How Often Do Labs Go Into Heat – Lab Heat Cycle Explained (2024)

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If you own a female Labrador retriever or are planning on getting one, you need to understand how their heat cycle works.

One of the most common questions I get is: “How often do Labs go into heat?” Followed by, “When do Lab puppies have their first heat?”

Knowing what to expect when your Labrador goes into heat for the first time is important.

How Often Do Labs Go Into Heat – Lab Heat Cycle Explained (1)

Caring for your dog when she is in season can be challenging, mainly because your Lab can become pregnant in mere moments, leaving you to figure out what to do with a litter of puppies.

One of the biggest problems owners of female Labs face is preventing unwanted pregnancies.

To avoid dealing with unwanted puppies, you must know when your female Labrador can become pregnant and come up with a plan to protect your dog from unwanted pregnancies.

Keep on reading to learn when Labs go into heat, what a heat cycle looks like, and what to expect from it.

When Do Labs Go Into Heat For The First Time?

Labrador retrievers, like all other dogs, will have their first heat cycle when they reach puberty.

As your female Lab grows, there will come a time when her body will become ready to mate, become pregnant, and give birth to a litter of puppies. When that time comes, it is usually referred to as their first heat or first season.

Most dogs reach puberty and have their first heat cycle around six months of age, but this can vary depending on the breed. Most large dog breeds go into heat a bit later than smaller breeds, as their bodies need more time to grow and mature properly.

As a large dog breed, your female Lab will probably go into heat for the first time somewhere between 9 and 12 months of age.

However, this isn’t set in stone, and some dogs can have their first heat anywhere between one and two years of age. If your girl is a late bloomer, there’s probably nothing to worry about.

Our black lab, Elsa went into heat last December at almost exactly 6 months old.

How Often Do Labs Go Into Heat?

After your Lab’s first heat, their cycle usually follows a regular schedule. In a sense, your dog’s heat cycle is similar to what human females go through every month with their menstrual cycles, except not as often. Instead of going into heat every month, most female Labrador retrievers go into heat every six months after their first heat cycle.

Since all dogs are different, this pattern can vary a bit from one Lab to the next. It’s not uncommon for some female Labrador retrievers to go into heat only once a year, while some go into heat every three to four months!

Two heat cycles a year is merely an average for Labrador retrievers. As long as the Labrador’s heat cycle is regular and follows a consistent pattern, you don’t have anything to worry about. For example, an 8 to 10 months heat cycle is slightly longer than the norm, but it is not abnormal or worrisome in any way.

However, if your Lab’s heat cycle is irregular and doesn’t follow a predictable schedule, you should consult with your veterinarian.

Inconsistent or extremely late heat cycles can indicate underlying health problems and are best discussed with a vet. Also, any sudden changes in your dog’s cycle can be a sign of health issues that require medical attention.

It’s been 10 months since Elsa’s first heat cycle and we’re still waiting for her second one. Tick Tock!

Signs Of A Lab In Heat

While most experienced owners can spot when their Labs are going into heat, this whole process can be slightly confusing for first-time owners. If you’ve never owned a dog before and your Lab’s first heat cycle is approaching, here are the signs to look out for:

Swollen Vulva

This is probably the biggest and most obvious sign that your Lab is in heat. When entering her heat cycle, your Labrador’s vulva or genitalia will become immensely swollen.

I’m not talking about a bit of swelling here; your dog’s vulva will be three to four times bigger than its normal size. The swelling makes a huge difference to the appearance of your Lab’s vulva and is hard to miss once you know what to look for.

Bleeding

Most dog owners prepare themselves for a significant amount of bleeding for their dog’s first heat cycle. However, they are usually pleasantly surprised when they discover that their Labs don’t bleed a lot at all. In some cases, you may even miss the bleeding if you aren’t paying close attention.

A female Lab in heat will typically only leave a few drops of blood behind, usually on their bed or somewhere on the floor.

