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Complete Guide to Crossbreeding a Dog for the First Time

13 minutes
To crossbreed a dog, it is necessary to take into account several aspects of its reproductive biology, as this is the only way to avoid unnecessary problems for the pet.
Complete Guide to Crossbreeding a Dog for the First Time
Last update: 04 July, 2023

Having a dog as a pet is one of the most rewarding experiences one can have. For this reason, it’s normal for owners to consider crossbreeding your dog in order to have a living reminder of their companion, even when they’re dead. Although it sounds simple, the process of crossbreeding a dog must be carried out very carefully, in order to ensure the health and well-being of the animals concerned.

Contrary to popular belief, breeding a dog requires more than just getting a mate. It’s necessary to get to know canine reproductive biology very well, because the success of the process depends on it. In this article, you’ll find everything you need to know for crossbreeding your dog for the first time.

Crossbreeding a dog

Reproduction is an event that generates physical wear and tear in pets. This doesn’t mean that it’s bad to crossbreed dogs, but rather that they need special attention to reduce the negative impact on their bodies. Of course, each stage of the process is different and the dog’s requirements change progressively. That’s why it’s necessary to get to know the phases involved very well.

In general, to crossbreed a dog, at least the following stages are necessary:

1. Formation and recognition of the potential mates: Like other animals, the male needs to court the female to create a relationship.

2. Mounting or copulation: As the name suggests, at this point the sexual act occurs to fertilize the female.

3. Gestation or pregnancy: If all goes well, the female will begin to gestate the puppies and will need proper care and attention in order to give birth.

Although it’s true that dogs can go through these stages without any help, owners have the option of supporting them to ensure that they’re carried out in the best possible way. The following sections will help you understand a little better how the process should be carried out and the options you have.

1. Formation and recognition of the canine pair

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Many breeders and owners only introduce the potential mates when it’s time for mating. While it’s true that it doesn’t always happen, it’s preferable to reduce the possibility of rejection with prior visits. Especially if it’s the first time you’re crossing your dog. Credit: Freestocks-photos/Pixabay.

According to an article in the International Journal of Zoology, dogs have a monogamous mating system that requires a courtship phase. In other words, the couple doesn’t form spontaneously, but needs to have a prior interaction to know if both the male and the female are compatible.

In most cases – and due to the hormonal situation of the female – courtship takes place just before copulation. However, there’s a small chance that the female will reject the male and even attack him. Therefore, it’s recommended to make play visits prior to the mating season. In this way, it’ll be possible to observe the coexistence and compatibility of the couple.

The level of socialization of the dogs is an important factor here.

The more accustomed the specimen is to strangers, the better its response to play visits will be. In addition, this reduces the possibility of rejection and improves the coexistence between the couple.

If from the previous visits you observe some type of rejection or aggressiveness, the best thing to do is to choose another candidate. Remember that your pet’s integrity could be at risk, so try to eliminate any risk.

How to choose a partner for your dog?

It’s normal to choose potential partners for dogs based only on their physical appearance. The only problem with this is that it overlooks other health aspects that can positively or negatively impact the bitch and puppies. As far as possible, it’s recommended to consider the following points:

  • Age of the dog: As a general rule, the best age to breed a dog is between 2 and 6 years old. They may be able to reproduce earlier, but to ensure their sexual maturation it’s preferable that they reach at least 2 years of age.
  • Pre-existing diseases: It’s good to verify what chronic diseases or hereditary problems the candidate has. This can give an indication of the health of the puppies when they’re born.
  • Genetic testing: This is optional, but it gives a broader and more accurate picture of the risk of the offspring inheriting genetic diseases.
  • Tests for sexually transmitted diseases: Although it may seem strange, dogs can also suffer from several of these pathologies. We recommend that a complete examination with your veterinarian should be requested in order to rule out their presence.
  • Similar size in the dogs: It’s important for there never to be a big difference in size between the two dogs, as this favors dystocia or problems during delivery.
  • Fertility tests: This is optional. This type of test is performed to identify any reproductive problems.
  • No inbreeding: It isn’t acceptable to cross the dog with its relatives (children, father or mother). Inbreeding or relations between relatives can favor the presence of genetic diseases and deformities. However, sometimes there’s such a limited number of specimens that it’s almost impossible. This is suggested by the magazine Animal Welfare.

