Planning for a Puppy: A Breeder’s Timeline

In June 8, 2023

Surely, breeders all have their own methods of taking reservations, waiting lists, planning litters, and so on. But it’s definitely helpful to understand the timeline of a planned litter, so that as the buyer, you can better understand what your own timeline should look like.

There are certainly times of year that are popular for folks to look for a puppy… that tends to most often be Spring, right at the beginning of Summer, and also for many the Fall (after their Summer travels).

As far as timing goes through, as a breeder… that’s sadly largely out of our control. Obviously we can choose to breed or not breed on a female’s heat cycle. But unfortunately we can’t really plan months ahead and say, these two dogs will be bred in March (for example). Because of course as soon as you start to count on future plans too much, nature will crumble them.

To understand a breeder’s planning timeline a bit better, perhaps it’d be good to start at the basics of canine gestation!

So first and foremost, the canine gestational period is approximately 9 weeks long. Some are surprised at how short of a time dogs are actually pregnant. They can actually have the pups anywhere from usually 58-68 days typically. And most dogs don’t actually show as pregnant until halfway through that. Sometimes we do ultrasounds approximately 4 weeks into the pregnancy if we’re not seeing obvious signs, or we do a puppy count x-rays about a week before the due date to estimate how many puppies there might be in there. In the last two weeks, the puppies’ skeletons have calcified and you can count spines in a radiograph. We typically do this about one week before the due date. By this time, all of the early development in the puppies done and there is minimal risk with x-ray. It is also only one or two images taken. It’s helpful to do this so that as the breeder we know what to expect when whelping the litter. For example, if it is a small litter of only a couple of puppies, we might need to assess a c-section route or the size of the puppies, etc. Or in general, if we have an idea of how many might be in there, then we know that if there’s suddenly a long break in whelping whether there is still a puppy or more in there or if she’s likely done.


Ok. We’ve talked canine gestational period. We know that there’s approximately a two month pregnancy. Then we add on knowing that puppies cannot leave until 8 weeks old… and we know that there is a combined 4 month window from conception to leaving the nest.

Some breeders might take waitlists and reservations for a general time period, but I’ve got to say… we tried that during the COVID era, and it got a bit crazy…

The increased demand during COVID, and a slower year for us, resulted in crazy long waitlists for each color/gender that became a little chaotic. People would reach out to me about a yellow female wait for example and I’d say… “well, I have x number of people currently waiting for a yellow female right now… soooo it might be a year? maybe less depending on how many yellow females are born?”

And then on top of that, you take names upon names, and when you finally have a litter they can plan to expect, you call them and they tell you they actually got a puppy elsewhere two weeks ago… or no actually that timing isn’t great.

We take reservations based on color/gender preference, and establish a picking order for each litter that way. So when you think of all the color combinations there can be…. black, chocolate, yellow… male and female… It’s very difficult to predict how long it will take for x number of chocolate males to be produced, for example.

So, our method has always typically been this:

We will take establish a waiting list for any planned litter, with picking orders designated for each color/gender to be expected in that litter. Once that litter is born, we’ll confirm with everyone if we have their reserved color/gender, and adjust if necessary (maybe someone reserved a yellow female but there was an abundance of black females and they’re open to switching color).

If we have a litter officially planned, this means we have to have a breeding date and a due date, in order to establish that 4 month window.

Now to go beyond this established window we’ve talked about regarding conception to pick-up, you might be asking, “Well don’t you know when you’ll breed each female?”

Oh, if only…

So the next brief lesson is in a female’s heat or estrous cycle. And we do have another post talking about this a bit (you can read here!)

Unfortunately, like with any species, conception cannot happen just any time. And when it comes to dogs, it’s less often than humans, and not any every month thing.

Female dogs may have their first heat cycle anywhere from most often 8 months to 14 months old. Just like human women, they’re all different! After that initial heat cycle, most will come into heat again every 6-8 months. Again, all are different. So we might establish an idea of each female’s cycle, whether she comes in every 6 months, or 7 months, or 8 months… But it doesn’t stop there, and it’s not always clockwork. Sometimes a normally 6 month cycle female may have one that is more like 7 or 8 months. Maybe you’re watching a female for her heat and she has a silent heat. Or, she comes into heat, you start hormone testing for breeding purposes, and then she goes out and it’s what we call a “split heat”. There are just so many scenarios, and until the female has peaked in her cycle and you have a breeding date, you just really can’t give anyone a definitive timeline.

And when you’re talking to as many people as we are on a day to day basis about breeding plans, it’s difficult to keep each inquiring person apprised of each potential breeding that hasn’t happened yet. And as much as people say they are flexible, they get attached to one expected plan, and are vocally disappointed when that plan changes… and in what we do, plans change. Often.

Maybe this is a much longer answer to this timing and planning question than is necessary, but it feels like maybe it’s helpful to potential puppy parents if they understand the why behind how we do things and the timing of everything. I often get emails starting in the Fall about plans for the following Spring or Summer. And it’s really just too far out to have any planned litters. So I always just kindly ask folks to check back with us about four months before they are hoping to bring a new puppy home.

Even in taking reservations for a planned litter with a breeding and due date, there is still risk and uncertainty as you wait to see if the breeding was successful, and if the litter produces what you were hoping for. So, just a note to be aware when you go into planning for your future puppy, that flexibility and patience is definitely necessary. You might be hoping for a yellow female puppy to bring home in June, but based on the dog’s cycle and pregnancy timing, that litter might not be ready until July. Or maybe it’s ready in May. Or maybe you wait on that litter with baited breath, and they are born but have NO yellow females, or not enough for where your place on the litter picking order was. So then, you might wait for the next litter and cross your fingers for that one.

This is simply a breeder’s disclaimer try to be patient and flexible in your timing, to a degree, when planning for a new puppy! We’ll do our best to work with you to bring home your new family member at the right time. 🙂




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