Dogs have been man's best friend for thousands of years, and have served as loyal workers, guardians and companions. Breeding your dog and birthing puppies can be a stressful and difficult task, but with a little bit of research and dedication, the birth of your puppies can be a very pleasant experience.
Breeding your dog is a task not to be taken lightly. Dogs have an average lifespan of 10 to 15 years depending on breed, making them a considerable commitment. Your female should be very healthy, with no genetic conditions that she can pass on to the pups. The male you choose should also be healthy and have a stable temperament. Your female must be kept in excellent health throughout her pregnancy and must be monitored carefully as her due date approaches to make sure that she delivers well with as few complications as possible.
Female dogs are pregnant for an average of 63 days, with a window of 3 or 4 days early or late as a normal gestation period. Larger dogs tend to have slightly shorter gestation periods than smaller dogs due to the fact that they have larger litters and the individual puppies are larger. Most changes in the female's body will not be noticeable until approximately 5 weeks into gestation. At this time, her belly will seem to drop a bit, and her teats will start to look fuller, as hormones stimulate her body to start producing milk. As your female's due date approaches, you will notice that she may begin to nest, or to prepare a comfortable spot for her to whelp the puppies.
As your dog's due date approaches, she will often begin to eat more and her water intake will increase. This is her way of preparing the puppies to enter the world, as in the last few days of gestation they are growing so much. You will notice your female trying to prepare a soft, quiet place to whelp her litter. This is most often a place she likes, such as a closet or even your bed. Introduce her to the whelping box at this time so that she wants to have the pups there instead of some other inconvenient place. Place a few of her favourite toys and treats inside to encourage her to rest there. In the week leading up to her due date, begin taking her temperature twice a day. Normal temperature for a dog is around 38.3 to 38.8 degrees C. Within 24 hours of labour, her temperature will drop by a degree or two. This is one of the most accurate indicators of impending labour.
Your female must be well cared for during her pregnancy. Growing puppies will take a heavy toll on her body, so give her adequate nutrition. You can have the vet examine your female once she reaches approximately 4 weeks into gestation to see how many puppies she will be having. Knowing an approximate number of puppies helps you determine if your female is just resting between pups or if there is a problem. Let your female rest and relax as her due date approaches. Do not allow her to play too hard or put too much stress on her growing belly. Watch her food intake and keep an eye out for any unusual eating patterns that could indicate impending labour.
Whelping puppies can be a difficult process that requires a considerable amount of time and dedication. Many females have complications whelping puppies and require immediate veterinary attention. Your female's life can be endangered if a puppy gets stuck in the birth canal or if she haemorrhages. The newly born puppies need to be dried and warmed immediately to keep them alive, and many new mothers do not know how to do this. Do not allow people to handle the puppies or disturb the new family until they are well settled. A number of females will reject puppies or even halt labour if they are disturbed, so keep your female as quiet as possible while she whelps to minimise complications.