Dog Whelping Timeline: The Dog Breeding Cycle From Mating To Delivery

Dog Whelping Timeline: The Dog Breeding Cycle From Mating To Delivery

Let us guide you through the process of actual dog breeding with this whelping timeline, from heat and mating, all the way to the delivery of a litter of puppies.

In this comprehensive article, we explain you each major stage of the canine reproduction, gestation and whelping and when appropriate, we add a picture, chart, video or link so you can learn more on the matter. The dog breeding cycle is mainly composed of the below stages:

  1. Heat — period where the female dog is fertile and ready to breed
  2. Mating — coitus happening between the male and the female
  3. Pregnancy — a dog’s pregnancy lasts 63 days on average
  4. Labour — the female dog’s body gets ready to give birth
  5. Delivery — puppies are coming to this world and placenta passed
  6. Nursing — for weeks, the mother now has to care for her whelps

If you want to be present for your bitch’s whelping day and delivery, check out how to prepare your very own whelping kit! We’ve added a perpetual 63-day whelping chart that you can use to figure you an approximate due date for your litter.

Is my girl in heat?

Heat begins at the first stage of the canine estrus cycle, called proestrus.

There are several cases where your bitch will have abnormal heat cycles and these have to be treated case by case.

Bitch Heat Cycle Diagram
Diagram showing two heat cycles, back to back.

Whelping Day -75: Proestrus Begins

There are several signs to look for to know when your bitch is starting her heat cycle, we list them below but you can check out our article titled “5 Signs That Your Female Is In Heat”.

  • Bright red blood discharges start
  • Pink or pinkish swollen vulva
  • Increase in urination
  • Raised male interest but no mating wanted yet
  • Tail flagging
  • Mood changes and swings

You should watch the video below to get extra tips on how to spot dog heat symptoms and make sure you stash yourself some dog diapers; they are of great help to control the initially bright red bleeding!

Whelping Day -63: Mating Can Occur

The canine copulation has two distinct stages, the first one see the male penetrating the female, and the second stage starts when the ejaculation occurs and they remain tied.

First Stage of the Coitus

Mating occurs during the estrus stage of the heat cycle. The male licks the vulva, the bitch stands with the tail to one side. The male mounts, dismounts, and turns. He remains “tied” to the female.

Dog Mating First Stage Coitus
First stage of the coitus between a male and a female dog.

Second Stage of the Coitus

Ejaculation occurs. The male remains tied to the female for 5 minutes to an hour. This can be painful for the male as his penis is not in an ideal position, but you’ve got to let them be and stay around to reassure both dogs.

Dog Coitus, The Tie
The first stage of the coitus, called the tie.

You can learn some more detailed and scientific facts about the canine reproduction here.

Whelping Day -44: Implantation of Embryos

The embryos are implanted in the uterus.

The implantation is the process involving the attachment, penetration, and embedding of the fertilized egg in the lining of the uterine wall during the early stages of prenatal development.

Implantation of Embryos Dogs
Implantation of Embryos (Credits: National Geographic)

Whelping Day -38

Puppies Develop in Uterus

This picture shows two puppies formed inside the uterus. The view is the end of one uterine horn. You can even see the ovary at the upper left most tip.

Days 26 – 32 are the best days to feel for the puppies if you are experienced.

Puppies Development in the Uterus
Puppies Development in the Uterus

Foetus Wrapped in Placenta

A fetus wrapped inside its fetal membranes with the placenta visible around the middle section. The placenta interfaces with the uterine wall to provide nourishment to the fetus.

The development of eyes and spinal cords starts but embryos are at the most susceptible to defects during these days, because of the organogenesis (cells starting to form the internal organs.)

Puppy Fetus Wrapped in Placenta
Fetus Wrapped in Placenta

Foetus Exposed

The outer membrane has been removed here to reveal the fetus encased inside its amniotic sac.

Faces start to be shaped and each fetus grows from 5-10 mm to 14-15 mm.

Puppy Fetus Exposed
The Fetus Exposed

Placenta: Source of Nourishment

This view of the fetus lying unwrapped from, and next to its placenta. This photo reveals the rich vascular structure of the placenta and the umbilical vessels.

Dog Placenta Source of Nourishment for the Puppy
The Placenta Is a Source of Nourishment

Whelping Day -33: Confirm Pregnancy by Touch

The puppy embryos implant themselves in the two horns of the uterus. About days 26 to 35 following fertilization these “locules” can be felt on the lower belly of the bitch. Detecting the locules later is difficult due to continued enlargement.

Confirm Pregnancy by Touch
This is what goes on under the hood.

Whelping Day -17: The Bitch Looks Pregnant

By now the bitch is looking pregnant.

Her nipples are enlarged and may darken. Her abdomen continues to grow in size and she may shed abdominal hair.

Bitch Looks Pregnant
The Bitch Looks Pregnant

Whelping Day -8: Final Development Stage

At 55 days, the body and brains of the puppy fetuses are in their final developmental stages, with the abdomen hair starting to shed.

Dog In the Womb
Photo credit © David Barlow Photography

Few fetal movements can be detected by touching the bitch when she is at rest, and the puppies can safely be born from now on.

Whelping Day -1: Temperature Drops

Breeders will monitor, and often plot, the temperature of the bitch as whelping nears. Upon commencement of labor, her temperature drops from approximately 101 deg to 98 or lower. This is a very good indicator that whelping will begin within 24 hours. Make sure you have a working dog thermometer.

Whelping Day

The First Puppy Emerges

As vaginal pressure builds, the bitch may feel an urge to eliminate (some may rush to their usual exit door). Vomiting is a possibility. The water sac will typically appear first as a bubble at the vulva.

The First Puppy Emerges
The First Puppy Emerges

Delivery of the Puppies

Nature takes its course. Humans offer helping hands.

Whelping Day +1: Mom Rests, Whelps Feast

Mom and the puppies are all cleaned up. Mom gets some well-deserved rest, while the puppies nurse.

A Rest for Mom, Dinner for her Whelps
Well-deserved rest for mom!

Once the puppies are here, with us, it is a whole new story that we have to write with them. Hopefully, you found this post useful, do not hesitate to share it with anybody interested in the topic and if you want to learn more, check out The Dog Breeder’s Handbook, our bestseller.