If you want to breed your dog, or she’s recently given birth to a litter, you will be wondering how many times she can give birth. We’ll take a look at how often she can give birth, as well as how often she should give birth without compromising her health.
How many times can a dog give birth in a year?
Dog heat cycles vary from breed to breed, and even dog to dog. A dog can get pregnant every time she comes into heat, but that doesn’t mean that she should do so.
How Many Litters a Year Can a Dog Have?
The general consensus is most dogs can give birth twice a year. However, some dogs can have three litters a year. The average dog will have a heat cycle every six months, which would make two litters a year the maximum. However, some dogs can have 3 heat cycles a year, making it possible, although unlikely, for them to have 3 litters in one year.
Does Birth Affect the Heat Cycle?
No. Unlike human females, the dog’s reproductive cycle isn’t interrupted by pregnancy and birth. When a woman gets pregnant, her reproductive cycle stops. It will not return until after birth. If she is breastfeeding, the return of her cycle may be delayed by a year or even longer.
A woman’s body produces hormones that prevent her cycle from returning while she is caring for a newborn. This allows her to focus her energy and attention on the new child, instead of preparing for another. It also gives her body time to recover from pregnancy and birth.
Dogs, however, do not have this built-in limitation. You can expect your dog’s heat cycle to remain regular, regardless of pregnancy and birth. If she follows the average heat cycle of 6 months, she will go into heat 6 months after her last heat, even if the heat resulted in pregnancy and puppies.
If she has a heat cycle every 6 months, you can expect her to go into heat about 4 months after giving birth.
When Can a Dog Have Her First Litter?
Experts recommend waiting between 1-2 years before breeding your female. Some recommend waiting even longer, but evidence suggests that may not lead to a better outcome.
One large-scale study found that dogs who have their first litter later than 2 years old are 2.4 more likely to have a difficult birth than those bred between 1 and 2 years old.
It’s generally considered best to allow your dog to have at least one heat cycle before breeding. This gives her time to develop emotionally and physically and prepare for pregnancy and birth.
How Often Should You Breed A Female Dog?
Since your dog will go into heat regardless of recent pregnancy and birth, it’s up to you to be sure she has recovered fully before allowing her to have another litter.
Conventional wisdom said that you needed to wait for at least one heat cycle between breedings. Many breeders suggest waiting 18 months to 2 years between breeding to ensure your dog has plenty of time to recover. However, recent research suggests we may be doing it all wrong.
Back to Back Breeding
Back-to-back breeding was once shunned by canine lovers everywhere. Some kennel clubs would only allow owners to register one litter a year, to prevent owners from breeding more often. What does science say?
It turns out that breeding a dog every heat cycle is essentially the equivalent of a woman giving birth every two years, in terms of stress to the body and recovery time. So, breeding each cycle will not put undue strain on a dog in most circumstances, as long as she is healthy and her nutritional needs are met.
So, breeding back to back or skipping a cycle both seem like valid options, until you learn about progesterone. When a dog has a heat cycle, progesterone levels remain high for 2 months, regardless of whether or not she is pregnant.
Progesterone has an inflammatory effect on the uterus. The uterine lining thickens, and this increases the risk of pyometra and endometriosis.
Women shed their uterine lining each month with their period. Dogs, however, only shed their uterine lining with pregnancy. With each heat cycle that doesn’t produce a pregnancy, the thickened uterine lining grows bigger. It becomes less elastic and which can create fertility problems.
There’s another reason to consider breeding your dog back to back. Spaying can reduce the risk of some cancers and pyometra. However, your dog cannot be spayed until she is finished breeding. Breeding her with every heat cycle allows you to reach the limit of litters she should have faster. You can then spay her earlier, reducing the risk of cancer.
Spaying can reduce the risk of mammary cancer, for example, when performed by 4 years of age. Breeding back to back and spaying also reduce the risk of pseudopregnancy.
While a pseudopregnancy may seem harmless, it increases the risk of mammary cancer as well. Your dog’s body goes through many of the functions of pregnancy, including weight gain and enlarged teets.
It can also be emotionally taxing for your dog. She will believe she’s pregnant, and she may spend time nesting, preparing for a litter that will never come.
