Why Breeding Your Dog on Her First Heat is Not OK

Updated: February 21, 2024

Breeding your dog on her first heat is just... wrong. It has great potential for health risks and your pup won't be mature enough herself to be a mother. While a dog in her first heat can get pregnant, breeding on first heat cycles is not responsible.

Have you ever wondered what will possibly happen if your dog has her heat cycle at 6 months old and then she accidentally gets pregnant at a very young age? It will be a whirlwind of emotions. Aside from you being surprised, your female dog, too, will be overwhelmed of how stressful pregnancy can be during her first heat cycle! Breeding on first heat cycles can be dangerous for dogs and cause unnecessary complications.

So, how old does a dog have to be before breeding and having her first litter? Let's find out why it's not okay for your dog to get pregnant on her first heat, and when it's best to breed her. In this article we will look at dog heat cycles, what many people think of as dog periods, and common questions like: When do dogs go into heat? When can a dog get pregnant? How often do dogs go into heat? Can a dog get pregnant when not in heat? And what are the disadvantages of breeding too early?

can a dog get pregnant when not in heat, breeding on first heat cycles, dog pregnant first heat cycle

"Breeding and getting your dog pregnant on her first heat can also pose health risks for both your dog and her pups, like bad genes being passed on, and behavioral changes like aggression."

Dogs are Mono-estrous

Even though your dog may actually have a total of 2 reproductive cycles in a year, your female dog is mono-estrous. What does this mean? Your dog only has one breeding season every year. And when do female dogs go into heat? A female dog’s first heat cycle may begin as early as 6 months to 1 year. Although they are not yet considered adult dogs, at this age onward, mating and pregnancy can occur.

If your dog becomes a mother as early as her first heat cycle, she may not know how to act in this motherhood situation. Because she is still a puppy herself, she may not fully grasp the responsibility of being a mother, leading to not taking good care of or rejecting her pups.

The Disadvantages of Breeding Too Early

When can a dog get pregnant? Female dogs can get pregnant as soon as they have their first heat cycle. During your dog's first heat cycle, your female dog is physically capable of having a litter, but she is far from being ready to raise them. According to Breeding Business, female dogs are the cornerstones of every successful breeder’s bloodline. However, too many breeders just pick the wrong time to breed their females.

Breeding and getting your dog pregnant on her first heat can also pose health risks for both your dog and her pups, like bad genes being passed on, and behavioral changes like aggression.

Aside from labor and delivery, the constant nursing of her pups can cause too much stress to her body so she must be physically and mentally matured for that. Although her reproductive system tells you your dog is ready to have pups, her body isn't. So, it’s best to reconsider.

Also, many tests that your female dog should undergo to make sure she is healthy and fit for breeding cannot be done until your dog turns 2 years old. You could end up breeding an unhealthy dog which would lead to a huge possibility for the passing on of genetic defects in her litter.

Can a Dog Get Pregnant When Not in Heat?

A common question is, “Can a dog get pregnant when not in heat?” The answer is no, a dog cannot get pregnant when she is not in heat, however, many pet parents may not recognize the full heat cycle of their dog and will only look for the noticeable sign of dog period bleeding. When preventing a pregnancy for your young dog, you must recognize all the stages of dog heat cycles and signs of each stage.

When do dogs get their period is a common question, but a more appropriate one is when do dogs go into heat. Your dog's heat cycle happens in this process and it's better to prepare and secure her away from any unwanted breeding as she begins her first heat:

Stage 1: Proestrus – during this stage, there is vaginal discharge and male dogs will become attracted to females. However, the females are still unwilling to mate. Length: 4-20 days.

Stage 2: Estrus - your dog will have a swollen vulva and some yellowish vaginal discharge. Mating occurs during this stage with the female dog showing interest and being receptive to the males. Length: 5-13 days.

Stage 3: Metestrus (or Diestrus) - the period after mating. Length: 60-90 days. If your dog is pregnant, a typical dog pregnancy length will be between 60-64 days.

Stage 4 Anestrus - the period of inactivity in dogs (sexual and hormonal) between estrus phases. Length: 2-6 months- typically 4 months on average.

stages of dog heat cycle and dog pregnancy length, a dog's first heat cycle

When do dogs start heat cycles? Puberty or sexual maturity in female dogs can kick in at different times, depending on so many different factors. Smaller breeds tend to go into their heat for the first time around six months of age, while larger dogs can be two years old before they go into heat for the first time.

While in heat, your female dog will bleed and may soil things. This means blood can and will get on your couch, flooring, carpet, and furniture. This can be a recipe for disaster for your clean home and a very stressful time for you and your dog. To minimize that stress and prevent messes, Pet Parents® Dog Diapers are a must for female dogs in heat. Not only will these prevent messes from your dog’s bleeding, but it can also prevent male dogs from mating with her.

These diapers for dogs in heat look very similar to human diapers except that there is a hole to accommodate your dog’s tails. The hole is elastic and is easily stretched depending on how big the dog’s tail is, providing no chance of any leakage. These dog diapers are available in multiple colors and sizes XS to XL so that your dog can have the right fit and look. Plus, they are washable so that you can use them again and again with each heat cycle.

