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when is mating season for dogs

when is mating season for dogs

when is mating season for dogs

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The dog or domestic dog, (Canis familiaris or Canis lupus familiaris) is a domesticated descendant of the wolf which is characterized by an upturning tail. The dog derived from an ancient, extinct wolf, and the modern grey wolf is the dog’s nearest living relative. The dog was the first species to be domesticated, by hunter–gatherers over 15,000 years ago, before the development of agriculture.

Domestic dogs

Due to their long association with humans, dogs have expanded to a large number of domestic individuals and gained the ability to thrive on a starch-rich diet that would be inadequate for other canids. Over the millennia, dogs became uniquely adapted to human behavior, and the human-canine bond has been a topic of frequent study.

The dog has been selectively bred over millennia for various behaviors, sensory capabilities, and physical attributes. Dog breeds vary widely in shape, size, and color. They perform many roles for humans, such as hunting, herding, pulling loads, protection, assisting police and the military, companionship, therapy, and aiding disabled people. This influence on human society has given them the sobriquet of “man’s best friend.”

when is mating season for dogs
when is mating season for dogs

Reproductive cycle

The heat cycle of the female lasts from 18 to 21 days. The first stage is called proestrus. It begins with mild swelling of the vulva and a bloody discharge. This lasts for about 9 days, although it may vary by 2 or 3 days. During this phase the bitch may attract males, but she is not ready to be bred and will reject all advances. The next phase is the estrus.

Usually the discharge decreases and becomes lighter, almost pink, in colour. The vulva becomes very enlarged and soft, and the bitch will be receptive to the male. This stage may last 3 or 4 days or as long as 7 to 11 days. The female may be receptive a day or two past the time when she would still be fertile.

In order to be sure that the breeding is taking place at the optimum time, vaginal smears and blood tests can be done by a veterinarian beginning before estrus and through the estral phase.

when is mating season for dogs

After 14 days

At about the 14th day, or whenever estrus ends, the final, or luteal, stage of the cycle begins; this stage is called diestrus. The discharge becomes redder, the vulva returns to its normal size, and the bitch will no longer accept the male for mating. When all signs of discharge and swelling are absent, the heat is complete.

The diestrus stage lasts 60 to 90 days (if no pregnancy has occurred) or until the bitch gives birth. She then enters anestrus, which is the time frame between the end of the last cycle and the beginning of the next proestrus.

Canine males are always fertile from the onset of their sexual adolescence, usually after six months of age. Larger-breed males may take a few months longer to become sexually mature. Males are usually promiscuous and are willing to mate with any available female.

Breastfeeding 8 puppies

Males produce far more sperm than is needed to impregnate the ova that are released during estrus. Small-breed bitches usually produce small litters. Two or 3 puppies in a breed such as a Yorkshire terrier is considered the norm. Large-breed litters can have as many as 10 or 12 puppies, although the normal bitch can suckle up to 8 at a time.

The normal gestation period is 63 days from the time of conception. This may vary if the bitch has been bred two or three times or if the eggs are fertilized a day or two after the mating has taken place. Eggs remain fertile for about 48 hours. Sperm can live in the vaginal tract for several days.

X rays

In order to determine if a bitch is pregnant, a veterinarian can manually palpate her abdomen at about 25 days after breeding. Ultrasound also can be done at that time. At about 40 days X rays will confirm pregnancy.

Most bitches whelp normally. However, the large-headed, short-bodied breeds and the toy breeds often must undergo cesarean sections in order to deliver live puppies.

When does a female dog have her first estrous (heat) cycle?

Dogs will have their first estrous (reproductive or heat) cycle when they reach puberty. Each cycle consists of several stages; the stage called estrus refers to when the female can become pregnant. Often a dog that is in the estrus stage is said to be in heat or in season.

On average, puberty (or sexual maturity) is reached at about six months of age, but this can vary by breed. Smaller breeds tend to have their first estrous cycle at an earlier age, while large and giant breeds may not come into heat for the first time until they reach eighteen months to two years of age.

when is mating season for dogs
when is mating season for dogs

How often does a female dog come into heat?

Most dogs come into heat twice per year, or about every six months, although the interval can vary between breeds and from dog to dog. Small breed dogs may cycle three times per year, while giant breed dogs may only cycle once every 12 months. When young dogs first begin to cycle, it is normal for their cycles to be somewhat irregular.

It can take up to two years for a female dog to develop regular cycles. There is no time of year that corresponds to a breeding season for (domesticated) dogs except for Basenjis and Tibetan Mastiffs which typically tend to cycle in the spring.

What are the signs of estrus?

The earliest sign of estrus is swelling or engorgement of the vulva, but this swelling is not always obvious. In many cases, a bloody vaginal discharge is the first sign that a pet owner will notice when their dog comes into heat. In some cases, the discharge will not be apparent until several days after estrus has begun. The amount of discharge varies from dog to dog.

When Is The Best Time To Mate Your Dog?

This can be difficult. Most ovulate and are receptive around the eleventh day of oestrus. The discharge will then be less bloody and the female will be actively looking for a male. However, ovulation may occur either early or late during the “heat” cycle.

Mating Age For Male Dogs:

A male dog is mature for mating possibly from 4 months onwards but generally, it is considered at about 6 months.

Are There Any Tests To Determine When To Mate Your Dog?

Yes. There are two simple tests that your veterinarian can perform.

  1. Vaginal smear test – A simple microscopic examination of vaginal cells will detect changes in cell appearance and numbers. This test has been used for many years and is reasonably reliable. It is non-invasive and does not cause discomfort for the female. Most vaginal smears are performed serially, over several days, to look for changes in the cells that predict ovulation and the best time for breeding.
  2. Serum progesterone test – This measures the progesterone level in the blood. This test is very sensitive and has become popular due to its accuracy. Some pets will require several tests to predict ovulation.

