While mating is one of the most natural mammalian behaviors left to their own devices, we've long controlled dog mating to keep the purebred lines as healthy and robust as possible. If you're thinking about breeding your pup, read our guide on the entire process below to see if it's an excellent fit for your canine and your life.
Have you always wanted to become a dog breeder but don't know where to start?
Though the dog mating process isn't highly involved, it does require taking a few extra steps to prepare for mating, ensure a successful mating, and care for both the bitch and the stud afterward.
Learn more about the ideal age for mating dogs and the step-by-step process that will help make the magic happen successfully.
How do dogs mate?
Though you may have been through it once or twice before, it's time for a whole new "birds and the bees" chat. The way dogs breed is specific to their species. To ensure successful dog breeding that results in a wriggly litter of pups, you'll want to watch the timing and behaviors leading up to and after the actual mating.
Age & Timing: When are dogs sexually mature?
Dogs tend to grow into their full-sized adult bodies by the age of two years, but depending on the breed and individual pup, it can be much less time than before a dog reaches sexual maturity.
A female dog tends to enter its first heat cycle at the age of six months, though they shouldn't mate that early as they're too young to handle dog pregnancy. Male pups may be able to produce at as early as four months, though they're still far too young to stud for breeding purposes, as it can stunt development and lead to potential injury or death. This is very important to remember.
Also, any dogs should be fully up-to-date on vaccinations to avoid passing potentially fatal viruses, parasites, and diseases to each other.
So, how old should a dog be before it mates?
- Small Dog Breeds: 12 - 18 months
- Med. Dog Breeds: 15 - 18 months
- Large Dog Breeds: 18 - 24 months
Though some breeders say that you can start breeding during the second heat, it's a far safer option to wait until the ages listed above. And always head to the vet before you decide to try to mate your dog, as they'll be able to give you any precautions and sound advice on how long to wait for your pup.
When is a dog too old to mate?
If a bitch has mated several times over its lifetime, most should be retired around the age of five years, with studs continuing much longer, at up to ten years. This, of course, depends on their fertility and health, and you should take into consideration other factors such as breed and size of your dog. You may want to ask a vet for advice if you are worried about your dog being too old.
Where should they mate?
Usually, dogs will mate whenever and wherever they have the opportunity to do it. But that doesn't;t mean that you should allow your dogs to mate while exploring outdoors.
You should always ensure your dogs mate in a safe environment and after the guidance of a vet.
The Mating Process: Preparation
To mate your dogs successfully, it's best to ensure the timing and preparations, but the odds in your favor for impregnation to happen. Here are the most crucial steps to follow.
Preparing the Female Dog
The Oestrus Cycle and Fertility
Oestrus, also called heat, is much like the human female's cycle of ovulation. It's not always possible to get pregnant, as egg production and release is a regular cycle in constant motion.
When a dog enters heat, it means her estrogen levels are spiking then dipping to release mature eggs from her ovaries. These eggs need to be fertilized once they mature to ensure a successful pregnancy.
During oestrus, you may notice some significant behavioral changes in your doggo in the form of strange nerves and the tendency to present her rear to nearby male dogs. Physically, a dog in heat exhibits ovulation bleeding and often urinates more often than usual.
How long are bitches in heat?
The length of any bitch's heat depends on its size and breed. On average, a female is in heat every six months or so for a window of 2 - 4 weeks.
During the 2 - 4 week oestrus, there is an even smaller ideal period to allow a female to mate when fertility is peak. Though a female dog can experience pregnancy mating anywhere within the timeframe, it's also the state of mind that can make mating difficult at certain stages of heat.
Often during the beginning stages of heat, a female isn't interested in females’ blood. The test is incredibly accurate, though it requires taking a small blood sample, which is more invasive than the smear test.
Beyond physical tests, you can observe your dog and notice the signs of readiness during each oestrus cycle.
Steps to Prepare your Female for Mating
Beyond general good dog care, you don't have to do much to prepare your dog for mating and potential pregnancy.
Feed any potential mamas a diet of good-quality dog food and keep them well-exercised to keep their canine bodies as strong and healthy as possible. Obesity presents some problems during the dog gestation period of pregnancy, labor, and birth, as does being underweight.
To prevent infections during mating, bathe your female directly before mating and keep the hair trimmed away from the vulva area to ensure proper entry.
Preparing the Male Dog
Though there is less preparation for a stud during mating, it's essential to pick one that is a promising gene match with your bitch to help minimize the risk of disease inheritance and genetic disorders.
Find a suitable pedigree through local breeders or breeding clubs to avoid any lengthy, stressful travel for both dogs. Visit the dog to assess compatibility in person - the paper doesn't always tell the whole story. Look at health tests, which any good breeder will offer you.
Beware of good sires that are overused, narrowing the gene pool and causing genetic issues due to inbreeding.
The Mating Process: The Big Day
Once the big day is here, you'll have the somewhat awkward honor of having to supervise the breeding action to ensure that mating actually happens and that everything goes safely.
Best Mating Location
Male dogs tend to get more stressed during mating than females, which can cause performance issues. For this reason, most breeders choose to have two dogs mate in the home of the male, where he feels most comfortable.
The Details of the Deed
Typically, the male dog sniffs the female's vulva. If she's happy about it, you'll see her "flagging" or pulling her tail to one side. The male then mounts the bitch, inserts his penis, and thrusts until ejaculation.
The next bit is a little precarious - the male dog turns to stand rear to rear with the female while still being inserted.
Why do dogs get stuck while mating?
The male's penis has a bulb at the base, which causes a breeding tie to form. Dogs mating and separating is a bit of a process. The dogs will naturally stay locked together for 2 - 30 minutes on average. It's essential to let the dogs be during this time - trying to separate the dogs can cause damage to the female's vagina.
Multiple Breeds for Better Odds
It's very typical for breeders to arrange two matings of the dogs within one to two days of each other. More matings mean increased odds, so it seems like a good practice if you're set on getting your pup pregnant.
The Mating Process: After Care
After the breeding finishes, directly confine the bitch to her crate for 30 minutes to keep her from urinating, which expels semen and makes pregnancy less likely.
How long are dogs pregnant?
The dog pregnancy period is much shorter than a human's, at just 58 - 68 days total. The dog pregnancy is much shorter than a human pregnancy which lasts 9 months.
Final Notes & Ethical Concerns of Mating
Whether you should or shouldn't try dog breeding depends on a few different things. If you have the time, money, and knowledge to raise puppies for adoption, it can be a worthwhile and rewarding endeavor - who doesn't want to care for a box full of squishy puppies?
You also need to think about what will happen if you can't adopt all of the puppies, and you may want to invest in a bed ramp for dogs to help your mama dog get around while she's pregnant.
If your doggo is in good health and you have the capabilities to care for and raise some puppies, you may be the perfect candidate for dog breeding.