How many times should dogs mate is a question many novice dog breeders may ask. First and foremost, before breeding, think about the resulting litter – if you cannot find homes for all the puppies it is best to not breed at all. Also, do not breed your dog, whether male or female, simply because it is natural. In fact, it is unnatural to let your dog breed once and then expect it to never breed again. Last but not least, before breeding you need to make sure both individuals are emotionally, as well as physically mature.
What Happens During Dog Mating?
Choose a suitable area; in hot weather, let the dogs meet and mate indoors. Minimize distractions. Keep people quiet and activity subdued. If the dogs show no signs of aggression toward each other, let them off their leashes so that they can introduce themselves. A little romping, flirting and mutual sniffing is a good predictor of successful mating.
If the female dog is ready to mate she obligingly holds her tail to the side and stands quietly. The dog then mounts her, clasping her hips with his paws to hold himself on, and inserts his penis into her vagina. Stand by to assist in case the dogs have any problems. Inexperienced males may mount the wrong end of the female and could need guidance.
Ensure that a proper tie occurs. A tie occurs when the bulbus glandis on the penis swells and the vulva contracts around it, preventing the dog from withdrawing his penis form the bitch’s vagina. They are stuck, or tied together for 20 to 40 minutes. A prolonged tie may be painful to the female dog (she may turn and snap at the male when it ends). A tie lasting a few minutes, however, seldom causes discomfort and is usually successful.
After mating, both the male and the female vigorously groom their genitals regions by licking, an action that cleans away debris from the area and kills some harmful bacteria.
How to Ensure Pregnancy in the Female Dog
If the female shows signs of aggression and is unwilling to stand for the male, or if he shows no interest in her, it is likely that she is not ovulating and therefore not ready to mate.
Plan to repeat the procedure two days later. Do not persist. It is unfair on the dogs and will only lead to greater difficulties at the next try. Instead, you can bring your female dog to the vet’s office and let the vet determine whether the timing is right. Vets can determine this based on two tests:
1) a Vaginal smear test – this reasonably reliable and non-invasive test has been used for many years. It consists of microscopic examination of the vaginal discharge. The cells in the discharge are examined in terms of type and number. To predict the exact ovulation time it is necessary to perform several vaginal smear tests (over several days).
2) Serum progesterone test – as the name suggests, this test measures the level of the hormone progesterone in the blood. The test is very sensitive and very accurate. To predict the exact ovulation time, it is necessary to perform several serum progesterone tests (over several days).
These tests are important before the time of ovulation is not the same for every dog. Each female has her own cycle. Some ovulate as early as 7 days into their cycle and others at up to 16 days after the onset of estrus.
How Many Times Should Dogs Mate?
It's important to consider frequency when breeding dogs. For the best chance of success, arrange for two matings 24 to 48 hours apart.
Will mating over several days result in puppies of different sizes? Eggs are released and fertilized over a 1-3 day period. A litter may be fathered by several males if the female is mated to different dogs.
The size of the developing puppy (and its apparent maturity at birth) ultimately depends on its genetic background, and on its overall health and position in the uterus, rather than on which day it was fertilized.
"Breeding every other day is for the sake of the male. If a male is bred or has semen collected every day, semen quality declines every day as spermatozoa stored in the epididymides are used. If the male is bred every other day, he can make enough spermatozoa to replenish the spermatozoa stored in his epididymides."~Dr. Margaret V. Root Kustritz "The Dog Breeder's Guide to Successful Breeding and Health Management."
Causes of Unsuccessful Mating in Dogs
The most common cause of mating failure is poor timing on the handler’s part rather than genuine infertility. In some cases, however, there may be physical conditions that prevent conception.
Infertility in male dogs can result from prostatic or testicular disease, an underactive thyroid, or even from a prolonged high fever. A male’s fertility can be determined by sperm examination and count.
Female infertility is more difficult to assess. Blood tests may be done during estrus to measure levels of the sex hormones estrogen, luteinizing hormone and progesterone. The ovaries can be examined by laparoscopy.
Purebred dogs are sometimes successfully bred by means of artificial insemination. In this technique, vets collect semen (fluid containing sperm) from male dogs and then introduce the semen into a the female dog's reproductive tract. Semen may be introduced into the dog immediately or it may be frozen and stored for transportation or for use on a dog at a later date.
The technique has, for example, permitted semen from proven, healthy stud dogs in one country to produce rapid improvements in the quality of stud dogs elsewhere. Kennel clubs have regulations concerning the registration of dogs produced by artificial insemination. If you wish to breed puppies in this way, check out these regulations. Used properly, conception rates from artificial insemination are as good as from natural mating.
Verifying a Dog's Pregnancy
After a female dog mates there are three potential outcomes: 1) she is pregnant, 2) she is not pregnant and 3) she has a false (pseudo) pregnancy. There are several methods to determine the type of outcome:
Ultrasound – it is totally safe and can be used as early as 3 weeks after the mating. This technique can determine whether the female is pregnant or not but it cannot give information about the exact number of fetuses.
Palpation – this test can be used only between the 28th and 35th day of the pregnancy. It should only be performed by a veterinary professional.
Relaxin hormone testing – there are pregnancy test kits that measure the levels of the hormone relaxin (significantly rises during pregnancy).
X-rays – this method not only determines pregnancy but it also allows counting how many puppies are developing and it allows assessing their bone structure.
About the Author
Dr. Ivana Crnec is a graduate of the University Sv. Kliment Ohridski’s Faculty of Veterinary Medicine in Bitola, Republic of Macedonia.
She currently practices as a veterinarian in Bitola and is completing her postgraduate studies in the Pathology of Domestic Carnivores at the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine in Zagreb, Croatia.
Ivana’s research has been published in international journals, and she regularly attends international veterinary conferences.