When Do Dogs Have Puppies

When Do Dogs Have Puppies?

When do dogs have puppies? The answer may surprise you. The average age of puberty in dogs is six months old. Smaller breeds can reach sexual maturity at an earlier age while large breed dogs or giant breeds can take up to two years. A dog can only become pregnant while in the second reproductive stage called estrus.

Newborn puppies are one of the most special gifts that life can offer. Often leaving us humans with feelings of warmth and happiness.

Puppies are clumsy, curious, energetic, and loving, all in one adorable package! 

puppy quotes
Puppy Quotes

As dog lovers, we try to soak up every second of their puppyhood realizing it isn’t long before they start to mature and the next stage of their lives begins. 

As a female puppy starts to grow many changes are quickly taking place inside their body in addition to simply getting bigger. 

Suddenly, the possibility of your female dog becoming pregnant and adding new puppies into your home becomes a potential reality.

When Can a Female Dog Breed?

Your dog may be ready to breed if she has started to experience her estrous cycle. It begins when she reaches full sexual maturity and continues for the rest of her life. 

When Can a Female Dog Breed
When Can a Female Dog Breed?

Female Dog Heat Cycle

Reaching full sexual maturity will result in what is known as the heat cycle. Most dogs will go into heat about every six months though some breeds are exceptions to the rule. 

Some larger breeds will cycle once every twelve months, while some smaller dogs will go into heat up to three times a year. 

Signs a Dog is In Heat

Potential signs that your dog is in heat may include:

  • Behavioral changes (roaming in search of a potential mate)
  • Overeagerness when social with other dogs
  • Increased urination
  • Enlarged, swollen vulva (usually red)
  • Bleeding or colored vaginal discharge

When Can Dogs Get Pregnant?

Dogs can only become pregnant after mating while in the second reproductive stage called estrus.

When Can Dogs Get Pregnant
When Can Dogs Get Pregnant?

Estrus (or Oestrus) is when there is a high amount of estrogen present in the female dog’s blood. 

If you have questions or are uncertain about how to tell when your dog has entered estrus, consult your vet.

Time of Year When Dogs Have Puppies

Generally, a female dog can have puppies at any time of year.

How many times per year can a dog have puppies?

Many believe that the safest option for your dog is to produce one puppy litter per year. 

Multiple pregnancies can be taxing on a mother dog’s body and may even lead to smaller future litter production.

How Many Times Can a Dog Give Birth in a Lifetime?

This topic is highly debated and there is no one set rule of thumb.  Be advised that dogs will tend to have more health issues as they grow older when it comes to pregnancy. Ask your vet!

how many times can a dog give birth in a lifetime
How Many Times Can a Dog Give Birth in a Lifetime?

When is a Male Dog Ready to Breed?

Usually, a male dog is ready to breed when it is between six and twelve months old. 

Male dogs are fertile earlier than females, however, it is often better to wait until they have reached full sexual maturity (twelve to fifteen months) to begin breeding. 

If you are looking to breed your dog, receiving proper veterinary care from the beginning of their reproductive cycle until the last stage is always a good idea and highly recommended. 

When is a Male Dog Ready to Breed
When is a Male Dog Ready to Breed?

As a dog owner, ensuring the health and safety of your animal is your first responsibility. A veterinarian can help you decide the best time and the best way to begin breeding.

Beginning of a Dog’s Pregnancy

Once your dog has begun her reproductive cycle and successfully found a suitable mate, there is a very likely chance she will become pregnant barring any unforeseen complications. 

It is important to remember to keep a close eye and monitor for any indications of pregnancy, especially if this is her first time carrying. 

How To Tell if a Dog is Pregnant

Although not every female dog will experience the same pregnancy, there are a few telltale signs that there may be a new litter of puppies on the way. 

How To Tell if a Dog is Pregnant
How To Tell if a Dog is Pregnant

Signs of Dog Pregnancy

Possible signs of a dog being pregnant include:

  • Increase in appetite
  • Weight gain
  • Increased nipple size
  • Swollen stomach
  • Increase in affectionate behavior
  • Nesting
  • Easily tires
  • Irritability

NOTE: Blood tests performed by your veterinarian can also tell you if your dog is pregnant.

When Does a Pregnant Dog Start to Show?

Typically your dog won’t begin to exhibit noticeable weight gain or “begin to show” until the sixth week of pregnancy. 

