What Is The Best Age To Breed A Female Dog?

At what age do female dogs become ready for mating? And is there an "optimal" age for breeding? This article focuses on these, as well as other related aspects to breeding.

best age to breed female dog

Are you wondering whether you should or shouldn’t breed your dog?

And if you do – what age is appropriate?

Whatever you decide in the end, it’s important to be familiar with the basic facts when it comes to dog breeding. Appropriate age is one of these facts.

If you have a female dog you have an important decision to make – if you should breed your dog or not. This is a rather complex issue and there are a lot of things to consider before you decide. So today, we’re focusing on the female dog and her maturity when it comes to breeding.

So, first of fall, let’s explain a couple of things regarding the dog’s oestrous cycle and her maturity process.

When Do Female Dogs Reach Sexual Maturity?

In general, female dogs reach puberty or sexual maturity around the age of six months. However, this can vary a lot, depending on the breed and dog. Some dogs, usually the smaller breeds, can have their first heat cycle already at the age of four months. Other breeds though, the large and giant ones, can take up to two years before they reach sexual maturity.

It’s important to distinguish sexual maturity from physical maturity. Sexual comes before the physical maturity and shouldn’t be taken as a sign that the dog is ready for breeding. But more about that later!

How Often Do Female Dogs Come In Heat?

This usually happens twice a year, but it can also vary a lot. For some females, three or four heat cycles can be completely normal. In addition, the cycles can be very irregular in the beginning and the time between them can be different every time, until the cycle becomes regular. For some females this can take up to two years.

In general, smaller breeds cycle more regularly than what larger breeds do. Some small breeds cycle three or four times per year, while the largest breeds (Great Danes, St Bernard’s etc.) usually cycle every twelve months. Some can even go up to 18 months between the cycles.

What Signs Indicate An Oestrous Cycle?

The most visible sign of your female dog being in heat is vaginal bleeding. However, it can take a couple of days before this becomes noticeable. Vulvar swelling is therefore the first sign that the heating cycle has begun, alongside the increased attention to her rear end – usually manifested through licking.

The cycle usually lasts two to three weeks, but this too can vary. From the beginning, the females will be attractive to male dogs, but they won’t be interested or allow mating until 7-10 days later. As the cycles approaches its end, they bleed less and become more receptive.

Another possible sign is small quantities of urine passed more frequently. As the the urine contains both pheromones and hormones, it can be a sign to interested males that the female will be receptive soon.

The stages of the oestrous cycle can roughly be presented the following way:

  • Week 1. The vulva begins to swell and the dog starts producing a bloody discharge. The amount is different for every dog.
  • Week 2. Around nine to twelve days in, the color of the discharge lightens and becomes more pink. Around that time the eggs are released from the ovaries. She becomes ready to accept a male.
  • Week 3. If the heat cycle is uninterrupted, the discharge becomes bloody again. It will slowly trail off until the heat cycle ends.

How Do You Know When To Mate Your Dog?

This can be rather tricky, as ovulation can occur both early and late during the cycle. In general, most females will be receptive around the eleventh day, when the discharge isn’t as bloody and the female is looking for a mater.

There are two tests that your vet can take, it you want to determine when the best time to mate your dog is.

  • Vaginal smear test. A simple examination of vaginal cells, in order to detect changes in cell appearance and numbers. It’s not an invasive test and it’s pretty reliable when it comes to predicting ovulation.
  • Serum progesterone test. Measure the progesterone level in the blood. It has become very popular because of its accuracy in predicting successful times for matins, especially for females with a history of unsuccessful mating.

Signs That It’s Time To Breed

If you notice any of the following signs, your female dog is most likely ready to be bread:

  • General flirty behavior
  • Pushing up rear when you pet her on the back
  • Tail held high and flagging
  • Color change in discharge, from red to pinkish
  • Frequently presenting her vulva

Having presented all these facts, let’s get to the question that brought you here:

When Is The Female Dog Ready For Breeding?

A female dog shouldn’t be bred before she goes through her second or third cycle. As we could see, the time between the cycles can be very different from dog to dog. However, it’s very rear that she goes though her third cycle before she’s one year old. As a rule, females shouldn’t be bred before that.

When it comes to male dogs, they begin producing sperm when they’re approximately 6 months old, but they’re not sexually mature until somewhere between 12 and 15 months of age.

What Is The Best Breeding Age?

Even though both female and male dogs reach puberty already at the age of 6 months, it doesn’t mean they’re mature for breeding. In other words, just because she can doesn’t mean she should. It’s very important for the female dog to be fully matured before breeding, as early breeding can lead to both physical problems and negative behaviors. Give your dog a chance to “grow up”.

Another reason why you should wait before your dog is ready is some potential health problem, such as hip dysplasia, which sometimes doesn’t become apparent before the dog is completely mature. This is why it’s important to wait until the dog reaches total maturity, so you know what genetic predispositions your dog carries.

When you’re breeding your dog you want to improve the chances of the puppy being healthy as much as you can, right? And this is impossible to do before a certain age, as you can’t complete the basic breeding related health screenings until the dog is physically mature, which is usually around 24 months.

These screenings include sexually transmitted diseases, diseases that might be passed to puppies congenitally and other genetic problems. Simply put – screenings for problems that might affect other dogs if the mating were to happen. This is why an ordinary vet check isn’t enough when you want to determine if your dog is healthy for breeding.

To sum it up – it’s difficult to determine an “optimal” age for breeding, but it’s vital that the dog is completely mature before. Of course, they shouldn’t be “too mature” either. Female dogs shouldn’t be bred when they’re older than 12 years, as the breeding and whelping process can be very tiring and take a physical toll on older dogs.

Conclusion

If you decide to breed your female dog, it’s important to be aware of all the facts mentioned above. So, waiting for your dog to be completely mature is crucial when it comes to breeding your dog, both for health and psychological reasons.

Even though dogs reach sexual maturity as early as at the age of six months, their full physical maturity comes some time after. Therefore, it’s recommended to wait until the dog has been through two or three heat cycles before she’s ready for breeding. Even though the cycles vary from dog to dog, they’re usually considered fully ready around the age of two.

Finally, it’s very important to understand that every dog is different and should be treated that way. Some dogs reach maturity earlier than others, so you have to know when your dog is completely mature and act accordingly.

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