Dog Breeding

With Canine Pregnancy Calendar

Recently I had somebody ask some interesting questions about my bitches that were in heat and how the dog breeding process occurred.  It made me realize that many people no longer understand how animals breed.

Maybe it’s just a consequence of urban living. People don’t get to see animals interacting naturally without human intervention much anymore. Farms are less numerous, rural living where people raise their own food is a dying art. So, “how animals do it” is a big unknown.

The Process of Canine Procreation

Bitches, or female dogs, go into heat a few times a year generally.  It can be as frequent as every six months, or as long as every 18 months depending on the breed of dog.  Some bitches’ first heat can be as early as six months old. My bitches’ first heat usually occur at about a year old.  They also go into heat just about every eight months.  

The boys, or dogs are usually bred when they are over one year old.  Dogs, or the male of the species usually mature at about eight months old give or take a few months.  Their sperm should be viable continuously whenever dog breeding is occurring. Dogs can mate a receptive female multiple times with some reduction in sperm count if very frequent. 

Bitches, can only get pregnant when they are in heat.  The time between heats is utilized to recuperate from the last pregnancy and get ready for the next season. So, for example, GENERALLY, if a bitch goes into heat January 1, she will breed January 9 through 16, have puppies 9 weeks later in mid March, nurse them until mid April when puppies start getting weaned. She then recuperates from May to September when she goes into heat again to repeat the process. 

Bitches going to season can last anywhere from 3 to 4 weeks generally.  

  • First week, non-receptive to the male.
  • Second week, receptive to breeding (called "standing heat").
  • Third week, again nonresponsive to the male again.

The male, on the other hand is interested all three weeks. Crazy interested in week two.

If you have an intact male in the same environment as the bitch you may notice his interest increases in the bitch a few weeks before she even starts her season. Interest is exhibited by sniffing the rear end, becoming more playful and following the bitch around. Buzz was my “canary in a coal mine”. He was the one that noticed first in my pack.

When the bitch’s season finally starts, there will be a moderate amount of bleeding.  Some bitches are very clean and you will not notice any blood. Other bitches, not so much, so you’ll notice small spots of blood on the floor, on her or on your furniture.

Her vulva will enlarge and become soft as well.  Any males in the vicinity will become very, very interested in her again sniffing and licking her rear and maybe even attempting to mount her.  The bitch is not in ”standing heat” at this point, and she would just as soon rip his face off, as engage in any breeding. She keeps the male at bay. At least that is how my bitches behave.

This continues on for anywhere from a week to two weeks.  Generally, standing heat begins on about day 9. Obviously every bitch is going to be individual. I have had several that are not receptive until day 15.

As the heat progresses, the bleeding lessens and the discharge becomes straw colored in most bitches. Although I have had some that bleed the entire time, though less so.

The bitch will then go into what is called standing heat.  She becomes more playful with the male, and eventually will turn her rear towards him, standing steady and flagging her tail.  Flagging her tail is when she moves the tail to one side to allow the dog to mount her.

The male gets increasingly interested and agitated as the days progress. If unable to get near the female he will whine, cry, bark, pace, and do whatever he can to get to her. This is the only time I see any competition between my male shelties, so sometimes I have to separate them from each other as well as from the female at this point in time. 

The act of dog breeding involves the male mounting the bitch from the rear and with thrusting motions penetrates the vagina with his penis.  Once the penis is fully inserted, the base of the penis enlarges like a bulb, in order to lock the two together.

This is what’s called a tie.

sheltie portrait

This tie continues for anywhere from 5 to 30 minutes.  It is difficult to impossible to separate the two at this point.  The old, “throw cold water on them” does nothing to stop the dog breeding. Because the tie occurs for a while, the dog will slip off the back of the female swing his rear leg over her back while they’re still connected and end up butt to butt.  It allows the male to be able to stand on all four legs for the remainder of the tie.

Dogs being dogs, means they don’t consider the other’s condition or "feelings" at all.  If the female sees something of interest in front of her, she may just as well decide to start walking towards whatever it is.  The male, has no choice that but to be dragged along.  This can cause physical injury to both the male and female.