Early Signs of Dog Pregnancy

Vomiting or “morning sickness” is the most common sign of pregnancy most people think of but not every dog will experience this.

This may be accompanied by a lack of appetite due to feeling sick to their stomach.

Morning sickness usually occurs briefly for a few days in the beginning stages of pregnancy due to hormone changes. Other symptoms can come and go throughout the dog gestation period.

Symptoms of Dog Pregnancy

These are signs your dog may be pregnant:

  • Increase in appetite
  • Loss of appetite
  • Slightly enlarged nipples
  • Clear vaginal discharge
  • Enlarged and firm abdomen
  • Visible puppy movement
  • Changes in behavior
  • Increased urination
  • Nesting behavior

When Does a Pregnant Dog Begin Milk Production?

A mother dog will tend to start lactating (producing milk) from one to two weeks prior to giving birth according to most experts.

How Long is a Dog Pregnant For?

Anywhere between 57 to 68 days. The gestation period in canines is mostly consistent among all breeds. 

If you want to know when the new puppies should be arriving, it is recommended that you make a note on your calendar when the successful mating occurred.

Then you will have a good estimate as to when to expect the birthing.

What Should a Pregnant Dog Eat?

The proper nutrition for your dog can set the stage for a successful pregnancy and delivery. 

However, if not monitored closely, serious complications can arise. Mother dogs who are or become overweight can experience difficulties such as prolonged or stressful labor. 

Does a Dog Need Extra Calories During Pregnancy?

Yes, being pregnant is hard work for a mother and unusually they will require more food.

Underweight mothers run risks such as losing pregnancies or birthing puppies that fail to thrive. You should always get veterinary assistance when determining a pregnant dog’s diet. 

Her nutritional needs will change every trimester, so be sure that you and your vet are communicating on the matter. 

How Many Puppies Can a Dog Have?

The American Kennel Club states that a normal litter size can range from one to 12 puppies. The average litter size for most dogs is five to six puppies. 

Litter size changes depending on the breed of the dog. Larger dogs tend to produce larger litters than smaller dogs. 

For example, Golden Retrievers can carry anywhere from four to twelve puppies, but a Chihuahua could give birth to anywhere between one to three. 

It is important to remember that many components contribute to the ultimate litter size.

It is a good idea to prepare for more puppies to be born than expected so you can easily accommodate them all.

What are the Signs My Dog is in Labor?

When the time comes for the new litter’s arrival, the momma dog will start to exhibit some new behavior and symptoms.

Signs of Dog Giving Birth 

Indications a Dog is in Labor May Include:

  • Drop in Body Temperature

    If you see on your calendar that you are within the 57 to 68 day window since the initial mating, it is a good idea to start taking your dog’s temperature daily.

    A dog’s rectal temperature is normally between 101 and 102 degrees Fahrenheit. If you notice that her temperature drops down to between 97-99 degrees (F) then make sure to continue monitoring her temperature.

    If this lower temperature remains consistent, chances are labor is about to begin. You may also notice her shivering when this happens.

    This is one of the most reliable signs that the puppies are getting ready to make their big debut. 
  • Noticeable Excessive Panting

    You may notice your dog panting before and during labor. If she is panting, chances are it is a result of her being able to sense that the puppies are on their way.

    This can be accompanied by restless behavior and small contractions that are usually difficult to see with the standard eye.

    As contractions lengthen and become more intense throughout the second stage of labor, her panting could also become heavier. 
  • Nesting Behavior

    Nesting often consists of shredding or tearing towels/blankets/sheets that your dog will drag to a specific spot to create a soft and warm “nest” for her puppies.

    Digging, burrowing, moving blankets or soft materials, as well as creating depressions in the ground are all attempts to create a safe place to give birth and raise her new litter.
  • Increased Anxiety

    When a dog is about to go into labor, you may notice behavior such as heavy breathing (panting), pacing about, getting sick (vomiting), pain, confusion, and other behaviors that indicate stress or restlessness are common before labor begins. 
  • Visible Contractions

    Contractions can look like a rippling throughout your dog’s abdomen or a stiffening at regular intervals.

    Panting and yelping can sometimes accompany contractions. It may look like your dog is attempting to pass a bowel movement. 

How to Make a Dog Feel More Comfortable While Giving Birth

You can help make your dog more comfortable by providing a whelping box for her. 

