Dog Breeding Heat Cycles and Mating
Although it seems that dogs get pregnant without considerable effort, mating is really a moderately complex process. Sometimes things just don't go according to plan, as any breeder who has repeatedly failed to produce a litter from a champion female can attest. Successful dog breeding is about understanding the timing of the mating process.
How Often Do Female Dogs Go Into Heat?
A healthy female dog does into heat approximately every six months. However, some only cycle once a year while others come into season quarterly. It is important to know that females who come in season quarterly are not usually fertile every cycle.
What Are the Signs of Heat?
A heat cycle can last from seven days to four weeks and usually occurs twice a year. When your dog is in heat, you may notice some or all of the following:
- Tail tucking
- Bloody discharge
- Personality shifts
- Appetite changes
- Swelling of the vulva
- Sometimes they go into a "silent heat" which is very hard to tell they are in heat.
How Long Does a Heat Cycle Last?
In the beginning stages of a normal heat cycle, known as proestrus, a female dog’s vulva starts to enlarge. You may notice she licks herself more than usual. Also, male dogs will begin smelling her more because her hormones will produce a scent signaling she is becoming ready to breed.
When Is It The Best Time to Breed?
Properly timed breeding involves pinpointing the day of ovulation as closely as possible to enhance the odds of conception. Signs that it's time to mate include reduced swelling in the vulva and decreased vaginal discharge. The stud will show interest, and she will respond to being stroked in the genital region by flagging. However, the best indicator of fertility is a vaginal exam from a veterinarian.
Are There Any Tests to Determine When to Breed?
A veterinarian can test the blood for progesterone levels and check a vaginal smear for changes in the vaginal cells to determine if the time is optimal for mating. You can also look for these signals:
- Tail held high to one side
- Enthusiasm for presenting vulva
- Overall affectionate and flirty behavior
- Discharge changes color from red to pinkish-tan
- Pushing up her bottom when petted on the back
Understanding canine breeding and mating may seem best left to the dogs. However, it is essential for anyone looking to breed their dogs to learn about the entire process, including care before, during, and after breeding and knowing how often to breed to keep your dogs safe and healthy.