Occasionally, though not common in the least, there may be a bitch that just will not breed with a particular male, but will do so freely with another. It is unknown why, and isn’t connected to the familial relationship between the two. 

In addition, occasionally there will be a bitch who is not particularly friendly during the breeding regardless of the dog. She may snap and attempt to bite the dog even as he is mounting.

Eventually during the tie, the bulb at the base of the penis shrinks, allowing the male to disengage and walk away. That is the end of the dog breeding process.

Dogs have no idea what they have done in terms of a resulting litters of pups. 

After about a week of standing heat, the female stops being receptive to the male, but the male is still intent on breeding. Once again, the bitch refuses the male, telling him in no uncertain terms she is done with him. My girls will snap at him if he persists. So basically about 2 weeks out of three he is an unwelcomed suitor. 

Then suddenly, miraculously a switch is thrown and the dog is instantaneously, no longer interested in the bitch for dog breeding. They go back to being "good buds".  I let out a large and long sigh of gratitude for the returning peace and relative quiet. Separation of dogs no longer needs to occur. Relief.

Dog Breeding In the Wild

When a bitch goes into heat, any males in the environment will want to breed with her.  Once again, dogs are animals, not humans. They cannot establish any moral or ethical concepts. Therefore they are perfectly happy to breed with their own mother, sister, daughter, father, brother, uncle or other relative.  What humans would consider incest can happen regularly in the wild. 

They also don’t care if they are mounting a dog of the same dog breed or not. So the newest silly story that I’m hearing about “rescuing” purebred Golden Retrievers wandering the forests and roads of Turkey, freely breeding in the wild is a crock. They are either purebred by an owner deliberately breeding or they are mixed breed strays that may vaguely resemble purebred Goldens.

dog breeding created many breeds

Specific breeds are maintained by careful selection of the male and female, requiring humans to make the decisions on which dog pairs up with which bitch. If that didn't occur, there would be no breeds just lots of generic mongrels.

Dogs do not understand that the act of breeding creates puppies. They do not conceptualize that these puppies may not be healthy if generations of inbreeding occurs. (one or two inbreedings does not an idiot make. Many breeders do occasional and carefully considered inbreedings.) Dogs do not look to the future. They don’t try to find the best mate.

They are opportunists.

They smell a bitch in heat and they breed.

End of story. 

They will breed the same bitch as often as they can get to her during standing heat. That can mean daily or more often.

If there are multiple bitches in heat, they will breed them all.

The bitches in turn, will let any male breed with them, so the resulting litter can be from multiple sires.

What you have is a floozie and a gigilo getting it together without any hesitation or regrets. This is the reality of dog breeding

People ask if dogs recognize their family. I don’t know. They may smell something that registers as "known" or familiar but they sure as heck don’t care if there is an opportunity to procreate with any of them. 

In the wild, bitches would also breed each and every season, have done so for millennium, and have the physiology to allow them to do so.  

Because during the tie, the female may decide to “take a walk” while still connected to the male, she can easily drag the dog around and cause internal lacerations or other injuries in both. Without human intervention any injury that occurs is unavoidable.

Even though a bitch may be in standing heat, receptive to the male by standing and flagging her tail, she still may decide for whatever reason to lash out as the tie occurs. In the wild, the dog would have to put up with this reaction. Which is probably where the idea that someone is "such a bitch" became popular.

Dog Breeding and Human Intervention

I don’t breed my bitches on the first heat, because I feel that they still have some growing and filling out to do to complete maturing.  I will breed them on the second heat which makes them about one year and eight months old.

It used to be common practice to either breed two heats in a row, and then skip the third heat or breed every other heat. But the newest research that we’re hearing is that it is healthier to breed a bitch each and every season.  It keeps the uterus active and functional. This may be politically incorrect, but anatomy and physiology, i.e., science, trumps political correctness.

If a breeder has a female that likes to punish the male while the tie occurs, the breeder intervenes at that point by holding on to the bitch’s head to prevent biting.

