Responsible Breeding Steps

8 – Wait for your bitch to come into Season

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.

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

The bitch's cycle is divided into four periods.
  • Proestrus: The female attracts males, has a bloody vaginal discharge and her vulva is swollen. Proestrus lasts approximately nine days; the female, however, will not allow coitus at this time.


  • Estrus: During this period, which also lasts approximately nine days, the female 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.

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