Dogs Mating Concerns and Procedures

Kelly Roper
Canine couple
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The subject of dogs mating may seem like something best left to the dogs to handle for themselves. However, there are things you should understand about the process in order to keep your pets safe and healthy.

About Dogs Mating

Ethical Concerns

Dogs don't have to mate as a biological or health need, even if you plan to not spay or neuter. If you're considering breeding your pet, there are a few key issues you need to think about.

  • Why do you want to produce a litter? If it's simply for monetary gain, this is not a good enough reason to go through with it. If it's to produce a puppy, you can keep as a companion for your current pet, it would be far safer and less expensive to simply adopt another pet from a shelter.
  • Will you really be able to find a home for each potential puppy? There are so many pets sitting in shelters right now that producing another litter could simply add to the crisis.
  • Are your dogs healthy enough to breed? Any breeding dog should have a health checkup from your veterinarian. Dogs that have ongoing medical/physical conditions, congenital defects or temperament problems should not be used for breeding.

Appropriate Age

Now consider the proper breeding age for your pet. Females may come into their first heat cycle at six months old, but this doesn't mean they are ready for breeding. Likewise, a four to six-month-old male may be physically willing and able to produce a litter, but he is still too young to use as a stud. No dog should be used for breeding until physically and mentally mature. Breeding too young can deplete a dog's own resources, can stunt development and in extreme cases can result in injury and/or death. All dogs used for breeding should be up to date on all vaccinations.

General maturity guidelines:

  • Small dog breeds: Between twelve and eighteen months old
  • Medium size dogs: Between fifteen and eighteen months old
  • Large dog breeds: Approximately eighteen to twenty-four months old

Some will say that you can breed starting with the second heat, but it really should be dependent on their age and maturity as heat cycles can vary greatly from dog to dog.

In general, it's best to retire a bitch from breeding around age five, although studs may continue until approximately ten years old, depending on their fertility.

Preparation of the Bitch

Most importantly, you should observe your bitch for signs of readiness during her heat cycle. You'll find this topic covered quite thoroughly in the article Dog Heat Cycle and Breeding.

Ideally, it's a good idea to have your bitch bathed right before she is due to come in season, and have the hair trimmed away from the area directly around her vulva to present a clean and clear entry. As for nutrition, it's important that your bitch is at the desired weight for her size. Obesity presents problems during labor, and an underweight bitch is already starting at a deficit when she must share her own resources with growing pups.

Preparation of the Stud

When selecting a stud for a bitch, you should consider his size. While males are typically bigger than females, an ideal couple is close to the same size and weight. The female doesn't carry the whole weight of the male during breeding, but a significantly larger stud could hurt her. In addition, consider the size of the potential puppies when cross-breeding. If the puppies are too large for birth, the female dog may need a c-section.

Stud management is much the same as it is for the bitch although his role is much shorter in the entire litter production. The dog should be thoroughly bathed, and any excess hair carefully trimmed away from the sheath over his penis. It is possible for a male to give a bitch an infection, so taking care to keep the genitals clean and free of debris is essential. The stud should also be in good weight and fed a well balanced diet to maintain peak physical condition. However, it's wise to refrain from feeding the stud until after the breeding has taken place, or he may throw up his dinner.

The Mating Procedure

Most canine couples are capable of carrying out a breeding under a watchful breeder's eye. However, you may need to help the dogs into position if one or both have difficulty. A bitch that is ready to be bred will allow the male to sniff and lick her vulva as she holds her tail up and out of the way. Ideally, the male will then mount the bitch from behind and proceed to penetrate the vulva with his penis.

The Tie

In just a few moments, two glands on either side of the penis will begin to swell inside of the vulva, producing a clamping response from the bitch that results in a tie. During the tie, the majority of the sperm are delivered into the canal. The male may choose to remain on top of the bitch, or slightly off to her side. He may also twist around so the two are facing in opposite directions. The important thing is to calmly keep them from pulling on one another so neither dog's genitals are injured. The tie typically lasts from ten to thirty minutes, and then the swelling subsides and the dogs can separate. A tie is normally needed for a successful breeding, however, a dog can still become pregnant even if they don't end up tied during breeding.

Care After Breeding

Directly after the mating, it is best to confine the bitch to her crate for the next thirty minutes to keep her from urinating and expelling a good deal of the stud's semen. As for the stud, you should make sure the penis has fully retreated into the sheath. Do not force this to happen, just keep him quiet and check from time to time.

How Often to Breed

Although you cannot solely rely on breeding according to the day of the bitch's season, many successful breedings are carried out over days nine, eleven and thirteen of the cycle. It is only necessary to allow one good breeding each day for two healthy and fertile dogs to produce a litter. Any more than this depletes the male's sperm count and exhausts both animals. Additionally, sperm can live and fertilize eggs for several days after a mating. This will likely require you to separate them during her heat cycle to ensure there is proper spacing between the matings.

Alternative Mating Method

There is an alternative method of dogs mating that is very successful in producing litters. It's called artificial insemination, and your vet can perform this task for you. The vet will collect a sperm sample from the stud, and inject it into the bitch's vulva using a sterile syringe. This method practically eliminates the risk of either dog developing a urinary tract infection or venereal disease such as canine brucellosis.

Next Steps

Once mating is complete, your next step is to watch for Dog Pregnancy Symptoms.

Dogs Mating Concerns and Procedures