Breeding Your Dog

by Chantal Moreton

Before reading this article, read the "Should I breed" article.  If you are still thinking about breeding after reading that one, then progress to this article.


The process of breeding:

Your bitch has a heat approx. every 6 months and it is only during this time that she can become pregnant. The signs of heat include but you can't always rely on all the signs being present: subtle changes in behaviour – more clingy, restless, grumpy(!); swelling of the vulva; swelling of the mammary glands; bloody discharge from the vulva.

If it is not a suitable time for your bitch to be mated then you must keep her under strict supervision – males will try anything and everything to get to her so keep her on a lead when out walking, keep gates closed and keep her separate from any males in the household. She can be mated for a variable length of time so keep her separate for up to three weeks (even longer in some dogs). 




If the timing is right then there are several steps to ensure that you have a successful mating:

Once you know that your bitch is in heat, inform the male's owner that you will be requiring his services at some stage in the next couple of weeks.

There are two stages to heat:

  1. pro-oestrus – initially your bitch will produce a red, bloody discharge from her swollen vulva (note some dogs are clean and will wash this away before you even know what's happening). During this stage, she will not accept the male. The average length of this phase is 9 days with a range of 3-17 days.
  2. oestrus – eventually the discharge will become clearer in colour (i.e. less bloody) – it is during this stage that ovulation occurs and your bitch will accept the male. Again, this change in colour can be very subtle. The average length of this phase is 9 days with a range of 3-21 days.

As you can tell there is a lot of variation in the oestrus cycle of a bitch so getting a successful mating can be quite tricky. Sometimes, leaving things to nature i.e. allowing the male and female to be near each other for a few days and sort themselves out is easiest! But if your male lives out of town or you only have one chance to get the timing right, there are ways your vet can help.

During the transition from pro-oestrus to oestrus, there is a rise in the hormone called progesterone – your vet can measure this level every couple of days until the level is high enough to ensure ovulation is near and you can proceed with mating. Also, the cells in the female's vagina change during the different phases and your vet can assess the cells under a microscope to give you some idea of where she is at.

Allowing the male and female to have more than one mating session over a few days will ensure more chance of a successful mating. A sign of a successful mating is when the male and female readily accept each other and become “tied together".


If you are concerned that you have only had one mating session with the male, canine sperm can remain capable of fertilisation for up to 3-4days in the female tract so there is still a chance she could become pregnant.

Even after following all of the above steps, sometimes dogs just don't get pregnant and there can be several causes for this:

  1. The male and female just don't like each other and don't want to mate!!
  2. The timing wasn't quite right
  3. Infertility – on either the male or the female's behalf. If you are concerned about this then your vet can examine your dog to discover possible causes – hormonal disorder, low sperm count, abnormal anatomy


You have the option of trying again in 6 months but it is often a good idea to get your bitch checked over by a vet to ensure this is a good idea or not – remember her health is of utmost importance.

If however your dog is successful in becoming pregnant, you have approx. 63days to prepare for the birth of some gorgeous puppies! Confirmation of pregnancy is best achieved by an ultrasound at approx. 28days post mating or the typical signs of a growing belly, enlarging mammary glands (these physical signs can be seen though with a false or phantom pregnancy where your bitch displays signs of pregnancy but is in fact not pregnant) so ultrasound is recommended.

Talk to one of our qualified staff, once you think your bitch is pregnant and we can advise on care through pregnancy, the whelping process and more.

Overall, the reproductive process in dogs is complex and unless nature takes its course(!) it is advisable to get in contact with your veterinarian to discuss what's right for you and your dog.

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