I’ve found that dog diapers are a great way to keep the bleeding contained and away from furniture and floors. To be completely sure that your Labrador is in heat, use a tissue and wipe her vulva. If there is a red discharge and your dog’s vulva is swollen, it’s a clear sign that your Lab is going into heat.

Our Golden Retriever, Raven bleeds very little during her heat cycles. However, our Labrador Retriever, Elsa bled much more and it was fairly messy. We use dog diapers with Elsa.

Increased Self Cleaning

Labrador retrievers are clean animals regardless of their heat cycle, and your dog is probably meticulous about her grooming routine. However, during their heat cycles, female Labs become even more preoccupied with their cleanliness.

If you notice your Labrador is licking and cleaning herself a lot more than usual, chances are that she’s trying to remove and hide the blood.

This is usually my number 1 sign for for a lab in heat. I always notice the excessive cleaning and it’s at that time when I check to see if she has a swollen vulva.

Behavioral Changes

With all the extra hormones flowing through your Lab’s body, she is bound to behave differently than usual. Depending on how these hormones affect her, your pooch may become more needy and clingy a few days before her other physical symptoms start to show.

Most Labradors become sleepier then usual and are in the mood for extra cuddles. However, some females might get more excitable and restless, depending on how the hormonal changes are affecting them.

Humping & Flagging

Some female Labs might hump other dogs, toys, and even people when they go into heat. Since humping is a playful behavior in puppies, you should only consider it as a sign of a heat cycle if your dog is exhibiting excessive humping along with other symptoms.

When in heat, your Lab may also move her tail to the side and expose her rear end more often than usual. This type of behavior is called flagging, and it signals to nearby male dogs that your Lab is ready for mating. Flagging most often happens during the third stage of the heat cycle when a female is completely receptive to males.

Admirers

When female Labs go into heat, they produce pheromones that attract male dogs of any breed. Sometimes, you don’t have to observe your dog for signs of heat, as other dogs can be a much better indicator of your Lab’s heat cycle.

You may notice that male dogs are frequenting your yard more often than before, basically waiting to pounce on your pooch as soon as she leaves the house. Since dogs have an incredible sense of smell, male dogs can smell a female in heat from miles away.

How Long Does A Female Labrador Stay In Heat?

Most female Labrador retrievers stay in heat for 2 to 4 weeks. However, this isn’t set in stone, and a slightly shorter or longer heat cycle is not uncommon. About 10 days into her heat cycle, your Lab will ovulate, which means her body will release eggs that can be fertilized.

A clear sign that your Labrador is ovulating is when her discharge changes color from a bright or dark red to a light pink color. During ovulation, your pooch will also start moving her tail from the side and flagging more to signal to males that she is ready for mating.

How long each stage of the heat cycle lasts varies among dogs and depends on a lot of factors. Since it’s extremely hard to tell at what stage of the heat cycle your dog is, you should assume that your Lab can get pregnant at any time.

To avoid wondering whether your Lab is pregnant or not, you will need to look after her like a hawk when she goes into heat or risk unwanted puppies.

Understanding The Four Stages Of Lab Heat Cycle

The heat cycle of any dog, including the Labrador retriever, consists of different hormonal changes that happen based on a regular schedule. A lab’s heat cycle consists of four distinctive stages during which her body produces hormones that will affect her fertility throughout the year.

Knowing when female Labs go into their heat cycle and understanding the different stages of it can help you look after your dog more responsibly.

Being aware of everything your Lab is going through will also prepare you for the many behavioral and physical changes your Lab will experience during heat so there won’t be any strange surprises.

Observe your Lab closely to learn the specific signs of her heat cycles. Doing this will give you a better idea of what to expect in terms of the length of the cycle, amount of discharge, behavioral changes, and more. If you are considering breeding your Labrador, you should wait until her third heat to breed her.

Listed below are the four stages of the Labrador heat cycle and what you can expect to happen during each phase.

Proestrus

Proestrus is the first stage of your Lab’s reproductive cycle and is the time when your dog will begin to go into heat. On average, this stage lasts around nine days, during which time your dog’s uterus is preparing for a possible pregnancy.

