So, you’re thinking about letting your Golden Retrievers mate – an exciting time. But before you run off on a “mating expedition,” there are a few things you ought to know.
We’ve compiled a complete guide on how Golden Retrievers mate, including the right age to do so, potential risks, the pregnancy process, and the birth of the puppies.
Ready for some learning? Good, let’s get started!
Table of Contents
- 1 The Best Age For Mating Golden Retrievers
- 2 The Female Golden Retriever Heat Cycle
- 3 Signs Your Female Golden Retriever Is In Heat
- 4 How Do Golden Retrievers Mate?
- 5 Health Checks To Get Before Breeding A Golden Retriever
- 6 Preparing Your Golden Retriever For Mating
- 7 How To Tell If Your Golden Retriever Is Pregnant
- 8 How To Tell If Your Golden Retriever Is In Labor
- 9 How Many Puppies Are In A Golden Retriever Litter?
- 10 How Much Does Breeding A Golden Retriever Cost?
- 11 Dealing With Unwanted Pregnancies In Golden Retrievers
- 12 Should I Breed My Golden Retriever?
- 13 FAQs
- 14 Final Thoughts
The Best Age For Mating Golden Retrievers
Appropriate age for male Golden Retrievers to mate
Male Golden Retrievers can technically start breeding as young as six months old. However, there’s some truth in that age-old adage: just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.
It’s better to wait until male Golden Retrievers are two years old because it gives them a chance to develop fully and reach full sexual maturity. It is only then that a vet can assess whether male Golden Retrievers are at risk of developing health complications that may affect their suitability for breeding.
Male Golden Retrievers won’t have anything to do with the birth of their puppies or the few weeks that follow. Still, you need to give your Golden Retriever a chance to develop both mentally and physically before they start breeding.
When male Golden Retrievers aren’t neutered, their hormones tend to go a little wild, which is to be expected. This can affect how your dog behaves; they will run around trying to find a mate because that’s what their body tells them to do.
But what about enjoying being a puppy? Shouldn’t puppies have some fun before becoming parents?
That’s why it’s best to leave mating for the first two years, so your male dog can try to enjoy the small window it has of being a carefree puppy.
Appropriate age for female Golden Retrievers to mate
Waiting for female Goldens to reach sexual maturity is a far more complex process than for males. There are a whole lot of factors that affect pregnancy in Golden Retrievers.
Your female Golden Retriever needs to be physically and mentally mature to handle a pregnancy. It’s not some willy-nilly thing; pregnancy takes a lot out of female dogs.
While some believe a female Golden Retriever is ready to become pregnant after the first heat cycle, it might still be too soon. We’ll get into the heat cycle soon, but your dog might only be one year old at this point.
You should wait until your female Golden Retriever is at least two years old and has had two or three heat cycles. This ensures your female dog is healthy enough to carry the pregnancy.
Risks of breeding too early
If your dog hasn’t had the chance to reach full physical and mental development before mating, it can affect its overall health.
Female and male dogs need about two years to reach their adult size and sexual maturity. This includes everything: joints, eyes, ears, and reproductive organs – they must be fully developed before you even think about breeding.
Now, imagine your female dog gets pregnant at one year old; those parts haven’t developed as they need to. This causes two problems. Firstly, your dog isn’t as mature as it should be. Secondly, the vet doesn’t have a chance to see if your dog has any medical conditions that she can transfer to her puppies, like hip dysplasia.
While Golden Retrievers will continue to develop if they get pregnant at a young age, it stunts their growth. A Golden Retriever’s body goes through a lot to prepare for and carry those golden fluff balls, so we need to give them a chance; it’s only fair.
Affect overall health
Carrying and caring for Golden Retriever puppies takes a lot out of a female. Everything is affected, including their joints, body composition, hormones, and nutritional needs.
Those tiny puppies will take everything they need straight from their mom, which means she is going without. If her immune system hasn’t developed, she is at a massive risk of infection when pregnant and breastfeeding.
Speak to your vet about what to do to support your dog regarding food and vitamins. She’s going to need all the help she can get!
Damage to joints
If your dog hasn’t fully developed, their joints haven’t either. Now, just imagine carrying a belly full of pups around on growing joints – not a fun prospect.
That physical weight and the nutrients needed to sustain pregnancy and feeding will put a massive strain on joints.