For a virgin male or female, the breeder also assists with steadying the dogs while mounting occurs to better allow penetration and tie without injury.

Because dogs and bitches could give a rip WHO is in heat, when owning multiple dogs and bitches in the same home, a game of musical chairs occurs during the 3 to 4 weeks the bitch is in season, to prevent the wrong male from mating with the female in heat. A free-for-all is not in the best interest of any breeder or their dogs.

If the girls are outside in the yard, the boys are indoors.

When the girls come in the boys are sequestered where they can’t get the girls in the transition.

Then the boys go outside for a while and the girls are indoors. At some point each dog is segregated from the others to minimize any disagreements during this time. The drive to procreate is extremely high.

Gates between the various rooms of the house, kennels and crates are a breeder’s best defense during this month of high hormones.

Human intervention in dog breeding is as much related to preventing the wrong breeding as it is in allowing a pregnancy to occur.

Breeding pairs are determined looking at pedigrees, COI (inbreeding percentages), avoiding breeding two dogs with the same fault whenever possible, planning to breed dogs that complement each other’s strengths and weaknesses in hopes of producing healthy puppies that are better than the parents.

Once the bitch is in standing heat, the dog and bitch are brought together usually every other day over the course of a week or more (2-3 times) since the exact date of ovulation and fertilization is only approximated based on a variety of tests that can be done. 

If a breeder is using an outside stud, the bitch is usually shipped to the dog as the male can sometimes be intimidated by a new environment, loses confidence and fails to try to breed the girl.

Artificial insemination is another possibility but will be discussed on a separate page.

If You Own An Intact Female

As far as intact dogs and bitches in the human environment, there are a few things you need to be aware of if you own one.  

First, taking a bitch for a walk around the neighborhood while she is in heat at any point, is asking for the neighborhood male dogs to follow that scent home to you and her. Or you will end up having your very own traveling dog breeding show.

If you were to take your bitch who is in standing heat on a walk around the neighborhood, and you come across an intact male, don’t expect to have the time to protect your bitch from that male.  While many times there is some foreplay involved, sometimes not. The bitch is ready and the male will simply arrive, mount and penetrate in a matter of seconds. Then you are stuck with two dogs in a tie (literally). It can happen in a flash.

Just keep your girl at home until she is well past her heat.  Figure 3 to 4 weeks. Unless of course you want a litter of mongrel pups.

For those who purchase my puppies, they will note a paragraph in the contract that specifies a hefty fine for breeding a bitch that was not purchased with breeding rights. That includes accidental litters as well. 

Without a male in the household, it can be a guess as to exactly how long. 

Is It Rape?

Let me close by saying that dogs (or any animal for that matter) engaging in sex, is a natural and normal phenomena. It is not rape, it is a basic drive of all animals to procreate, including dogs.  Their hormones drive them to breed. 

Those very uninformed animal rights fanatics, who wish to scream that all breeders rape their dogs is about as absurd as it gets.  They will hook onto anything that smacks of negativity to attempt to bring dogs of specific breeds to extinction.

If they feel dog breeding is rape, I would challenge all animal rights fanatics to remain virgin their entire lives, since obviously they feel any engagement in sex is considered rape.

After all, what’s good for the goose….

Canine Pregnancy Calendar 

Once the breeding has been completed, the wait to determine if the bitch is pregnant and for a litter of puppies is next.  

This illustration was so enchanting and so much more interesting than a boring old verbal description of what happens when a bitch is pregnant, that I had to have it! The developmental stages of the fetus is illustrated well.

Sometimes, something comes along that fits so perfectly it’s hard to believe. (although I have to say the photo of the fetus at 55 days has the face only a mother could love.)

I had been looking for some photos of puppy embryos to explain the fetus developing over the course of nine weeks, when this canine pregnancy calendar showed up on a search.  It takes you up to 55 days.

From day 55 until day 63 (9 weeks) is time spent by the fetuses gaining weight and getting ready to be born.

This infographic even gives you post-whelping, maturation and rainbow bridge facts as well.  It was created by Matt Beswick for

canine pregnancy calendar
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