Is Back to Back Breeding Healthy for the Bitch?

Back to Back Breeding

Back to back breeding means breeding your bitch for several consecutive heats. Often, when breeding back to back, the breeder tries to get his female pregnant twice in a row, or even more, to then let her rest for several cycles or completely retire her from the breeding program.

However, back to back breeding can be pushed to the extreme and done consecutively over three, five, or even all of the bitch’s heats without any consideration for her overall health. This is why, when people ask How often should I breed my dog? we want them to remain cautious.

First of all, before making any decision on whether breeding back to back or waiting to skip a season is best, there are multiple points to consider:

  • was there any complication during the last pregnancy?
  • was the litter size way above average for the breed?
  • was there a C-section at the last delivery?

If you replied yes to any of these questions, a responsible breeder would naturally allow his bitch to rest and skip one heat, at least

Then, some larger dog breeds only have a season every year while other smaller breeds average 2 or more heats yearly. In the latter scenario, you also want to limit yourself to one pregnancy out of two heats — these smaller dogs usually go through a harsher time at each pregnancy!

So now, let’s carry on answering our original question: is breeding back to back healthier for a healthy normal bitch?

Let's Ignore Ethics For a Second

Mainly composed of online militants and animal rights activists, the Ethics Police do despise back-to-back breeders and see this practice as inhumane. To them, humans who breed their dogs back to back are just yielding more money and just attempt to rationalize what is, to them, a disgusting behavior.

The accused breeders defend themselves saying the return of a heat after pregnancy is a natural sign of readiness for a new pregnancy. Breeders affirm that the Ethics Police project their humanized thoughts and feelings onto dogs, thus do not make sense scientifically.

We decided to ignore ethics here and focus on what is best for the dam’s health, not for anybody’s belief or agenda.

Back to back breeding is better for the bitch's uterus.
Canine reproduction specialist, Dr. Hutchison, has concluded that once the female is fertile, usually from the second heat, the bitch should be bred at every heat until she is done.

Back to Back Breeding Is Better for the Bitch's Uterus

The common misconception is that an ethical breeder should make his bitch skip at least one heat between two pregnancies. That way, the dog breeder lets the bitch’s body rest and recover from the first pregnancy, and eventually get her ready to go through pregnancy again.

Many canine reproduction specialists, like Dr. Hutchison, have concluded the opposite is true. To these experts, once the female is fertile (usually from the second heat), she should be bred at every heat until she is “done”. A bitch is done when you see a sharp decline in the litter size, or when you decide that you do not want to breed her again for whatever reason you may have.

Progesterone is inflammatory to the uterine lining.

While true it is needed for pregnancy, the level is the same when the bitch ovulates and is not bred. Progesterone causes diseases such as cystic endometrial hyperplasia, mucometra, and pyometritis for example.

Skipping cycles does not benefit the uterus.

Email from Dr. Robert Hutchison to Breeding Business

That philosophy explains that a dam’s body is in her prime time to have puppies during her first years. Her progesterone levels are at their highest to prepare the endometrium, or uterine lining, as a uterine supportive environment to welcome a fertilized egg. As a bitch gets older, her levels of progesterone decrease causing the regeneration of the uterus to become more approximate. Bitches of age six and over have a 33.3% less chance of conceiving than bitches under 6 years of age.

Whether a pregnancy occurs or not, the bitch goes through the very same progesterone effects. Therefore, breeding a younger bitch back to back makes use of a healthier uterus. She can retire earlier than other bitches that are not bred back-to-back but bred until much older, thus using a much less capable uterine support system.

But a Breeding Bitch Is NOT Just a Uterus

And here is the first glitch with what was up until now a clear win for back to back breeding. Dams can’t be reduced to their uterus. Of course, her reproductive health matters, but it is only part of a much bigger Health.

Going through pregnancy for dogs is not similar to their ancestor’s experience. Indeed, wolves had much shorter lifespans and fewer heats, therefore they had to breed as often as possible to keep the species alive and strong.

Pregnancy and nursing are sometimes exaggeratedly called a biological war between the mother and the progenies. This is to emphasize how draining and harsh a pregnancy is for the female’s body and support system. This is why, even with the help of modern science, canine pregnancy still kills thousands of dogs every year worldwide.

Back to back breeding is extremely demanding on the mother’s biological resources and energy levels. Therefore, it is also a good idea to skip a heat in order to let her whole body recover perfectly and regenerate before becoming a mother again.

