The Complete Guide to Dog Mating

Thinking about breeding from your dog, but unsure where to start? Dog breeding is an involved, albeit rewarding, process, and any animal-lover will feel a huge responsibility for their dog’s wellbeing. So read on, because our complete guide to dog mating covers all the essential questions on how to get your breeding journey off to the best possible start.

What is the dog oestrus cycle?

Oestrus, or heat, are the times when your female (bitch) dog is receptive to mating. A number of things happen to your dog during this period. For instance, oestrogen levels spike before dipping, mature eggs are released from her ovaries, and her behaviour may change. Your bitch might also be nervier, and don’t be surprised if she starts presenting her rear end to male dogs as they pass. She’ll also bleed, and urinate more often.

The oestrus cycle in bitches varies by breed and size, but you can expect her to go into heat for the first time from around six months old. When it comes to putting your bitch’s best interests first, remember it’s not advised to breed from a female on their first or second cycle. In fact, the Kennel Club advises waiting until she’s at least a year old, however you must take into account that different breeds mature at different rates, therefore it’s generally accepted that breeding from bitches should not be until at least 18 months of age to 2 years. Get advice from a vet before you decide to take this leap to make sure they’re mature enough to cope with pregnancy, birth, and motherhood.

How long are bitches in heat?

If you’re wondering how long bitches spend in heat, there’s sadly no specific answer. Again, breed and size play a part in the length of the oestrus cycle in female dogs. As a rule of thumb, 2-4 weeks is the average, and you can expect her to be in heat around every 6 months.

It’s worth noting that there is an ideal time during this 2 to 4-week window to mate your bitch. During the beginning of the oestrus cycle, she might not be interested in mating at all, so the best time to arrange to mate is around 11-14 days in heat. Although that’s the ideal time, it’s actually possible for her to get pregnant any time before the cycle ends.

Ultimately, you’ll need to get to know your bitch to keep the breeding process stress-free. One option includes asking a vet to conduct an ovulation test to see her best days for mating. Through monitoring her behaviour, you’ll also notice when she’s most receptive to male dogs during her cycle.

How to find a stud dog

A good match between bitch and stud is important to minimise inherited diseases and disorders. It’s also important to take characteristics and temperament into account. The first steps are finding a suitable pedigree, to tick the box of compatibility. Remember, aside from the goal of getting healthy, happy puppies, you want to avoid causing any unnecessary stress for your dog during the breeding process.

Contacting your breeder is a good way of finding stud dogs. You can also check out local breed clubs to search for a prospective mate. The added benefit of this is that the stud dogs will be close by, ruling out extensive travel and the stress that exerts on your bitch. Even if the stud looks good on paper, it’s important to visit the dog before attempting to breed to assess their compatibility.

Doing your due diligence

From a genetic point of view, ask to see health test results to rule out any possibility of inherited diseases or conditions, and don’t be afraid to ask about the stud’s breeding history.

Being sure that the sire isn’t overused is one way to vary the gene pool, and believe it or not, sometimes older stud dogs can be a safer bet, despite the sperm count potentially being lower. By that point, you’ll have clear health records to indicate genetic disorders that may emerge later in a dog’s life. The Kennel Club has a Mate Select tool which is invaluable when choosing a stud dog. Not only will it help with published health results, but it also gives you an idea of the possible inbreeding coefficient.

How to stud your dog

If you’re looking to stud your dog, you’ll need to find out whether he’s ready to breed and in good health. Like females, maturity for male dogs varies by breed. But if your vet is happy that your dog has reached breeding age, you’ll need to run full health tests and speak to your dog’s breeder to check for any inherited disorders.

Once you’re confident that your dog is healthy, has the right temperament for its breed, and that there are no breeding restrictions in place, you can start thinking about dog mating.

From a practical point of view, you’ll also need to fill in some paperwork if you want to do things right. Registering your dog with The Kennel Club is one important step. Don’t forget to also write out a clear stud contract. That way, everyone knows what to expect when committing to breeding with your stud.

During the actual breeding process, you’ll need to act as the responsible party. That means being there to supervise the dogs to avoid any upset or injury - as well as to encourage reluctant females. It’s also important to offer clear advice after mating on puppy care or any health problems.

How to breed dogs: advice for first time breeders

If this is your first time, you’ll need to ask yourself a few searching questions before you breed your dog. It all comes down to expectations, as well as the crucial care aspect that comes with mating your dog.

  • Do you have the time? – think about whether you have the time to dedicate to your dog, especially if you’ll be the one helping to raise the puppies. Essentially, you’ll need to be on-hand for a couple of months to do this.

  • Can you afford it? – financially, being able to cover health tests, stud fees and any emergency medical procedures, like a caesarean, is another consideration.

  • Is your knowledge up to scratch? – to do this, you’ll need to know all about the breeding process, your dog, caring for puppies, rearing them, and ticking off all those health essentials, like worming and vaccinations.

Can you look after them, whatever happens? You might be looking to rehome all the puppies, or just several them, but your rehoming plans might not work out. If so, you’ll be responsible for offering the puppies a happy, comfortable home.
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