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How old does a dog have to be to breed?

↯ Key takeaway points

  • Dogs should be bred once they have reached full sexual maturity, which is less than one year old.
  • The age to breed a dog depends on the breed, with smaller breeds able to be bred at 6 months and larger breeds waiting until 18 months.
  • Responsible breeders wait for the female dog to be at least 18 months to breed her, while male dogs can begin breeding between 6 to 12 months.
  • It is crucial to consider the timing of breeding to not go past the prime of the female dog, as breeding too early can cause damage to the mother and weak puppies, while breeding too late can compromise the health of the dam.
  • A qualified stud dog should pass all health examinations before the first stud service, and a female dog's readiness and fertility is controlled by her body's hormonal cycle.
Breeding Business is passionate about all sorts of domesticated pets. They have written dozens of articles across the web.
Taimoor is a well-traveled practicing veterinarian performing duties related to pet care, staff supervision, laboratory work, and diagnoses.
Published on
Tuesday 4 December 2018
Last updated on
Thursday 15 June 2023
How old does a dog have to be to breed?
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Dogs should breed once they have reached full sexual maturity which is a little less than one year old. The age in which to breed a dog, whether male or female, depends on the breed of the dog. Smaller breeds tend to sexually mature earlier and can be bred at 6 months. Whereas, larger breeds should wait until 18 months.

Male dogs can begin breeding between 6 to 12 months of age. Female dogs should be bred later than males, at least after their first heat cycle. Responsible breeders wait for the bitch to be at least 18 months to breed her.

Bear in mind that these are average numbers, not absolute. Therefore, some male dogs may be able to breed younger than 6 months for example. Determining the best age of fertility in dogs depends on several other factors. These include the dog’s health, age, and size.

While bitches do not experience menopause, female dogs lose their fertility after a certain age. Therefore, it is crucial to consider the timing of breeding to not go past their prime. Breeding too early can cause damages to the mother and end up with weak puppies. Breeding a dog too late can compromise the health of the dam.

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.

Male Dogs

Generally, male dogs become sexually mature earlier than their female counterparts. In that, they are capable earlier. Some dogs may be able to sire as early as 5 months, usually smaller breeds. Then, there are dogs who won’t be fertile until after 2 years of age in the case of a larger dog breed.

Once mature, studs are able to mate every day of their life. Yet, this should not be done to avoid what is called the popular sire syndrome.

Before mating your male dog, you must ensure that he has hit puberty and is fertile. Veterinarians can assist in determining his fertility with a range of exams and physical assessments. Make sure he has reached the age of puberty between 6 to 12 months and also ensure that he is in perfect health. Is he showing signs of interest in mating with other females? These are factors to watch for. Most male dogs will be truly fertile by 1 year old.


Sexual & Body Maturities

However, although a stud is ready to breed before 1 year of age, it is not advisable to breed a stud so early. It is recommended to wait between the age of 1 and 2 years of age for a male dog due to his immaturity level.

A young dog before 1 year still needs time to develop, and for this reason, may not reach his full maturity until the year-and-a-half mark. Once a stud hits this age, they continue to stay fertile until the end of their life. Some male dogs are even known to mate up to 5 times in one day (we do NOT recommend that). Once they are ready, they are extremely agile and can perform very well.

Health Clearances

A qualified stud dog ready to breed should pass all health examinations before the first stud service. The stud must be free of disease and physically fit to mount a female and perform the actual act of mating. However, with age, a male dog can begin to lose his physical abilities. You can obtain high-quality sperm through harvesting and an artificial insemination sperm collection kit if your dog is a very popular champion.

It is very detrimental to breed a dog during old age. For one, the male dog begins to lose viability as well as the vitality and motility of his sperm as he ages. In general, sperm count tends to be low in the very beginning of a dog’s sexual maturity and at the very end. Second, after a dog has bred past his prime, he begins to produce overall genetically weaker litters than the ones he produced at a younger age.

Female Dogs

Dams should be mated a little later than male dogs due to their heat cycles. As opposed to male dogs who are ready to mate at any time, a female’s readiness and fertility is controlled by her body’s hormonal cycle.

Bitch Heat Cycle Chart
Diagram showing two normal heat cycles, one after the other.

Female Heat Cycle

Despite her reaching sexual maturity at 6 months, it is not advisable to mate a female dog after her first heat cycle. Instead, it should happen around 18 months to be on the safe side. This age marks a female’s prime time in which she is highly fertile and since her fertility at this age is really high.


A female dog will go into heat usually about four times a year, but this number can vary. Generally, smaller breeds will cycle more regularly than larger breeds.


Depending on the stage of her heat cycle, your female dog will show noticeable signs of when it is best to introduce her to a male partner. Vaginal bleeding will be the first sign in which a dog has entered her heat cycle as well as swelling in the vulva. This will last around two to three weeks and she will be more attractive to the opposite sex, yet not be inclined to mate with them until 7 to 10 days after. Females at this stage may even exhibit signs of aggressiveness.

As this cycle reaches its end, the bleeding with subside and they will show greater interest in mating and when they are receptive is when a male partner should be introduced. In general, most females will become receptive around the 11th day to the 13th day of the cycle. You can tell when she begins to flag her tail and push her way towards the male that she is ready.

Just like in males, a female’s ability to mate begins to waver with age. A bitch’s fertility sharply declines after 5 years of age. From then on, her body is less capable of handling the physical demands of pregnancy. The regularity of the estrus cycle also declines from four times a year to just once or twice; resulting in abnormal heats.

Furthermore, getting a bitch pregnant after her prime time will often result in stillborn and absorbed puppies and premature labor. Additionally, it sharply decreases the overall puppy count in the produced litters of pups.

What are the correct reasons for breeding?

Whether you sell your puppies, give them to friends, or keep them for yourself, remember that a responsible breeder’s goal should always be to help improve the breed.

Breeding should not be about you, or making money, but should be about the dogs. Take your time to think it through, and do what’s best for you, your family, and, most of all, your dog.

We think good reasons to breed are because:

  • You believe that your dog has a good pedigree (family tree) and has good genes that are worth being passed on
  • You want to produce puppies that will improve the breed, whether that’s that they are healthier, have an outstanding personality (known as temperament), or look a certain way (known as conformation) and meet the breed standard
  • You want to make a positive difference in the breed
  • To continue your line of pedigree dogs

4 comments on “How old does a dog have to be to breed?”

  1. barb

    I have a 6 year old male Min. Dachshund that I would like to breed. Is he past his prime? Should I bevworried about fertility issues? I have also heard that older male dogs might produce genetically weak litters or pups with other problems? Realistically, does he have any good years left to be a stud?

  2. Roy McCrea

    My male Norwegian Elk Hound will be 1 year old end of June 2021. A lady has a 3 year old female which will be in heat sometime in July. Is my dog to young to breed? When would it be a good age for breeding? Thank you.

  3. Aly

    Hi I have a 9 month female American aikita and a 2yr old German shepherd boy who I want to breed the boy is ready but I don’t know about the girl plz advise me further thanks

  4. Sarah

    I have a 2 year old male mini Labradoodle and an 11 month old female mini labradoodle. She is currently in her second heat, is now an okay time to breed them?

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