Dogs Mating and Conception

Male dogs become sexually mature at about six months of age. From that time their sexual behavior is not cyclical, and they are capable of mating at any time and almost any place!

The bitch usually comes into season for the first time when she is aged about nine months, and fairly regularly every six months thereafter. It is not unusual, nor is it in any way abnormal, for the first season to be earlier, even as young as six months, or for it to be postponed until the bitch is over a year old. Neither is it unusual or abnormal for the interval between seasons to be longer than six months. If the interval between one season and another is very much less than six months, and particularly if it has become irregular in this respect, there may be some abnormality, and advice should be sought from your veterinarian.

A bitch's season lasts for about three weeks. She will show some swelling of her vulva shortly before presenting a blood-stained discharge. The discharge is usually very bloody at the start of her season, becoming paler after about ten days.

Although no risks should be taken from the first signs of season, the bitch will normally not accept a dog until about halfway through the season, at which time she will become fertile (i.e. capable of conceiving). There is normally no odor detectable to a human from a bitch in season, but there is a very powerful one detectable by dogs a considerable distance away. Do not assume that because you live a mile from the nearest male dog, your bitch will not be mated.

Do not assume, either, that a dog that lives together with a bitch, though they may be brother and sister, will not be interested.

True estrus begins at about twelve days from the first signs of the bitch coming into season. From that time she will accept the male's attempts to mate her, and will be fertile, for about five to seven days. Ovulation, the release of eggs into the uterus, takes place during this period. The timing is variable, and the dog and bitch are the best practical arbiters of the bitch's fertile period, although laboratory tests are available to help timing if the bitch fails to conceive.

The mating act may be prolonged. Once the dog has ejaculated, the bitch continues to grip his penis in her vagina, by means of a ring muscle, for up to about twenty minutes. The dog may climb off the bitch's back, and turn to face the other way, but both stand "tied". The tie is not actually essential for a successful mating, although all breeders prefer to see it.

Pregnancy lasts for about sixty-three days from mating. The normal variation is from about sixty days to as much as sixty-seven. Outside this range veterinary attention should be sought, although it does not necessarily indicate a problem and may simply be an extension of normal variation.

Bitches should not be bred from until they are physically mature. The ideal age for a first litter is about two years old.

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