As mentioned above, the dogs are the ones who ultimately decide whether or not they’re compatible with the potential mate. However, the owners have the possibility to choose one or more candidates and present them to the dogs.

2. Dog mating

Mating is perhaps the best-known phase of the canine reproductive process. Despite this, it can be misunderstood and mistakes are common if it is a dog’s first mating. To begin with, the following aspects should be taken into account:

  • The female’s sexual cycle: Females are only receptive for copulation on certain days of the year. This is in accordance with their hormonal cycle and should be considered when trying to breed them.
  • Choice of mating place: It’s preferable to occupy a neutral area for mating. It should be clean and safe for the couple.
  • Mating process: With some exceptions, the guardians don’t have much influence during this stage, but it’s important to be aware of several particularities.
  • Possible mating problems: There may be several common complications, but most of them are due to the inexperience of the dogs.

It’s important to remember that, even though most of these aspects can be solved on your own, it’s always advisable to have the supervision of a professional. This will help you to resolve anything that may arise and will help the first-time guardians feel more at ease.

Sexual cycle of the female dog

Unlike humans, female dogs don’t have a monthly reproductive cycle (menstruation); they have a variable duration of between 4 and 10 months. This period, also called the estrous cycle, can occur at any time of the year.

The estrous cycle of dogs has 4 phases which, according to the American Kennel Club breeding guide, are as follows:

  • Proestrus: This lasts between 3 and 17 days. It’s characterized by the swelling of the vulva and secretion of reddish brown fluids (blood). At this point, pheromones are produced that attract males, but the female won’t allow mating to take place.
  • Estrous: This lasts approximately 3 to 20 days. It’s identified because the vulva secretes a pinkish liquid different from that of proestrus. Estrus is the only time in the cycle when the female is fertile and accepts copulation with the male.
  • Oestrus: This lasts between 50 and 80 days on average. In this phase, the female’s body returns to “normal”, the swelling of the vulva decreases and the bloody secretions disappear. If the egg is fertilized, the female’s body will begin to prepare for gestation.
  • Anestrus: This is a long period of “rest” between one reproductive cycle and another, which lasts between 3 and 6 months.

It’s understandable that for a first-time owner it isn’t so easy to distinguish or keep track of your pet’s estrous cycle. For this reason, there are several tools such as vaginal cytology that allow you to estimate an approximate date of estrus. Consult with your veterinarian about the tests you can perform on your pet.

A neutral area for copulation

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It’s possible to perform first-time mating in the home or the territory of the male. However, aggressive behavior against reluctant females may occur in some dominant dogs. Credit: JACLOU-DL/Pixabay.

Dogs are territorial animals that may become aggressive if they sense that an adversary “enters” their domain. As you might guess, this can be detrimental to the couple’s copulation and even lead to violent behavior. As far as possible, it’s always advisable to have a neutral site -unknown to the couple- where copulation can take place.

Mating process

Once the previous points have been considered and the “dog couple” has been formed, it’s essential to make sure that the female is in estrus. After this, all that is needed is to bring the dogs together and let the process occur naturally.

As with other animals, courtship will begin with various types of “cuddling”, sniffing, and snuggling. As the mating progresses, the female will raise her tail and the male will take the opportunity to mount her. According to a study published in the International Journal of Zoology, this process can take a total of 45 to 130 minutes, so it’s best to be patient and not interfere until it’s over.

Possible problems with mating

Of course, during copulation or mating, various problems may arise. Although most of these can be easily solved, some may require veterinary support. Among the most common complications are the following:

  • Dogs become stuck together: This is normal and is due to inflammation of the bulb of the glans penis in the male. Under no circumstances should they be separated, as this can cause tears in the penis or vagina. According to a study published in Acta Theriologica, it can last an average of 15 minutes, but it can last longer. As the inflammation subsides, the dogs will “detach”.
  • The male fails to penetrate the female: This situation is usually due to the dog’s inexperience in the case of first-time dogs. This is also usually due to stress and anxiety, so it may be a good idea to give them privacy during the act. If they are unable to copulate, it’s necessary to consult a professional.
  • The female refuses to mate: This can have different causes, such as her not being in estrus, not being compatible with the male, or wanting to defend her territory. In any case, it’s recommended to have her checked by a veterinarian, as it may also be the result of a pathology.