A female bitch is much more than a uterus, therefore back to back breeding has to be approached carefully.
A female bitch is much more than a uterus, therefore back to back breeding has to be approached carefully.

Wait For Hindsight On The Dog Breeding Program

Another reason why breeding back to back is perhaps not the clear way to go is the breeder’s timeline. Indeed, when breeding back to back for several pregnancies, you don’t give yourself enough time to see what each litter becomes and then take appropriate decisions.

As a breeder, having continuous feedback flowing in from a bitch’s previous progenies can help you notice patterns and match her with a more suitable stud for the next matings. (Or even completely discard her from your breeding program.)

Canine genetics are the best toolbox for knowledgeable breeders and seeing the full results of a well-planned breeding may take a couple of years. So you have a choice between breeding her again while waiting, or hold on until required feedbacks are received.

These feedbacks may be of multiple types, including but not limited to:

  • a specific coat pattern or color to be repeated
  • a defect you want to make sure is bred out of the bloodline
  • a structural feature only showing after the puppies enter adulthood

In the event of the breeder deciding to wait after a first pregnancy, if the bitch appears to be a real gem, the time will run fast and her fertility will decline very soon. What could have been a real igniter for a top bloodline may just be able to offer a limited number of puppies.

On the other hand, if the bitch appears to be giving birth to puppies with serious defects or undesired traits, the offset count would be limited when waiting for feedback before proceeding to further breedings. You are saving several puppies from being average or even bad (in a quality breeding way of speaking.)

Back to back breeding is a case by case situation.
Breeding back to back cannot be dismissed or recommended. It really depends on the bitch, the breed and the breeder.

Conclusion — a Case by Case Answer

Although we hate to stand in between and not take a clear stand, we do have to remain balanced on the topic of back to back breeding. It is a case by case kind of scenario that also depends on the breeder’s expertise, knowledge, and experience.

On the one hand, if you are extremely experienced and your bloodline has been producing quality litters for years, you may choose to follow your instinct and breed back to back the bitch of your choice.

On the other hand, if you are just beginning or unsure about the quality of your breeding stock, you may prefer to wait things out after first breeding so both the dam recovers and the litter gives you feedback a year or two later. You can then decide to stop breeding the bitch, find a more suitable stud, or repeat the same breeding.

We’re providing even more pointers in our bestseller, The Dog Breeder’s Handbook.

24 comments on « Is Back to Back Breeding Healthy for the Bitch? »

  1. The back to back breeding of one bitch is obviously better since this is how nature intended it. Maybe tiring but when done back to back, the bitch usually retires earlier therefore it gives her a lot of time to enjoy herself.

  2. I always wait one cycle to breed again so once a year. I feel like it gives the dog time to recoup…having babies takes a lot out of you!!!!

  3. Hi,

    I am a breeder of Toy breeds such as Chihuahuas, Pomeranians and English Toy Terriers, the back to back breeding is not an option for me under the UK Kennel Club rules.

    I had one accidental pregnancy where one of my chihuahuas had 2 consecutive litters, the mum was good and kept her body weight on with no issues throughout the entire process.

    I am against back to back breeding for many reasons, as small breeds have tiny litters but their little bodies would not sustain constant use.

    1. You are typical of people that use their emotions rather than scientific facts to determine reality.

      1. You are typical of people who only consider the science that supports the opinion they already hold and ignore all scientific evidence against their view.

  4. My thoughts on the subject is that it is best to breed a female only once a year.

    This gives her time to recoup and to just be a dog with out puppies pulling her down physically. If a breeder feels they must do a back to back breeding then it be best to give the dog the next year off from any breeding.

    Breeding any dog must have a purpose and be beneficial to bettering the breed which I feel can still be done by once a year breeding.

    1. I have some girls that are their very happiest when they have pups. If the dog has sufficiently good nutrition and exercise, and delivers without complications, I find they are actually healthier when bred back-to- back than when skipped. Yes, I agree that you need to work toward bettering the breed when breeding, but that can be done regardless of which method you choose to follow. I have seen no decline in the number, health or quality of pups produced following a back-to-back litter. In fact, some of my top show dogs have been born following a back-to-back breeding. My bitches that were bred back-to-back were healthier and stronger than the ones that I skipped. Skipping resulted in false pregnancies, some cases of pyo (not often), weight gain and loss of muscle tone, the latter likely due to hormonal influences. Future litters were more difficult deliveries.

