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Do Not Breed a Female Dog on Her First Heat

↯ Key takeaway points

  • The recommended age for female dogs to have their first mating is 1.5 years and up.
  • Kennel clubs advise against breeding very young dogs and suggest proper medical examinations for disease prevention.
  • Dogs are monoestrous animals and may have between two and four reproductive cycles during a period of two years.
  • The upper age limit for breeding females is considered 8 years old or when the size of the litter decreases sharply.
Breeding Business is passionate about all sorts of domesticated pets. They have written dozens of articles across the web.
Veterinarian and veterinary microbiologist working as a veterinary science lecturer at the UVAS, Lahore.
Published on
Tuesday 22 August 2017
Last updated on
Wednesday 10 May 2023
breeding a female dog on her first season
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Female dogs are the cornerstones of every successful breeder’s bloodline. However, too many breeders just pick the wrong time to breed their females. Often, they will attempt a mating as early as the female dog’s first heat ever, or perhaps the second. Veterinarians suggest mating a female dog for the first time when it is 1.5 years old and up.

There are plenty of debates surrounding the breeding of a female dog (back to back breeding, when is it too late, and more) but everybody agrees on one thing. It is not recommended to breed a female dog on her first few heats. A mutual understanding of breeders, vets, and kennel clubs on this matter will be beneficial for dog owners to understand the important aspects of the first heat.

Such recommendations refer not only to the physiological maturity of the dog’s body but also to the mental state of the female dog. For decades, breeders have made attempts at breeding their dogs as early as possible; the females who have become mothers too early often show unpredictable behavior during and after maternity.

If they become mothers so early, they can act confused and be uncertain how to behave in this new situation, which carries a risk of not being careful enough with the newborn puppies, leading even to danger to the lives of the puppies.

Rules of kennel clubs for breeding females

Some of the breeders, for many different reasons, are too impatient to start reproducing their young females. They want to see the results of each mating as soon as possible, which makes them use young and still immature dogs in the breeding. However, the leading kennel clubs have clear breeding rules that advise breeders not to breed very young dogs. The lower limit for males is 18 months old, and 14 months old for female dogs.

Kennel clubs obviously can not control the number of heats a certain female had and therefore they set an age limit of the dogs that should be used. They also suggest breeders not breed dogs without proper medical examinations. This helps prove that the parents are not carriers of severe hereditary diseases that are too common in certain breeds. Here we mainly speak about hips and elbows joint dysfunction, congenital anomalies of the heart, and large blood vessels.

We must remember that the embryos use a big part of the calories of the mother organism. Therefore, in case the mother has not completed her very own growth and development yet, a litter will burden her and she may even neglect her whelps.

Dogs are monoestrous animals

Dogs, just like their wild relatives –the wolves and the foxes– belong to the group of monoestrous animals. Meaning, they have only one estrous cycle a year. Dogs, in most cases and depending on the size of the breed actually have between two and four reproductive cycles during a period of 2 years. But they are still classified as monoestrous animals.

The rest of the animal species can be polyestrous if they have more reproductive cycles during the year, or seasonal types of animals whose estrous cycles only appear in a certain season of the year, usually in the spring or summer.

recommended ages for a first dog breeding
A responsible dog breeder must wait until both stud and dam are fully ready to cope with the breeding and the following pregnancy.

How early do heats appear in female dogs?

The female dogs most commonly are sexually maturing at 8 months to 1 year of age, and this is manifested by the onset of the first reproductive cycle. What this means is, a female is from this first heat onwards able to procreate.

Some large or giant breeds see their first heat occur at around 18 months or even later. At this age, mating and pregnancy would certainly not be an issue. Other breeds, like Chihuahuas and Pomeranians, can have their first heat at around 6 months, and a pregnancy that early that would almost certainly lead to complications.

The bitch, at this age, is far from ready for raising a litter, but she is able to have it. The health risks of a pregnancy on a first heat are definitely great, both for the mother and for the entire litter. We must bear in mind that the pregnancy, as well as the breastfeeding, cause significant stress to the whole body of the female, so she must be completely formed, strong and mature to bear the pregnancy and raise the progeny. The reproductive system of the female is ready, her body not quite there yet on the first heat.

