by Pat Santi


Before you breed your female you should have a plan in mind as to why you are breeding her. Not just to have puppies, or to try and make your money back.  Many people only breed for the sake of “the children seeing puppies born” and about many other reasons, which make no sense at all.  You should breed if you are planning to improve your stock and improve on what you have in your female.  You study pedigrees and find out about which studs have the traits you need in your line or your females line.   YOU DO NOT BREED TO THE FLAVOR OF THE HOUR, SO TO SPEAK.  That is the popular winning dog of the day.  After you have found the stud dog that appears to fit the bill for your female you then ask the owner about his service fee and can they provide fresh chilled or frozen semen or must the bitch go to the dog for service.  Please note the cheapest is not always the best.  Nor is the highest always the best.  Try to find a stud owner who will work with you and help you with the stud service and can provide all necessary paper work for the testing on the stud and you should have the same for the female.

Your female should be in good health, neither too thin nor too fat.  She should be checked for worms and if she has them she should be wormed.  She should have booster vaccinations.  This helps increase the immunity the puppies receive during their early, most vulnerable period.


Your female will come in season for the first time from ages six months to two years, usually between seven to 10 months.  It is recommended that she not be bred during her first heat cycle.  The first thing you notice when your female is coming in season is swelling of the vulva and a bright bloody discharge.  Many times they are excitable for a week or so before this swelling happens.   After a week or so the discharge will become progressively paler until it has almost no color.  The swelling of the vulva will increase and the female will begin to lift or twist her tail or her rear.  This is called “ flagging”.  These are indications she is ready to breed.

Today we have the advantage of blood test for timing of the exact day to breed and of ovulation.  The old method still works for those on limited budgets.

Most females are receptive to a mate between nine and fifteen days after the discharge begins.  I must warn you that animals have never read books and they do not always follow these patterns.  You can also have vaginal smears done several times during the heat cycle to determine the period of ovulation. 


The female, especially if she has never been bred, may be upset by the whole affair and will respond to her owner’s voice.  Gentle and firm at this time is the best idea.  If she resists the male’s advances then try the next day as she may be early and not ready.  It is always easier to have two people handle breeding, one for each dog.  It is always helpful if one of these is experienced in dog breeding.   The male will usually inspect the female and then try to mount her rear.  Usually, the male will do his part of the job readily if the female is receptive.  He should need very little help.  If he shows no interest or cannot do his job then you may need professional help or an artificial insemination of the dog’s semen.  Once the dog mounts the female, they usually “tie”(the male’s penis swells inside the female and is held there until the swelling goes down. This could be a few minutes to an hour or so.)  The male will dismount after he is tied and the dogs stand tail to tail.   This is where you need to help prevent both dogs from pulling or hurting themselves.


You can expect the puppies in 58 to 63 days from the day of the first breeding.  During this time the female should receive normal care and exercise.  During the last weeks the puppies grow enormously, and the mother will have little room for food and less appetite.  Divide her meals into smaller feeding more frequently.  We always use more fresh meat the last two weeks as it makes a tighter puppy and livelier puppy when born.  Just remember if she loses her appetite try and tempt her with things she likes.  Additional protein at this point is always in order.  A good brand of dry food, fresh hamburger or cooked eggs always seems to work here.

We do give vitamins as calcium and a pet vitamin daily.  Your vet can advise you on the proper diet for your pregnant female. 


To prepare whelping quarters you need some sort of place like a box a plastic kids swimming pool or a whelping pen for the mother-to-be and she should be sleeping in her quarters before her due date so she is comfortable in the new place.  This way she is less likely to hide to have her puppies and knows that her new quarters are where she should be for this whelping.  The sides should be high enough to keep the puppies in and low enough for the mother to get out as needed.  You can use absorbent material to keep the floor area warm and dry.  I use newspapers in the whelping stage as they become bloody and wet and I change them as needed and then after use synthetic lambskins for the puppies.   I am always afraid of blankets as puppies can get caught in the folds and die. 