Both tests can be performed at the veterinary practice. The serum progesterone test gives a very good indication of when mating is most likely to be successful and is useful for females that have a history of unsuccessful mating or for breeding dogs that have to travel a considerable distance to the male dog.

What Can You Do To Ensure Mating Is Successful?

Surprisingly, male dogs appear to be more stress sensitive than females during mating. Successful matings are more common when the male dog is in its own environment. For this reason, females are usually taken to the male dog’s home for breeding.

The time of mating is extremely critical and it is highly recommended that you have tested your female to determine the optimal days for breeding. For most females, the best time for breeding is between the tenth and fourteenth day of oestrus. However, some females ovulate as early as the third or fourth day or as late as the eighteenth day. Blood tests will assist in determining the best period for your dog.

It is normal to arrange for two matings for your dog, often twenty-four or forty-eight hours apart. Check these details with the owner of the stud when making initial enquiries. Also, inquire as to the procedure if your female dog does not become pregnant as a result of the stud service. It is common for owners of the male dog to offer a free service next time.

when is mating season for dogs
when is mating season for dogs

You were told that your female had “tied” well with a dog and that only one service was necessary. What does this mean?

The genital anatomy of the male and female is such that during coitus part of the dog’s penis (the bulbis glandis) enlarges and is held firmly by the contracted muscles of the vagina, thus preventing the penis from being withdrawn. This is the “tie” that is considered a desirable feature of a successful mating.

It is important to note that pregnancy can occur without a “tie”. Once “tied” the male dog will often step over the female or be turned by handlers into a position so that the animals are back to back.

You found your dog “tied” to a female dog during a mismating. Was there anything you could do to separate them?

There is little point in trying to separate animals that are locked in this way. Buckets of cold water, water pistols, cap guns, and so forth do little to speed up the process of separation and merely upset the dogs. In fact, forced separation can result in serious injury to the female and should be avoided.

If a mismating has occurred, discuss it with your veterinarian as soon as possible.

When should I avoid letting my in-season female meet intact (uncastrated) male dogs to avoid a pregnancy?

To answer this I will need to explain a little about the dog’s reproductive cycle.

Proestrus stage:

The proestrus stage is the first stage of a heat cycle and it lasts approximately 9-10 days, during this time she will normally be bleeding. Sometimes you don’t see the blood if your female is very good at keeping herself clean. But you would notice her cleaning herself more. She will also very likely urinate more as she is marketing her fertility state to other males in the vicinity.

You will also notice that her vulva (female genitals) will swell up significantly and will protrude outwards. Mostly, (but not always) the female will not be interested in mating a male at this time, even if he is interested in her. After about 9-10 days, the bleeding will become more watery, or stop.

It is at this time your female will, most likely, be at her most fertile. This proestrus stage can last as long as 20 days in some dogs. So the end of bleeding can be a more useful indicator of peak fertility.

Estrus stage (FERTILE STAGE):

The estrus stage occurs after the proestrus stage, approximately from 9-10 days to 15-19 days. During this stage, your female will most likely be very receptive to being mated by any male and will even hunt them down and offer herself (fluzy!). Every male in the district will be tracking her by scent.

There will be nothing you can do to stop her being mated if you take out your female, and you will likely end up with an unwanted litter.

get pregnant

Many people think that once the bleeding stops, the season is over, when in fact, usually, when the bleeding stops and becomes more watery, she is at her most fertile and most likely to get pregnant.

However, it is important to note that it can be possible for your female to become pregnant right up until the end of her season, up to four weeks. After estrus stage, the vulva should return to normal, at this stage, she is no longer fertile and she is safe to mix with intact male dogs.

Diestrus stage:

This is the stage that follows oestrus. The female will no longer be receptive to being mated. This stage lasts for about two months. Progestrone levels will peak three – four weeks after the start of diestrus and then revert to normal levels by the end of this stage. These hormone levels change regardless of whether or not the female is pregnant. As these hormone changes are occurring, it is important not to spay a female until after this stage.

It is the ovaries that regulate the hormones, once removed, they will not be able to regulate hormone levels. This can leave your female in a state of unbalanced hormones, which can lead to ongoing behaviour problems if hormonally mediated behaviour problems occurred during the season.

when is mating season for dogs
when is mating season for dogs

Etiquettes for walking an in-season female.

Please don’t walk your in-season female dog in public. Her scent will attract every intact male in your neighbourhood. Even castrated dogs will hunt down the scent of an in-season female and even a castrated male dog can “mate” with her. The mating (tying) process can take many minutes (typically half an hour) during which time, your female and the male will be locked together.

Better to avoid this embarrassment. You will not want just ANY dog to mate your bitch. Dogs can carry sexually transmitted diseases just as humans can, one of which is a sexually transmitted form of cancer! Also, you should be carefully choosing a mate based on being free from genetic disorders and having an exemplary (perfect) temperament.


Please be responsible. there are so very many dogs in rescue centres, the last thing anyone needs is more unplanned litters. Only breed from your dog if you are prepared to breed from dogs that have no behaviour problems (especially aggression), undertake DNA testing and are knowledgeable about how to choose the right sire for your female.

Breeding a litter is not an easy thing that you must leave to the mother dog. You will need to be at home with her for several months to supervise and provide appropriate support. Preparing to breed an ideal litter will cost you in excess of £1,000.00 before you even have the litter. C-Section is common and can cost several thousands of pounds. Having a properly planned litter is not a profitable activity.

Thank you for staying with this post “when is mating season for dogs” until the end.


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