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Dog mating and pregnancy

There’s a lot to think about if you are a dog breeder. For example, what is the appropriate age of the female and when is insemination an alternative to regular mating? How long is a female pregnant? Eva Axnér, who is a veterinarian and professor at SLU, is an expert on reproduction in particular, answers common questions here.
Dog mating and pregnancy

What's a suitable age for the male and female?

It can be tempting to mate the dogs early, but it is important that both the female and the male are mature physically and mentally. A female must not be mated until the second heat at the earliest and no earlier than 18 months of age. 

But "it is not at all certain that such an early pairing is suitable for all dogs. Some need more time to mature," says Eva Axnér.

A female that has not previously had puppies should not be older than seven years at the time of mating.

The age of the male dog is not regulated in the legislation, but it may be wise to consider that male fertility declines with age. It is not at all certain that males over the age of seven are fertile anymore.     

Insemination as a tool in breeding 

It is becoming increasingly common for insemination to be used as a tool in breeding. The reasons why breeders choose to inseminate instead of mating the dogs in the usual way vary. It may be a temporary injury that makes it difficult for a male to mate or that the social interaction between the dogs does not work. It can also be about importing sperm from abroad. 

"Dogs can also be selective and have clear partner preferences that do not match the owner's wishes," explains Eva Axnér. 

Before considering insemination, it must be investigated that it is not poor sexual drive or other physical reasons that are behind the fact that the intended pair of dogs don't get to mate.

How long is a dog pregnant?

Many people wonder how long a dog is pregnant. Pregnancy lasts for 9 weeks, or 63 days. A normal pregnancy is usually somewhere between 58-68 days.

Signs of pregnancy

After mating, the female is pregnant between 58-68 days. It is a long wait and it can be difficult to know if the mating has yielded results. The very first signs of pregnancy are often difficult to distinguish from false pregnancy even for the most experienced breeder.

"Some bitches become hungrier quite early during pregnancy. In the middle of pregnancy you can often see a discharge of mucus and towards the end the udders can swell. Some breeders also think that the bitches change their behaviour a little," says Eva Axnér.

Females usually only start to get round at the end of their pregnancy. From approximately week five or six, they gain weight rapidly and after seven weeks you can usually feel foetal movement. If you want to know for sure whether your female is pregnant or not, ultrasound is definitely the safest method - you can do that from about day 25.

During the pregnancy

There is a lot to think about when your female is pregnant. It's important to avoid stress as much as possible. This applies even if it is positive stress, although normal exercise is still necessary.

"You should also think about not exposing the bitch to unnecessary risks of infection. If you can avoid moving the bitch during pregnancy, that is good. From about two weeks before the expected pupping, you must not travel more than short distances by car with the bitch," says Eva Axnér.

When it comes to feed, Eva suggests using an energy-rich feed that is adapted specifically to pregnant females. Do not increase the feed ration until the end of pregnancy. You don't want your dog getting overweight before having their puppies.

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