German Shepherds are very popular dogs today and they are often kept as service dogs, hunting dogs, police dogs and pets. Breeding a German Shepherd requires some special attention. Even for those who have experience in dog breeding in general, German Shepherd pregnancy may differ from other dogs in various ways.
Updated on 7/15/2019 by William Hill: Updated info, links, and formatting.
From the time of conception, the average length of the pregnancy is about 63 days. Since German Shepherds are large dogs, their pregnancy term may be slightly longer than that of a tiny breed.
Since you will want to monitor your GSD (German Shepherd Dog) pregnancy very closely, ideally you should keep track of the GSD female’s heat period and note how many times she is bred and record the dates and times. That way you will have almost the exact data on the conception. You’ll be able to note the due date based on an approximate 63 day gestation period.
In general, an average GSD litter is about 8 puppies. Some large females can have up to 15 puppies while a smaller or less healthy GSD may have fewer than 8. The health of the pregnant female (also known as a female in whelp) can have an effect on the number of puppies. A German Shepherd is more likely to have a moderate to large litter if she has been given a very healthy diet, adequate exercise and care, veterinary checkups.
If the dog was bred on the first heat cycle, the litter is likely to be smaller. If your GSD female is bred at the exact time of ovulation (release of the egg) the litter may be larger. Of course, the father will have some impact as well. A male with a higher sperm count can produce more puppies. The health and history of the male matters as well.
In the early stages you may not see much different, although some females will have less appetite in the first weeks of pregnancy. A lot is happening inside the pregnant GSD, it’s just not external yet. About 2-3 days after conception the eggs are fertilized and the dog’s reproductive system is preparing for pregnancy.
If the eggs stay healthy they will typically implant themselves into the lining of the uterus on around the 10th-12th day. By the 14th or 15th day you may be able to see some early changes that really give you notice. Look closely at the dog’s teats and see if there are signs of color and size changes. The nipples may darken or become pinker and will tend to get a bit larger. The fur may also begin to thin out around the teats.
Some dogs will experience morning sickness just like human’s do. Other dogs will show no signs of nausea or even lack of appetite. If your dog does begin to seem restless in the mornings by the third or fourth week, this could be an indicator of pregnancy. Females who begin to vomit regularly around the end of the first month are probably pregnant. This will usually pass very soon.
By the end of the first month, you may actual be able to hear puppy heartbeats if you have a good stethoscope. Even if you press the stethoscope against the abdomen you probably won’t be able to tell much about the number of puppies, but you may hear extra little beats that are clearly not the mother’s heart. At this point you know for sure that your female is pregnant and the puppies are viable (alive) and strong.
After the first month you can begin to feel around the abdomen of the mother and see if you can feel the puppies. It takes practice, so a veterinarian can show you have to search if you haven’t done this before.
If you can feel the puppies early enough they will be around the size of walnuts. If you have a practiced hand or are very patient, you may be able to actually count them and get some idea of how big the litter will be. If not, a veterinarian can tell either by feeling around the abdomen or doing a test to see the tiny puppies.
The next sign is typically a swelling abdomen as the puppies begin to grow. The female’s belly will become larger and heavier. At this point even an inexperienced person can probably tell that the female is likely to be pregnant. It is possible to confuse the abdomen of a female who has just given birth with one who is about to give birth, but if you’ve been around the dog every day you will be aware of the stage she is in.
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The mother’s nipples will soon begin to swell in preparation for suckling puppies. The female will begin to perform what is called “nesting” behavior. This varies from dog to dog. Some will show only small signs and others will be quite forceful. Some of this depends on how familiar the female is with humans. The mother will become very restless at around the time.
She will typically begin to investigate spaces that might be suitable for privacy and safety. If you have provided her with a good box or another suitable space, she may begin to spend more time there. Be sure to provide towels or blankets and let her fuss with it to get her nest ready. This will also help you to know when the time is coming very near and it reduces the chances that your female will hide somewhere unknown at the time of birth.
At around 45-55 days the female’s stomach will begin to get firm as the puppies begin to crowd each other. This will continue to increase until the day of birth. Some females will be very guarded about their abdomen at this time and others will let you feel for the shape of the puppies. The abdomen will gradually get harder and appear distinctly stretched. Most females will show very little hunger when they get closer to labor.
Since a female can deliver early, watch very closely by the 50th day after conception. If nothing has happened by the 63rd day, this isn’t necessarily something to worry about. If she has continued to take a small amount of food (don’t forget about feeding your dog the right food) and especially water and seems to be fairly comfortable, she may just be the type to go a little overdue.
It isn’t very unusual for delivery to be delayed up to 70 days or so. If the GSD female does show signs of discomfort or pain or if she goes several days with food, get a veterinarian to check her. If she stops taking water at any point, definitely get a consultation.
Otherwise things should proceed very naturally. Her temperature will drop a little bit and be closer to a normal human temperature. There may be some vaginal discharge. When labor begins the female may look at her abdomen or even nip at it and she will seem very restless.
She may breathe harder or pant. As long as she settles down and begins to deliver puppies, this is all very normal. German Shepherd Dogs make excellent mothers and yours is likely to handle her labor and delivery very well as long as she is healthy and all goes normally.
Video: German Shepherd Dog Pregnancy and How to Prepare for Whelping Day
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