When I am contacted for a puppy per-adoption consultation or puppy education, I ask a lot of questions about the puppy’s mum. Or I provide the opportunity to watch videos of mum interacting with or nursing the puppies. Clients send me the videos and I read the non-verbal behavior of the mum-dog-puppy interaction.
I can help choose the right puppy for the family, provide questions to ask the breeder and understand what attitude the chosen puppy will develop.
But caring for a pregnant mother is not enough. You have to start from the moment of mating.
This article is intended to provide general information about dog mating. Knowing these aspects helps you understand more about the puppy you decide to adopt. I have followed the case of a puppy born as a result of being mated by a 10-year-old mama dog. The dog mother only gave birth to him and nursed him. She didn’t care for it much and the puppy grew up with fears. Who knows how many litters she had or if she had the time and energy. It took many months of work to reduce the fears.
What is the best age for mating a female dog?
It is important not to breed dogs too early, i.e. before they have had a complete physical development. As a general guideline, mating is never indicated before eighteen months or the third heat. We can say that the correct minimum age is around two years. In addition, a dog mother who is too young may not have the maternal instinct to take care of her puppies or be too aggressive with them.
And bitches should not be too old. The advice is not to breed dogs over six years of age. An older female experiences some stress in gestation and whelping, which can lead to a variety of imbalances and complications. After the age of seven, a certificate of suitability for breeding must be obtained from the vet.
You also have to take into account other variables such as breed, size, age, familiarity, physical condition, number of births, environmental conditions
What is the best age to breed a male dog?
It depends on the breed and the characteristics of the male dog. From an ethical standpoint, it’s agreed that the dog should be at least two years old to mate. Males are most fertile when they have finished sexual development. There are no scientific studies that have proven that using a young male in breeding, especially natural breeding, can lead to physical and psychological problems in the male dog. There is usually no impediment in giving a female to a young male (before the age of two years), if he is able to mate the female, if that mating is compatible, and if it is in the best interest of the professional breeder.
Do male dogs mate with other male dogs?
No, they do not mate but may mount other males. This is an ethological issue because this behavior has various meanings such as relieving tension, wanting to stop an overly agitated dog, and so on. Mating with the female is sexual because it is hormonal based. It can happen that in the presence of a female in heat a male mounts other males because there is sexual competition.
How many times can a bitch mate in her lifetime?
It is recommended that the bitch should not have more than five pregnancies. Pregnancies should also be interspersed with 12 months of rest. This allows the mother to recover an optimal physical state.
When is the right time for the female dog in heat to mate?
We have seen in this article Dog in season that the female dog is available for mating during oestrus. There is a common belief that the bitch should always mate between the 10th and 13th day after the beginning of her cycle, that the female is always fertile at the same time even in different cycles, and that the male never fails to detect the female’s fertile days. Actually, the best method to predict the optimal time for mating is to determine the day of ovulation, although this is not always easy. In fact, the most common cause of infertility in the bitch is mating at the wrong time.
What are the methods for determining the day of ovulation?
1. attitude of the female and male: observation of the bitch’s attitude towards the male and examination of the bitch’s vulva are simple but often unreliable methods for determining ovulation day. Although in some species oestrus behavior is a reliable indicator of ovulation.
2. colpocytological examination: involves the collection, staining and microscopic interpretation of exfoliated vaginal epithelial cells. It is carried out with a swab and the dog is awake.
3. Vaginoscopy: a rigid endoscope is used to explore the last tract of the urogenital apparatus, from the vestibule of the vagina to the orifice of the cervix. Through this examination possible malformations or infertility problems can also be excluded. A small tube is used and the dog is under anaesthesia
4. progesteronemia evaluation: Progesterone is an important hormone in the dog’s ovulation cycle and, if measured by means of scheduled blood tests and correctly interpreted, can be used to determine the optimal breeding time. It can also be used to detect reproductive problems. There are two ways to measure progesterone levels in the blood: Progesterone tester (ELISA Kit) and laboratory tests
How does dog mating take place?
*video description at the end of the article
Once the optimal time for breeding has been established, the bitch is mated. It begins with the courtship phase. Courtship varies depending on the situation but in general it manifests itself like this: the male sniffs out the female’s heat through her scent. He will start circling the female and she will begin to wag her tail. When the dogs have gained confidence, they will begin to chase each other and make bows. The male may place his head on the female’s back. This is equivalent to a request for consent from the male. If the female remains still it means that she accepts the mating. Then the mating takes place. When the courtship is over, the mounting takes place. The bitch is willing and will raise her tail to make her vulva more visible. The male will move towards the rear of the female to get on her back. When this is done, the male will insert his erect penis into the female’s vulva, engaging the bulb of the glans, which will enlarge inside the vagina. When the male has reached maximum arousal he will ejaculate sperm. The dogs will remain attached even if this phase is over.
Why do dogs get stuck when they mate?
