of potential owners.

Keeping Up With All The Paperwork

You must be prepared for all of the paperwork involved with puppy breeding, including registration, deposits, and bills of sale.


When Do Females Sexually Mature?

Females are generally sexually mature around 9 months of age. However, that isn’t a prime time to breed them. Since dogs grow until they’re at least 1 year old, their bodies aren’t fully developed enough to carry a litter.

Breeding a dog too early can result in pregnancy complications or stillbirths.

female dog lying on the ground
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When Is a Female’s First Erastus Cycle?

Smaller dogs start estrus as early as 9 months, while larger breeds can take up to 2 years for their first heat cycle.

How Often Do Females Go Into Heat?

Females also go into heat mode frequently if they’re smaller. If they are larger, their cycles will be further spaced apart.

For instance, a Chihuahua goes into heat every 6 months, whereas an Irish Wolfhound goes into heat every 12 months. So, the difference isn’t drastic, but measurable nonetheless.

a female dog is cleaning the genitals by licking
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What Are Signs of Heat in Females?

If you are waiting for your dog to come into heat, there will be visual cues.

  • Swollen Vulva – Vulvar swelling is common, even before blood flow. The genitals will puff out, causing a noticeable difference in appearance.
  • Vaginal Bleeding – The most obvious sign of heat is vaginal bleeding. Some dogs might have heavy flows, while others will be less noticeable. Blood changes from moderately heavy, dark, and thick to thin, light, and watery over the heat cycle.
  • Looking for Mate – You female will begin secreting pheromones in her urine that let males know she’s ready for mating. She might also actively seek a partner during this phase. So, if you see neighborhood suiters lingering around the yard, you’ll know why.

When Are Males Ready to Mate?

Unlike females, males don’t have any real restrictions on when they can breed after sexual maturity. They begin sexual maturity around 6 months of age, and they can breed until they are much older. But they reach full sexual maturity around 15 months.

male great dane dog on grass
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How Long Does Heat Last?

Erastus usually lasts 2-3 weeks, but it does vary depending on the dog. When heat starts, vulvar swelling and discharge are visibly present. After the heat cycle is over, everything will go back to normal with a standard appearance. You can monitor your dog’s cycles the first few rounds.

What Does a Tie Signify

Breeders use the term tie to signify the hooking of the mated pair. The male’s penis will enlarge, and the female’s vaginal walls will tighten. They will stay bound together for roughly 30 minutes until the swelling dissipates.

This is one sign to look for in successful breeding.

Breeding Too Soon

It isn’t advisable to breed a dog in her first heat cycle. It would be best if you always waited until the dog is fully developed and ripe in regular cycles.

Male dogs should start breeding around 6 to 15 months of age. On the other hand, females need to wait until after their first heat cycle—at least.

Male,And,Female,Pomeranian_curraheeshutter, Shutterstock
Image Credit: curraheeshutter, Shutterstock

Mismating Dogs

Accidental breeding can happen. If you believe your dog might have fallen pregnant, you should always confirm with your veterinarian. Together, you can come up with a plan on how to handle the pregnancy and pups.

Can Your Vet Determine a Prime Mating Time?

There is testing for dogs that determine the optimal time to mate.

  • Vaginal Cytology – this non-invasive test predicts changes in the cells of the vaginal wall, which signal ovulation.
  • Serum Progesteronethese tests look for progesterone in the blood, which has tremendous accuracy.

You can work alongside your veterinarian to determine the best option for your dam.

female vet on computer with white dog
Image credit: Creativa Images, Shutterstock


Final Thoughts

So, when is the best time to mate a female? The answer is any cycle after her first heat—but ideally between 12 and 15 months of age.

Mating two dogs should be a well-thought-out endeavor that you begin with the best in mind. Aim for all-around success, producing a litter that is healthy, issue-free, and of sound temperament. Use additional to research all you can about the breeding process before you take the plunge.

Featured Image Credit: Sigma_S, Shutterstock

Ashley Bates

Ashley Bates is a freelance dog writer and pet enthusiast who is currently studying the art of animal therapy. A mother to four human children— and 23 furry and feathery kids, too – Ashley volunteers at local shelters, advocates for animal well-being, and rescues every creature she finds. Her mission is to create awareness, education, and entertainment about pets to prevent homelessness. Her specialties are cats and dogs.