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Puppy Breeding

For many inexperienced breeders, it may seem as though breeding a litter of puppies is a natural thing to do. After all, you just need a stud and a dam, and the willingness to raise a litter of puppies, right? 

Sadly, that is not the case. Puppy breeding is a serious undertaking, and there are many considerations involved. Proper planning before breeding a litter of puppies will help ensure the health of the mother and her pups, as well as the happiness of future owners.

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The dam’s gestation period will typically last 63 days. However, this period may be a few days longer or shorter depending on the size of the litter.

The first sign of pregnancy will usually be seen at about 21 days after mating. The dam’s teats will grow larger and turn pink, and fur may begin to disappear. At around 28 days after mating, the dam will grow calmer and may begin to gain weight as the puppies start to develop.

It is at this point that you may go to the veterinarian to confirm the pregnancy. If the pregnancy is confirmed via an ultrasound, there are preparations you can make to ensure that the dam is comfortable when they give birth:

Once pregnancy is confirmed, you will need to be more aware of your dog’s activity level, appetite, and overall well being. Exercise should be lowered in both volume and intensity once the dam begins to show physical changes.

Around two weeks before the dam’s due date, you can allow them to begin using the whelping box or room. In the week before the puppies are due, you can allow the dam to do as little or as much exercise as they please, as they will be able to feel what is best for them.

Of course, when in doubt, you should contact your veterinarian for advice. They will have more specific recommendations as they will have a clearer understanding of your dog’s health and needs.


Thankfully, most dogs experience a relatively problem-free whelping. There are a couple of clear signs that the dam is ready to begin whelping:

The whelping happens in three stages:

Pregnant Golden Retriever

Stage 1

This stage can last between 6 to 12 hours. Contractions may begin to get stronger, and the dam may start to pant and get restless. You may see a clear, watery discharge from the dam’s vagina.

Stage 2

This stage begins when the dam begins to strain and have strong contractions. The number of puppies in the litter will determine how long this stage lasts. The dam will produce a puppy every 20 to 30 minutes, with some rest periods between each puppy where they will clean off the neonate and break the umbilical cord before contractions start anew.

Sometimes they dam will rest for 30 minutes to an hour before contractions start for the next puppy. This is normal, so long as the dog appears to be comfortable and is not straining.

There will also sometimes be a placenta that follows the puppy being born. Count how many of these come out, as they should match the number of puppies that are produced.

Stage 3

This stage comes after all the puppies have been born. The remaining placentas will be expelled during this stage. Contact your veterinarian if the puppies and placentas do not match and you feel a placenta is left inside the dam.

The dam may also want to eat some of the placentas – it is okay to allow them to do this, but not in excess. Eating a couple is no problem, but more than that may lead to stomach upset.

When in doubt, if you feel like the dam is having trouble or is in distress, you should immediately contact your veterinarian’s emergency line so that life-saving medical intervention can be done.

Additional Resources

If you’d like to learn more about puppy breeding, you can sign up for a RPBA account today to gain access to our Dog Breeder Handbook. We also have blogposts with more information about important things to consider before breeding a litter of puppies:

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