How many puppies can a dog have the first time?

A dog reproduced for the first time, is the number of puppies different from the others in the first pregnancy? How many puppies can a dog have in its first pregnancy? To answer these questions, this post will talk about the reproductive cycle of dogs and the care to be taken with female dogs before pregnancy.

How many puppies can a dog have the first time?

There is no exact value. The number of puppies in the first pregnancy can vary by several factors such as age, environment, health, breed, and size of dogs. On average in healthy dogs the number of puppies does not tend to vary much from one pregnancy to the next.

However, dogs over 6 years old can have fewer puppies when reproduced, so elderly dogs should not be reproduced, as the reduced puppy’s number can lead to complicated pregnancy that results in dystocia.

How old can a dog have puppies?

The animal can even reproduce in the first heat, which can happen from 6 to 18 months of dog’s age. However, it is not recommended to reproduce a dog at this stage. In the first heat, the sex hormones play a role in maturing the body and preparing the animal for reproduction. So, a dog in the first heat may present a risky pregnancy.

Dogs must be bred up to a maximum of 6 years of age. Dogs at 6 years of age can already be considered elderly dogs and can present several problems during pregnancy that can result in dystocia.

Due to the wide variation of breeds and sizes, the dogs reproductive age can vary. This wide age range makes it necessary to consult a veterinarian before breeding a young dog. The veterinarian will better guide the tutor about the best age to breed their dogs according to the specific characteristics of the animal evaluated.

The estrous cycle in female dogs

The reproductive cycle in dogs is known as the estrous cycle and can be divided into 4 phases:

  • Proestrus;
  • Estrus;
  • Diestrus;
  • Anestrus.


In proestrus, the female canine body is preparing for ovulation and pregnancy. In this phase, hormones make the females have vulvar swelling, bleeding and become more attractive to males. However, at this stage the female still does not accept the male’s copulation.

It is the phase of the “dating” of the dogs, it involves games of attraction between the dogs. Female dogs can be more agitated during this period and even run away. It is important to beware of unwanted leaks.


Estrus, also known as heat, is the period in which the female accepts the male dog’s copulation. It is at this stage that ovulation of the female dog takes place. So only copulations in this period will make the female dogs get pregnant. Estrus can be shorter in some animals as well as longer in others, ranging from 7 to 21 days on average.

In female dogs, the vulva remains swollen, but the bleeding may stop. Care must be taken, as many owners think that the heat is over because the dog has stopped bleeding. But many times, she is just going through her most fertile period.


The diestrus is the phase in which the uterus prepares to receive the embryos; it lasts from 58 to 68 days. Female dogs reduce vulvar edema, and may present translucent secretion in the vulvar region. It is at this stage that many bacteria can develop in the female dog’s uterus resulting in pyometra. And when female dogs reproduce in estrus, diestrus becomes the fetal developmental stage of pregnancy.


Anestrus is the longest phase, lasting up to 4 months in some animals. In this phase, hormonal quiescence occurs in female dogs. Normally at this stage, female dogs do not accept the mount, much less the male’s copulation, and thus can be quite aggressive. The vulva returns to its normal size which makes copulation even more difficult.

Pre- pregnancy care for females’ dogs

Breeding dogs should always be accompanied by a veterinarian. Only healthy and adult dogs should be bred, so blood tests and tests for sexually transmitted diseases in dogs should be done.

Healthy female dogs must be vaccinated before mating and a deworming protocol must be carried out to avoid contamination of puppies intrauterine or after birth.

Some female dogs can become very aggressive with males when the correct time for breeding dogs is not respected. Many times, animals can end up injured. 

Also, it is not advised to leave the male and female together during the entire time of estrus. Because dogs can spend hours trying to copulate, thus stressing each other. In addition to having the possibility of getting hurt from trying so hard to copulate.

Some animals should receive vitamin supplements before and in the first days of pregnancy to avoid malformation problems in dogs. Female dogs must be at the ideal weight for the species, it is not desirable for obese or very thin females to breed. The diet of the pregnant dog can also change, so that the animal does not lose so much weight at the end of pregnancy.

It is also important to have a reserve of money for the veterinarian to carry out exams and pre-delivery follow-up, as well as money to cover the costs of medical emergencies.

How to know how many puppies the female is carrying?

It is advised to perform an ultrasound on day 30 of gestation for gestational diagnosis and from day 55 of gestation to observe if the puppies are well. X-rays can also be performed after 50 days to count the puppies, which can help at the time of birth to define whether the birth is over or not.

Ultrasound can also be used to count the number of puppies. However, this practice is not indicated because the puppies move in the mother’s belly, thus being able to count puppies for more or less, thus being a less accurate method of counting puppies.


Dogs in the first pregnancy can have the same number of puppies as in other pregnancies. Care should be taken when breeding older dogs as they may have more complications that can lead to dystocia. To reproduce a dog, it is important to consult a veterinarian, so that he can advise on the best age for dogs’ reproduction, the average puppy’s number that the animal can gestate to, and if the animal is already pregnant, he can perform imaging tests, to count the number of puppies.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs): How many puppies can a dog have the first time?

Is it possible to manipulate a female dog’s estrus with drugs, as in cows?

Yes, it is possible, but it is not so used because many female dogs also do not respond to hormonal protocols, so few animals go into heat. Therefore, it is recommended to let the animal come into heat naturally and the tutor will be accompanied until the exact moment of reproduction.

How long does pregnancy last in female dogs?

On average, the duration of pregnancy in female dogs is 63 days, ranging from 58 to 68 days from the day of mating. Veterinarians can dose hormones that will give a more accurate date for parturition. In addition, there are imaging tests that can indicate approximate parturition dates in female dogs.

Can female dogs have more than one heat per year?

Yes, some dog’s breeds can come into heat every 4 months. However, care should be taken as constant repetitions of heat can be a sign of endocrine diseases, so a veterinarian should be consulted to avoid health problems in dogs.


de Souza Teixeira, E. (2001). Princípios básicos para a criação de cães. NBL Editora.

Hollinshead, F. K., & Hanlon, D. W. (2017). Factors affecting the reproductive performance of bitches: A prospective cohort study involving 1203 inseminations with fresh and frozen semen. Theriogenology, 101, 62-72.

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