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Dog Mating Guide: Cycles, Factors & Tips

Written by: Rachael Gerkensmeyer

Last Updated on May 22, 2024 by Dogster Team

Dog sniffing dog in heat

Dog Mating Guide: Cycles, Factors & Tips

Mating dogs can be a rewarding experience, but the practice must be done responsibly and with the parent and puppies’ health and welfare as a priority. There is much to learn about mating dogs before the first breeding attempt. We have put together this dog mating guide to help make preparing and planning for a mating experience more successful and enjoyable. Here is everything that you need to know about dog mating.


It All Rides on the Female’s Cycle

Dogs must rely on the female’s reproductive cycle to conceive. If a female dog is not “in heat,” she cannot conceive puppies and generally won’t mate because she or a male dog will have little interest. Mating in heat also does not guarantee conception. The timing of matings has to be within a fertile window around the time of ovulation. Female dogs, or bitches, typically go into heat, which is technically referred to as the estrus cycle, twice a year. The estrus cycle usually lasts anywhere from 2 to 4 weeks.

Bitches typically go into heat for the first time when they’re around 6–12 months old or older, depending on the breed, but it is highly advised to wait until your girl reaches skeletal maturity before you consider breeding her. This typically coincides with breeding on the second or third heat cycle.

Once you have noticed that your bitch is in heat, it’s time to call your veterinarian. To determine the best time to mate, the vet can perform a few tests to determine when ovulation is likely to happen. They can do blood tests looking at one of two hormones (progesterone or luteinizing hormone) or take cell samples from the vagina.

The window of highest fertility will occur 2 days before or 4 days after ovulation. On average, this is between days 10 and 14 of estrus. However, it varies between bitches, so getting the vet tests is the most reliable way to go.

Beagle on estrus cycle
Image Credit: Sigma_S, Shutterstock

Signs That a Female Dog Is in Heat

Since a female dog must be in heat to reproduce, it is important to look for signs of their cycle to determine when mating should take place. The first phase is called proestrus, where a few physical changes start happening. She won’t ovulate or want to mate in this phase. In true estrus, she will have behavior changes. Luckily, there are a variety of signs that bitches tend to display as they go into heat and work their way through the estrus cycle. Here is what to look for:

  • A change in appetite
  • Behavioral changes
  • Increased urination frequency
  • Swelling of the vulva
  • Vaginal discharge
  • Receptivity to male dogs

A female in heat will usually show interest in males and turn her butt toward them when they are ready to mate. She will move her tail to the side and enable a male dog to mount.

jack russell in heat
Image Credit: Reshetnikov_art, Shutterstock

Choosing Breeding Dogs

It is important to consider things such as the size, temperament, and breed of a prospective mate for your bitch. Ideally, you will be breeding purebred dogs with the goal of improving the breed. This means your parent dogs will both have sound temperaments, representing the best of their breed.
You should also have an idea of the common health problems facing the parent breed(s). The goal is to breed healthy puppies with no genetic or congenital problems.

At a basic level, both dogs should have been vet checked and cleared of any conditions or defects that could be passed onto the offspring. Breed-specific screening tests, such as genetic tests, heart screening examinations, and hip scoring, should also be performed to ensure healthy puppies.

Responsible Breeding Considerations

Many dogs in the world have no homes and nobody to feed them. They end up in animal shelters, and many live as strays until they pass away, which is sometimes at a young age. Therefore, it is important to practice responsible breeding when mating your dog with another at any time. Never let your female dog spend time with other dogs of the opposite sex when she is in heat unless you are ready to breed, or you might find yourself dealing with raising unwanted puppies.

Always make sure that you have a plan for what will happen to the puppies once they are weaned. If you will not keep them all, ensure that there is a market for your puppies, and give them a good home before they are born. If you cannot control your dog’s breeding, it is crucial to think about getting them spayed or neutered.

Once your bitch is pregnant, you should get an X-ray in the final trimester to know how many puppies to expect. You will also need to research common complications of pregnancy and puppy rearing like dystocia, retained placenta, puppy mortality, aspiration pneumonia, orphaned puppies, mastitis, and milk fever. You must be prepared for each and every one of these possibilities and others. Breeding pups can take an emotional and financial toll and be incredibly time-consuming.

beagle couple
Image Credit: Sigma_S, Shutterstock


Final Thoughts

It is always a good idea to consult with a professional breeder before mating your dog with another for the first time. Spend plenty of time researching, preparing, and gathering supplies before you even consider making puppies. What kinds of puppies are you thinking about breeding? How many litters do you plan to bring into existence? Share your thoughts with our community.

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Featured Image Credit: atiger, Shutterstock

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