Golden Retrievers are already known for being predisposed to joint health complications like hip dysplasia. So starting them off too early on the mating train may have a negative outcome.
Birthing the puppies might also be an issue if the pelvis hasn’t fully developed. The puppies may struggle to come out, leading to your dog needing a C-section. This emergency can lead to stillbirths and your dog dying if not treated quickly enough.
As you can see, not giving the time to develop has a roll-on effect on many other things when your dog becomes pregnant.
No mating schedule is worth your dog’s life.
The Female Golden Retriever Heat Cycle
This is one of the most important things to know about mating. Everything revolves around the heat cycle of the female Golden Retriever. Not knowing the heat cycle can lead to either unplanned pregnancies or trying to get pregnant for months without success.
The heat cycle (aka period cycle) is how your female Golden Retriever’s body prepares to have a litter. The body releases the hormones and has internal processes to get into the ideal stage for a successful pregnancy.
The heat cycle lasts for around three or four weeks, of which a female Golden Retriever is fertile for nine days. But for the highest chance of success, there is a five-day period where your female Golden Retriever is in pristine fertile condition. It’s usually between the 9th and 14th day of the heat cycle.
As a larger breed, your female Golden Retriever may only go into heat once a year, but the average is twice. A female’s heat cycle tails off after six years of age, so you should only breed your dog between the ages of two and five.
Let’s look at the stages of the heat cycle.
- Proestrus (9 days): The female Golden Retriever prepares her body for pregnancy. Males will likely be more attracted to her, but she won’t allow mating now. You may notice a bloody vaginal discharge, indicating the beginning of the heat cycle.
- Estrus (9 days): The ovaries release an egg at the beginning of this stage, which decreases their estrogen levels. As progesterone levels increase, your Golden Retriever is fertile and willing to mate.
- Diestrus (10-140 days): If your dog successfully becomes pregnant, congratulations. We’ll tell you about what happens next shortly. If your dog is not pregnant, she will go into a rest period where there may be slight blood spotting that will gradually reduce.
- Anestrus (6 months): A time of rest and just being a cute cuddle buddy before the next heat cycle!
Signs Your Female Golden Retriever Is In Heat
At the start of the heat cycle, there aren’t many signs. You may notice a swollen or red vulva (entrance to your dog’s private area). Larger dogs like the Golden Retriever tend to have this symptom more than smaller breeds.
Generally, the first sign of a heat cycle is a bloody discharge. Don’t worry – there won’t be a random huge gush of blood on your floors, but you may notice small droplets where your dog has been sitting or lying. Female Golden Retrievers are usually very proud of their appearance, so the blood may make them uncomfortable.
There may be anxious or fidgety behaviors; this is normal for a Golden Retriever that doesn’t usually have an issue with its appearance. This is an adjustment for them too. Be supportive and give your dog a little more attention during this time.
While a heat cycle won’t hurt female Golden Retrievers, it might make them a little more reserved. So just be aware of it and go with the flow. If you panic, they’ll panic.
How Do Golden Retrievers Mate?
If you’re looking to mate your Golden Retriever, this is where you need to pay attention. A simple “Netflix and chill” isn’t how it works.
Here’s what you can expect during the mating process.
Remember this is a first date, so manners at the ready! It’s best to keep both dogs on a leash during the initial meeting, as you don’t know how they’ll respond.
Also crucial: if female dogs are on heat, you must know whether she’s in the Proestrus or Estrus phase.
Generally, the boy (stud) will make initial contact. If your female Golden Retriever is in a heat cycle, regardless of the phase, he will be a little flirty. It’s just his way of saying, “hey, mama.” Usually, he shows interest by licking and sniffing the nose, ears, and vulva.
Don’t worry; it’s totally standard for them, so try not to get too awkward about it.
If female dogs are still in the earlier stages of the Estrus phase, they might snap or pull away; that’s why the leashes are so important. If she isn’t ready to mate, she will definitely let you know.
If you’ve ever wondered whether Golden Retrievers are good running dogs, you’ll soon find out by trying to force your dogs to mate!
In an ideal situation, a female Golden will show her affection by accepting the flirtation and playing along if she is ready. It won’t take long for her to back up toward the male Golden Retriever if she knows it’s a good fit for breeding.
