Since I’ve had a few people ask me over a period of time, I thought now would be a good time to explain a bit about dog breeding, pregnancy and such. Don’t worry, I won’t be too graphic. 😉
Female dogs are all different, but on average they have a season or heat cycle approximately every six months. Of course that varies, I have a German Shepherd that would cycle every four months (poor girl, and poor me for having to keep track of her during that time. Don’t worry she’s spayed now.) And a Poodle I once had that was more on an eight month cycle.
When a female comes into heat, her body goes through some obvious changes that I won’t go into detail about. But the cycle lasts about three weeks. Normally we would say she is “coming in” the first week, in “standing” heat (meaning she will let the male breed her) the second week, and “going out” the third week. Now, that doesn’t mean she can’t get pregnant only on the second week. That (on average) is when she is most receptive to the male. But she has to be closely watched the whole three weeks because every dog is different and you never know what could happen.
About four weeks after breeding, the female’s abdomen can be palpated (i.e. examine (a part of the body) by touch, especially for medical purposes) to check for little enlargements (babies). Now, we can’t always feel this, but it sure is nice when we can. If nothing is felt, then we wait longer to see if there are other changes the female’s body will go through to give us a clue if she is pregnant or not. Of course, the dog’s body can also go through changes that look exactly like a pregnancy (what is called a false pregnancy) where she is not actually pregnant. Thankfully, we’ve never had to deal with that before.
Unfortunately there is no dog pregnancy test to tell us if a dog is pregnant. Some people will have sonograms done to confirm a pregnancy, but this is done about the same time as we can palpate, so that is what we choose to do. An x-ray can be done late in the pregnancy, but this is not usually to confirm a pregnancy (by that stage we pretty much know if she is or isn’t), but to find out the number, size and position of pups. This is helpful if we have a first time mom or a small dog and we want to know what to expect when delivery time comes.
The gestation period for a dog is on average, 63 days. (I for one would have liked to have a pregnancy that went to full term in only two months!) Although the normal range is anywhere from 58-71 days.
I hope that helps in understanding part of the “waiting game” we all go through. And of course, once those adorable puppies finally make their appearance into the world we have to let them grow up at least a couple months before they are ready for their forever homes!