      1. This is my experience almost exactly. I spoke with a reproductive vet specialist when we started and followed his recommendations. I do agree with the advantages of skipping a heat in some cases but for the most part this has worked. When the number of pups declines or there are any complications I spay. I have been told age 6 is the time line for being done. If there are no complications that’s what I aim for but it’s not written in stone.

      2. The terrible thing about not breeding a bitch who is young, healthy, and whelps easily is you may not get that second litter. You may never get to repeat the same breeding or try another desirable stud. I waited and went through 5 years of heartbreak on a stunning wonderful bitch, Her lines well over 60 years in the making are nearly gone. I spent thousands of dollars trying to breed what could have been prevented had I not waited. A healthy uterus. This was the end of the line and I was forced to start over. Trust me I can say definitely as an older mom myself it is far easier on the body having kids in your twenties, than later in life. You also get the opportunity to pursue other fun activities with your bitch that build on the bond. Another aspect is definitely knowing that your female line is strong. You have time to breed her daughters and reflect that the next generation is everything that you wish to carry on. You have options. We show to evaluate breeding stock, health, temperament and how closely our dogs adhere to the standard, You have time to reflect and reassess when you see quality can be produced consistently. You have time to decide. I waited. I lost that opportunity of peak fertility. I will always regret not breeding her right away, You may have a litter of all males or all females or owe the best puppy back to the sire owner or her breeder. Opportunity lost.
        Lesson learned.

  5. I breed my females on the third and fourth heat cycle then I place them a pet home. I don’t think a female should be used as a cash cow. I do selective breeding for show.

  6. Thanks again for the very informative article.

    I personally believe if your bitch is in good condition/health breeding your bitch back to back and then give her a break.

    Personally, I dont let my bitches have more than three litters anyway as they are not breeding machines :-)


  7. I think back to back breeding had its place say in the case of a singleton puppy or a litter not raised by the bitch; say in a bitch that has had a large show career and started motherhood late. I never have more that 2 litters from my girls and would not rule out s back to back.

    Breeding a female back to back for several makings as suggested in ur article is totally unacceptable.

  8. In reply to your question, I don’t believe back to back breeding as you call it is good because an animal needs to recuperate after having a litter of pups. It takes a lot out of her feeding pups. And needs rest and extra care in getting back into good health, before having another litter.

    As for her uterus I would not think having litter after litter will be good for that, quite the opposite!

  9. I think back to back breeding wears a bitch out and makes them more unlikely to be able to conceive. I believe it is best to breed every alternate heat. This gives the bitch time to recover.

  10. I think it depends on the health of the bitch. I used to breed every other heat, letting my females “recover” and only having one litter each year. However, I did know about the other way of doing things, and had read info from a couple of veterinarian/breeders who breed back-to-back.

    After I started my dogs on Life’s Abundance products my bitches health, weight, muscle-tone, and coat was so much better than before that they didn’t seem to need a recovery period. Days after giving birth, and while nursing large litters, they are out on long walks/runs, playing fetch, swimming, jumping in the air, etc. In addition, they no longer need supplementation when nursing large litters.

    Since they were so healthy, I started breeding back-to-back and have never gone back. For some reason (either their overall better health, or the back-to-back breeding) their fecundity has also improved. I am happy with this method, as are my bitches and my stud dogs.

  11. Why should newbie breeders breed less? Unless you breed, you can’t work on your lines, which takes years & years. Typically, you’d have the vet care and they make the recommendation based on the health of the dog.

  12. Has there been cases of pyometria associated with either type of breeding? Back to back or rest in between?

  13. You are typical of people who only consider the science that supports the opinion they already hold and ignore all scientific evidence against their view.

  14. I would be interested in the credentials of the people writing the article. As a breeder for 40+ years in two different breeds, my experience shows that back-to-back breedings is completely acceptable and HEALTHY for the bitch IF, and ONLY if, the bitch is healthy (mentally & physically), is a good mom, and produces quality healthy puppies. There is no absolutely rule/answer. You need to know your bitch and do what is best for her.

  15. I try to read these comments to learn but so often there is too much judging and lashing out at those with different opinions. I appreciate the experience of other breeders more than anything, I know several breeders and none of them consider their dogs “cash cows”, In fact most of us treat our dogs as beloved pets.

