What Is the Oldest Age a Dog Can Have Puppies?

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Whether you’re a responsible breeder facing the question of when to retire your dogs or you’re looking for a puppy – age matters.

Check the ages of the potential sire and especially the dam since this can be vital for the health of the puppies as well as parents.

But when is a dog too old to have puppies?

There are many factors that need to be taken into account when determining whether a dog is up for breeding, among them are:

  • Age
  • General health
  • Previous injuries
  • Breed

So let’s dive in and see what the best breeding and retirement age is.

When Is a Dog Considered to Be Senior?

Generally speaking, toy breeds and other smaller dogs (Chihuahua, Yorkshire Terrier, Maltese) are considered to be senior if they’re 10 to 12 years or older.

With large/giant breeds (Great Dane, Newfoundland), the span of when your dog is considered “senior” is shortened to 5 to 6 years.

This difference is linked to the lifespan in dogs which is far greater in small breeds compared to their larger counterparts.

Studies have shown that dogs have differing susceptibilities to diseases depending on their body size and weight.

Large dogs die young because they age faster, so to speak.

Genetic and hormonal factors also play a big role and determine the longevity of an organism.

When Is a Male Dog Too Old to Breed?

In theory, a healthy male can produce litters until old age. Most clubs recommend retiring a male after 10 to 12 years.

However, it is very important to note that sperm quality and quantity may be lower in older dogs.

If you plan on breeding with a male that is older than 6 years, you might want to check the sperm quality at regular intervals.

Signs to Look Out For That Your Male Dog Is Too Old

There are three major signs to look out for that scream that a male dog is too old for breeding.

  1. Low conception rates
  2. Decreasing litter sizes
  3. Deteriorating health

Assuming a male tries to get a female pregnant under the best possible circumstances (one mating per day, repeated for a couple of days, healthy female, etc.), it might be a sign to retire the male if he fails to get the female pregnant.

A male might (repeatedly) produce smaller litters than he previously did, that’s potentially another bad sign.

If a lot of time has passed between this and the last breeding or if the male has his first litter quite late in life, you might not be able to check the litter size.

The male’s health is a bit on the brink? No breeding for this stud.

Deteriorating health includes mobility issues, hormonal changes, bad coat as well as breed-related health problems.

So always ask questions about the breeding process, previous litters and current health testing.

For more on this check out my post on Questions to Ask Your Breeder.

Adult dog nursing two puppies sitting on a log

When Is a Female Dog Too Old to Breed?

For a female, there are crucial factors that determine if she should produce another litter or not.

The best age to retire a female can be around 5 to 6 years.

Some breeding clubs have restrictions where the age limit is set much higher than 6 years but that doesn’t mean that the age can’t pose any health risks.

According to AKC rules, a dam must be (…) not more than 12 years old, on the date of mating.

AKC

However, a lot of breed clubs such as the UK Kennel Club and the VDH in Germany set 8 years as a limit (exceptions possible).

By the way: The VDH also has a higher minimum age for males as well as females in contrast to the AKC.

To determine whether to retire the female, you should monitor the previously mentioned factors such as:

  • Conception rates
  • Litter sizes
  • General health
  • Criteria such as complications during whelping
  • Recovery process

Complications during birth can always arise (be sure to check the article on dogs going into labor if you’re interested).

However, you should consult with your vet to see if the complications could indicate that the female is not up for having another litter.

If a female’s recovery process significantly lengthens after pregnancy, that’s a sure sign that something can be wrong.

How Many Litters Should a Dog Have?

A female dog should ideally have 3-4 litters during her lifetime.

However, many factors are at play when it comes to the optimal litter size such as complications, recovery process, and heat cycle.

If a female had any complications during a previous whelping (including C-sections), this might not only be due to age but also due to a high number of litters and is a clear signal to think about retiring the dog.

A slow recovery process might be another sign to retire her, especially if the dog is older.

The female’s heat cycle may also dictate how many litters she will have.

Normally, the heat cycle is 6 months but – depending on the breed – the heat can occur every 4 months or every 12 months.

Naturally, a female with a 12-month cycle will produce fewer litters.

However, this absolutely doesn’t mean a female with a 4-month cycle should produce three litters per year (even if you ignore recovery).