Breeding females on every heat is a hot debate (see our article on back to back breeding.) It seems like it’s healthier for the reproductive system, but not for the rest of the body. Therefore, the breeders of your females should think of making a break of at least one heat without mating, so the body of the female has enough time to completely recover from the previous pregnancy.

ALSO READ: Dog Heat Cycle – Frequently Asked Questions

What to do if accidental mating happens?

We must mention the possibility of an unplanned, accidental mating, after which the breeder has two choices.

The first one is to notify the kennel club about the undesired mating and ask for an expert opinion and permission to raise a litter. The second option is to make an appointment at a vet clinic and ask for a planned abortion of the fetuses.

Dog abortion is legal and can be completed through a surgical spay or a drug-induced procedure.
Pregnancy termination in dogs is legal. It can be done through a surgical spay or a drug-induced abortion depending on the stage the female dog is at in her pregnancy.

If the abortion is performed by using estrogen hormone medications, it is highly recommended to breed the female in the next heat in order to regulate the hormonal balance in the body and prevent the risk of inflammation of the uterus called pyometra.

In order to prevent the future occurrence of unplanned mating, breeders who own a large number of dogs, including males and females, are recommended always to keep the females in heat separated from the rest of the dogs in the kennel. This way, we prevent the unwanted mating of young immature bitches, and at same time we prevent the possible accidental mating of close relatives (ie. inbreeding.)

What is the upper age limit when breeding a female dog?

It is generally recommended that old female dogs should not be used for breeding. And the upper limit is considered 8 years of age for breeding females or when the size of the litter sharply decreases. By the way, dogs do not go through menopause (cessation of heat cycle in female dogs).

Because of the diversity of dogs (think about how many breeds there are), we must note that all dogs do not mature fully at a same age. The smaller breeds usually mature earlier than larger ones and they are sooner capable of raising their offspring. But these small breeds also have smaller litters.

Bear in mind that only healthy and fully formed females are able to raise strong and healthy litters. The successful cooperation between the responsible dog breeders, the competent kennel clubs and the trusted veterinarians is the key point of successful breeding, the producing of high quality dogs and the improvement of the breeds, which is the definitive goal of every passionate breeder!

17 comments on “Do Not Breed a Female Dog on Her First Heat”

  1. Lois E Schwarz

    who wrote this and what is their political purpose because maybe that might be the reason for their biased as well as unscientific reasoning behind their message.

    1. Christine

      Good point Lois. It also states that (according to leading kennel clubs) the lower age limit for breeding males is 18 months, but there is no explanation for why the father should not be bred until this age.

      1. I think this is more so the male has time to fully develop and be conformed before being used as a stud. Plus, it takes roughly that time to be health checked for most health conditions. But yes, you are right, this age is totally arbitrary for studs.

  2. maria hernandez

    I need help my little chiwhawha got pregnant on her first cycle accdently I work part time I need a vet in my area that wont charge me so much shes already showing im stressing over this I love my dog. need help. please anybody

    1. Shawna little

      That’s my situation…..what to do?

  3. Ethan

    It seems to me that aborting a litter would more dangerous to a bitch than allowing the pregnancy to continue. And considering the most common historical practice, which can clearly be seen by examining any dog’s pedigree from the mid 20th century, it seems like breeding a bitch at her first or second heat can be quite successful.

  4. Steven James

    How can females in heat be prevented from mating? We have one pair of dogs. It’s practically impossible to separate them because they are a pack of 2. We would like to have our female not impregnated every breeding cycle. Since there’s no “chastity belt” option we believe our hands are tied.

  5. Chris D'Alessandro

    Bunch of bloggers with no real facts, internet bullshit and opinions….Don’t moralize dog breeding, demonstrate the facts. let’s hear the science…….. EVERYBODY does NOT agree with your premise……I heard this for years to NEVER breed on first cycle…..Due to my inexperience my 8 month old heeler got bred…….Truly it was the end of the world was it not? I was terribly upset because of all the propaganda I had read. I got really worried and stressed out……In the end she had a perfect birthing and knew EXACTLY what to do, the pups were cleaned off and fed right away and she was an absolutely exemplary mother. The pups were healthy and strong and I went out of my way to pour the feed to her so she would recover and she did just fine…..In the end the only problem was with me in my head from reading bullshit, there were no problems with her at all and she is in perfect health. Although in theory I would think that not breeding until the second cycle would be advisable I would like to know the exact scientific (unbiased and factual) reasons….and not some 21st Century Morality dreamed up by people who no longer have their roots in the real world……The world that all of this internet BS Headspace is getting farther and farther away from each day.