What is a Whelping Box? 

A whelping box functions as both a safe place for your dog to give birth and to keep her puppies in as their first home. 

Usually an enclosed box or container of some kind, a whelping box needs to be large enough for the mother to be in with all of her puppies without running the risk of smothering or crushing them. 

Preferably kept in a warm or temperature-controlled area, the whelping box is where the puppies will spend the first three weeks of their life.

Why is it Called a Whelping Box?

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, the term ‘whelp’ means to give birth to. So the ‘whelping box’ is where your dog gives birth.

When Will My Dog Need a Whelping Box?

She will most likely begin exhibiting signs of nesting as she senses labor approaching. 

Usually, within a week of giving birth, she will want to find a comfortable and secure birthplace and temporary home for the new litter. 

This is the perfect time to provide her with a whelping box and gives her time to get used to and comfortable with it. 

Where Can I Get a Whelping Box?

Whelping boxes are sold online and in pet stores, but it is also possible to make them at home. 

Some people make them out of kiddie pools, plywood, or any material that creates a “nest” feel with surrounding walls. 

Towels, blankets, sheets, newspapers, etc. can be used for lining the whelping box. A heating pad or hot water bottle can help keep the new pups and mother warm and comfortable. 

As long as the whelping box is clean, spacious enough for the momma dog to not lay on her puppies, and safe and secure then it should be a wonderful first home for the new litter.    

How Will I Know My Dog is Finished Giving Birth?

Your dog is most likely finished giving birth when contractions have ceased and you don’t see more puppies coming out of or lodged in the birth canal. 

Labor and delivery are instinctual for dogs but can come with many complications. Be aware that labor can stop before all of the litter is successfully delivered. 

If it appears that labor has stopped before all of the litter is delivered be aware that this is an extremely dangerous circumstance for both the puppies and mother.

If this type of situation arises, veterinarian intervention is urgently required and they should be contacted immediately. 

It is a good idea to have, at the ready, the phone number of an emergency 24/7 veterinarian days before birthing begins.

When Should I Stop Breeding My Dog?

Pregnancy takes its toll on every female’s body, particularly the older they get. 

Keeping your dog healthy and safe is your priority as a dog owner. For this reason, a large portion of people will stop breeding their dogs at five years old. 

How Old is Too Old to Breed a Dog?

Depending on the animal and the individual circumstances, some will continue as late as eight years old. There are many potential health problems that can occur during pregnancy in an older dog.

Pay attention to how your dog handles pregnancy and how she recovers after giving birth. If she starts to struggle more than usual, it may mean that her body has had enough. 

Always speak to your veterinarian about what age is the best choice for your dog to start or finish breeding.

Related Dog Pregnancy Questions

What is Dog Puberty?

Puberty is a stage of life when a dog reaches sexual maturity and is capable of having babies. This usually occurs when they are between six and 24 months old.

What is a Gestation Period?

The term gestation period refers to how long the dog is normally pregnant. As stated above, that ranges between 57 to 68 days of pregnancy for most dogs.

What is a Female Dog Called?

For thousands of years, a female dog has been referred to as a bitch.

Can a Dog Die When Having Babies?

Yes, it is possible for the mother to die when giving birth. It is also common for one or more of the baby puppies to die during birth or be stillborn.

Why are Baby Dogs Called Puppies?

The general consensus is that the term puppy gets its origins from the French word ‘poopee’ which means puppet or doll. 

In the past, it was also common to call a puppy a whelp.

What Are Whelping Collars?

Whelping collars are dog collars specially designed for new puppies. They come in different colors so you can easily identify and keep track of the different puppies in a litter.

This can be very helpful when keeping track of medications and how often a puppy has been fed.

Because puppies grow so fast and are delicate, whelping collars are made with a special material and design so as to not hurt a young pup.


Making the decision to start breeding your dog is a serious commitment and should be treated as such. In addition, you should be taking precautions to avoid unexpected pregnancies.

Without appropriate education and the help of an attentive veterinarian by your side, you and your canine companion could run into some severe or dangerous complications. 

Always remember to discuss your interest in breeding with a professional to make sure it is a sound choice for you and your dog. 

When done safely, the entire breeding experience can bring a whirlwind of excitement and joy for all parties involved. 

Enjoy the time learning and growing side by side with your mother-to-be, and look forward to some really cute new puppies!

When Do Dogs Have Puppies

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