It’s all up to the female. The stud shouldn’t make a move until the female Golden Retriever shows a genuine interest in what’s about to happen.
If it’s your male dog’s first time, you might even see the female mount him to indicate what he is meant to do. It’s sweet, really.
It’s not uncommon for a first-time stud to have no idea what they are doing. They might mount the female’s head out of excitement. Their hormones tell them they need to do something, but their brains have no idea what’s going on!
If it’s your female dog’s first time, it would be best to go with an experienced male Golden Retriever, as the excitement might deter her. That’s where you come in. It’s not like they go behind the shed for a quickie; you are there the entire time, ensuring that your dog is comfortable and relaxed.
The leash also comes in handy. You can guide the male Golden Retriever directly to the female’s rear, so there are no ifs, ands, or buts about what needs to happen. After a few mating introductions, your stud will be a pro.
Once mounted, the male dog will penetrate the female; this might take a few thrusts. Once successful, the thrusts become faster, indicating the mating process has started. If the kennel is rocking, don’t come knocking… or something like that.
Once the thrusting ends, the male will lift his leg to get the two dogs butt to butt. However, this doesn’t mean the process is finished. You should never try to separate the dogs.
The tie is a process in which the penis tissue swells while penetrating the female. Once the thrusting stops, this tissue needs time to go down before the two dogs can separate. Trying to get the two dogs apart at this point will hurt the stud.
So, you need to keep a watchful eye during the tie period. Firstly you don’t want your dog to get hurt. Secondly, a successful tie ensures a much greater chance of getting pregnant.
So, while you might be a little uncomfortable and want to hit the road, taking the time needed for this tie to happen correctly is important. The dogs will separate themselves when the time is right.
However, if the female Golden Retriever does start to get a little frustrated, you can calm them down by assuring them everything is okay. That’s why you, as an owner, need to stay calm throughout the process. If you’re uncomfortable, your dog will follow suit.
If you haven’t intended on the mating process and see the tie in progress, your initial reaction might be to separate the dogs quickly. DON’T do it! What’s done is done; the only thing you’ll do is injure the male dog. There are options for the aftermath that we’ll get into a little later. But if you see this, don’t panic and rip the dogs apart.
The tie can last as long as 30-45 minutes, so it helps if you’re there to keep the dogs calm and comfortable. Typically, though, the process is 5-15 minutes, so not too bad.
Once the tie is broken, you should remove the female so that the male dog doesn’t attempt to mount again.
If you own both dogs, you should put them together once a day for the next ten days to increase the chance of pregnancy. That’s just a general timeline; female dogs will let you know when they’re no longer interested.
Health Checks To Get Before Breeding A Golden Retriever
Before you begin finding a Golden Retriever mate, you must ensure both the female and stud are in good health. Having puppies with health problems like hip dysplasia is not what a responsible breeder does. We want healthy and happy Golden Retriever puppies!
Regular vet checks are a must. Your dog should have a clean bill of health, vaccines, and tests to ensure there aren’t any nasties that might come up later in life. Hip dysplasia is known to be quite common in Golden Retrievers.
Your Golden Retriever should have good muscle tone and be a healthy weight. According to the breed standard, male Golden Retrievers should weigh about 65-75 lbs, and a female 55–65 lbs.
That’s why we recommend waiting until the two-year mark before breeding. Your dog needs enough time to reach their ideal weight. This helps carry pups and gives vets a chance to ensure both dogs are medically sound.
Your dog should also be mentally stable. We know this sounds a little strange, but if you think about it, a female dog that is nervous and scared most of the time isn’t likely to care well for her puppies. Her nature is to hide, which she will do during the mating process and when the puppies need a mom.
Also, testing both Golden Retrievers for parasites is a must – the mother especially, as she may pass these on to her little ones. Worms might not sound like a big threat, but in puppies, they can be a killer.
Preparing Your Golden Retriever For Mating
Getting your dog ready for mating is something you need to consider from a young age. It’s not an easy feat to get Golden Retrievers used to all the touching and medical checkups once they’ve reached adulthood.
If you’ve made the choice, you need to get your stud and bitch used to being touched. This is important for the mating process and the birth. There is a lot of human interaction here, and if your dog is uncomfortable, it will not be easy.
