How old does a dog have to be to breed?

How old does a dog have to be to breed?

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 which. 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.

Signs

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.

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