Pressing too many litters into a small timeframe is exhausting for the female, mentally as well as physically.

How Many Litters Is a Female Dog Legally Allowed to Have?

The UK Kennel Club prohibits registering with them if the dam has already whelped 4 litters.

The same 4 litter rule applies to several German and French breeding clubs.

In Holland, the maximum amount of litters is 5.

Even though there may not be a lot of specific regulations in place for all breeding clubs, it’s important to breed ethically and keep an eye on the dogs within a breeding program.

How Long Should You Wait to Breed a Dog Again?

Most breed clubs recommend breeding once every 12 months.

Another rule of thumb is that you want to breed every other heat which means avoiding back-to-back breeding.

The whole discussion about back-to-back breeding is somewhat controversial since some vets say it’s not that big of an issue if the recovery is quick and the female healthy.

However, the fact that several breeding clubs restrict this kind of breeding plan should be a red flag for any breeder.

Allowing the female a proper recovery will let her care for her pups under optimal circumstances.

A female should always be healthy when she’s breeding and the minimum age restrictions below apply.

Five puppies sitting in a basket

What Is the Best Age to Breed a Female Dog?

To make sure the female is in perfect health condition you should wait until she’s fully grown mentally and physically which occurs at around 1-2 years for smaller breeds and 2-3 years for large breeds.

Another rule of thumb is to wait until at least the second heat cycle.

This rule of thumb has limits though because small breeds can get their first heat as early as 4 months and large breeds around 6 months.

If you follow the rule above, your dog is most probably in her second heat so you should be fine.

Why not breed before the dog is mentally grown?

Dogs can undergo behavioral changes during these mental growth phases and you want a well-rounded female to raise those puppies.

Puppies profit from a mature and confident mother.

Example of a large breed female:

The female has her first heat around 12 months of age.

Depending on whether or not her heat cycle is roughly 6 months, you can theoretically start breeding at 18 months but could more ideally wait until 24 months.

If the heat cycle is 12 months (happens with giant and ancient breeds), you’re restrained to go with 24 months anyway.

Now, keeping the breeding guidelines in mind (every other heat and thus once in 12 months) the female will produce 4 litters if she’s retired with 5 years of age.

That’s within the consensus of the breeding clubs which recommend 3 – 4 litters for a female in a breeding lifetime.

By the way: While the 5-6 year rule and 3-4 litter rule restrains the breeding time frame pretty well, it’s not advised to have your dog have the first litter with 5 years or older.

Recommended Reading: How Long are Dogs Pregnant?

In Conclusion

The stud can be bred up to 10-12 years, although it’s a good idea to regularly check the sperm quality once he hits 6 years, assuming he’s healthy.

A healthy female can legally be bred until 8 years according to most breeding clubs. However, it’s best to retire her after 5-6 years.

During her breeding lifetime, it’s advised not to go beyond 3-4 litters.

Any potential breeder should wait until the dogs are grown mentally and physically (up to 2 years) and should only breed every 12 months (which means avoiding back-to-back breeding).

The female’s heat cycle needs to be taken into account.

If you have any questions about your dog’s breeding age or concerns about a potential breeder, drop them in the comments.

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Danielle
In love with dogs, their behavior and psychology. I am writing on this blog since February 2019 to provide you with valuable information on everything dogs. When I am not working on my blog, I study research articles and enjoy the time with my beloved Rottweiler Amalia.

20 thoughts on “What Is the Oldest Age a Dog Can Have Puppies?”

  1. I would like to know if a 12 Year old dog can get pregnant yet? Also, is it wise to have a 12 year old dog spayed? Or is it necessary?

    Reply
    • Hey Edie,

      a 12-year-old dog definitely shouldn’t get puppies anymore, even if it would be possible.

      You don’t need to have her spayed either, why should you if everything went fine so far? Just make sure your dog won’t get pregnant and everything should be okay. My female Rottweiler is 2y now and will never be spayed/neutered, even though we’re not breeding with her.