So, while your dog is still a puppy, you need to touch them in the same ways you would check their health and well-being through mating and medical checks. It is especially helpful to touch their:
Picking up an adult dog and attempting to look at what’s going on down below if they aren’t used to it can be tricky. They will likely kick you away; that’s why it’s encouraged to desensitize them at a young age.
If you have a boy and plan to have him be a stud, then the medical checks will become second nature. Every owner of the potential partner female dog will need medical assurance that your stud is up to date on all medical testing.
As much as we hate to say it, breeding Golden Retrievers is a business. While we’re confident you love your dog very much, they are, at the end of the day, the product. So, if this is a full-time job, you must do your due diligence to provide the best service.
Try to have pet insurance; those vet bills don’t come cheap, and it helps to know you’ve got some assistance in the billing department.
It also helps to have a good working relationship with your vet. If you can’t be there physically for every appointment, vet help online can be a great alternative.
If you have female Golden Retrievers, train them to be in a whelping box; this is where they will give birth. Your dog should be comfortable and confident to get into the box. Trust us, with everything going on during labor, the last thing you want is a struggle to get them into it.
How To Tell If Your Golden Retriever Is Pregnant
The only real way to know if your Golden Retriever is pregnant is to have them checked by the vet, which we’ll get into shortly. In the meantime, you may notice the following if you suspect pregnancy:
- Increased nipple size
- Swollen belly
- Increased appetite
- Increased affection
- Weight gain
- Excessive tiredness
Now, onto what the vet does:
Palpation: This is where the vet presses onto your dog’s abdomen to feel for any abnormalities. If there are little puppies in there and it’s been about 30 days since conception, multiple ball-like structures in the abdomen feel like grapes. Please don’t attempt to do this at home; you may hurt your dog or the puppies.
Hormone test: At the 25-35 days mark, the vet can draw blood to measure relaxin. This is a hormone only produced during pregnancy.
Ultrasound: If your dog is between 25-35 days pregnant, an ultrasound allows the vet to hear those little heartbeats going. Don’t be alarmed; a puppy’s heartbeat in-utero can be three times as fast as mom’s. You may even find out how many pups to expect!
X-ray: This is only recommended after 55 days, as you can only see the puppy’s skeletal system on the scan. Too soon, and you might not see anything. An X-ray is a non-invasive way to know how many pups are on the way. Plus, if you’ve ever seen one, you know how cool these scans are. Seeing tiny puppies in-utero is amazing!
How To Tell If Your Golden Retriever Is In Labor
Suppose your Golden Retriever is pregnant; congratulations! Now you need to know how to tell if she’s in labor, so you can help her when needed.
If you know when the pups are due, check your female Golden Retriever’s body temperature twice a day as the birth date approaches.
Female Golden Retrievers’ average temperature is about 101-102°F, which will drop 24 hours before giving birth to around 98-99°F.
Once the temperature drops, it’s time for stage one to begin. You may notice your dog getting a little anxious; this can manifest as pacing, panting, vomiting, and getting into nesting mode.
You should place your dog into the whelping box at this stage. She may begin dragging around some blankets to make herself comfortable; give her the time and space to do this. This isn’t the time to panic and get in your dog’s face; they instinctively know what to do.
This stage can last anywhere from 6-12 hours and ends when the cervix is fully dilated. Then it’s onto stage two, but if your dog hasn’t begun whelping after 24 hours, you should contact your vet immediately.
If something isn’t going as planned, your dog will stop whelping to indicate something is off. Listen to them; acting too late during phase one can have horrible consequences. So, listen to what your dog is saying.
The whelping process is done, and the pups are fully baked, ready to pop out and open those little eyes to the world!
You will see visible contractions here, and your dog will begin straining. It looks a little like when they poop, so keep an eye out for any pushing movements. Once this starts, the first pup should appear in the next one or two hours.
Again, if the first pup hasn’t emerged after two hours, you need to call the vet urgently. Don’t move your dog; call and find out what to do.
Once the first puppy arrives, it’s normal for your dog to have a resting period. That first push takes a lot of work; it’s also quite a shock for your dog to see a little wiggling bum that was just inside them! They will go between stages two and three now.
If you know more pups are coming; they should arrive within four hours. The resting period won’t happen after every puppy is delivered. There also might be more than one pup arriving at once; this is normal after the initial push.
