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At What Age Can Dogs Get Pregnant: Vet Reviewed Facts & FAQ

Dr. Lauren Demos Photo

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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Dogs reach sexual maturity at different ages, depending on their size (usually). Larger dogs take longer to grow and often reach sexual maturity later than smaller dogs. Some small breeds reach sexual maturity at about 4 months. However, larger breeds may not reach maturity until they’re 2 years old.

It’s important to note that dogs can reach sexual maturity before they are fully grown. Just because a dog reaches sexual maturity doesn’t mean they’re done growing themselves. Importantly, experts don’t recommend breeding a dog until they are fully grown. Just because a dog can get pregnant doesn’t mean that they should.


When Should a Dog Get Pregnant?

If you want to breed your dog, there are many factors you should consider. One of them is age, though the recommended age will vary depending on the size of the dog. Often, it’s recommended to wait until the dog’s second or third cycle to get them pregnant, as this allows them to finish maturing physically. If you get a female pregnant in the first cycle, it can lead to an unhealthy litter and damage the growth of the mother.

By waiting for a couple of cycles or longer, you give the mother 6 months to a year of extra time to grow. Waiting can also give genetic problems time to show up. You want to know if a dog has genetic issues before breeding them.

Of course, you should work with a vet to determine when your dog is ready to get pregnant. Some dogs will be ready sooner than others. However, waiting a little longer is often better, as this allows your dog extra time to mature.

pregnant Dogue de Bordeaux
Image Credit: Jan Dix, Shutterstock

Should I Let My Dog Have Cycle or Litter Before Spaying Her?

There is no reason to delay spaying your dog. There are some studies that show that delayed spaying may be useful for larger breeds.1 However, this is because spaying  reduces the growth hormones the dog produces, so it can be helpful for  larger breeds to wait until after they stop growing.However, in general, it isn’t recommended that they have a litter before they are spayed.

divider-dog paw

Can a Puppy Get Pregnant on the First Heat?

Dogs can become pregnant their very first cycle. Therefore, if you decide to wait until the dog is grown to spay them, be very cautious about their cycles before they’re spayed. Dogs will breed with any other dog; they won’t discriminate.

It’s very common for dogs to become accidentally pregnant on their first cycle. Their owners may not realize they are on a cycle, as they can become pregnant very early—even before obvious symptoms show up. Then, the symptoms of being in heat may never come, as they may already be pregnant. The dog may be secretly pregnant for a few months before signs show up. I’ve heard this happen many times with friends.

It’s a common misconception that dogs should be allowed to have a litter before they’re spayed. Different reasons are cited, including temperament changes. Having a litter doesn’t reliably change a dog’s temperament one way or the other. Therefore, we don’t recommend letting a female dog get pregnant in an attempt to make her more sociable or anything of that sort. It could very well just do the opposite.

This misconception leads to many dogs getting pregnant far before they’re ready.

Furthermore, some owners don’t know that smaller dogs can go into heat very soon. Some may go into heat as young as 5 months. While these dogs are often still considered puppies, you should have them spayed before they hit 5 months. The earlier, the better.

Cane Corso lying on grass
Image Credit: otsphoto, Shutterstock

Can a Male Dog at 6 Months Get a Female Dog Pregnant?

It depends on the dog’s breed. Smaller breeds can hit maturity before 6 months and get a female pregnant. However, many larger breeds don’t hit maturity until a bit later. Therefore, it mostly depends on the type of dog.

Dogs can begin puberty before they’re technically old enough, too. Puberty isn’t an on-off switch. Instead, it’s a slow process. Therefore, even if your dog hasn’t completely reached puberty, it’s still possible for them to get a female pregnant.

With that said, males are often not studded out until they hit around a year old—sometimes even longer for bigger dogs. Sperm quality can differ depending on the age, so letting the dog reach full maturity before breeding can be helpful. Furthermore, waiting allows genetic issues to pop up, which can prevent passing on poor genetic traits to puppies.

a red nose pitbull puppy looking in the camera
Image Credit: A. Laengauer, Shutterstock

Is It Safe for a 10-Month-Old Dog to Have Puppies?

Many dogs reach maturity at around 6–12 months. However, that doesn’t mean the dog is ready to get pregnant. In many cases, it is best to wait until the dog is a bit older, as most dogs aren’t done growing at this age. Larger dogs may be unable to get pregnant at 10 months, as they usually hit maturity later.

It isn’t usually safe even if dogs can get pregnant at 10 months. Often, dogs aren’t done growing at this point, though many will hit puberty before they are fully grown. Therefore, the dogs may be unable to carry the puppies correctly. Not only can this be harmful to the puppies, but it can also be harmful to the mother.

Because the mother will be diverting some resources to the puppy, her own growth may taper off. Health problems can occur later in life due to getting pregnant too early.


Dogs reach maturity at different times. Larger dogs tend to mature slower than smaller dogs. Some smaller dogs may hit maturity as young as 5 months, though 6–10 months is more common. Some larger breeds may not hit maturity until closer to 2 years.

However, just because a dog can get pregnant, doesn’t mean they should. Many potential health problems may occur due to getting a dog pregnant too early.

Plus, because dogs aren’t fully grown when they hit their first cycle, they may not be able to carry their puppies properly.

Featured Image Credit: taro911 Photographer, Shutterstock

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