If you have ever experienced the joy of raising puppies or have always wanted to witness a litter being born then you probably know a little bit about where they come from. The whole experience is quite involved and can vary quite a bit from dog to dog. Large breed dogs usually have large litters of puppies and generally experience less problematic births, whereas small breeds can sometimes have as few as one or two pups and often need a vet on standby in case things go awry.
In the Beginning…
Before your dog has puppies she needs to go through a heat cycle. If your dog’s first heat happens prior to her first birthday it is advisable to wait until her second cycle. Breeding your dog before she is at least one year old is dangerous for her health and could stunt her growth.
Heats usually come around twice a year but on occasion your dog may skip one. It is especially important during this time to keep a close eye on her and to keep her indoors at all times, only allowing her around the male of your choice. All dogs will sense that she is in heat and you will have loose and stray dogs jumping the fence to get a chance with her. She could breed with several male dogs while in heat and the cycle lasts for 3 weeks. This usually happens every six to nine months.
You will know she is in heat because her vulva will be very swollen and she will have a bloody discharge. Some dogs are very clean and you may not even notice it while larger dogs might make more of a mess. This stage of her heat lasts for the first six to eleven days. During the next stage, she is fertile and can easily become pregnant. You will notice her stance around other dogs which will be more inviting and her discharge will slow down. This can last for as little as five days to as many as twenty. Once this is over, she will be back to her normal self and not allow male dogs near her.
Is She Pregnant?
If you are trying for a litter of puppies, this will be an exciting time for your family. Early signs of pregnancy include decreased appetite and activity levels, enlargement of the nipples, and other behavioral changes. Hormonal changes may make her more skittish or more affectionate than normal. It all depends on each individual dog.
After a couple of weeks of pregnancy your dog should return to normal. Her appetite will come back and she will begin to gain weight. You will see her stomach growing and hardening. You will even feel puppies moving around during the final week! This whole process takes between 60 and 64 days which is pretty fast considering the miracle of birth.
How to Help
Getting a whelping box prepared is the best thing you can do for your dog. Make it very comfortable, safe, and warm for mom and babies. Using old blankets and towels is best because they are soft but can be discarded once their purpose is over. It’s important to show this to her so she knows it’s for her, otherwise she can become destructive while making her own place to give birth. Once the time has passed, get ready for the big show.