Sexual maturity in female dogs takes place at around 6 months of age. It can happen a bit earlier in small breeds and later in large breeds. Some large breeds will not be sexually mature until around 2 years old
After that, she will come in to heat around every six months.
Oestrus in Dogs
Oestrus which is also known as coming in to heat will happen, on average, twice a year. In large breeds it will be less frequent and they may have a heat cycle every 12-18 months.
During Oestrus she will be attractive to male dogs but may not be receptive to mating for until about 7-10 days after it starts.
Ovulation takes place around the eleventh day. However, this is quite variable.
The most obvious sign that she is in heat is vaginal bleeding. The vulva will swell and the female will start licking the area.
Mating is successful more often when the male is on his home ground. The female dog should be tested to work out the best time for mating. On average, the best time for mating is between the 10th and 14th day of oestrus,
It is common practice to arrange two matings – between 24 and 48 hours apart.
As soon as you suspect your dog is pregnant see your vet.
How Long Does Pregnancy In Dogs Last?
On average, pregnancy in dogs last for 63 days. It is very difficult to tell if your dog is pregnant until the fourth week. At this stage your vet will be able to feel the puppies in her uterus.
An ultrasound test can be used to confirm pregnancy a few days earlier.
How Many Puppies Will She Have?
As with many things with dogs, the size of the litter depends on the size of the breed. The average litter size is around 5 or 6 but generally, smaller breeds have less, and larger breeds have more.
Caring For a Pregnant Dog
If you are contemplating mating your female dog, make sure she is in good condition beforehand.
Once she is pregnant, give her a balanced nutritional diet. Your vet will be able to advise you about this.
Make sure she has enough food. During the last 3 weeks of pregnancy and when she is nursing, she will need at least 3 times her normal ration.
Maintain your dog’s vaccination and parasite control during pregnancy.
She should be wormed around 10 days prior to giving birth and every 3 weeks while she is feeding her pups.
Keep her fit. An unfit or obese dog will have more trouble whelping than a fit dog.