The diaper pad, too, is sewn into the diaper and has a waterproof outer layer. The sewn-in super absorbent pad provides a cost saving too, by eliminating the need for disposable inserts. Plus, it prevents you from having to touch gross soiled inserts. All you have to simply do is rinse, wash, dry, repeat!

Breeding 101

The right time to breed your dog is when she is around two to three years old. Her body has then become fully matured to take on the full stress of pregnancy and the things that come after.

responsible dog breeding 101, how often do dogs go into heat

As a pet parent, you have many things to take into consideration when breeding your female dog:

  • Make sure your female dog is healthy and well-conditioned before breeding and have your vet perform all relevant health checks, like hip evaluation and ophthalmologist evaluation. This is to make sure you are doing all you can to ensure she is healthy enough to breed. If your dog is not well, it will only cause future health problems during her pregnancy. Health tests can also help to minimize the risk of passing down any genetic diseases to the puppies. These should be performed on the mother and father before mating, which is another reason why a dog's first heat cycle is not the right time to breed her.
  • Each breeding should be an improvement on the parents. Make sure you pair your dog to a male that has the standards of the breed he belongs to. The goal of responsible breeding is to create improvements with each generation of puppies born. Not every dog is meant to be a parent, but that doesn’t mean there is any problem with your furbaby. As much as possible, it's best to avoid cross breeding.
  • According to the American Kennel Club, breeding a litter should always start with knowledge. Responsible pet parents must devote time to learning as much as they can about their furbaby's breed, about dog health, developmental stages, and training.
  • Plan ahead of each stud session about who you'll breed your dog to, when and where you'll keep her during her pregnancy, and other pre-pregnancy preparations to make sure that your female dog will be bred in, and her litter be raised in the best environment. During pregnancy, your dog’s needs may change and you must be willing to adapt to a change in activity or attitude from your female dog.
  • Ensure that you have the necessary equipment and location to provide your dog a comfortable pregnancy and delivery, like a stress-free environment far from loud noises and stray animals, prenatal vitamins, dog food, whelping box, labor tools (surgical gloves, heating pads, etc.), milk replacer (just in case), vitamins for the litter, waterproof pet blankets, and of course the financial capacity to keep the litter's vaccines updated.
  • You may ask your vet if it’s okay to offer your dog with Pet Parents® Multivitamins SoftSupps®. These multivitamin supplements are made with beneficial ingredients that help promote powerful daily health support so that your female dog feels her best. Branded ‘Super Ingredients' are clinically proven ingredients that go through a proprietary process to ensure safety and effectiveness. These ingredients increase efficacy and are actually more effective than the commonly used basic forms of the ingredients that you might find elsewhere.
  • Take into account financial considerations in case your dog needs medical intervention. You should develop a good relationship with your vet if you are considering breeding your dog and be sure to have an emergency number in case something goes wrong during your dog's pregnancy or labor. For example, emergency c-sections can require immediate care and funds for the care. Be sure you are prepared on all fronts before breeding your dog.

How Can Pet Parents® Help?

Pet Parents® offer high-quality products that can come very handy for your dog to prevent her from the things that come together with her first heat, like soiling furniture at home and unplanned breeding. Diapers for dogs in heat can help prevent messes and accidental litters.

Diapers for Dogs in Heat

Have your dog wear Pet Parents® Washable Dog Diapers during her heat since she will be having a discharge that may soil things in your house and you wouldn’t want ruined. These diapers for dogs in heat are made with a leak-proof, water-proof shell that makes sure heat discharges stay inside the diaper. Pet Parents® Washable Dog Diapers can also prevent your furbaby from unplanned breeding and can be a great birth control. Though these diapers for dogs in heat may not be able to stop male dogs from lurking around, you can have your dog wear diapers to prevent any penetration and possible mating. 

when do dogs go into heat, when do female dogs go into heat

"These multivitamin supplements [Pet Parents® Multivitamins SoftSupps®] will provide your furbaby with beneficial ingredients that help promote powerful daily health support."

Pawtect® Pads for Extra Protection

You can also provide your dog with Pet Parents® Pawtect® Pads for that added leakage protection so your female dog can still lounge on her favorite spits at home without you having to worry about stains and messy cleanups! These Pet Parents® Pawtect® Pads have StickyPaw™ backing that grips the floor, providing an anti-slip grip.

Breeding your dog on her first heat is definitely not okay as there are a lot of things that still need to be considered. The questions, “When do dogs go into heat?” and “How old does a dog have to be to breed?” will give you very different answers. Breeding your dog for the very first time is a milestone and can be a very challenging experience. It requires a lot of time and sometimes very heartbreaking especially when your dog doesn’t take or if there are any complications in the pregnancy. If you want to know how to breed dogs, it is best to consult your vet and continue your research as your dog grows up for two to three years.

Now that you know the answer to questions like, "can dogs get pregnant when not in heat?" and "when can a dog get pregnant?" you will be able to better plan and prepare for your dogs pregnancy. It takes real pet parent commitment combined with lots of love, patience and delicate planning before breeding your female dog for the very first time (but definitely not on her first heat).