Most dogs can start reproducing when they reach sexual maturity between 6-15 months of age, depending on the dog’s breed and size.
Compared to humans, dogs start breeding super early. But does that mean that they also retire early? When are dogs considered too old to have puppies?
Technically, both female and male dogs can breed until the end of their lives. However, that doesn’t mean they should. With old age comes an increased chance for pregnancy and birth defects, as well as health risks for both the dog and its offspring.
A female dog should stop breeding if she meets any of the following:
A male dog should stop breeding if he meets any of the following:
These are general guidelines. However, there are some other nuanced things about these criteria you should know about before you decide if your dog should stop breeding or not.
A female dog should be examined more carefully than males since she is the one who will be going through the not-so-easy pregnancy and birth, which come with their own risks.
Female dogs don’t have menopause. Therefore, unlike female humans that lose the ability to breed at around age 50, female dogs can breed until they die.
The problem is that with old age comes an increased risk of health problems and pregnancy complications.
Although it’s legal to breed your female dog until she’s 12 years old (according to the AKC), female dogs are considered by many too old to breed at around 5-6 years of age. Preventing your female dog from breeding by this age may reduce the chance of future pregnancy, birth complications, unhealthy puppies, or puppies that deviate from the breed’s standards.
That being said, the breed of your dog matters too. Many small and large dog breeds should be retired by age 5 (like Chihuahuas or Mastiffs), while medium dog breeds can breed for a bit longer.
If your female dog is older than 5 years old, make sure to consult a vet before deciding to breed her or not.
The more pregnancies a female dog has, the less genetically diverse her puppies will be, and the more health complications can arise.
Most kennel clubs advise to never let a female dog have more than 4 or 6 litters. In the US, the legally allowed number of litters for a single female dog is 6.
Most vets and other more strict kennel clubs recommend having no more than 4 litters per female dog. If your dog has already had more than 4 litters, it is advised to stop breeding her. Also, don’t breed your female dog more than once a year.
If your dog has inheritable health problems or genetic defects, her puppies are likely to inherit those as well.
This can lead to unnecessary complications and suffering for her puppies and the deterioration of the breed’s quality as a whole if the puppies keep reproducing.
The most common inheritable health problems include:
Please, be a responsible breeder and don’t breed your female dog if she has any condition that can impact her puppies’ health and wellbeing.
Your dog’s life can be in danger if you breed her when she has a life-threatening condition or one that can be exacerbated by pregnancy.
Some of these problems include:
Do not breed your female dog if she has a health condition that can put her life in danger.
Most experienced vets will tell you to not breed your dog if she had a pregnancy complication in the past.
Some pre and post-pregnancy complications include:
Do not continue breeding your female dog if she had any pregnancy complications in the past. Those are more likely to occur again in future pregnancies as well.
One of the primary purposes of breeding is to improve the quality of the next generation.
This means keeping the parents’ high-quality features throughout the generations and preventing genetic diseases from passing to the offspring.
If your dog’s puppies are no longer up to the specific breed’s standards, do not breed her anymore. Always strive to improve the next generation.
Male dogs can be screened for fewer things than female dogs. However, it’s still crucial to examine them carefully before choosing to continue breeding them or not, especially as they get older.
Healthy male dogs can continue breeding throughout their entire lives. They are never considered too old to breed—as long as their sperm quality and quantity remain high.
The older your male dog is, the higher the chance that his sperm quality and quantity have deteriorated.
Here are some of the signs that your dog’s sperm quality is decreasing:
Trying to breed with low sperm quality or quantity is not ideal. It may make it harder for your dog to get a female dog pregnant and increase the chance of producing unhealthy offspring or offspring that deviate from the breed’s standards.
If your male dog is more than 6 years old, you may need to check his sperm’s quality at regular intervals to ensure it’s top-notch. Consult your vet if you need to do so.
Just as with female dogs, your male dog can pass on his genetic problems too.
Breeding a dog with genetic defects or inheritable medical problems can lead to unnecessary complications and suffering for his puppies. Unhealthy puppies can contribute to the deterioration of the breed’s quality if the puppies keep reproducing.
The most common inheritable health problems include:
Your specific dog may have other conditions or needs not addressed in this article.
I advise you to always consult a professional vet and other experienced breeders of your dog’s specific breed before deciding to breed your dog. They may have more nuanced answers for your particular case.