When Is Breeding Early Not the Best Choice?
There are some cases where it’s better to breed your dog later. Some dog diseases can’t be detected early, including Addison’s disease and seizures. If your pooch is at a high risk for these disorders, you may want to wait to breed her, to ensure she won’t be passing on these diseases to offspring.
Other reasons are not health-related. If you want your dog to be titled, you may wait until after they’ve been titled before breeding.
When Should You Not Breed Back to Back?
Breeding back to back is ideal in many cases. However, you must look at your dog’s individual situation and health. It’s best to consult a reproductive vet before breeding your dog. Even if you’ve had her examined in the past, it’s best to get an evaluation before each pregnancy.
To ensure your dog is healthy enough to breed, be sure she gets adequate nutrition. Exercise is also important, because pregnancy can cause your dog to lose muscle tone.
How many times can a dog give birth in their lifetime?
Because dogs reproductive systems are different than humans, they can have a surprising number of litters in their lifetime. However, there’s a big difference between can and should.
The Number of Litters a Dog Can Have
A dog can theoretically have up to 14 litters in her lifetime. This is assuming she is bred twice a year until 8-9 years of age. Dogs older than 9 can still get pregnant, but the chances of a healthy pregnancy decrease. Fertility also decreases, and time between heat cycles is often longer as she reaches old age.
How Many Litters Should A Dog Have?
The recommended number of litters is 3-4. One reason for this is timing. A dog shouldn’t be bred past 8 or 9 years of age. If you are spacing out the pregnancies to once a year or even once every 2 years, which is often recommended, this limits the pregnancies to 3-4.
If you follow the method of back-to-back breeding, there’s not a set limit. However, the idea is to breed your dog often, and then have her fixed to reduce risks of health problems in the future. Ideally, the female will be retired and spayed by 4, which would still provide about 4 litters.
How many puppies can a dog have?
The number of puppies a dog can have will vary based on breed, age, and other factors. Still, there are some averages that can be helpful.
In One Litter
The number of puppies in one litter is usually between 2-12, with 5-6 puppies being average. However, it’s possible for a dog to have up to 17 puppies in one litter.
German Shepards average 8 pups per litter, with the largest known litter to be 17 puppies. Litters typically range from 1-15. Golden retrievers tie the record, with 17 puppies being the max as well. They average 8 puppies for litter, with a typical litter size being 4-12.
Larger breeds have more puppies, because their bodies are equipped to carry more. A small dog has little room for puppies. Even though chihuahua pups are much smaller than Great Dane pups, the size gap isn’t enough to make up for the small size of the mother.
Over a Lifetime
If a dog were to breed 14 times during their lives, and average 5 pups a litter, they would produce 70 pups over their lifetime. While this is theoretically possible, it certainly isn’t a good idea.
It’s likely that the female would have problems with later pregnancies, which could include smaller litter size or stillborn pups. She may also lose her fertility due to excessive breeding.
A dog bred 4 times during their lifetime would give 20 pups based on the average of five pups in a litter. However, litter size can vary greatly even among dogs of the same breed. The same dog may have a smaller litter size with her first pregnancy, and larger subsequent litters.
These factors make it nearly impossible to give a concrete number of puppies the mother could have.
Of course, any responsible breeder will focus on the health of the mother and the puppies, not how many puppies the mother can have. Dogs are not assembly lines, where the production can be ramped up to meet demand.
How quickly can a dog get pregnant after giving birth?
This is determined by her last heat cycle. Most dogs will go into heat every 6 months, but this can vary. Some small breeds go into heat 3 times a year, or every 3-4 months. Larger breeds may only have one heat cycle a year.
Assuming she has a 6 month cycle, she can get pregnant about 4 months after giving birth. A pregnancy lasts from 63-67 days, or a little over 2 months.
Weaning typically starts at 3-4 weeks after the puppies are born, and should be completed by 6-8 weeks. Some mothers with smaller litters may breastfeed beyond this time, but it is for comfort instead of meeting the pups’ nutritional needs. Most dogs can get pregnant about 2 months after the last litter is weaned.