The decision whether to breed from your dog can be a tricky one, and deserves a lot of careful thought. You should only consider breeding from a healthy dog, with a good temperament. Before considering breeding, you need to have your dog checked by a veterinarian and tested for any health conditions they may pass on to the puppies.
If you’re thinking about breeding from your bitch or dog, then it’s crucial that you plan well in advance. Researching each stage of the process, from when to breed your dog to care of the puppies, will ensure you are prepared and well equipped for responsible breeding.
Read on for answers around the question ‘how old is too old for a dog to have puppies?’.
At what age do female dogs become sexually mature?
Female dogs, or bitches, tend to reach sexual maturity between the ages of 6 and 18 months of age. This is when they will have their first season. Smaller breeds tend to come into season earlier than later breeds. It’s important to note that the first season may be ‘silent’, with no obvious bleeding or other signs.
At what age can dogs start to have puppies?
Despite coming into season at such a young age, you must never breed from a bitch at their first season. It is really important to ensure your bitch is fully developed and mature themselves before considering breeding. Even the reproductive system itself is not yet fully developed at the first season.
Breeding a bitch too young can cause dangerous problems during pregnancy, as well as issues with the pups. Because of this, the general recommendation is that bitches don’t give birth, or whelp, until they are 2 years old.
What is the best age to breed a female dog?
A bitch shouldn’t have their first litter beyond the age of 5 years. This is because first time pregnancies over the age of five carry higher risks to the bitch. So, the best time for a bitch to have puppies is between 2 and 5 years of age.
How many litters should a dog have?
The general consensus is that bitches should not have more than 4 litters, nor more than 1 litter in any 12-month period. Any more than this is considered harmful to the bitch’s welfare, and possibly health.
It is not advisable to breed again from a dog who has needed a caesarian section in their previous pregnancy. This is because there is a high possibility that the bitch would need a caesarian again. The puppies may also experience similar problems, if bred from.
What is the oldest a female dog can have puppies?
Dogs are different from women, and they don’t go through a menopause. This means that bitches have the potential to become pregnant into old age. Of course, this is not advisable, and pregnancy can be very dangerous for an elderly bitch, especially if it’s their first pregnancy.
It is generally not advisable to breed from a bitch over 5 years for the first time, nor a bitch over 8 years at all. If you are considering breeding outside of this age range, please consult your veterinarian for advice before making a decision.
Signs your female dog is too old for puppies
Bitches over 8 years old should not be mated from. However, every bitch is different, and for some bitches this age may be lower.
As bitches age, their seasons can become ‘silent’. This means they no longer show outward physical or behavioral signs of being in season. Once this happens, it is no longer sensible to breed from them.
As they age, if your bitch develops any medical conditions, including arthritis, then you should no longer consider breeding from them. The health of your dog and their pups could be at risk if you do.
At what age do male dogs become sexually mature?
Dogs start to become sexually mature around 6 months of age, but only reach full sexual maturity around 12 – 18 months. The exact timing depends on breed and individual variation.
It’s important to wait until your male dog is fully mature before breeding from them. This also ensures you have an accurate idea of their health and temperament status before considering breeding.
What is the oldest a male dog can sire puppies?
Healthy male dogs can remain sexually active and fertile for most of their lives. However, sperm count and quality can decrease with age. There is no fixed age at which a male dog should stop breeding. Usually, dogs should be considered retired from mating at 8 – 10 years.
Signs your male dog is too old for breeding
A dog’s sexual interest may decline with age, so if they are no longer showing interest in female dogs, this can be a sign they are too old for breeding. Sperm quality and quantity can decrease with age too.
If your dog develops arthritis, or other mobility problems, then they may struggle with the physical act of mating. If your dog develops any medical condition as they age, then it is no longer advisable to breed from them.
How long should you wait to breed a dog again?
Biologically speaking, a bitch could get pregnant at each season, which tend to be around 6 months apart (although this is breed-dependent). However, you should never breed from a bitch at two consecutive seasons.
Pregnancy, whelping and lactation all put the body under a huge amount of strain, and so a bitch must be allowed to recover between litters. The minimum recommended gap between pregnancies is 12 months.
Before breeding from your dog, you should consider whether you have the time and money for the veterinary care, any emergency treatment that may be needed (such as a caesarian) and caring for the puppies properly. Consider whether your dog is fit, healthy and has a good temperament. You should always consult your veterinarian before considering breeding from your dog.
Breeding from your dog can be a hugely rewarding experience. However, there is a lot of preparation and planning involved. It’s a good idea to consider the hundreds of dogs already waiting for homes in rescue centers when making the decision. Breeding your dog is a huge time and financial commitment, so the decision should never be taken lightly.
Dr Sarah-Jane has always wanted to be a veterinarian, and eventually realised her dream when she graduated in 2009. Since then, she’s worked in a variety of small animal clinics, including charity work. She now helps her practice on the managerial side of things whilst she raises her family, looks after her cat and dogs, and writes.