Canine Litter Size

by Perfect Puppy Care

Litter Size

Have you ever wondered why some dogs have large litters and others have only a puppy or two?

One of the main reasons for this is the size of the parents. After a three-year study based on 15 canine breeds, the American Kennel Club concluded that large breed dogs are much more likely to have a larger litter than are small breed dogs. For example, Labrador retrievers averaged 7.6 puppies while a small dog such as a Chihuahua averaged four pups or less. Thus, as a general rule of thumb, you can expect large dogs to have more puppies than small breed dogs.

However, this rule is not set in stone. There are things you can do that may affect the size of a litter. For most breeds, a female generally produces larger litters each year through the third or fourth years.

Females that have had one to five litters are most apt to produce the largest litter of puppies.
In addition, a female that has one to four litters is more apt to produce larger litters than one that has been bred five times or more.

The age of the mother can be a factor in litter size. Females that are bred at an early age are most apt to produce larger litters than one that is not bred until she is four years of age or older.

The age of the male dog is also a factor in litter size. Experts suggest that a male stud should be six years of age or younger because age does affect the quality of a male dog’s semen. A low sperm count means that there may not be enough present to fertilize enough ova. The more ova fertilized, the better the chance for a larger litter.

Inbreeding is another factor than can affect litter size. It can reduce the female’s ability to produce eggs.
We humans have little control over most of the above topics. However, breeding management can contribute to the size of a dog’s litter, allowing us to have some control over the outcome.

One should note that dogs are unique when it comes to breeding. Their ovulated eggs are not able to be immediately fertilized. In fact, it takes about 48 hours for the oval are mature enough to undergo fertilization. That’s why the timing of the breeding process is crucial. Bitches that are bred too soon will have ova that are too old to accept the sperm. Thus, it is important to know exactly when ovulation takes place.

Knowing when ovulation occurs is not always easy. You will probably need to enlist the help of another breeder or the dog’s veterinarian to determine the prime time for breeding.

Artificial insemination can also affect litter size. Experts say that litters of females that are artificially inseminated will tend to be smaller. This is because some of the sperm dies in the process from harvest to insemination.

Breeding dogs can be complicated. Only those that are willing to be diligent and responsible should embark on trying to breed.


  1. Selina says:

    This is very helpful too me.

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