If all the puppies haven’t arrived after four hours, it’s best to call the vet to ensure nothing’s gone wrong. Scans are pretty accurate, but sometimes there can be a miscount, so if the number of puppies you have isn’t what you were expecting, get some help.
Once that first little Golden floof is out, your dog will go into mom mode pretty quickly, even though she’s still technically in labor.
The placenta arrives between 5-15 minutes after each pup; these are little sacs that connect the puppies to their mother in the uterus. If more than one puppy is delivered, multiple placentas will come at once. This might look like a mess, but don’t panic; it’s normal.
Phase three involves two things: resting and delivering placentas. Your dog is likely also going to do some nesting here and show interest in her puppies, smelling and licking them before going back to contracting.
A lot is going on at once, so it’s best to focus your attention on your mother dog, reassuring her that everything is okay. You’ll also need to keep track of the placentas; there should be one for each puppy.
If placentas don’t add up, one might be stuck, and this can make your dog sick, so it’s essential to monitor the process throughout.
On top of that, if the pup comes out in the sac, you’ll need to remove it manually to stimulate breathing for the puppy. Your vet will tell you the best way to do this. Procedures differ, so it’s best to check with your regular vet.
How long does labor last in the Golden Retriever?
It varies quite a bit depending on how many puppies are coming. Generally, if there are no problems, stage one to stage three last from 3-12 hours. So prepare for the big day, because you should be there throughout the labor.
You don’t need to be totally involved in the process, but keep an eye out so you can step in should your dog need help. It’s best to speak with your vet before labor, so you know exactly what to do and when. You’re like a pupper midwife; your dog will appreciate the support!
How Many Puppies Are In A Golden Retriever Litter?
Your dog can have between three and twelve puppies, but there are typically around eight. It all depends on your dog; if this is her first time becoming a mama, she’ll probably have a smaller litter.
Fun fact – the largest litter ever delivered by a single Golden Retriever consisted of 17 puppies. It makes the human birth process sound like a breeze, right?
Factors affecting litter size in Golden Retrievers
The Golden Retriever is a larger breed, which counts in their favor for having multiple healthy puppies. If your dog is at a healthy weight and is fully matured, their body is ready to take on a pregnancy with numerous pups.
If your female Golden Retriever is in pristine condition, she shouldn’t have issues carrying the puppies to term. Unfortunately, the physical stress and pressure on dogs with health problems can make them miscarry.
This is one of the reasons why checkups are crucial throughout the pregnancy.
Even before your dog becomes pregnant, it’s important to have them on a balanced diet supporting their life phase. During pregnancy, your dog’s needs will change; they need more protein and vitamins to replace what the puppies are taking out.
Food quality and nutrition (or the lack of it) can affect the survival rate of the puppies, in-utero and out. Remember, these puppies only live off what mom has to give; if that’s not enough, they will get sick or not even make it into the world.
We recommend chatting with your vet about what’s best. We’ve learned that home-cooked pet food might work best for pregnant dogs, but speak with your vet first. Each dog has different needs, and we want to ensure they’ve got what is best for them.
We know that mating before two isn’t recommended for many reasons. If you want the best outcome, it’s best to breed your Golden Retriever when they’re between two and five years old. They should be in the best health with little chance of something medically going wrong.
Technically, you can breed your dog after five years old, but we wouldn’t recommend it. There is a much higher chance of not producing healthy puppies and the mom having pregnancy health complications.
The same goes for the stud; you shouldn’t breed male dogs over five years old. The quality of sperm goes down each year, affecting puppies’ health. Damaged sperm or eggs can lead to serious medical complications, so we don’t recommend pushing your dog.
Artificial insemination can lead to smaller litter sizes, because the sperm dies before reaching the egg. It’s always best to do things the old-school way, when possible.
Believe it or not, the season your dog mates in can affect her litter size. If your dog conceives and has her litter during the spring, there is a higher chance of having more puppies. Nature is weird sometimes – but hey, whatever will give you the best outcome, right?
How Much Does Breeding A Golden Retriever Cost?
This depends on many factors. If you’re planning to breed with an AKC-certified dog, you can bet your socks you will pay for it! A documented lineage with a history of successful pregnancies will cost you a pretty penny.
