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What Is the Right Age for Breeding a Golden Retriever?
A male Golden Retriever can reproduce after six months of age and gains full sexual maturity at 12 to 15 months.
Males can mate at any point in time since they don't follow hormonal cycles. If the male maintains his health, he may stay fertile and sexually active into old age.
Breeding males is a pretty simple concept. But, unfortunately, several other factors need to be considered when breeding a female.
Like males, female Golden Retrievers become fertile around six months of age during their first heat cycle. This cycle repeats every six months (but we'll get to that later!)
Female Golden Retrievers should never be bred during their first heat cycle. Dogs are not fully developed at this point in their lives. If a female becomes pregnant this early in her life, it can cause stress during pregnancy and pose more health risks as her body develops.
Even though she may be fertile, she isn't physically or mentally mature. Young females that are bred during their first heat cycle are at an increased risk of becoming pregnant and developing health complications.
Since Golden Retrievers are classified as a large breed, they physically mature around 18 to 24 months. Since we don't want to breed a female before they reach maturity, you should not breed a female Golden Retriever until after her third heat cycle and she reaches two years of age.
Understanding Female Heat Cycles
No one wants a surprise puppy litter or a bunch of failed breeding attempts. So, understanding the heat cycle of your female Golden Retriever is essential to create your desired outcome.
A female's heat is her body's way of preparing for potential conception. In other words: your dog's reproductive cycle. The phrases “heat cycle”, “breeding cycle”, and “period” all refer to the same reproductive process.
There is not a definite number but Golden Retrievers usually stay in heat for around three to four weeks. However, your dog is fertile for about nine days.
A Golden Retriever's most fertile period is 9-10 days into the heat cycle. However, the highest fertility period lasts about five days, so you should try to breed two Retrievers between the 10th and 14th day of the female's heat cycle.
Stages of the Female Heat Cycle
- Proestrus: the female is preparing for pregnancy. Intact males will become attracted to her, but she will not allow breeding. This stage typically lasts nine days. You'll see signs such as a swollen vulva and bloody vaginal discharge.
- Estrus: The ovaries release an egg at the beginning of this stage. As the estrogen levels in your dog's body decrease, her progesterone levels will increase. This means your female is fertile. She is ready and willing to mate. This stage also lasts about nine days.
- Diestrus: This stage will last about two to three months or until the female Golden Retriever gives birth (provided she's pregnant). She will no longer allow males to mate. A bloody discharge may continue but will gradually stop. By the end of this stage, the hormone will level out.
- Anestrus: This is the final stage of your dog's cycle. She is not fertile and will not allow breeding during this stage.
Most female Golden Retrievers go into heat twice a year, though some larger dogs may only menstruate once a year. The ovarian activity of a female starts to decline in the sixth year of her life. Most females stop conceiving after they're seven, so the female Golden Retriever breeding age is from two to five years of age.
What happens if You Breed Golden Retrievers Too Young?
We know that we should wait until the end of the third heat cycle of a female Golden Retriever before breeding. But what happens if a Golden Retriever gets pregnant too early?
You need to allow your Golden Retriever to fully mature physically. If your Golden Retriever gets pregnant before reaching maturity, it will put extra stress on her. The physical strain of carrying a belly full of puppies puts a burden on her growing joints.
Pregnancy will also suck nutrients from your dog. Since the female Golden Retriever is young, her immune system isn't fully developed. This makes her more vulnerable to diseases and infections than a mature dog would be. Bacteria can infect her vaginal tract and cause stillbirths, miscarriages, and the death of newborn puppies.
Your dog may even die while giving birth to the puppies. Since her pelvic canal may not be large enough for puppies to fit through, if this happens, it will endanger both the puppies' life and her own. In addition, if this happens, she will need surgery, which increases the chance of health complications.
Since she is not mentally mature, she is more likely to reject the puppies than a mature mother. Motherhood is mentally and physically taxing on both dogs and humans!
Dealing with an Unwanted Pregnancy
If your Golden Retriever develops an unwanted pregnancy, either because she is too young or you just don’t want puppies, medical intervention is an option. You can consult your veterinarian about terminating the pregnancy.
