A Guide to Breeding Your Dog

AKC Breeder Resources

A Guide to Breeding Your Dog
Step Seven - Perform Pre-Breeding Health Checks
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Good puppies start long before breeding ever takes place. Both parents need long-term care - what dog people call conditioning - to produce the best offspring. This means regular veterinary care, screening for genetic problems, pre-breeding tests, and regular exercise and good nutrition. Bitches should not be overweight and should have good muscle tone before breeding. Additionally, a bitch that is in good mental condition will make a better mother than a bitch that is insecure, snappy, or has an otherwise unstable temperament.

One month before breeding, the bitch should have a thorough pre-breeding physical examination by a veterinarian. Her vaccinations should be current, and she should be tested and treated for parasites.

You may also want to have the bitch and male tested for brucellosis, an infectious bacterial disease that can cause sterility or spontaneous abortion in affected dogs.

The age at which dogs reach sexual maturity depends to a large extent on their breed. Small breeds tend to mature faster than large breeds. On average, however, males become fertile after six months of age and reach full sexual maturity by 12 to 15 months. Healthy stud dogs may remain sexually active and fertile to old age. Adult males are able to mate at any time.
 
Bitches have their first estrus (also know as season or heat) after six months of age, although it can occur as late as 18 months to two years of age. Estrus recurs at intervals of approximately six months until late in life. During estrus, the female is fertile and will accept a male. The bitch should not be bred during her first season.

The bitch’s cycle is divided into four periods.

  • Proestrus: The bitch attracts males, has a bloody vaginal discharge, and her vulva is swollen. Proestrus lasts approximately nine days; the bitch, however, will not allow breeding at this time.
  • Estrus: During this period, which also lasts approximately nine days, the bitch will accept the male and is fertile. Ovulation usually occurs in the first 48 hours; however, this can vary greatly.
  • Diestrus: Lasting 60 to 90 days, diestrus is the period when the reproductive tract is under the control of the hormone progesterone. This occurs whether or not the bitch becomes pregnant. False pregnancy, a condition in which the bitch shows symptoms of being pregnant although she has not conceived, is occasionally seen during diestrus.
  • Anestrus: No sexual activity takes place. Anestrus lasts between three and four months.

Keep in mind that AKC Rules do not allow, except with special documentation, the registration of a litter out of a dam less than 8 months or more than 12 years of age at the time of mating, or by a sire less than 7 months or more than 12 years of age at the time of mating.