When it comes to physical signs, your dog’s vulva will become swollen, and there will be a bloody discharge.

During the proestrus stage, your Lab’s estrogen levels will peak, and male dogs will be more attracted to her than usual. However, most females aren’t receptive to males at this stage and will dismiss their advances.

Estrus

Estrus is the second stage of a Labrador retriever’s heat cycle. This stage usually lasts nine days, and at this time, female dogs are more receptive to males. Your Labrador is fertile now since she is ovulating, and she can easily become pregnant at this stage.

During the estrus stage, your dog’s vulva is still enlarged but softens a little, and her bloody discharge becomes pink. Your dog’s estrogen levels are dropping, and her progesterone levels are starting to rise.

Since your Lab is most fertile during this time, she will let male dogs mount her and may even try to seek them out. If you aren’t planning to breed your female Labrador, you’ll need to be extra careful during this stage of her heat cycle.

It’s not uncommon for dogs to escape their kennels, dig holes under fences, or jump walls to mate, so keep a close eye on your Lab.

Diestrus

Diestrus is the third stage of a dog’s reproductive cycle during which female Labs are no longer receptive to males. This stage usually lasts around two months. At this time, your Lab’s estrogen levels are low, while the progesterone peaks three to four weeks after the start of diestrus and then goes back to normal levels.

The change of progesterone levels at this stage will happen whether or not your Labrador is pregnant. Depending on what happened during the estrus stage, your female Labrador is either pregnant during diestrus or is in a period of rest.

Anestrus

Anestrus is the time between diestrus and the next proestrus. This stage usually lasts four months, but it can be longer for certain breeds.

At this stage, your female Labrador is no longer in heat, nor does she show any signs of heat. It’s worth mentioning that your dog is no longer fertile in this stage, so she won’t be attractive to male dogs or be interested in them.

During anestrus, your Lab’s vulva will no longer be swollen, and there won’t be any discharge. Your Labrador retriever and her body will use this time to allow her uterus to recover and prepare for the next possible pregnancy.

These four stages repeat every heat season, and your dog may go through them once or twice per year. Keep in mind that all dogs are different, and some Labradors may not experience or show the exact changes outlined above.

If you notice any changes to your Lab’s heat cycle or have any questions or concerns, don’t hesitate to talk with your veterinarian.

FAQs About When Female Labs Go Into Heat

How do you know when your Lab is in heat?

There are several clear signs that your female Labrador retriever is in heat. The most common signs of heat in Labradors are a swollen vulva, the presence of bloody discharge, increased licking of the genital area, and swollen nipples.

When it comes to behavioral changes, you may notice your Lab is acting clingier than before. She may be more excitable or more lethargic and sleepy than usual depending on how the hormonal changes affect her.

Some Labs while in heat may also hump other dogs, toys, and people and start flagging during the estrus stage. Observe your Lab and pay attention to her behavior to learn the specific signs of her cycle.

How long do Labs bleed in heat?

Most female Labradors bleed for anywhere from 7 to 10 days while in heat. Despite common beliefs, dogs don’t actually bleed a lot, and you may not even realize your Lab is bleeding in the first place unless you’re paying close attention.

Even if you do notice she is bleeding, chances are you’ll only ever spot a few drops of blood near your dog’s bed or on the floor.

How long does a Lab’s first heat last?

The length of your Lab’s first season may vary. The first heat, on average, lasts anywhere from 2 to 4 weeks, and this varies slightly amongst individual dogs.

After her first heat, your Lab should go into season once or twice a year regularly for the rest of her life. Keep in mind, while it’s not recommended to breed Labs before their third heat, females can still get pregnant during their first heat cycle.

What is the best age to spay a female Labrador?

The best time to spay your female Labrador is when she is beyond 11 months of age and weighs more than 45 pounds. While some people opt to spay their Labs before their first season, it’s better to wait after the first heat cycle to give your dog time to grow and develop properly.

When do male Labs go into heat?

