Breeding dogs is a complex phenomenon and is not only dependent on the health of the dam but there are various other factors involved as well.
On average, a dog will have 5–6 puppies in a single litter. However, there is a lot of variation among different breeds and even within a single breed.
The many factors that decide a dog’s litter size include the breed characteristics, health of the parents, nutrition, inbreeding, etc.
Factors That Decide The Litter Size
Here is a list of all the factors that play a role in determining how many puppies a dog will have.
Larger wombs can carry more pups and provide adequate nutrition without any compromise. Hence, the larger the breed, the bigger the litter. This is a general rule when it comes to dogs.
But within a breed, sizes differ as well. For example, some GSDs are larger than others and are more likely to have a larger litter than their smaller counterparts.
During pregnancy, many pups can die if the mother cannot sustain their energy demands; as a result, the number of live births may be less than the number conceived.
Raising a pup inside the womb requires a lot of nutrition. If the mother is eating better with lots of proteins, minerals, and overall calories, then she is more likely to have a healthier litter than a malnourished one.
As for their male counterparts, a healthier stud will have a healthier sperm count and motility. This makes fertilization easier than it would be with sperm from an unhealthy stud.
It is best to follow guidelines from dog nutrition experts rather than having a random diet when it comes to a dog’s diet for better breeding. Taking good care of your dog’s health and nutrition is ideal for rearing a larger and healthier litter.
3. Age of the mother and stud
The female’s womb becomes more suitable for larger litters as she ages. Hence, the first litter is almost always the smallest one for a dam and the size increases in subsequent pregnancies.
Having said that, breeding a dog too early or too late is very risky. Pregnancy-related complications are more common at the extremes of age.
Ideally, the time around the 3rd heat period is best suited for dog breeding, which usually takes around 2 years. That is the recommendation from the Continental Kennel Club as well.
Likewise, a younger stud has more motile and healthy sperm, better able to reach the female egg and fertilize it. Hence, more sperm fertilize multiple eggs, and the result is a bigger litter.
As the stud gets older, both his sperm count and motility decline, leading to a fall in litter size. A stud’s ideal age for better fertilization is less than 5 years.
4. Artificial vs natural insemination
For artificial insemination, sperm collection is done, and these are then stored prior to fertilization. Some quantity of sperm is either lost or destroyed during this process, which reduces the overall yield.
In contrast, sperm penetration is better during natural intercourse between a bitch and a stud. This is more likely to result in a bigger litter.
Not to forget that this will also depend on the age and health of the stud from whom the sperm are derived.
5. Heat period
During the heat period, a dam’s sexual activity is at its highest and she is more open to mating and getting pregnant. Usually, a dog’s heat lasts between two and four weeks and happens twice a year.
Due to the short receptive period in its reproductive tract, a dam is more open to fertilization during this time and can hold more sperm.
There is no need to go into the details of genetics, but the bottom line is that the more closely the mating partners are related, the smaller the litter size will be. In other words, inbreeding results in a smaller litter.
But this should not force you to use a stud from a different lineage when a healthier option is available through inbreeding. Always get a stud from a certified breeder that ensures the absence of any genetic disorders
How Many Times A Year Can A Dam Get Pregnant?
Theoretically speaking, a dam can get pregnant and have babies 2 times a year. This is because of the short duration of their pregnancies, which last about 2 months.
However, pregnancy puts a lot of strain on a dam’s body and is very challenging mentally as well. Also, newborns require nourishment from their mother’s body, which puts additional strain on the mother.
Thus, getting your pooch pregnant multiple times in a single year can lead to distress and poor health. As a result, it is recommended to wait at least a year before breeding again for the next pregnancy.
How Many Litters Can A Dam Have In Her Lifetime?
If a dam starts to get pregnant by the age of 2 years and conceives two times a year, she will have 20 litters considering an average lifespan of 12 years for dogs.
This however is only a theoretical calculation and may be completely different due to various circumstances such as failure to get pregnant, disease, or different lifespan, etc.
How Many Puppies Can A Dam Have In Her Lifetime?
With the above knowledge, a dam can have up to 100 pups in her lifetime if she averages 5 pups per litter.
Again, this is speculative knowledge, and the exact number will depend on the factors given above in the article.
Also Read: How Many Puppies Can a Dalmatian have?
How Long Does A Pregnancy Last?
The gestational period, i.e., pregnancy duration, remains more or less the same across the dog species, regardless of the litter size. This ranges from 57 to 65 days, with an average of 63 days.
However, health conditions vary, and your dam can have a premature delivery or delayed labor. Thus, it is very crucial that you are in regular contact with a vet throughout the pregnancy, as some females may require C-sections.
Things To Be Mindful Of Before Breeding Dogs
Before you opt for breeding your dam, take into consideration the following things in order to get the healthiest litter possible:
1. Choosing the parents
Always choose a bitch and a dog from certified breeders. They must be healthy, young, and free from inherited disorders.
That is because only a healthy couple can guarantee a healthy litter.
This also helps a lot in the future when you decide to sell your pooch, as dogs with certified lineages are valued more than those with uncertified lineages.
2. Breeding Technique
Whenever possible, opt for natural methods of breeding over artificial ones.
This would have the dual benefit of lowering your dam’s impregnation costs and increasing the likelihood that she will become pregnant with the first try.
Also, repeated bouts of artificial insemination can be uncomfortable for the dam.
3. Parturition Issues
Pregnancy-related complications increase as the number of pups sharing a womb increases. Premature births, for example, and the umbilical cord becoming entangled around a puppy’s neck are just a few examples.
To avoid this, consult with a trained veterinarian before, during, and after the pregnancy, as your buck may require a cesarean section to deliver the pups. Make sure you have a vet available if the need arises.
What Is The Best Age To Breed A Dam?
According to Continental Kennel Club guidelines, the minimum age for a dam for mating is 4 months, and that for a stud should be 7 months.
However, these are the lowest limits, and you should ideally wait between 18 and 24 months before your pooch matures to go through the burden of pregnancy and raising puppies.
Breed With the Largest Litter
Larger breeds like Dalmatians are often thought of as having the largest litter, but the record holder is not a Dalmatian.
Tia, a Napolitan Mastiff, holds the record for the largest single litter and gave birth to 24 puppies in 2015. 15 of these were males, while 9 were females. More about it here.
Breed With Smallest Litter
Although there is no record for the smallest litter, smaller dogs usually have the lowest average litter. Among them, Pomeranians and Poodles have a litter size of just 2.4.
Frequently Asked Questions
Following are some of the questions that I have received from the readers of doggomag.com.
How many pregnancies are safe for a dog?
It is advised that a bitch should not have more than 6 liters in her lifetime. This is to give her enough time to recover from pregnancy and cater to her children before she conceives again.
Is it OK for a one-year-old dog to get pregnant?
Although it is not unnatural for a 1-year-old dog to get pregnant, it is very risky as the mother’s body may be immature. Dog experts advise that a dam should be at least 2 years old before she is bred to ensure better health and safety for herself and her children.
Wrapping Up – How Many Puppies Can A Dog Have?
Breeding dogs is a complex phenomenon, and the number of puppies a dog will have is dependent on a lot of factors. On average, a dog will have 5–6 pups in a litter and about 12–20 liters in her lifetime.
Read the article to find out more about the different things that affect a dog’s ability to breed. This will help you make better decisions for your dog.