Dog Age & Breeding: Why It Matters

 Friday May 26,2023
By  Lancaster Puppies

Breeding dogs at the right age is important for healthy litters and ethical breeding. There are many factors like a dog’s size and breed that also affect when it can be used as a stud or dam. Keep reading to learn when dogs can start breeding and when they should stop.

Gender & Breed Affect When Breeding Can Begin

Male and female dogs don’t reach breeding age at the same time. Male dogs are able to be used for breeding sooner than female dogs. Female dogs must reach a healthy size and weight to carry a litter, while stud dogs don’t have these same physical requirements.

Similarly, a dog’s breed and size affect how fast it matures. Small dog breeds generally mature faster than larger breeds. Because they reach adult size quickly, small dogs can be bred sooner than large dogs. Each dog grows differently, so you should always check with your vet before using a dog, whether male or female, for breeding.

When Can Female Dogs Start Breeding?

2 brown and white Corgis sit side by side on the ground and smile at the camera.

Female dogs become fertile and go into heat before they reach adulthood, but this isn’t a sign they are old enough to breed. In fact, female dogs should never be bred during their first heat. Because they are still growing themselves, problems will arise with litters bred from underage female dogs. If a dog becomes pregnant before she reaches full maturity, her pregnancy can delay her growth and take away vital nutrients that she needs during this growth stage. It’s essential that breeders wait to breed female dogs until they are fully grown and can carry a litter through to delivery.

It’s recommended by expert dog breeders that large female dogs shouldn’t be bred until they reach 18 months of age to 2 years old. The larger the dog, the longer it takes for them to reach adult size. Extra large breeds shouldn’t be bred til around 2 years of age. In contrast, small breeds can be bred when they are around 1 year old or reach adult size.

When Can Male Dogs Start Breeding?

Just like female dogs, the type of breed a male dog is affects when it can be used as a stud. Male dogs of small breeds can usually be bred around 5 months of age while larger breeds will need to wait longer. That being said, small male dogs usually don’t reach their full breeding potential until they are 1 year old. Very large breeds may not reach sexual maturity until 2 years old, so it’s good to know the specifics of your dog’s particular breed and the individual dog itself.

Can Female Dogs Be Too Old to Breed?

Adult Golden Retriever sits in the snow with a Golden Retriever puppy.

If a female dog is bred late in life, there’s a higher risk of health conditions and small litters. Similar to their faster aging, small dog breeds generally have longer life expectancies than large breeds. As a result of having shorter life expectancies, big dogs will lose their ability to reproduce healthy litters much sooner than small breeds. The general age when female dogs see a big drop in fertility is at 5 years. Additionally, responsible breeders stop breeding a dam after she has had 4 litters.

Female dogs remain fertile their entire lives, even into their elderly years. That being said, they shouldn’t be bred later in life because there’s a high risk of pregnancy complications like a decrease in milk production and delivering stillborn puppies.

Can Male Dogs Be Too Old to Breed?

Unlike female dogs, male dogs don’t experience a decline in fertility when they age. However, health issues associated with old age, such as arthritis and mobility problems can make breeding difficult. Studs shouldn’t be used for breeding once they reach 10 to 12 years old. Similar to female dogs, smaller male dogs can generally be used for breeding longer than large male dogs.

Additionally, dogs that have health issues or haven’t had health checks shouldn’t be used in breeding, regardless of age. Age and health aren’t the only factors that affect a male dog’s ability to breed, temperament matters too. If a male dog becomes aggressive after being bred, it should no longer be used as a stud dog.

To learn more about dog breeding, check out Lancaster Puppies’ monthly blog. See newly added litters or list your own litter to find potential families near you.