Unlike female Labs who go into heat one or two times a year, male Labs don’t go into heat. Instead, male dogs can mate all year round once they reach puberty and become fertile at around six months old.

Once they reach sexual maturity, a male Lab can mate up to five times a day and will sense any nearby female dogs who are in heat.

Conclusion

Knowing how often Labs go into heat can help you keep your dog safe and prevent unwanted pregnancies.

As an owner of a female Labrador, you will need to take all the necessary measures to keep your girl away from persistent suitors; otherwise, you may end up with a surprise litter on your hands.

Most female Labs go into heat once or twice a year and exhibit the following signs:

  • Swollen and enlarged vulva
  • Dark or bright red bloody discharge
  • Excessive licking of the genital area

If you don’t plan to breed your Labrador retriever, I strongly encourage you to consider spaying your dog when the time is right. This way, you won’t have to worry about unwanted puppies and certain diseases.

Has your female Lab come into her first heat? Were you able to keep your girl protected against the onslaught of male dogs?

Share your experience dealing with your Lab’s heat season with us and our readers in the comment section below!

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How Often Do Labs Go Into Heat – Lab Heat Cycle Explained (2)

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How Often Do Labs Go Into Heat – Lab Heat Cycle Explained (2024)

FAQs

How often do labs go into heat? ›

It's not uncommon for some female Labrador retrievers to go into heat only once a year, while some go into heat every three to four months! Two heat cycles a year is merely an average for Labrador retrievers.

How long is a Labrador's heat cycle? ›

The heat cycle of the female lasts from 18 to 21 days. The first stage is called proestrus. It begins with mild swelling of the vulva and a bloody discharge. This lasts for about 9 days, although it may vary by 2 or 3 days.

How long does it take for a lab to go into heat? ›

An unspayed Lab will likely have her first season any time from six months of age onwards. The average age is between nine and twelve months. Some large breed female dogs won't have their first heat until as late as eighteen to twenty four months old.

How often do dogs go into heat? ›

Most dogs come into heat twice per year, although the interval can vary between breeds and from dog to dog. Small breed dogs may cycle three times per year, while giant breed dogs may only cycle once per year. When young dogs first begin to cycle, it is normal for their cycles to be somewhat irregular.

Do male labs go into heat? ›

The answer is no; male dogs do not go into heat like female dogs do. In fact, mature dogs are able and ready to mate all year round.

How do you calculate a dog's heat cycle? ›

To know the date of the next heat cycle: Get the date of the last heat cycle and add ~ 5-8 months. Your dog should come into season within that range.

How do I know my dogs heat is over? ›

Heat usually lasts between 2-4 weeks. Early in the cycle, a female dog may not be receptive to male dogs, although some are receptive through the entire cycle. It can be shorter or longer and you'll know the cycle is over when all her vulva returns to its normal size and there's no more bleeding or discharge.

How many days will a female dog let a male mount her? ›

The sperm will last inside her for about five to seven days, so if you breed her as soon as she is willing, then breed her again every two or three days until she is no longer willing to allow the male to mount; this means all of her eggs will be fertilized.

How do I know my dog is close to heat? ›

Proestrus: Proestrus is the start of the heat period where your dog's body is preparing to mate. Signs seen during this phase include a swollen vulva, blood-tinged discharge, excessive licking of the genital area, clingy behavior, and aggression toward male dogs. Your dog may also hold her tail close to her body.

What month do Labradors go into heat? ›

Labradors go into heat when they're around 6 months old. This is when they reach sexual maturity (puberty). However, it's typical for some larger Labs to go into heat later than 6 months. Therefore, most Labrador Retrievers go into heat around 9-12 months.

How long after bleeding is a dog fertile? ›

"...the most obvious recognizable sign is vaginal bleeding." From the beginning of a female's estrus period, she will be attractive to male dogs, though she will usually not be receptive or allow mating until seven to ten days into her cycle.

How long does a female Lab bleed in heat? ›

The first signs your dog is in heat are the swelling of her vulva and bright red bloody discharge. This stage is called proestrus. "There will be lots of licking," Nielsen says. A dog in heat can bleed for around seven to 10 days.

