This FAQ page addresses the most commonly asked questions when it comes to dog breeding:
There are no lower or upper limits as to how many litters a dog can sire. The quality of the sperm count, and the number of times the dog’s owner allows their dog to mate, will both affect the number of litters sired. Males remain fertile even into old age, so they could, theoretically, sire thousands of litters, although this would be exhausting and isn’t advised.
A bitch can fall pregnant from the first attempt, providing both the male and female are sexually active. Female dogs come into heat approximately every six months, and they are fertile during these times. Some misconceived ideas suggest that a dog cannot fall pregnant during her first mating attempt, however, this is incorrect.
A stud dog can mate multiple times a day, however, the sperm count decreases with every subsequent attempt. It’s widely considered unwise by experienced breeders to allow a dog to mate more than once a day, and some breeders limit mating to even less frequently in order to maximise the likelihood of the stud impregnating the female.
Labrador Retrievers are known to consistently produce the largest litters; however, Golden Retrievers, Rottweilers, German Shepherds, German Shorthaired Pointers and Poodles all boast similarly sized litters, with seven to eight pups on average. The world record for largest litter is held by a Neapolitan Mastiff, who gave birth to 24 puppies in 2009.
On average, male dogs reach sexual maturity at around six months old; however, smaller dogs become fertile from a younger age than larger breeds. It’s advisable to wait until the male is over a year old before he mates for the first time to ensure good fertility and maturity.
A healthy stud dog with a high sperm count is desirable if you’re considering your dog for studding. Pedigree dogs registered with the Kennel Club are in high demand, and many bitch owners will pay extra if your stud has successfully sired several litters.
The fees for a stud dog vary, with healthy, successful sires costing more than new stud dogs. Rare and pedigree breeds can be quite expensive; however, “designer” cross breeds, such as Cockapoos, can also cost a lot. Expect to pay, on average, between £100 to £1,000 depending on the popularity of the breed, although some stud owners will charge the price of one puppy.
It’s important for a contract to be drawn up between the owners of the stud and bitch, so all agreements are in writing. Usually, a deposit is agreed upon and paid prior to mating, with the remaining balance finalised after the pregnancy has been established, although different breeders have different fee terms.
If your stud has sired healthy pedigree pups during previous mating attempts, your dog will be considered desirable, and you can increase the fee accordingly. A champion show dog with a strong pedigree will also be worth more as a stud dog than a male being mated for the first time.
During a successful mating, the male and female dogs will become physically joined together, which is known as locking or being tied – the length of time can vary from several minutes up to as long as an hour. Sometimes, the dogs become uncoupled before the tie, resulting in a slip mating. Even slip mating can potentially result in a pregnancy, and a vet will be able to confirm whether or not the bitch is carrying puppies.
Females can often become distressed during mating, and if she moves around too much, this can result in the stud being unable to lock inside her. It’s important for the female’s owner to keep her calm and ensure she stands still for a successful mating to take place. Supervision of this stage is essential.
The best puppy of the litter should be an ideal size – neither underweight nor overweight. A shiny coat indicates a healthy dog, and the eyes and ears should be clear and clean. Check the skin, teeth and gums, also ensuring that the gait is normal. Ideally, a puppy should be confident and approachable, with no obvious abnormalities.
Usually, the owner of a stud will offer a repeat mating if the first attempt was unsuccessful. It’s unlikely that a full refund will be given if several attempts have taken place and the stud dog has performed correctly. It’s important that a contract is drawn up in advance that both parties agree with, and this should cover the eventuality of an unsuccessful mating.
Puppies should remain with their mother for at least eight weeks; however, some experts advise that it’s preferable for pups stay with their litter until they are 12 weeks old.
Giving birth can take several hours, up to a maximum of 24 hours. The first puppy is usually born within 20 to 30 minutes of the first contraction.
On average, most dog pregnancies last 63 days, or around nine weeks. As with any pregnancy, however, the length of gestation can fluctuate, with anything between 58-68 days considered normal. Although rare, premature labour can be caused by stress, injury, illness or genetic disposition, and this can result in some or all of the puppies being stillborn or having abnormalities.
To ensure a strong pedigree, it’s important that your dog is registered with the Kennel Club. It is not illegal to breed an unregistered stud, however, most bitch owners will be looking for a high-quality example of the breed, which can be determined by registration paperwork.