      Cheers,
      Danielle

      Reply
      • I’m curious why you will not spay your female. I’ve studied dogs and dog behavior for many years. I’m also a professional dog trainer and I’ve worked with many male and female dogs that have been left Intact that are showing Aggression. A dogs body that runs a normal life cycle is set up that when coming into heat the female has such a strong need/drive to find a male they get out of yards to find them and the same goes for the males. They can smell a female in heat at least 5 miles away. So dogs left intact will get out of yards and roam looking forward the female in heat and the female looking for a male. But when this natural cycle isn’t met they will become very frustrated. (Just like people) I hear people say their females get bitchier each year. There are many dogs euthanized every year because of our stray problems so I’m not saying to breed your dog. But I am saying for dogs that aren’t being bred it will help them to have a more satisfying life.. So please check into the Pro’s and con’s of spay and neutering then pass on information from facts not just personal Opinion/feelings.

        Reply
        • Hey Tracy, in this case, it was not about neutering/spaying or not, but rather about why not to neuter/spay puppies or senior dogs (last but not least due to the anesthesia risk). Early neutering is associated with many health risks and here’s the study (find the link to the actual study at the bottom).

          And I actually do have an article on neutering dogs where I dive into the pros and cons.

          I get what you’re saying about frustrated dogs and every individual reacts differently (male and female). In my female, this drive is not nearly as developed as in other dogs. Also, a dog should never be unsupervised in the yard (or walking around off-leash if your female’s in heat, for that matter). Absolutely happy with my female Rottweiler and observed zero negative behavior changes. On the other hand, I might encounter behavioral issues if I would decide to spay her so why is that a risk one should take if there’s no real purpose behind it. Of course, it reduces health risks (most often mentioned is testicular cancer for males) but also increases other risks and no matter what one believes, neutering too early is associated with health risks in any study.

          Cheers,
          Danielle

          Reply
      • I’m making a decision as to whether I should have my bitch neutered or continue her blood line. I thought I was under a time pressure to do so due to the health risks attached to not neutering her. May I ask why you are not neutering your dog?

        Reply
        • Hey Joey, when considering whether or not to breed with your dog, the fact that you’ll have to socialise and raise the puppies is just as important as the age and health of your current dog. Breeding only makes sense if you have a proper program in place, pair two dogs that fit in terms of temperament, health testing and so on. But you’re absolutely right, breeding or neutering too late both poses health risks.

          I’ve actually written an article about the pros and cons of neutering. I’ve also linked a couple of vital research articles in there, check them out if you’re interested. It’s mostly too early/late neutering that’s dangerous but even at the appropriate age, there are still risks. Also, I love my dog’s behavior as it is and fiddling around with the hormones can always cause behavioral changes.

          The article should be a good starting point, let me know if you have any questions!
          Danielle

          Reply
      • Hey Peter, as mentioned in the article, if this is your Weimaraner’s first litter, you should definitely not breed with her.

        Even if it’s not the first, diligent health tests are necessary for breeding of any kind, but especially if the female is older than 5 or 6 years. Most clubs restrict breeding after a maximum of 8 years, but it’s the fact that this would probably be the first litter that would concern me. Also, raising puppies isn’t easy :).

        Are you looking to keep a pup from a potential litter? There are many great breeders out there and just as many dogs in need of rescue from shelters if you’re interested.

        Reply
  2. I am afraid this is much to much info on the benefits of breeding back to back for the health for the female. The science does not agree with skipping heats in dogs.

    Reply
    • Thanks for your input. I’m assuming you mean it’s too little info on the benefits of back to back breeding, right?

      You’re right, it definitely can have benefits, but in many cases, it’s not the best way to go. Any complications in the last pregnancy, C-sections or bigger-than-average litters and skipping a heat would be recommended. Similarly, dogs that have their heat twice a year (depending on breed and individual) can be pretty drained from their previous pregnancy.

      Reply
  3. I have a female yorkie that 7.5 years old. She has never had puppies but I would like to mate her once just to have another like her and for family members to get puppies. She is 4.5 pounds and never had any health problems other than gingivitis. Is it safe for her to still have puppies and what size male is safe to breed her with?

    Reply
    • Hey Meagan, short answer to your question: Definitely do not breed with your Yorkie.

      The fact that this would be her first litter at 7.5y makes the risk of difficulties highly likely. Apart from that, her size isn’t the issue because your Yorkie has a normal size for a female and if she’s healthy (more to that in a second), any (“any” in terms of height and weight) male Yorkshire Terrier could potentially be a mating partner.

