Few people wake up in the morning randomly wondering about the length of the canine gestational period. Such a question isn’t something that just pops into the average person’s thoughts. It is, however, a question you’re likely to ask if you have a dog that’s pregnant, or one that might be pregnant. Perhaps you’re thinking of breeding your dog and are trying to determine just what that might entail. Regardless of your motivation, you’re in the right place. Here’s everything you need to know about the average canine pregnancy.

Gestational Length: It Depends on How You Measure It

There are two ways to measure canine gestational length. The first is from the time that the breeding occurred. The second is from the beginning of the stage in the female canine’s reproductive cycle knows as diestrus. This is the point in a female dog’s cycle that signals the end of her estrus cycle, or fertile period. Whenever a dog ovulates, its eggs remain fertile for approximately 48 hours. A male dog’s sperm, however, lives for a week on average, sometimes longer.

Don’t Worry, You’ll Be Able to Tell

Breeders have learned they can calculate their whelping dates to be somewhere between 59 and 63 days from the date of the pair’s first tie with puppies being born outside those parameters often surviving. When measuring from the start of diestrus as determined with hormonal testing, the predicted whelping date is in 57 days. The length of the pregnancy, however, would be 60 days, as diestrus always follows conception by 3 days. While gestational calendars are useful, there are other indicators that help you know when birth is imminent.

Not When, or Where, but If

Long before you start wondering when your girl is going to whelp or thinking about where the big event might take place, you’ll be wondering how you can tell if she’s pregnant in the first place. Although some dogs may show early signs of pregnancy such as vomiting or going off their food for a day or two, most give no indication their status has changed. If you’re observant, however, you might get some forewarning by watching for these key signs and pursuing these means of detection.

  • Upset tummy, early on
  • Lackluster appetite
  • Moping about, early on
  • Mammary gland engorgement, especially after four weeks
  • Increase in girth
  • Weight gain
  • Movement of puppies observed (last week of pregnancy)
  • Detection of fetuses via uterine palpation
  • Ultrasound at 28 days
  • X-ray in the final two weeks of pregnancy.

Many dogs seemingly like to keep their owners guessing right up until their weight gain, becomes unmistakable in the last couple of weeks before they whelp.

How to Positively Influence Your Dog’s Pregnancy

The vast majority of canine pregnancies progress without incident and most dogs whelp normal litters of healthy puppies. In general, there are but a few guidelines available to follow that will help ensure that your dog, too, has a good pregnancy experience. Ideally, your dog’s pregnancy will have been a planned event, and both sire and dam will be in the peak of condition and health. Should this not be the case, have no worries. Simply make a veterinary appointment for the mother-to-be at the earliest opportunity. They’ll give her a physical, check for internal and external parasites, make sure she’s up-to-date on her vaccinations and possibly provide you with prenatal vitamins. All that’s left is to make sure she gets regular exercise and a top notch diet and wait for the puppies to be born.

Strange Things to Watch Out For

Despite the best of intentions, planning, and preparation, dogs sometimes have their own ideas when it comes to impending motherhood. As her time grows near, watch for nesting behaviors. You will have provided a whelping box or area, but that doesn’t mean that the young mother might not prefer to make her nursery in the back of your closet, beneath an outdoor hedge, or at the bottom of the laundry basket. Also beware of the dog that was bred but did not appear pregnant. Many are the owners whose slim, trim females produced a surprise puppy or two after not appearing the least bit pregnant. Equally surprising are falsely pregnant dogs: those that increase in girth, develop milk, and even prepare a nest … for puppies that never were.

One day you have just one dog and the next, as many as a dozen playful puppies running around your back yard. Raising a litter of puppies is an enjoyable, heartwarming, and rewarding experience. Although things can occasionally go wrong in a canine pregnancy, the vast majority produce healthy, happy litters of puppies. Just as you took the time to educate yourself about your dog’s pregnancy, now take the time to learn about how to properly raise a litter of puppies. Today you’re a dog owner, tomorrow, a dog breeder! By taking the the time to learn all you can about dog breeding and puppy rearing best practices you’re sure to soon be highly sought after as the producer of champion companions.


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