Ask Nancy: Ah Spring! Thinking about Breeding – Some Basics

Dogs are normally in heat for about 3 weeks.

The first week they have a red discharge then the second a clear or straw colored discharge then almost no discharge the last week. For some dogs this all stretches out longer for 4 or more weeks.

Female dogs are usually wiling breed sometime in the middle of their heat often in the range of 9-14 days of their heat season. But each dog is unique and receptive times can vary.

The vulva swells so that, when the time comes, the male can breed with her. The normal between heats size of the female does not permit mating. Once the heat cycle is over, the swelling will go down but not to as small a size as the dog was before her first heat. You can see more info on the heat cycle including some vulva pictures here:

For the dog’s health, females are not typically bred until their third heat to make sure they are mature in body and mind before having to raise pups of their own. Usually they come in heat every 6 months after the first heat. Breeders frequently wait to breed dogs until all of the breed appropriate health testing has been completed. This is to do their best to ensure that the pups that are produced will not inherit known genetically passed problems from the parents.

Gestation (pregnancy) lasts about 58-65 days with 63 days or 9 weeks counting from the date of the first breeding.

Male dogs usually hit puberty between 6-12 months of age. However, being around an in heat female can hurry puberty along in some dogs so planning to keep male pups apart from in heat females is safest.

AKC will not register pups to males who were less than 7 months old or females less than 8 months old at the time of breeding.

Some dogs change behavior while in heat. Often they appear to forget all their training, or seem fidgety when being trained, and most become excellent escape artists when they are ready to mate, which owners may not expect.

Its up to the owner of an intact dog to keep the males away from the females, except for planned matings, and not leave the females alone outside unsupervised, not even in a fenced yard, or let them run off leash while the female is in heat. Contrary to popular hopes panties and belly bands are not a safeguard against two dogs ‘in love’!

Planned or not if you saw your dog tie with a male its very likely she is pregnant.

This site goes over the signs that your dog is pregnant

You can ask your vet to run a relaxin test to see if the dog is pregnant too

There is tons more info on the net about breeding and pregnancy and here are some good ones to review.

You can read about pregnancy and whelping in dogs here

When a female is pregnant you often see a sticky clear discharge from the vulva starting around week five or so indicating pups are present in the uterus.

These sites put out by AKC cover feeding your dog while pregnant and later when lactating

And these sites go over the whelping process in pictures

And last, but not least, if you are not sure your dog ever met with a male and yet she seems pregnant, you can read here about a false pregnancy which is something the dog goes through, to some degree or another, if the heat cycle passes without her getting pregnant


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