    1. Justen

      Everyone says to skip the first heat, but wouldn’t the same reasons not to skip heats be also relevant? The uterus would still be damaged from not being able to shed the lining during whelping. And, if breeding every heat is what is natural to them, it seems to me the same would apply to the first heat as well, or their body wouldn’t have began the process. Do we observe wolves, dingos, and other canids skipping the first one? Seems like their uterus would only be become vulnerable from the start as a result of skipping.

  6. Judee

    If you are ready for puppies go for it..I am from wva and growing up my uncle always had hunting dogs and he said as long as they are not blood related it doesn’t matter.He also sold dogs and there was a list of people wanting to purchase his dogs for hunting.I guess he knew what he was talking about.P.S. we didn’t know what internet was….

  7. Sandy Stewart

    Thank you Chris, so nice to hear others had a whoops pregnancy. We have 2 beautiful Goldens from different litters, no relation what so ever. It’s so hard to tell everyone our girl is pregnant, even our vet, for fear of judging. She is a strong healthy pup, and we know in our hearts she’ll be a good mama, and not some vicious wolf like animal with her babies. My only concern is what to do with the dad, he is such a loving (ha thus the pregnancy), dog that I know he will be a great dad, but don’t want him stressing out mama during the whelping or even after. Any suggestions on what to do with him?

  8. Christine

    When we had chocolate lab pups. We sent our male away for about 6 weeks. 2 weeks prior to delivery and waited until puppies were 3-4 weeks old. A friend took my mail. I also didn’t want to stress mom out.

  9. Christine kanuck

    When we had chocolate lab pups. We sent our male away for about 6 weeks. 2 weeks prior to delivery and waited until puppies were 3-4 weeks old. A friend took my mail. I also didn’t want to stress mom out.

  10. Kelli

    A)How do you keep 2 dogs from mating seeing as “theres no such thing as a dog chastity belt”… ?! It’s called being a responsible pet owner, and spaying and/or neutering your dogs…or, shipping off the male to a friends place or bording kennel while the female is in heat. Or, just not having both male and female intact dogs. (If you can’t figure that out, you definitely don’t need to be bringing any more pups into this world, where MILLIONS of dogs are killed every year for LACK OF HAVING A HOME. You wouldn’t allow a monkey to deliver your baby, that is the job of a Doctor or midwife… So leave dog breeding to breeders).
    B)This has nothing to do with the internet. It is a well known fact, among the knowledgeable dog people, long before internet was around (books and vets and kennel clubs have been saying it long before there was an internet so…) not to breed a female on her first heat. The science is CLEAR and LOGICAL, just because your daughters get their period at 10years old, or even 16 years old, does not mean they SHOULD start pumping babies out just because THEY CAN. And in the wild, wolves never have litters on their first or second heat, infact, they will not have a litter until they are very matured, never, will you see a wolf pup having pups. And thats all nature, the way things would and should be if we humans were minding our own businesses and dogs were living in wild packs amongst themselves.
    Be the leaders your dogs need you to be, and the world would be a better place. Keep allowing your pair of toddlers on 4 legs the ability to call the shots and figure things out for themselves, and well, people will continue to be bit by dogs daily, and millions of healthy beautiful dogs will continue to die every year cuz we simply have more than we need.

    1. Anita

      Wow you’re not watching ASOCA commercials are you? Lololol. Your statistics are so fouled up. Did you know the world is actually coming up short of pets by 1 million per year now all because of those silly pitiful mckachlan voice-over commercials. We can all go back to breeding beautiful dogs and feeling great about it now.

  11. Kaci

    My 8 month old beagle accidentally got pregnant by my 6 month old beagle (not related to each other). She is due today and I am afraid she is clueless as to what to do. She has been pretty miserable the whole time and understandably so. She seems so lost and confused as to what is going on with her body. I am extremely worried about her giving birth and pray its non eventful but expecting some bumps in this little journey of hers. Her mate is sometimes good with her and sometimes he irritates her so we try and keep the separated most of the day but they definitely miss each other.

  12. Deanna

    My 6 month old female dog is in heat and my male dog mate with her when I was away I want to know what to do cuz I in if not good for her health

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