Breeding a dog can be a very rewarding experience. However, the age of your female can make a big difference in the ease of the process and how well mom and puppies fare.
Once a dog reaches sexual maturity, it can get pregnant. Just because they can, doesn’t mean they should, however.
Can a 6-month old dog get pregnant?
Dogs can reach sexual maturity anywhere between 5-18 months. Females typically mature a bit slower than males. It is possible for some to get pregnant at six months, depending on when they reach their sexual maturity.
Just like humans, dogs start out their lives with an inability to reproduce. When they reach puberty, they are essentially entering doggie teens. At this point, they can reproduce, meaning a female can get pregnant.
The age when this occurs can vary greatly depending on the size and breed of your dog. Essentially, the smaller the dog, the quicker they will reach maturity.
Small females can reach maturity at 6 months of age. Large or giant breeds may not reach maturity until 18 months.
The most obvious sign of puberty is the heat cycle, which we’ll take a closer look at in a moment. There are also behavioral changes that you may notice.
Before a puppy hits puberty, they still have their puppy privileges. Other dogs are more tolerant of their behavior, as we are with children. Once they reach puberty, they smell like an adult dog.
They are then treated like an adult. They may have an adjustment period where they learn what’s socially acceptable adult dog behavior. You may also notice changes in the way they interact with you. This is perfectly normal, and just a part of growing up.
Dog Heat Cycle
A dog’s heat cycle has four stages. The first is proestrus. During this period, males will become attracted to the female, but she will not be receptive to them.
She will begin to bleed during this time, and her vulva will swell. She can’t get pregnant until she enters the next stage, but it’s time to prepare to prevent or facilitate a pregnancy.
Proestrus lasts between 7-20 days.
The next stage is estrus. This is the stage when she can get pregnant. If there are males available, she will mate with them during this time. Her bleeding may slow or stop.
She will be very preoccupied with breeding, and may lose her appetite and desire to play during this time.
Estrus lasts 5-10 days.
The next stage is diestrus. This is a transitional stage. She is either pregnant, or she has completed the reproductive stage of the heat cycle.
Diestrus can last for 10-140 days, depending on whether or not she is pregnant.
The next stage is anestrus. This is the dormant stage, when the heat cycle is finished. It typically lasts about 6 months. It ends with the beginning of a new cycle, when she enters proestrus again.
Early Pregnancy is Problematic
It’s possible for some dogs to get pregnant at 6 months old, depending on when they get their first heat cycle. However, it’s far from ideal.
Your dog is still a pup at 6 months. She is still growing herself, both mentally and physically.
Just because she is physically able to reproduce doesn’t mean she’s mature enough to do so.
There is a higher likelihood of a host of problems when a dog gets pregnant too early, which we’ll look at in the next section.
What will happen if a 6-month old dog gets pregnant?
Many dogs who get pregnant at 6 months old go on to have a healthy litter of pups. However, there are some concerns with having puppis this early.
It is not recommended to allow your female to become pregnant this early.
Higher Genetic and Temperament Risk
Responsible breeders ensure that they have healthy dogs to breed. If you breed a dog with a genetic defect, you are passing the gene on to the puppies.
In addition to the physical concerns, you’ll need to consider behavior and temperament. A dog isn’t fully itself until its an adult. Your sweet and gentle puppy could turn into an aggressive adult.
If bred before this is apparent, you have a higher risk of aggressive puppies as well.
Physical Strain on the Mother
One of the biggest concerns with breeding your dog at 6 months is that her body is not finished growing and developing. It takes a lot of energy and nutrition for your dog to physically mature.
The process of growing and feeding puppies puts a huge strain on your dog’s body, just as pregnancy and breastfeeding puts a strain on a human female.
If your pooch hasn’t completed their growth, their body may not have the resources to continue to grow when gestating and feeding their pups. This can lead to orthopedic problems and vitamin and mineral deficiencies.
The weight of the pups is also a concern. Because a females body hasn’t finished growing, the weight of carrying pups puts a strain on their body.
Higher Risk of Complications
Just like humans, dogs can have pregnancy and birth complications. The most severe of these is miscarriage. Cesarean birth is another concern. While it’s possible for a dog to have a healthy pregnancy and delivery if she gets pregnant in her first heat, the risks are higher.
Problems After Birth
There’s also a higher risk of problems after birth if the mother is too young. At 6 months, your dog is still a puppy. Gestation and birth take approximately 2 months.
This puts your female at 8 to 9 months old when the puppies are born. She is still a puppy herself, and is not mentally equipped to handle a litter.
There’s a higher chance of her rejecting the pups. She may also need more help and encouragement during birth and when caring for the puppies.
She may also accidentally injure the puppies, because she lacks the maturity and coordination of a mature mother.
No Registration for Puppies
This shouldn’t be the top concern when considering breeding your female at 6 months, but it is an important one. The AkC, which is the biggest dog registry in the world, will not register puppies from mothers under 8 months old.
If you plan to breed your dog and register the puppies, she must be at least 8 months old to do so. Of course, you can still have the puppies, but they will not be as valuable without registration.
What to Do If Your Female Gets Pregnant During Her First Heat
Accidents to happen. You may not have planned to allow your dog to breed so early. However, now she’s pregnant. What do you do?
There are two options. You can allow her to have the litter, or have an abortion. Both options have their positive and negatives.
We’ve already discussed the concerns with allowing a female to reproduce when she is still young. If you choose to keep the pregnancy, you should be sure you have the resources to care for mother and puppies in case things go awry.
Abortion also comes with risks. These will vary depending on the type of abortion. The most common method is spay. This terminates the puppies and prevents future pregnancies.
Other methods include abortion medications, which cause the pregnancy to terminate. Surgical abortion has a higher risk of complications and death, so it should be used as a last resort.
In addition to physical risks to the mother, some mothers undergo a mourning period after a pregnancy is terminated. This doesn’t occur in all dogs, and should resolve itself within a few days or weeks.
What is the best age for a dog to get pregnant?
There is no exact age when it’s best to breed your dog. However, there are some guidelines that you should be aware of.
When Is Your Female Old Enough to Breed?
Because dogs can have their first heat cycle at different times, it’s best to use the number of heats to determine when your pooch is ready for breeding.
It’s clear that you shouldn’t breed her during her first heat cycle. Experts recommend waiting until the 2nd or even 3rd heat cycle before breeding. This gives her time to grow up both physically and mentally.
Some experts prefer to give the age of 2 years. This gives all dogs the opportunity to have at least one heat cycle before breeding. It also ensures that they are mature enough for parenthood.
How Old is Too Old?
Just as your dog can be too young to have puppies, they can be too old as well.
Technically, dogs can get pregnant at any age once they have their first heat cycle. They never enter menopause the way humans do. However, they do undergo a process that is similar to premenopause for humans.
As they age, the quality of their eggs deteriorates. They also undergo genetic regression, which makes them more likely to pass on genetic defects.
The other concern with breeding a senior dog is that their body isn’t as young as it used to be. They will have less energy and be less able to cope with a pregnancy and birth than younger mothers.
The age most experts recommend for retiring a female is 8. However, this is a general guideline. Some dogs may need to be retired at 5, while others may be bred up until they are 10.
Some experts say that there’s another concern with breeding. A dog who has never had puppies shouldn’t be bred if she is over 4 or 5 years old.