What is the best age to breed a dog? If you’re breeding a dog or bitch for the first time timing is everything.
Best Age to Breed a Bitch
Some breeders will tell you that you should not breed your bitch before she is 2 years of age, but I disagree. While it is important that your young would-be breeder has attained close to her final adult size before she is mated for the first time, waiting longer than this invites disaster. The reason is that as she ages, the cartilage that joins together the two sides of a bitch’s pelvis become ossified into hard bone as she achieves full maturity. It is best to initiate the pelvic canal to the birthing process while it still has a little “give” in it. Subsequent births are then likely to be that much easier and trouble free.
I have maintained this policy since 1992 when I first started out breeding dogs, and (touch wood!) have never had one bitch require either a caesarian or veterinary assistance with a birth. All my bitches have recovered rapidly from the birth process without recourse to antibiotics or oxytocin. None have ever retained a placenta or a pup. After all, birth is a natural process designed to be uncomplicated in healthy animals (and people!). In dogs that have a healthy diet, daily exercise and comfortable, stress-free conditions to birth in, there should be no problems. The fact that I have carefully selected a strong and vigorous breed to work with also has a lot to do with my good luck, I am sure!
In smaller, vigorous breeds, you may find that your new bitch has her first estrus period (“heat”) as young as 5 to 7 months of age. Skip that heat, and consider mating her on her subsequent heat (when she is just over 1 year old). If she is poorly grown however, you should delay mating for one more heat period (when she is around 18 months or more old). Larger and less vigorous breeds may not cycle until they are 12 months of age or older and may only cycle once a year. If they are well grown, I would consider mating them then. However, don’t overfeed your pups in the hope that they will reach breeding size earlier as this will inevitably be counterproductive to their health and vigor over the long term. Also bear in mind that dog breeding laws governing your area may dictate waiting until a bitch is 18 months old before breeding her.
Keep Your Dogs in Peak Health
Ensure that your breeding dogs get a great diet plus regular (daily is best) exercise in public places frequented by other dogs. Take your young bitches, in particular, out regularly. This is important not only for ensuring she is fit and toned for her role as a breeder, but also to expose her to infectious diseases. A healthy, vaccinated dog or bitch needs the opportunity to come into contact with canine diseases on a regular basis so that they can maintain strong immunity. Herpes virus, for example, is part of the common kennel cough complex of pathogens. Any dog in regular contact with other dogs will be exposed and develop immunity to the bug. This immunity will be transferred to their pups through the colostrum in her first milk. However, pups born to a bitch that has not developed immunity can die during their first three weeks of life (“Fading Puppy Syndrome”) if exposed for the first time during pregnancy or early lactation.
Mating a Virgin Bitch or Dog
A virgin bitch will sometimes be skittish and difficult to mate. A virgin dog will often be unsure, unskilled, and definitely inexperienced! It is advisable to therefore mate virgin animals to experienced animals. When you are just starting out you may need to rely on someone else’s dog to mate your virgin bitch for the first time.
If you are lucky your young dogs will just do what should come naturally without your intervention. But if nature doesn’t take it’s natural course, the other option is artificial insemination. With the right equipment and know-how, anyone can successfully artificially breed their dogs in their own backyard. Years ago I put together a special Artificial Insemination Kit that has provided hundreds of breeders with the ideal solution to their mating woes.
Be careful with your young stud dog.
A bad experience at the start of his career can upset his mojo for life. Take every care to make mating a trauma-free experience for him.
- Mate him to older, experienced, cooperative bitches for the first season or two.
- Don’t raise him from puppyhood with bossy older bitches or he may consider himself just too low in the pecking order to “dominate” them for mating.
- Take the bitch to the dog’s home, not the other way around.
- Raise him to be used to being touched all over his body so he won’t be phased by semen collection if it proves necessary.
- Ensure the bitch is fully in estrus before presenting her to your boy (DIY estrus detection kit available here).
- Take care to prevent injury to his testicles or penis that can occur from seemingly innocuous events like squeezing through the cat flap, or jumping over the fence.
Lastly, be aware of any sexually transmitted canine diseases in your area and ensure your dogs and any they mate with have first had the recommended prior health checks.