      That being said, there’s much more to breeding than just a seemingly healthy dog that never had to go to the vet. Only breed for the betterment of a breed which means only top dogs in terms of temperament, health tests (blood, heart, eyes, breed specific issues, etc.) and the same goes for the sire. Great breeders spend years on improving their breeding programs. You won’t just have one or two dogs for your family, you will have a handful more that need to go into new homes which means you have to read up about socialisation, food, how to select great homes and so on.

      You wanting to have a puppy from your current pooch is understandable but please do not breed her. Not only will you put her health at risk which could drastically shorten her lifespan but you’ll also produce a new litter of dogs without any proper breeding program in place.

      Check this article to find a great breeder or this one if you’re thinking about adopting.

      Make your Yorkie’s remaining time as enjoyable as possible for both you and her 🙂
      Danielle

      Reply
  4. Hi, we have a 4 pound female imperial shitzu who is 10 years old. We just got a male royal shitzu who is now 5 months old. We don’t want to breed her, never have, we were more worried about the procedure for her since she only weighs 4 pounds. Well he is showing more signs of affection then we want. The vet won’t spade him for a little while longer. Can she get pregnant

    Reply
    • Hey Dave, at 10y of age, your Shitzu definitely should not be bred and an accident could prove fatal for a first pregnancy so late in life, if at all possible (unlikely but not impossible).

      You’re right, your male pup needs the hormones for proper physical and developmental growth. So many behavior issues are caused by early neutering (as can be diseases like bone cancer especially for large breeds). The only thing you can do is wait until your male dog’s fully grown (happens at around 2y of age for small dogs) and separating the dogs when the female is in heat. Separating as in when they’re alone. The rest of the time, it’s fine if you have an eye on them. But even if your female wears diapers or whatnot, you shouldn’t count on her not wanting to breed which is why this method is possible – depending on the male – but practiced with extra caution :).

      Alternative is getting your female under anesthesia which poses a health risk too for senior dogs.

      What advice did your vet give? Personally, I would not mess up my male dog’s hormones and wouldn’t risk the anesthesia for the female, but being cautious can be stressful at times.

      Cheers,
      Danielle

      Reply
  5. Hi, What are your top considerations when it comes to a 9 year old female pure bred healthy Labrador retriever breeding? It would be her first litter. I saw the comment there are exceptions to the 8 year retiring age. What do those exceptions take into consideration?

    Reply
    • Hey Nancy, these “exceptions” refer to the fact that some breeding clubs allow breeding with 9 years, for example, if it’s the 2-4th litter, the female is healthy, and so on. That doesn’t mean that it’s a good thing to breed beyond 8y, it just means that for certain breeders there can be an exception. Even the 8y mark is debatable and as mentioned, retiring the female with 6 is best.

      However, since it’d be your dog’s first litter, I’d absolutely advise against breeding your dog at this age. In no responsible breed club would the exception rule apply to a dog that has the first litter beyond not only 4 or 6 but 8 years.

      Your wish of having offspring from your Lab is perfectly understandable but I’d suggest contacting the previous breeder or checking out new breeders when the time comes. Adoption is also possible, of course. As always, breeding entails lots of work anyway and you always have to keep in mind that even if your Lab was up to be bred, socialization, finding perfect homes for the pups etc. is still lots of work.

      Cheers,
      Danielle

      Reply
        • Hi Sam, as mentioned in the article, breeding a female dog for the very first time after around 4 years is generally not recommended due to possible complications that occur with a late first whelping.

          That being said, keep in mind that a lot goes into breeding dogs and while I encourage well-planned breeding programs, breeding two seemingly fitting dogs without extremely thorough health testing, temperament selection etc. is only contributing to the overpopulation. You have to keep in mind that your dog might produce a litter of 3, 4, 6, even 8 puppies. All these pups need new homes if you just take one.

          If your dog came from a breeder, then I’d suggest you check with him/her if they have an upcoming litter of can recommend anybody else. If your dog is a rescue, I wouldn’t suggest breeding anyway due to the unknown factor of hereditary health issues.

          Cheers,
          Danielle

          Reply

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