Understanding reproductive behaviours of female dogs
Being pet parents of a male or a female puppy always comes with different experiences. The care and management of female puppies are not limited up to the right feeding and well exercising. Female Dogs needs more care than Male Dogs. Female dogs need an understanding of their behaviour during various phases of their reproductive life. Especially breeders and kennel keepers need more understanding of the Dog Reproductive cycle. This article emphasizes the essentialities of female dogs’ reproductive behaviours.
Age of puberty in Dogs
The most common age for puberty in dogs is 6 to 9 months. Sexual maturation can actually start taking place over a wide age range from 5 to 24 months. Considerable breed variation exists in the puberty of Dogs. Larger dogs tend to reach puberty at an older age while smaller dogs get maturity at an early age.
The first estrus tends to be irregular. The first pro-estrus signs may end without any standing estrus signs.
Dog Reproductive Cycles
The oestrous cycle of the dog is unique among domestic animals. Every phase of a Dogs reproductive cycle is prolonged when compared to other animals. The female dog has 1 to 3 oestrous periods each year. Although an average oestrous cycle will be last for 6 months. The actual duration of the dog oestrous cycle can vary between 4 and 12 months. No fixed pattern of cyclic behaviour exists overall, but certain breeds might have a slight tendency to be in estrus in early fall or late winter or early spring.
What are Different Stages In Reproductive Cycle of dogs?
The Bitch oestrous or reproductive cycle is made up of 4 different stages. These are proestrus, estrus, diestrus, and anestrus.
Proestrus averages 9 days in duration but may last from 3-17 days.
- External signs include valvular swelling and bloody discharges.
- An unwillingness to stand for mounting.
- Vaginal bleeding continues from proestrus until day 9 of estrus in most cases.
- When first approached, the female will usually stand quietly while the male smells her, but crouch down if he attempts to mount.
In proestrus, a bitch may even show aggression toward the male.
The word estrus comes from the Greek word oistros, which means “frenzied passion”.
Estrus averages 9 days in duration but can be as short as 3 days or as long as 21 days.
- Premating behaviours include seeking out males.
- Increased vocalization, restlessness, and exploration.
- The behaviours of estrus include all aspects of courtship, mating, and post-mating rituals.
- The bitch will ‘flag’ her tail, allowing access to the vulva.
- Variations in behaviour are more likely to occur during the first estrus period than in later ones.
- These behavioural variations are probably related to hormonal insufficiencies or irregularities.
This Stage is the Best Time for Mating your Bitch
How Can We Know if Dog is In Heat (estrus)?
One can verify if bitch is in heat or not by visiting a nearby Veterinarian after you observe Bloody discharges. The veterinarian performs Blood tests (Hormonal assay) or Vaginal Cytology to verify if bitch is in heat.
- During dioestrus, the bitch again is unreceptive to the male.
- The bitch refuses the male’s advances.
- The duration of dioestrus is about 60 days, whether or not the bitch is bred and/or pregnant.
Anestrus is the inactive period until the start of the next estrus.
Natural mating: If you plan to breed by natural mating, you can either put both the male and female dog together for the entire oestrous period. You can also allow them to mate every other day as long as the female allows. Preferably there should be at least three breedings in the first 6 days after ovulation. Ovulation occurs 24-48 hours after LH surge (day 3-4 of estrus). First oestrous should always be avoided for mating.
You know the accurate breeding time in dogs by Blood tests (Hormonal assay) or vaginal cytology.
The pregnancy period also called as gestation period lasts for 58-68 days. Proper Nutrition should be provided during pregnancy. You can get advice on Pregnancy Nutrition from our Vet Video Consultation.
Pregnancy Confirmation in Bitches can be done by X-ray Radiography or Ultrasonography from nearby vets
Signs of whelping:
- At the end of a normal pregnancy, the bitch begins to show external signs of whelping, including behavioural changes.
- She will seek a quiet area with some type of appropriate nesting material.
- An instinctive tendency to dig is present at this stage.
- As the female’s restlessness increases, she will frequently rearrange bedding material. Especially in the days immediately before parturition.
- Her appetite will decrease during this time as well.
- She will get up and lie down, ask to go in and out (in the case of a house dog), and posture as of urination.
She will show an increased friendliness toward favoured individuals but increased aggression toward strangers.
Parturition (whelping) is divided into 4 phases: –
The Contraction Phase:
Her Activity decreases. The bitch will be spending more time sitting or lying on her side, perhaps with her back pressed against something firm.
Bitchs Respirations increase to 100 to 175 breaths per minute (lasting a minute or two). These increased rates alternate with normal rates of 16 to 20 breaths per minute and an intermediate rate of 40 to 60 breaths per minute.
The Emergence Phase
In this phase, the bitch may shiver, have occasional twitching of the rear limbs, and with a few strong uterine contractions, pushes the puppy into the birth canal.
Externally, a bulge appears just above the vulva as the foetus nears its exit. The chorioallantois will begin to protrude from the vulva and often breaks to release its watery contents. This phase usually lasts a few seconds, but if it is prolonged, the bitch may start removing the foetal membranes before the puppy is completely out.
The Delivery phase
The mother’s attention is immediately given to licking up foetal fluids on the puppy, herself, and the nest material.
She cleans up the puppy, removes remaining amnionic membranes, and stimulates the first respirations in the newborn.
The bitch will chew through the umbilical cord and eat the foetal membranes.
The Placental Phase
Uterine contractions resume and result in the expulsion of the placenta. Mothers normally eat the placenta after its expulsion. Even though this behaviour is not necessary for dogs reared in our homes.
During parturition, the bitch is sensitive to other disturbances. If the disturbance occurs during labour, the puppy may not be expelled, and one or more ineffective bouts of uterine contractions will follow. Long disturbances are disruptive to the birthing process.
During the first 12 hours after the parturition, the new mother rarely leaves the puppies and she is extremely protective of them. She may let familiar people handle her puppies, but even then she remains nervous until the puppies are kept back.
During the first week, she hardly leaves the puppies. By 2 weeks postpartum (after delivery), she will remain outside the nest box for 2 to 3 hours at a time. When in the box, the new mother grooms the puppies frequently and nurses them often.
She will also rest with the puppies, this helps her offspring maintain body temperature when they are incapable of doing it on their own.
During the first few weeks, the mother is relatively insistent that the puppies remain where they were whelped.
When the puppies are approximately 4 weeks of age, there is a change in this relationship.
The mother is caring less and less likely to respond to the puppies. Decreased attempts to nurse, often standing to prevent it.
She also becomes more aggressive toward the puppies, using an inhibited bite to emphasize to them her reduced interest in their nursing attempts.
It is my aim to meet several goals with this article. Firstly, this is intended to help veterinarians, pet owners and dog breeders gain further insights into the female dog’s communicative, social, sexual, sensory behaviours during the reproductive phase. Secondly, it is designed to provide practical information to pet owners for proper care of the mother before, during and after whelping. Lastly, but not least, I hope it provides interesting information to fellow dog enthusiasts.
If you are still in confusion with Dog Reproductive Breeding you can Ask a vet Online or comment below so our expert vets will answer your questions in the comment section below.