Let’s break things down:
- Breeding cost: $13,000-$30,000, depending on the history. If you don’t mind the lineage or certification, a purebred mating experience costs about $7,000.
- Certification: $350-$500
- Birth: Up to $4,000 (emergency care can be pricey)
- Vet visits and scans: $50-$400
This is just part of it. You might need to travel to meet the stud or bitch, which can rack up a pretty hefty bill too.
Look, if mating is your business, you will obviously want the best of the best; this makes things a lot more expensive than if you simply want your dog to have puppies with whatever partner.
The cost is dramatically less if you don’t care about the lineage and only want puppies. But just be sure you’re ready for the responsibility of having puppies around and caring for your pregnant dog. It’s not something to take on lightly.
You’ll also need to factor in lost wages in this equation, because, at some point, the pregnancy and new puppies will require your time and attention. Most people don’t think about this before jumping on the puppy train. We want you to make an informed decision that is best for you and for your dog.
Dealing With Unwanted Pregnancies In Golden Retrievers
Sometimes mistakes happen, and you have to deal with the consequences – it’s just one of those things with dogs. While they are a big part of the family, they aren’t human, so sitting down to have the birds and the bees talk isn’t a thing.
If your dog gets pregnant by accident, there are ways you can terminate the pregnancy.
Abortion: The vet will inject Alizin twice in 24 hours. This is only possible within 45 days of conception. Any later, and the puppies already have bones that can’t be absorbed by your dog’s body naturally.
Desexing: If it’s past 45 days or you don’t want your dog to have puppies at any point, you can have them spayed. The vet removes both ovaries, which obviously terminates the pregnancy. Your dog needs strict cage rest for ten days after the procedure.
Before anything happens, however, the vet will do a complete medical examination to ensure you make the right choice for your dog based on its health. Nothing is going to happen without your dog being in a healthy enough condition to handle it.
It should go without saying, but DON’T attempt to terminate a pregnancy at home. This is a delicate situation that needs specialized care from a vet.
We won’t preach or anything; it’s not what we’re about. But if you don’t want your Golden Retriever to get pregnant, it’s important to get them spayed or neutered after the first year. Before that point, they should not go anywhere without being on a leash to prevent the above.
Should I Breed My Golden Retriever?
You’re the only one able to make that choice, but we can give you a few questions to help you get to the answer:
- Do you have the funds for vet visits?
- Do you have the time to care for your dog during the pregnancy and labor, and newborn puppies?
- Do you have a good home for the puppies to go to after weaning off mom’s milk?
- Is your dog in good health?
- Has your dog reached sexual maturity?
- Does your dog have any chronic health complications? Hip dysplasia is a big one for Golden Retrievers.
- Do you have the funds for emergency care?
There is nothing wrong with breeding your Golden Retriever; they are some of the sweetest and most beautiful dogs around.
However, you need to ensure you can deal with what comes with being part of the responsible breeders club. It’s not just a willy-nilly decision. Your dog goes through a lot, and so will you. You’re in a challenging situation if you’re not prepared for this, and it’s unfair on your dog.
Above all, the health of your Golden Retriever is the most important thing. We can’t stress enough how vital it is to get the go-ahead from the vet before doing anything.
Mating your Golden Retriever is a big responsibility and you must be prepared – if you take anything from this article, let it be that.
If you’re making an informed decision after going through all the resources, we’re happy.
Is it difficult to mate Golden Retrievers?
Technically no; if your female Golden Retriever is fertile and mates with a healthy stud, the chances of pregnancy are pretty good. Various factors like a successful tie, diet, and dog age affect pregnancy chances. If both dogs are medically sound, it shouldn’t be a problem.
Do female Golden Retrievers get pregnant every time they mate?
No, that’s why mating more than once is essential. The general consensus is that mating once daily for 3-10 days is sufficient.
Does it hurt my Golden Retriever to mate?
The actual act shouldn’t hurt your dogs. However, after mating, the dogs go into a tie phase. If you separate dogs during this process, the male dog can get badly injured.
Well done on making it to the end! We know it’s a lot of information to take on, but breeding Golden Retrievers is a big thing that shouldn’t be taken lightly.
You need all the facts to make the right choice for you and your beautiful Golden companion. We hope our article clarifies things and answers some of your burning questions.
If you’re looking for more info on your breed, check out the resources on our website.