Your veterinarian will perform a full risk and side effect evaluation on your Golden Retriever. During this evaluation, your vet will try to determine when the dog was bred so they can evaluate how far along she is. If you are not sure of the date of conception, they will most likely perform an ultrasound to measure the fetuses and determine their age. Once you have determined the stage of pregnancy there are two options in terminating the pregnancy.
Desexing a pregnant female can be done up to five weeks after conception. Desexing is the process of removing the ovaries from your dog. She will not be able to have puppies after this procedure. Your dog will require significant aftercare following the procedure. Crate rest is crucial for the 10 days following the procedure. The incision wound will also need to be kept clean and dry to prevent infection.
The second option of terminating a pregnancy is abortion. Pregnant dogs can have an abortion up to 45 days after conception. Your veterinarian will most likely use Alizin, which is injected in two doses, 24 hours apart. It is recommended that the drug be used within the 45-day window after conception as the fetus’ have not ossified (developed bones) so they can be reabsorbed into the body.
Before deciding to terminate a pregnancy you should consult with your veterinarian, you should never attempt to terminate a pregnancy at home. If you decide to allow the pregnancy, your dog will need extensive observation and monitoring as the pregnancy continues.
Performing Health Checks Before Breeding
Both parent Golden Retrievers require long-term care to produce beautiful, strong puppies. It is important they are both physically and mentally healthy. They should have decent muscle tone and a balanced weight before breeding.
Physical health isn't everything; good mental condition is also essential when breeding two Golden Retrievers. A mentally stable female will make a better mother than one that's insecure or has an unstable temperament.
A month before breeding, the female should go through a pre-breeding physical examination by a vet. You want to get her checked for common health problems, like joint dysplasia and eye disorders. If she has these issues, pregnancy will be more difficult and she may pass the issues onto the puppies.
Vaccinations for both parent Golden Retrievers should be current, and the female should be tested for parasites.
Caring for your dog after they give birth is just as important as caring for them while they were pregnant. You should keep your dog on a high-calorie diet, not only is she providing nutrients to her puppies, but she is also chasing them around and caring for them.
Making sure your dog has a private space for her and her puppies is crucial in making sure she is able to care for them properly. Provide a clean, dry, peaceful area of the house for your dog. With too much traffic around her, your dog may become distracted and neglect her puppies in favor of you.
If you are worried about your dog neglecting her puppies, a good way to monitor them is by weighing them. Should the puppies not gain weight appropriately, contact your veterinarian.
You may want to constantly love on the new puppies, but you need to be cautious of how you do this. Your dog’s natural instinct is to protect her puppies at all costs, she may show aggression towards you and other members of the household if she sees you as a threat. Give your dog time to adjust to the new responsibility she has, and allow her to come to you with the puppies.
Around 3-4 weeks, you should begin weaning the puppies from the mother. Weaning is done by slowly incorporating dog food into their diet and separating them from their mother for increasing periods of time.
If you are considering having more liters of puppies from your dog, you should consult your veterinarian to make sure your dog can carry another litter safely. I recommend waiting at least one heat cycle after weaning before attempting to breed again. This will allow your dog to recover from the last pregnancy.
- Male Golden Retrievers reach reproductive age after 12 to 15 months of age
- Female Golden Retrievers have their first heat cycle after six months of age.
- Females should not be bred until after their third heat cycle, which happens after 18 to 24 months of age.
- Mating will be most successful between the 10th and 14th day of the female Golden Retriever's heat cycle, as she is most fertile during this period
- If your Golden Retriever develops an unwanted pregnancy, there are options to terminating the pregnancy
- Conception before physical maturity can cause health problems
- Performing a pre-breeding health check ensures that the female Golden Retriever is healthy and ready to conceive
- Post-partum care is extremely important when trying to raise a successful litter.
- You should give your dog space to bond with her puppies
- Waiting at least one heat cycle before breeding again will help your dog recover from the previous pregnancy.