As soon as the whelping box is prepared you can start setting up the nursery by collecting various supplies.  Remember to have the whelping box in a quiet area, away from household traffic for the mother’s comfort.

You should have fresh clean towels, a heating pad of some sort (a whelping heat circle, heating pad or heat lamp) stack of newspapers, a roll of paper towels, a small pair of sharp scissors to cut umbilical cords (the blades should be kept in a small jar of alcohol) white thread (I use dental floss unwaxed and unscented) and a waste container or bag.

It is necessary for the whelping room to be warm and free of drafts.   Keep a notepad handy so you can record the duration of the first labor and the time between puppies.  If there is trouble whelping, this information will help the veterinarian if you need help. Always have your vet alerted to the time your female is due to whelp. Jot the vet’s phone down just in case you get nervous and forget the number.


Be prepared for the actual whelping several days in advance.  It is best to let your veterinarian examine your mother-to-be about a week before she is due to whelp to make sure everything is going along smoothly.   He can then better advise if you are expecting a large or small litter and how to handle things should trouble arise.

There are a variety of warning signals that indicate that labor is imminent.  Your female may show all or none of them - each individual is different.  She will tear at her bedding and try to make a nest, refuse food, be restless and pant.  A dog’s temperature is normally between 101 and 102 F.  Usually the temperature of a female approaching delivery will drop below 100.  You may want to check her temperature once a day a week or so before she is due.

Heavy panting and strong uterine contractions that can be seen as waves running the length of the body mark the true onset of labor.  If the first puppy is not delivered within two hours after the beginning of these heavy contractions you should check with your veterinarian.  The puppies should follow in regular intervals, but deliveries can be short as five minutes apart and as long as two hours apart.  I always allow for two hours between puppies and am glad when less time is used.

The puppy is born in the sac (a thin membrane surrounding the puppy filled with fluid) or the sac may have ruptured during delivery.  If the sac is intact, the mother should tear it apart and get the puppy out with her teeth.  They usually bite the umbilical cord and then begin to stimulate the puppy by licking the puppy’s body.

Give the mother a few moments to begin this function if she does not take the puppy tear open the sac away from the head and rub the puppy briskly with a towel until it cries and is reasonably dry and active.  Tie the umbilical cord about an inch from the body and cut the remaining cord off.  The afterbirth should follow each puppy usually attached to the other end of the umbilical cord.  Keep track of the afterbirths - it should tally with the number of puppies born.

A retained afterbirth can cause an infection in the uterus.  I prefer that my females do not eat the afterbirths.  After each pup is born it should have a chance to nurse if possible and then be put in a separate puppy box so it can be kept warm and out of harm’s way while the next puppy is born.  Keep the box nearby so the mother will not be anxious and you can keep an eye on them.   Remove wet or soiled papers from the whelping box as necessary and replace with clean layers.  While your female is whelping you can offer water or broth in small amounts.   Some dogs will drink it others will ignore it, but it is available.

When your female is through whelping, take her out to relieve herself and settle her with her new family.  The quarters should be fresh and clean now and warm for the puppies.


Your veterinarian should check the mother and puppies within twenty-four hours of whelping.  He will check her and usually he will give her a shot to help shrink the uterus and stimulate the milk production.  He will check the puppies for any problems and advise you accordingly.  You will need to have all dewclaws removed at about three days after birth.

Many times the first few days after whelping the female does not have a great appetite.  If this is true you can tempt her until her appetite picks up.  It is not necessary or even advisable to give her milk and this most often causes diarrhea and depresses the appetite for more important foods.


There are several danger signals that you should be aware of that may indicate problems with either the puppies or the mother.  The puppies should be reasonably quiet - either sleeping or nursing.  They should look and feel round and firm and sleek.  When you pick them up, they should be active and wriggling.   If a puppy cries constantly, isn’t interested in nursing, feels cold or looks thin and “flattened”, he has a problem and will require special attention.  Loss of appetite, heavy vaginal discharge, vomiting, excessive panting or restlessness could indicate a problem with the mother and should be checked by your veterinarian.



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