Regardless of the problem, it’s crucial to emphasize that if the female or the male is unable or unwilling to perform copulation, they should never be forced to do so. It’s preferable to consult with a specialist to thoroughly check the most probable causes of this refusal.

3. Pregnancy

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When a dog is crossed for the first time, you may think that it’s almost certain for the female to become pregnant. However, this is a mistake, as mating doesn’t guarantee fertilization of the egg. If your pet doesn’t get pregnant, try again on her next reproductive cycle. Credit: SShutterstock

To confirm that the female dog is pregnant, the support of a professional is mandatory. However, it’s recommended to wait 15 to 20 days before performing a pregnancy test. Among the options that could be proposed by the veterinarian are the following:

  • Palpation: This refers to the exploration of the abdomen, to confirm the presence of the amniotic sacs. It’s reliable if performed between days 22 and 30 after the onset of estrus.
  • Ultrasonography: A method that creates images of the pet’s belly, which allows the vet to observe the amniotic sacs; it’s reliable from 25 days after the onset of estrus.
  • Radiography: This isn’t usually used to confirm pregnancy, but to observe the state of the fetuses. This is because images of the puppies can only be perceived from day 44 of gestation.
  • Serological tests: These are based on measuring the concentration of different hormones – depending on the test performed – that can be found in the blood. The best time to perform them varies a lot, and so it’s best to check the most appropriate one with the veterinarian.

Once the pregnancy is confirmed, it’s also necessary to make a prediction of the possible day of birth of the new mother. This will help you to be prepared and closely monitor the gestation. However, it’s important to emphasize that there’s no precise method to calculate it.

According to a study published in the Revista de Investigaciones Veterinarias del Perú, the end of canine gestation can be estimated with a variable lapse of between 57 and 70 days. However, if the precise moment of ovulation is detected, it’s possible to increase the precision and reduce this range to between 62 and 64 days.

What care and attention does a pregnant dog need?

In general, pregnant dogs don’t need additional care beyond their recurrent visits to the veterinarian and the monitoring of their diet. Ideally, they should have follow-up ultrasounds to check the development of the puppies. While not always necessary, these check-ups can detect different types of problems with the fetuses early on.

At the same time, the dog will begin to require more nutrients due to the wear and tear caused by gestation. For this reason, it’s crucial to check her diet and provide her with what she needs. According to the book Management of Pregnant and Neonatal Dogs, Cats, and Exotic Pets, it’s advisable to provide highly digestible diets with a high amount of omega-3 fatty acids.

Keep in mind that the dog will gain weight gradually during her gestation. This isn’t due to her diet, but to the development of the fetuses inside her. So under no circumstances restrict her diet or reduce the portion of her food.

When the female is about to give birth, she’ll look for a quiet, safe, warm, and cool place to have her young.

In this place, she’ll build a small “nest” and will tend to lie down waiting to give birth. Avoid removing or destroying this construction, unless you perceive some latent danger.

The whelping of the bitch

The bitch will take care of the whole birth process on her own, so she doesn’t usually require the support of the owners. However, it’s recommended that you keep a close eye on the process and notify your veterinarian so that you’re ready for any eventuality.

The birth process for bitches can last from 3 to 12 hours. Puppies will be born one at a time every 20 to 30 minutes, although there may be rest intervals – without contractions – of up to two hours. Even so, The People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals recommends seeing a veterinarian if contractions last longer than 30 minutes and the puppies don’t come out.

When whelping is complete, the bitch will stop having contractions, begin grooming her pups and direct them to her mammary glands. At this point, the owners can bring some food and water for their pet to help it recover its strength. This is how the crossbreeding process ends and the breeding of the little ones begins.

A process that’s more complex than it seems

As you may realize, breeding a dog may seem simple, but in reality it’s complex and even more so if it’s the first time. If you don’t feel confident enough to go through this process on your own, seek the help of a professional to guide you and accompany you through the process. Remember that from this moment on you’re also responsible for the puppies.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.