Do female dogs whine when in heat? ›

Increased vocalization: Dogs in heat may become more vocal to try to get attention, including moaning, whining, and crying. Increased urination: Female dogs may urinate more often as a way to attract a mate because their urine contains pheromones.

At what stage of heat does a dog bleed? ›

1. Proestrus: The beginning of heat lasts between 7 and 10 days. During this time, the vulva begins to swell and your dog begins to bleed.

What are the 4 stages of a dog's heat cycle? ›

What Are The Stages of a Dog in Heat? The dog estrous cycle is made up of four stages. These are the proestrus, estrus, diestrus, and anestrus. The proestrus is the most obvious stage, while the other stages are more subtle.

How do I know if my female lab is in heat? ›

4 Signs Your Dog Is Going into Heat
  1. Swollen Vulva. ...
  2. Behavior Quirks. ...
  3. Increased Licking of the Vaginal Area. ...
  4. Vaginal Bleeding. ...
  5. Decrease in Vaginal Bleeding. ...
  6. Mating Behavior. ...
  7. Switched Tail Position. ...
  8. Male Dogs React Differently.

How far away can a male dog smell a female in heat? ›

To get to the heart of your question, male dogs have excellent senses of smell and can sense an intact female in heat up to 3 miles away. Dogs have geographic territories, and they can generally detect any intact females within those boundaries.

Are labs heat sensitive? ›

Like most dog breeds, Labradors struggle to cope in the summer. The ideal temperature for a Labrador is below 90 degrees Fahrenheit and less than 20-30% humidity. Keep them hydrated and watch for any signs of heatstroke.

What are three stages of dog in heat? ›

Your puppy's heat cycle has three phases: proestrus, estrus, and diestrus. Each stage is important to understand if you're looking to breed.

Can dogs get pregnant when not in heat? ›

In short, your dog cannot become pregnant when not in heat, but many dog-owners have a hard time identifying and keeping track of when their pet is fertile.

Why do female dogs hump? ›

Whether you call it humping, mounting or thrusting, the behavior is natural in male and female dogs. For some dogs, it is a response to arousal. For others, it can just be a way to exert dominance and show that they're the top dog in the house.

What is the last stage of a dog in heat? ›

Anestrus is the final stage of the dog heat cycle, also known as the resting stage. This is the longest phase of a dog's heat cycle, from 100-150 days, at the end of which the entire heat cycle starts again.

Why do dogs whine when they are in heat? ›

When female dogs enter the estrus portion of their cycle, vocalizing becomes even more common, particularly if you also have an intact male in the house. Moaning, whining, crying, and even screaming serve as a form of "mating call" to male dogs throughout the neighborhood.

How do you unstick a dog when mating? ›

Dogs new to mating may experience a bit of anxiety at being locked together, but it's a natural process. Help your dog to remain calm and stand still until the two can safely separate. This will occur on its own once the male dog's arousal subsides.

What happens if you pull dogs apart when mating? ›

It's totally normal for dogs to get stuck together after mating. It's called a “copulatory tie”. Don't do anything to try to separate the dogs, especially pull them apart by force, which could hurt them! Stay calm and wait for the dogs to unstick themselves.

What happens if a female dog gets pregnant by her son? ›

Offspring from a mother-son mating would, therefore, have a 25% chance of inheriting two bad copies of the mutations that have been passed down to the son. This is a greater than 100-fold risk compared to an outbred dog! Inbreeding in dogs has real consequences.

Do dogs smell when in heat? ›

As her cycle progresses, the texture and color of the flow changes to more of a straw-color. It is this discharge that produces a unique smell that is quite appealing to male dogs. The discharge and the accompanying smell is nature's way of alerting male dogs to the fact that a female is fertile.

What does it mean when a female dog keeps licking herself? ›

Potential medical causes for licking include allergies that cause the skin or paws to itch. Allergies can be airborne, such as pollen or molds in the air. Food allergies can also be an underlying cause for itchy skin which can lead to licking. Dogs can even develop an allergy to fleas or even cats in the house!

