How Can I Tell if My Dog is Ready to Breed?

Updated: July 14, 2022

Dog breeding is a wonderful and exciting endeavor. But it can also be overwhelming and confusing learning everything required to keep your female dog happy and healthy. Let's look at some of the signs a female dog is ready to mate and when to breed a dog.

when to breed a dog, when is a dog ready to breed

"Breeders should allow their female dog to pass her first two heat cycles before attempting to breed her."

For starters, you might be wondering how to know when it’s time to breed your dog. This is important to understand the signs a female dog is ready to mate, otherwise your female dog won’t be receptive to the male and the breeding process won’t be a success. But how do you know when to breed a dog?

Responsible dog breeders should allow their female dog to pass her first two heat cycles at least before ever attempting to breed her. It is the third heat that begins the prime period in terms of fertility in dog breeding. During this time, her hormone levels have reached optimum level to prepare her uterus for a healthy pregnancy. It is important to note that age also plays a factor. A dog on her third heat cycle may still be too young to breed, especially for certain health tests, so you can always wait an additional cycle or two to help ensure the best possible pregnancy.

When is a Female Dog Ready to Breed?

As for when is the precise moment to breed, female dogs exhibit some fairly obvious signs when they are ready. If you watch closely and notice her body changes and behavior, you’ll know exactly when she is ready.

When can you breed your female dog, signs your female dog is ready to breed

Here are signs a female dog is ready to mate:


Observe your dog’s genital area. If she is about to go into heat, her vulva will begin to swell. Simply take a look at her back end, a swollen vulva will be very noticeable.

A swollen vulva is one of the major signs that your furbaby is in heat. This happens during the proestrus stage, the first stage of a dog’s heat cycle.


You will also want to watch for signs of discharge. Female dogs going into heat will begin to produce bloody discharge. So, when is a dog ready to breed after she starts bleeding? Typically, one week after the vulva begins to swell, you should notice bleeding begin. A dog's heat discharge color (also referred to as a dog's heat cycle blood color) will change in the different stages of heat. The heat discharge can range in color from deep red to white, depending on the dog. Your dog will be fertile for up to 12 days after the bleeding slows and gets thinner and lighter. The dog heat discharge color will continue to get lighter until it is no longer produced. 

As you can see, a dog in heat can be messy and breeding can be a messy job. But you can enjoy this time with your dog and protect your rugs and furniture at the same time by fitting your female dog with washable dog diapers. Pet Parents®, offers the widest selection of washable female dog diapers online so you can keep your house clean during “that time.”

Pet Parents® Washable Dog Diapers are high-quality and made with our soft non-abrasive WickQuick® proprietary that instantly absorbs any wetness and moisture, including your furbaby's bloody discharge! These diapers also have our hook & loop system that help support many dog body types while providing a leak-proof, comfy fit while your dog is in heat.

Frequent Urination

Pay attention to how often your dog is urinating when determining when to breed a dog. When female dogs are ready to breed, they will urinate more frequently than normal. According to the VCA Animal Hospital, a female dog in heat will pee more than usual, or may suddenly develop a marking behavior, in which she pees small amounts on various objects either in your home or when out for a walk or playtime.

By the way, dog diapers can save your rugs and sanity in this potty situation as well. Basically, if you are going to be breeding your female, it’s a great idea to keep some of these dog diapers handy! You can also provide Pawtect® Pads for your dog. These washable and reusable pads are more than a pee pad. They can be placed on furniture, car seats, or rugs to add an extra layer of protection. Plus, they make excellent whelping pads later once your dog is delivering and caring for her puppies. These pads come in packs of two so that you can always have one on hand and one in use.

Keep an Eye Out for Male Dogs

At a certain point, your female dog will begin to give off a scent that will signal intact males. As mentioned by Wag!, when your female dog is in heat, her body goes through a lot of hormonal changes that result in a variety of different odors linked to a certain stage of her heat cycle. These odors are not easily perceived by us (humans) but these are very obvious and evident to dogs. These specific smells have been designed by nature as part of a dog’s reproduction stage.

If you start to notice male dogs around your yard, it's likely she is in heat and ready for breeding. Dogs pushing to get to your female or escaping from their yards to find her are clear signs that a male dog wants to mate. You should be extremely careful to keep your female dog away from all intact male dogs that you do not plan on breeding her with during this stage. Dog instincts are very strong and you could end up with an accidental litter otherwise.

Ready, Set, Breed

Once you have noticed all of these signs, your female can be acquainted with the male dog which you have chosen her to breed. When selecting a mate for your dog, you should take into account the desirable traits you are looking for in the puppies from both parents. Breeding should be done for a purpose to improve breed standards. If you are new to breeding, you may consider finding a mentor who is well-versed in ethical breeding.

Once you have all mating set, you should allow the dogs to breed naturally. When female dogs are absolutely ready to breed, will willingly “do the deed.” Even if you see signs a male dog is ready to mate, you should ensure you look for signs your female is ready as well. Should your female put up a fight, give her another day or two. Do not force her to breed as she will do so willingly in her own time.

What to do before breeding your female dog

Here are some things to keep in mind when breeding your dog:

  • It is not okay to breed your dog on her first heat. Pregnancy and taking care of a litter of pups can be stressful, especially if your dog is not prepared for it. Your dog may not know yet how to fully grasp motherhood and may just end up developing maternal behavior problems.
  • Consult your vet and ask whether or not your dog is ready to breed. Being in heat is not enough, your dog should also be at peak health. A healthy dog will be ready to take on the roller coaster of changes during pregnancy, delivery, and nursing.
  • Have your dog undergo health checks, like hip evaluations, to ensure that pregnancy will be safe for them. These health checks also reassure avoidance of any health problems during pregnancy.
  • Perform health tests recommended for the breed. OFA offers a breakdown of recommended health examinations by breed to help ensure the health of the parents before breeding to create healthy puppies.
  • See to it that your dog does not have any genetic defects. If they do and you breed them, you could only be creating higher chances of passing on the genetic issues to her litter. Your vet may suggest to have your female dog spayed instead.
  • Responsible breeding should always be an improvement of a breed’s standards. Find a male dog that will supplement your furbaby well and one that has the standards. The American Kennel Club believes that every dog is the best dog for their pet parents but it’s also important to keep away from kennel blindness. Kennel blindness is a breeder’s incapability to acknowledge the flaws and faults of their dogs. Pet parents that are kennel blind always happen to alter the breed’s standards just to justify their dog's faults. Although your furbaby is perfect to you in every way, they may not always be the best breeding candidate.
when is a female dog ready to breed? when to breed a dog

"When selecting a mate for your dog, you should take into account the desirable traits you are looking for in the puppies from both parents."

Breeding your dog should be a wonderful experience. When determining when to breed a dog, make sure to watch your dog closely. Look for the signs a female dog is ready to mate as well as signs a male dog is ready to mate with her. Be sure to give her some extra love and attention when breeding your dog and set her up for a successful pregnancy with vet evaluations before breeding. Make sure to work on your dog's timeline for a happy and healthy pregnancy and transition to motherhood.