Because dog ejaculation occurs in three fractions:
-Urethral fraction. When the male dog mounts the female and penetrates her, he expels a fluid completely devoid of spermatozoa.
-Spermatic fraction. After the first ejaculation, the erection is complete and there is a second one with spermatozoa. At this stage the penis bulb increases in size due to venous compression of the penis and the consequent increase in blood concentration. At this point the male turns and stops mounting the female, and it is at this stage that dogs remain attached after mating.
-Prostatic fraction. Although the male has stopped mounting the female, copulation is not finished, because it is when the male turns around that ‘knot’ mating and third ejaculation occurs, with far fewer sperm than before. Once the bulb or base of the penis relaxes, recovering its normal state, the dogs detach.
Overall, the mating time for dogs varies between 20 and 60 minutes, although the average duration is 30 minutes.
Can mating be repeated with the same female and male dog?
If the breeder considers that he has gotten good results from a combination, the combination can be repeated.
Are there any special precautions when mating a pure breed bitch?
Before breeding a pure breed dog, it is very important to assess its physical health and/or genetic background: these precautions serve to prevent breed diseases and thus their spread to puppies.
The most well-known hereditary disease afflicting pure breed dogs is hip dysplasia. It should not be forgotten, however, that there are many other heritable ones, from heart defects to eye defects. Mating inbred dogs will only pose problems if there are already occult genetic defects. If no hereditary issues are detected in both dogs (male and female), inbreeding will certainly not produce new ones. A professional breeder will be able to give you all the answers.
What are the costs of keeping the bitch until mating?
The cost of maintaining the dog until mating can be quite high.
If it is a sporting dog or one that obtains working licences, a lot of resources, both financial and in terms of commitment, are invested.
Screening tests to assess hereditary diseases (breed-specific genetic tests, hip and elbow X-rays, DNA deposit).
If the female proves to be suitable for breeding after all the tests, further checks or, for example, vaccinations (such as for herpes) can be carried out with a view to mating. At this point a compatible male is sought and then the cost of mating must be taken into account if he is not present in the herd. When the male is far away, one must calculate the cost of travelling to reach him and staying for at least one or two days. If one chooses artificial insemination, one must add up the cost of shipping and the vet who will do the insemination.
Before mating, progesterone tests are done (to find out if it is the right time for mating). Normally, at least two are done.
You wait 25 to 30 days after mating to do the first ultrasound scan to find out if the female is pregnant. If the result is positive, you wait another two or three weeks and an X-ray is taken to find out how many puppies there are.
When the moment of the happy event comes, the breeder will have set up a whelping area, which also has a cost. If the birth is natural and there is no need for a vet, there is no further cost, but if for some reason a vet is needed, this cost must also be calculated, in the case of an emergency caesarean.
Once the puppies are born, you have to think about the maintenance costs (food, supplements) and the vet for at least the two vaccines, plus the insertion of the microchip. Then you proceed with the pedigree of each puppy and this too has a cost.
Mating a dog is a serious matter and must be considered carefully. I suggest you consult both your vet and a professional breeder to discuss the subject further.
Cafazzo, S, Bonanni, R, Valsecchi, P, Natoli, E (2014). Social Variables Affecting Mate Preferences, Copulation and Reproductive Outcome in a Pack of Free-Ranging Dogs. Plos One 9(6): e98594
Calboli, FCF, Sampson, J, Fretwell, N, Balding, DJ (2008). Population Structure and Inbreeding From Pedigree Analysis of Purebred Dogs. Genetics 179 (1): 593-601
Dog Breeding Roundtable with Veterinary Theriogenology Residents
Dog Breeding guidelines
Fusi, J, Peric, T, Probo, M, Cotticelli Alessio, Faustini, M, Veronesi, MC (2021). How Stressful Is Maternity? Study about Cortisol and Dehydroepiandrosterone-Sulfate Coat and Claws Concentrations in Female Dogs from Mating to 60 Days Post-Partum. Animal (Basel), 11(6): 1632
The video is divided into three parts. There is a two-year-old whole male dog and a four-and-a-half-year-old female dog.
The male is mature physically but not psychologically.
The female has full psycho physical maturity.
The two dogs have known each other for a year.
In the first part the female begins to provoke the male. At this stage the female has not yet started her cycle. It started 3 days after this interaction.
The female gets sniffed but not approached. She provokes the male. The male does not understand the female’s intentions but gets excited and tries to discharge the tension by biting frozen mud.
In the second video, the female has started her period (swollen vulva and bleeding) but is not available for mating. Despite this, she provokes the male.
She provokes him, lets him sniff/lick her, and then moves away and so on. She is in the proestrus phase.
In the third video, the female is in the oestrus phase (it has been about 10 days since the onset of bleeding) and is ready for mating.
The male dog does not understand what he has to do and the female shows him, jumping on him.
In the following days, the male dog understands what to do and the dogs are separated because there was no intention to mate them.
They were both neutered after about three months.