  16. I waited when breeding my first bitches. I had this “let them rest” attitude. My dogs are family. My companions, my partners. But I do have other dogs for breeding that are more like friends than family. The dogs that are family, once they retire, they live their lives on our farm. Hunting, chasing predators away from the flocks, lounging in the sun, playing in snow, going for car rides, we even pay thousands extra to take at least 3 dogs with us, every time we go on vacation, they fly with us, they go to the beach, you name it. Our non retired and retired dogs have an EXCELLENT life. The dogs that are more friends than family, when they retire, they are spayed and placed on an equally active, and loving caring home, where I keep in contact with them for the rest of the dogs remaining life. I did the whole breed once, skip a cycle, I even did breed back to back, then skip a whole year. Then I tried back to back for 3 cycles, and then retire. I’ll tell you what…..the bitches I bred back to back 3 cycles (the earliest I started was at age 2, and she had already had 3 heat cycles and was on her fourth when she got pregnant) was just amazing. The bitch bounced back wonderfully. I had ZERO still births, zero complications, just perfect litters!! I always breed AFTER I know the female is ready, not just physically, but MENTALLY. That can make or break it all. You can take one human teenager at the age of 19 who gets pregnant, and they get married, raise the baby right, and have another when that baby is 1yr or 2 yrs old…or you can take another human female at the age if 21 who gets pregnant, and doesnt eat right, stays out and drinks and does drugs, leaves the baby at the babysitters more often then she cares for the baby etc. The mental state of the 2 women are completely different, and that can and does happen with dogs as well. If a bitch is not mentally ready, I would not breed her until she is, and certainly not back to back. My Amish neighbor bred his dogs back to back twice. The 2nd breeding resulted in the bitch killing her puppies. The dog was unstable and shoukdnt have been bred, she was constantly confined and never saw grass and never ever went in their house….she lived on a cage all her life. So a dog like that, who genetically shouldn’t be bred anyway, is going to have problems. A dog that is well fed, not overweight or underweight, is happy, loved, mentally and physically mature, genetically sound, and well taken care of, as well as under the guidance of a vet if you are new to breeding, or your own knowledge (if you have been doing so for 25+ years or so, like myself) I do believe back to back breeding are absolutely ok, and better for the overall health of the dog reproductively and her litters. I have seen more issues than not with many different dogs over 2 different breeds with breeding a bitch, skipping a cycle and then breeding, and even worse when you breed back to back, skip a whole year, then have another litter. The healthiest, strongest litters have been when I bred the bitches back to back 3 cycles in a row and retired her. I would even do 4 cycles back to back, but never have. So that is a bitch at 2 yrs old, who has 2 litters when she is 2, and 2 litters when she is 3, and then she is done. Retired at 3 and has a lovely life ahead of her, but passed on the line. I waited until my top bitch was just about 4 years old (we were training and I didnt want a litter to interrupt, as she had gotten her OFA hip certs, and we were working on her titles as I wanted her to be a Schutzhund II before breeding her) and she was KILLED in a house fire. I never got to produce anything from her. The stud was killed as well, along with a bitch with her very first litter, and ALL 9 of her puppies, chickens, cats, other dogs, all died. Gone. So, I have gone the back to back route. I will never lose a line, which was a very old line going back to when Germany was divided into East and West Germany, and the other one went back before that to 1890. I mean I lost my one line. If I would have bred both if those bitches with my current method, they both would have been retired at that age, and there would be their progeny out in the world, doing things. So. Theres no definitive answer…it depends on many factors.

  17. It completely depends upon the overall health of your breeding stock. I am a Beagle Breeder, & I currently have two 3 year old bitches working. I try breed them back to back in attempt to produce 24 puppies per year, but I only do this when they are in extremely good health & seem up to the task. In my previous retired bitches, I just bred them back to back for a year, gave them a rest the next heat regardless of their health status, & then I had to face the decision of breeding them again the next year. Breeding dogs is a tricky business that can be very difficult sometimes, but in the end you have to do what is best for the dog.

  18. If humans were not involved…nature would take its course and dogs would breed on their own, every cycle. Human intervention means emotions that are not there naturally. Being conscientious of our dogs’ health is important, but also knowing that natural is best is as important as well. This article starts off by saying that breeding back-to-back is best then moves on to say that resting a cycle is best. Speaking from both sides of the mouth here…and sounds like the author doesn’t know who to please. Do you….mind your dog….and leave everyone else alone. Best practices.

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