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When Is a Female Dog Ready To Breed?

↯ Key takeaway points

  • The best age to breed a female dog depends on the dog's size
  • The breeding window is during the estrus stage of the heat cycle
  • Stop breeding a female dog after she reaches 6 years old or when there is a sharp decline in her puppy count
  • Back to back breeding can be healthier for the dog's uterus, but it's important to let the dog rest in between pregnancies to avoid stress on her body.
Breeding Business is passionate about all sorts of domesticated pets. They have written dozens of articles across the web.
Zoo and wildlife doctor in veterinary medicine passionate about animal welfare and preventive medicine.
Published on
Tuesday 14 March 2017
Last updated on
Tuesday 23 May 2023
When Is a Female Dog Ready To Breed?
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A female dog will be ready to breed after her second heat at every estrus stage of her heat cycle. In other words, a dog breeder should let the first two heats pass so the bitch may be bred at her third heat cycle if she has been cleared from any health concern.

The third heat in a bitch is usually the start of her prime time in terms of fertility in dog breeding. Her body and support system are fully ready to go through the hardships of pregnancy and nursing. Her hormone levels, precisely progesterone levels, have now reached the optimum level to facilitate a successful mating as well as preparing the uterus for the healthy growth of each embryo.

Many people getting started with dog breeding are wondering when is a female dog ready to breed? — and it’s a loaded question! The above is a simplified answer that can serve as a guideline.

What is the best age to breed a dog?


Generally, a year and a half or two years old are the right time to breed your bitch. She will have reached full sexual maturity and is now able to cope with a tough pregnancy. However, the best age to breed a dog depends on the dog’s size:

  • small dog breeds have more frequent heat cycles, often three or four times a year
  • large dog breeds have less frequent heat cycles, usually two or even one a year

Therefore, recommending an age is difficult since the numbers mean different things for each breed. However, we do recommend waiting for the third heat to start breeding your female dog.

What day of her heat should I breed my bitch?

The reproductive cycle of a female dog consists of two distinct stages, each lasting an average of 9 days:

  1. Proestrus: During this stage, the female dog experiences the start of blood discharges and is not yet receptive to males.
  2. Estrus: In this stage, the female dog’s eggs are released from her ovaries, progesterone levels begin to rise, and she becomes receptive to males.

The estrus stage is the period when a female dog will accept males for mating, with the hope of achieving pregnancy. To determine if a female dog is ready to mate, you can observe certain signs. For example, if she has a flagging tail and lowers her body in the presence of a male, it indicates she is likely ready.

It is also possible to obtain a more precise fertility assessment by consulting your veterinarian for progesterone checks. These checks involve blood tests to monitor hormonal changes in your dog. Your veterinarian will provide guidance on the optimal day to organize mating or artificial insemination based on these test results

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

When is a female dog too old to breed?

Female dogs do not experience menopause like human females do. Instead, their fertility gradually declines over time, and each litter they have tends to be smaller with a higher risk of mortality for the puppies. It is difficult to determine an exact age, but responsible dog breeders generally stop breeding their female dogs (known as Dams) after they reach 6 years old.

Another way to determine when it’s the right time to stop breeding your female dog is by observing a significant decrease in the number of puppies she has. If, from the age of two to five, she consistently had litters with 6-8 puppies, it is advisable to stop breeding her when she falls below her average litter size.

It is important to stop breeding an older female dog even if she can still get pregnant because her overall energy level and health are not what they used to be. Even if she is technically capable of carrying puppies, her body may struggle to handle a difficult pregnancy due to the changes in her support system.

Contrary to expectations, breeding a female dog consecutively without giving her a break appears to be beneficial for her uterus. However, it is important to remember that a female dog is more than just a uterus and should be considered holistically

Back to back breeding is better for the bitch's uterus.
Surprisingly, breeding a bitch back to back seems to be healthier for the bitch’s uterus. However, a bitch is not just a uterus.

How many times can you breed a female dog?


A female dog, depending on her breed, can have two or three pregnancies every year. However, having so many pregnancies in quick succession can put a significant strain on her body and harm her overall health.

It is recommended to breed a female dog from her third heat cycle and stop breeding her at around six years old. Now, let’s address the question of how frequently a female dog should be bred. There are two different viewpoints when it comes to determining the optimal number of pregnancies, particularly regarding back-to-back breeding. We have written a comprehensive article on this topic, which reveals some surprising facts and findings.

When a dog breeder practices back-to-back breeding, it means they breed their female dog in consecutive heat cycles without giving her a break. However, this approach often leads to retiring the female dog from breeding at an earlier stage. On the other hand, the more common and recommended approach is to allow the female dog to have at least a year and a half of rest between each pregnancy. This helps to ensure her well-being and reproductive health

Learn more about breeding dogs on our Dog Breeding 101 page or download our bestselling dog breeding guide.

10 comments on “When Is a Female Dog Ready To Breed?”

  1. How many times maximum would you allow the ‘tie’ to take place during the estrus cycle? One breeder told me she let’s the male and female be together during this time and do it as often as they will do.

    Is that ok to let them do it as often as they want to?

    1. There is no maximum, per se. Just make sure the female and male are not too drained or exhausted but otherwise, let them be ;)

      If another male is around, the female may have a litter with puppies from one Sire and other puppies from the other Stud.

      1. Yes that is a very high possibility and you then therefore can’t register the 1 litter as it constitutes breaking g your code of ethics.Very important if you want to become a reputable and respectable breeder!!

    2. No I believe you should be present at all times. Have the time and date for at least two ties noted and how long each tie ladted!Randvaal team.

    3. Sadie Smith

      i need to breed my bisho female in Hassiburg pa.

  2. Debra Dvorak

    Could you tell me if I can give vitamins to my pregnant bitch and what her diet should be if she is little overweight during her pregnancy.

  3. ilka curtis

    We have a 7th month old German Shorthaired Pointer female and tossing up whether to breed her or desex her. What will happen to her temperament if we breed her.

  4. sandy beaubien

    how late can the female still conceive. . my female we didn’t want caught just got caught and I thought she was done. she wasn’t bleeding anymore.

  5. sandy kerhin

    My bitch is English cream and American GR, a beautiful girl and turning 4 soon. I have been debating for 2 years if I should breed her or not, so she hasn’t been spayed. With all the work involved and being 74 now I worry it might be too much work for me, and what if I lose her? All the “what if’s” go through my head. At this point I’m about 95% sure I’m not going to. Now my big question is ” should she be spayed?” I have noticed several heats now that several months after her heat she’s scratching the floor, carrying her toy puppy around the house following me and whining. This can last up to a week; she’s also had several accidents in the house which is not her. Vet said it’s her hormones (like a false pregnancy) and it is annoying, but knowing what it is and that this will pass is reassuring. But what about her health-wise? Is it healthier she be spayed if I’m not going to breed her? Thank you.

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