Adrienne is a certified dog trainer, former veterinary assistant, and the author of "Brain Training for Dogs."
Can Litters of Puppies Really Have More Than One Dad?
If you're wondering if your litter of puppies can have more than one dad, it's probably because something seems a bit fishy. You may have a litter of all-white puppies, and then there's a one black one that has you wondering if Sophie was messing around with other dogs, too.
Can Female Dogs Have Puppies With More Than One Male at the Same Time?
The short answer is yes; the long answer involves a look into dogs' social lives and a quick look at reproductive science. For starters, dogs are not the best representation of "fidelity." Yes, they are loyal, devoted animals towards their masters, but with their mates, it's a whole different story.
Sophie the French Poodle can mate twice a year and can have multiple partners. This means, when in heat, she can mate with Oliver the English bulldog from across the street, Romeo the purebred Rottweiler and even Scruffy, the mutt who hangs out in your yard. Once pregnant, the father dog can't care less about the puppies, so he no longer has a function (humans have likely taken over his task of providing food and protecting the pups).
Unlike wolves, Sophie no longer regurgitates food for her pups, possibly because humans now take care of that as well by feeding the puppies homemade mush.
Are Dogs Naturally Monogamous?
Wolves have a history of being monogamous, but dogs are not monogamous. Indeed, they're a far cry from being monogamous. The way they care for their offspring has also dramatically changed. I blame domestication.
In the wild, father wolves mate with their soul mate once a year and then help take care of their offspring. They hunt, share their food with their pups, and guard the den. The father has an important role and fulfills it wonderfully. Papa wolves also help educate the pups and teach them proper social skills and how to respect the adults.
Domestic dogs are a totally different story.
Multi-Sired Litters: Fact or Fiction?
So, Sophie the French Poodle decided to have multiple partners. What happens next is that she'll actually give life to a multi-sired litter. What does this mean? It means that yes, the litter of puppies will have more than one father.
Female dogs produce multiple ova that can be fertile for several days. To up the chances of getting pregnant, consider also that male dogs are capable of producing sperm that can stay alive and well for up to eight days.
If Sophie mates with multiple dogs, then yes, she can easily get pregnant, and the litter of puppies can have different fathers. A puppy cannot have two fathers, but each puppy can have a different father. In other words, if Sophie mated with Theo the poodle, and then she had an affair with Scruffy the mutt, she may have three poodles and then the remaining four may be mixes.
Another Explanation: Heterozygosis
If your litter of pups looks quite different but you are absolutely certain Sophie mated with just one dog, you might be right. For instance, if Sophie the poodle was mated with Rover the Golden Retriever, and then 63 days later her puppies look different from one another, keep in mind the litter may just be simply blessed with great genetic variation.
Geneticists call this heterozygosis. In other words, some golden doodle puppies may look more like momma and some will look more like papa, and others may look like both—but there's nothing wrong with that!
So yes, a litter of puppies can have more than one dad, but puppies cannot have two dads.
Who's Your Daddy? Seeking the Truth in Multi-Sired Litters
Some breeders actually purposely breed a female dog to two different studs. These multi-sired litters are also recognized and registered with the American Kennel Club under "Multi-sired litter registration" as long as the dogs are registrable purebred breeds.
If you suspect a multi-sired litter, you may be curious to know who the other daddy is. If you purposely mated your gal with two studs, then you may want to find the biological father of each pup so you can provide details to the potential buyers. Luckily, today you can solve all doubts and concerns by investing in a DNA testing kit just for dogs.
DNA Kits for Dogs
These kits are pretty easy to use. They come with buccal swabs that simply need to collect some cells in the dog's cheek. The samples are then mailed out, a lab analyzes them and then you are mailed your results at home. Easy as pie if you're seeking the truth or you're in need paternity proof.
- Psychology Today, Stanley Coren: Why Are Some Litter Pups Uniform in Appearance While Others Are Mismatched?
- Ruckus Kennels: About Dual-Sired Breedings
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.
Questions & Answers
Question: If I breed a female dog with a lab first, then a year or so later breed her with a German shepherd, will the second litter still have lab traits?
Answer: No, there will be no traits retained from the prior breeding.
© 2013 Adrienne Farricelli
Danny on October 01, 2019:
If two puppies from the same litter have different SARS forefathers can you breed those two puppies together as long as their fathers are different
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on February 09, 2013:
Thanks for stopping by, I'm happy you found the article interesting!
Susan Hazelton from Northern New York on February 09, 2013:
Absolutely fascinating. I had no idea there could be more than one father for a litter. Wow. Up, interesting, and awesome. Great job.
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on February 08, 2013:
Woah, that would have me scratching my head too! Sounds like La-chon has some explaining to do! Thanks for stopping by!
Tammy on February 08, 2013:
Great topic! Now I know why my wonderful La-Chon sported three beautiful babies that didn't look a bit alike. One looked like a mini Saint Bernard, one a mini Black Lab with a white strip, and one looked like a long haired mini Dalmatian. I am still scratching my head wondering who the father/fathers are. I have heard of cats being able to do this, I don't know why I didn't think about the dogs ability too. Thanks for sharing!
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on February 06, 2013:
Well, knowing how some birds are not monogamous in the real sense of the word, it's a good response I heard that 90% of birds are monogamous, but it 30 percent or more of the baby birds seem to be sired by someone other than who was thought to be the father. Thanks for stopping by, Larry, your posts are always fun!
Larry Fields from Northern California on February 06, 2013:
Your hub reminded me of an experience from a hike many years ago. One of the women remarked that she saw a pair of birds feeding their chicks. The female was not distinctive in appearance, and the hiker wasn't sure about the species until she saw the brilliant plumage of the male.
My stooopid response: How do you know that he was the real father?
Voted up and interesting.
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on February 06, 2013:
They have been around the market for some time, but I think they're not advertised enough. I think they're fun but at the same time educational.
Kari on February 06, 2013:
What?! I didn't know this, and I thought I knew a lot about dogs! I think I need to start studying up a bit more. That is crazy, and kind of cool. I didn't think about DNA tests either, but that would make sense. Very cool hub.