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When is the Best Time to Mate a Dog? Facts & FAQ

Written by: Ashley Bates

Last Updated on April 15, 2024 by Dogster Team

beagle dogs mating

When is the Best Time to Mate a Dog? Facts & FAQ


Dr. Marta Vidal-Abarca Photo


Dr. Marta Vidal-Abarca


The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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If you have a healthy, non-spayed, purebred and capable 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. Male dogs are ready to breed at around 15 months, while females are ready when they reach full adult size and have passed at least two heat cycles. As always, speak to your vet before you decide to breed any dog.

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 breeding requirements, medical attention, pregnancy, labor, postpartum, and puppy care 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
Image By: atiger, Shutterstock

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
Image By: Iuliia Bondarenko, Shutterstock

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, has an ideal body weight, has had all her vaccines and parasite treatment, and can carry a healthy pregnancy to term.

Some breeds have higher cesarean section rates than others, and it is essential to talk to your veterinarian about this issue before mating and before the due date approaches. 

Maintaining Diet for the Female

Females need special attention to their nutrition during pregnancy and lactation. They need a high-quality complete and balanced diet—and some breeders give additional health supplements during pregnancy. 

It is vital to not only feed the right diet but also the right amount. Overfeeding can cause increased fat deposition and problems during labor as a consequence. At the same time, underfeeding your dog can have serious health issues. Most experts recommend that female dogs’ weight gain should not exceed 25–30% of the weight before breeding.

Administering Medication or Supplements

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

pet owner giving pill medication to dog
Image By: Jus_Ol, Shutterstock

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. Have your vet’s emergency contact information in hand before the due date. 

Keeping Dogs Clean

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

Image Credit: Incredibull_Photos, Pixabay

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.

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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 12 to 18 months 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
Image by: Sp_Tsek, Shutterstock

When Is a Female’s First Estrus Cycle?

On average, the first estrus is around 6 to 9 months of age. Smaller dogs start estrus as early as 6 months, while larger breeds can take up to 2 years for their first heat cycle.

How Often Do Females Go Into Heat?

Most dogs come into heat twice per year, but this will depend on the breed and can vary from dog to dog. Females tend to go into heat mode frequently if they’re smaller. If they are larger, their cycles might be further spaced apart.

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

a female dog is cleaning the genitals by licking
Image by: SOORACHET KHEAWHOM, Shutterstock

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 a bloody discharge appears. 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 light, watery, and thin over the heat cycle.
  • Looking for Mate – Your 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 health restrictions on when they can breed after sexual maturity, but their fertility can change with age. 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 18 to 24 months.

male great dane dog on grass
Image by: belu gheorghe, Shutterstock

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How Long Does Heat Last?

Females’ heat cycles have different phases. Proestrus and estrus usually last 3-4 weeks, but it does vary depending on the dog. When proestrus starts, vulvar swelling and discharge are visibly present, but your bitch won’t accept males yet. This phase lasts approximately 7 to 10 days. After this, estrus starts and the vulvar discharge will start to disappear. Your female dog will be receptive to males and will allow mating to occur. After this phase is over, your bitch’s body will start a resting period and will eventually get ready for the next cycle. You can monitor your dog’s cycles for the first few rounds.

What Does a Tie Signify

Breeders use the term copulatory 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

As explained before, it isn’t advisable to breed a female dog in her first heat cycle. It is recommended that she is approximately 2 years old, which is when she is fully developed and has regular cycles.

Male dogs should start breeding around 15 to 18 months of age

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

Mismating Dogs

Accidental breeding can happen. If you believe your female dog accidentally mated with another dog, you should speak to your vet immediately. There are mismating injections that can be administered by your veterinarian to avoid unwanted pregnancies.

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

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Final Thoughts

So, when is the best time to mate a female? The answer is that even though your dog may have her first heat when she is around 6 months old, the ideal time is when she has gone through at least two heat cycles or she is around 2 years 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. Work with your veterinarian and educate yourself as much as you can about the breeding process before you take the plunge.

Featured Image Credit: Sigma_S, Shutterstock

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