Reproduction in domestic dogs is generally manipulated by humans. Feral males tend to compete amongst themselves for access to receptive females. Some feral domestic dog populations have reverted to ancestral habits where a single male and female pair (the alpha animals) dominate mating in a small, family group, or pack. Other pack members help to care for the offspring of the dominant pair.
Mating System: monogamous ; polygynandrous (promiscuous) ; cooperative breeder
Domestic dogs have a gestation period of 9 weeks, after which anywhere from 1 to dozens of puppies can be born, depending on the breed and nutritional status of the mother. Average litter sizes are from 3 to 9 puppies.
Male and female dogs usually reach puberty between 6 and 12 months of age; however, the time that a dog actually breeds depends on many social factors, ranging from size of breed (larger dogs need more time before they are ready to breed) and level of confidence a dog must attain before being ready to breed.
Most breeds are seasonally monocyclic, showing signs of heat every 6 months or so. The reproductive cycle has four stages: anestrus, proestrus, estrus, and diestrus. The anestrus period lasts about 2 to 4 months. Proestrus is the time when a bloody discharge first appears in a female. This is the beginning of "heat," a period that usually last 9 days but that can last up to 28 days. The end of this period is marked by the female's acceptance of a male partner. Estrus is the period when the female is sexually receptive and breeding can occur. Ovulation occurs about 24 hours after the acceptance of the male. Ova survive and are capable of being fertilized for about 4 days after ovulation; therefore it is possible for a female to mate with more that one male. Diestrus follows estrus in the nonpregnant cycle, characterized by a state of "pseudopregnancy", which is followed by a return of the uterus and ovaries to the anestrus, resting state.
Breeding interval: Domestic dogs can reproduce at approximately six month intervals, though usually less frequently.
Breeding season: Breeding can occur throughout the year.
Range number of offspring: 1 (low) .
Average number of offspring: 3-9.
Average gestation period: 63 days.
Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female): 6 to 12 months.
Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male): 6 to 12 months.
Key Reproductive Features: iteroparous ; year-round breeding ; gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate); sexual ; viviparous
Females nurse and care for their puppies until they are weaned at about 8 to 10 weeks of age. In feral domestic dog packs, puppies are cared for by all members of the pack.
Parental Investment: altricial ; male parental care ; female parental care