You can never expect 100 percent precision when it comes to guessing the size of a pregnant dog's litter. However, several key factors can often point you in the right direction for making an educated guess regarding whether mom is carrying one pup or a whole lot more.
Breed and Size
Taking a pregnant dog's breed and size into consideration can be helpful for anticipating how many bundles of furry joy she's expecting. Smaller dogs usually have smaller litters, while bigger dogs, on the other hand, usually have bigger ones. If the mother dog is of a wee toy breed -- such as a Pekingese -- she could have a litter of merely one puppy. If she's a massive Neapolitan mastiff, she could have a litter of more than 15 puppies. If she's of a mid-sized breed, the litter could be somewhere in between.
Patterns in Litter Size with Age
Thinking about a pregnant dog's age often is an important clue for guessing how many puppies she's about to have. Youthful mother dogs who have never had puppies before usually have tiny litters. Their litter sizes, with experience and time, generally steadily get higher until they reach about 5 years old. Once the mother dogs get to this approximate age bracket, their litters frequently become smaller again. This falling off of litter size at a certain point doesn't typically apply to females of especially small canine breeds, however.
Age of First Time Breeding
Age can be useful for guessing litter size in one other key way. If a dog waits until she's a minimum of 4 years in age to reproduce, she might have fewer puppies than a mother who started breeding earlier on. If a female dog begins reproducing at a young age, expect her to have somewhat bigger litters, comparatively speaking.
Length of Pregnancy
The duration of pregnancy also can sometimes provide hints regarding litter size. Although it might seem the other way around, briefer gestational periods often signify more puppies on the way. Lengthier ones, however, often denote less of them. If a mother dog has been pregnant for more than 63 days, then it might not be because she has so many of the little ones coming. Note, however, that there are always exceptions to any of these possibilities, whether they involve time of gestation or how many puppies a big dog might bear.
Veterinary appointments can also provide insight into a dog's litter size. Ultrasounds aren't always the most effective options for these purposes, however. Depending on where all of the little guys are located in the mom's stomach, picking them all out individually can often be a rather tricky thing. Abdominal X-rays as parturition draws closer usually offer more precise estimates on litter size.
- The Genetics of the Dog; Anatoly Ruvinsky and Jeff Sampson
- The Dog Breeder's Guide to Successful Breeding and Health Management: Margaret V. Root Kustritz
- American Kennel Club: AKC ENewsletter
- The Dog - Its Behavior, Nutrition and Health; Linda P. Case
- VCA Animal Hospitals: Breeding for Pet Owners - Pregnancy in Dogs
- Janie Airey/Lifesize/Getty Images