Adrienne is a certified dog trainer and former veterinarian assistant who partners with some of the best veterinarians worldwide.
Is There a "Puppy Season" for Dogs?
Among the many changes domestication has brought into the lives of our canine companions, reproduction has also been affected, bringing substantial changes into the heat cycle and whelping habits of dogs. It is estimated that dogs were domesticated and separated from gray wolves about 15,000 years ago, when they started frequenting human settlements.
Unlike gray wolves, which are generally monogamous or breed only with one partner—with females going into heat in late winter so that pups are born in early spring and have time to grow strong before winter hits again—dogs have undergone substantial changes when it comes to reproduction. With more resources, better care, and less exposure to the harsh elements of the wild, dogs are not monogamous and have become promiscuous with females going into heat twice a year and virtually at any time.
Maturity in Dogs
Dogs also tend to mature earlier. For instance, female dogs may mature physically and sexually around 7 and 10 months of age (this does not mean they should be bred on their first heat), whereas wolves are generally not mature until they are approximately 22 months. Male dogs are promiscuous and fertile year-round, whereas male wolves are more selective and monogamous. The male wolves' testes are even subject to atrophy when out of the breeding cycle, rendering them infertile, explains Steven R. Lindsay in his book Handbook of Applied Dog Behavior and Training (Iowa SP, 2000: Vol. 1).
This predisposition for domesticated dogs to readily accept any sexual partner and be promiscuous is considered by many breeders as "a facet of domestication."
So, is there a puppy season in dogs? Apparently not. Female dogs have bi-annual breeding cycles, and male dogs are willing to mate any time a female is in heat. This causes puppies to be born virtually at any time of the year. However, there are some exceptions to this rule.
Some Exceptions to the Rule
Not all dogs, however have bi-annual heat cycles. This applies to certain dogs belonging to primitive breeds.
- The Basenji: Basenji dogs tend to go into heat only once a year in the fall, with puppies being born for the most part in the months of December and January, according to the Basenji Club of Canada.
- The Tibetan Mastiff: The Tibetan mastiff, an ancient breed, retains some instincts related to survival in the wild in Tibet. The female Tibetan mastiff goes in heat only once a year, towards the end of fall, regardless if it is moved to a different area with different climates. This causes most Tibetan mastiff puppies to be born as well between December and January, according to Tibetan mastiff Club Malaysia.
- New Guinea Singing Dogs: The breeding season of New Guinea Singing Dogs generally starts in August and ends during December. In Tierpark Berlin, it was estimated that 80% of the New Guinea Singing Dogs litters were born in the months of October and November.
Other dogs following similar breeding patterns are wolf hybrids. Generally, the higher content of wolf in the animal, the more likely it will go into heat once a year, during the late winter breeding season just as wolves do. This results in puppies being born in the spring. Should the wolf hybrid have less wolf content, then it would go into heat biannually just as dogs do, according to Wolf Valley Farm. Male wolf hybrids may therefore also be fertile year round as most dogs or may be fertile only in the late winter breeding season as wolves.
For Further Reading
- The Dog's Heat Cycle Explained
A dog's heat cycle may appear to be something quite difficult to understand. Unlike other species, the heat cycle of canines does not seem to follow any logic such as following a specific seasonality or temperature change. Rather, it just occurs...
- Dog Behavior: How has Dog Behavior Evolved from Wolv...
Learn how dogs evolved from wolves. Theories of how dogs were domesticated and what behaviors wolves and dogs have in common.
- David Mech's Theory on the Alpha Role
David Mech wolf studies,kabir, morguefile.com One of the main theories regarding the structure of a wolf pack relies on the fact that the leader role is carried out by a determined dominant wolf, known as the ''alpha wolf''. This hard earned...
- Differences and Similarities Between Dogs and Wolves
wolves and dog similarities, jak, morguefile.com Dog and wolf: two different species but yet, so much in common. Dogs were originally classified as ''Canis familiaris '' by Linnaeus in 1758. However, later in 1993, dogs were reclassified as a...
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.
© 2012 Adrienne Farricelli
Emma on May 26, 2018:
Are those golden retrievers on the picture
AWWW I love them
Nancy on September 06, 2016:
Thanks for that information.
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on March 23, 2012:
It was quite interesting writing the hub as well for me as I only knew the Basenji came into season once a year, while there are several other breeds as well!
Linda Liebrand from San Francisco on March 23, 2012:
Thanks for answering my question about what time of the year most puppies are born! Your answer was really interesting, and actually not quite what I expected. I'm especially surprised about the older breeds who only come into season once a year compared to all other dog breeds! Thanks again - I'm just about to hit the share button and I'll give your hub a well deserved vote up too :o)
nadelma from NEW ADDRESS: Melbourne, Florida on March 21, 2012:
Thank for all this information. I use to have a sheltie and a newfoundland and a newfie/black lab mix.
This is very informative.
Suhail Zubaid aka Clark Kent from Mississauga, ON on March 21, 2012:
My Kuvasz boy was born in spring of 2011.