Why is my dog licking her private area so much? ›

Bacterial or yeast infections of the skin can be very itchy and result in constant licking of the affected area. The presence of pustules or red bumps usually indicates a bacterial infection and warrants antibiotic therapy.

What to do when Labrador is in heat? ›

Always accompany her outside and keep her close during her heat cycle. A diaper for dogs in heat can help prevent pregnancy if a male dog begins to hump her, but it is best not to allow the situation in the first place. "Diapers for dogs in heat will provide comfort to your dog and peace of mind for you."

Is a dog fertile while bleeding or after? ›

After about 9-10 days, the bleeding will become more watery, or stop. It is at this time your female will, most likely, be at her most fertile. This proestrus stage can last as long as 20 days in some dogs. So the end of bleeding can be a more useful indicator of peak fertility.

Can a dog be in heat and not bleed? ›

Silent Heat Cycle

This occurs when your female will have a heat cycle without the normal symptoms such as bleeding and swelling of the vulva. Females will still be receptive to males and can become pregnant. Your veterinarian can check for a silent heat cycle by performing vaginal cytology and progesterone assays.

Will a dog get pregnant if they tie? ›

It also appears that being in a "tie" ups the chances for pregnancy in dogs. A tie occurs when the male and female dog are stuck for some time. However, some dogs have also become pregnant without a tie, and some dogs don't get pregnant despite tying, so it's not a guarantee.

How many puppies can a lab have the first time? ›

Labrador Retriever Litter Size

In a typical litter, Labrador Retrievers can have 5 to 10 puppies, depending on size, age, health, diet, and genetic diversity. That said, a Labrador's first litter is typically smaller than the average.

Is a dogs first heat shorter? ›

Is a Dog's First Heat Shorter? A dog's first heat is typically between two and four weeks. The RSPCA said that while the average heat cycle lasts three weeks, some dogs could come into season as early as six months old and stay in season for just two weeks.

Can you exercise a dog in heat? ›

Should Dogs Exercise When in Heat? Even when she is in heat, your dog should be exercised to prevent boredom and depression. This is especially important for dogs who are used to being exercised often or have lots of energy to use up.

Should you let a female dog go into heat before spaying? ›

Q: Should I let my dog have a heat before I spay her? A: Medically, it's better to spay your dog before their first heat. It greatly reduces the risk of mammary tumors. People who wait to spay their dogs until after their second heat greatly increase the risk of mammary tumors in their pets.

What age should a female dog be spayed? ›

When should I spay my female dog? We recommend waiting until your dog is at least over 6 months and likely even older for larger dogs. The benefits are much more pronounced in larger dogs, but there is not a lot of difference for lap dogs.

Do dogs have more puppies the more they mate? ›

Since each female dog may have six or more puppies with each mating and they may mate twice a year, the pet overpopulation problem can only be resolved through spaying and neutering programs.

Do dogs experience heat cycle which lasts for three days? ›

The proestrus stage: This is the first stage of a dog's heat cycle and usually begins with the swelling of the vulva. It can last anywhere from three to 17 days. A female dog in this stage of the heat cycle is resistant to male company and may exhibit changes in personality, appetite, and more frequent tail tucking.

What are the signs that your dog is going into heat? ›

Some signs of a female dog going into heat may include lower energy levels, more aggressive behavior, differences in leg-raising while urinating, urinating more often than usual, and even running away from home. This is unlike male dogs, who do not experience heat cycles.

How do I know when my lab is out of heat? ›

You will know your dog is no longer in heat when her vulva returns to its normal size and there is no more blood-tinged discharge. In total, a dog will be in heat for two to three weeks per cycle.

How long are Labradors pregnant for? ›

How long does pregnancy in dogs last? Pregnancy in dogs, also called the gestation period, normally ranges from 57-65 days, with an average of 63 days.

What time of year do dogs go into heat? ›

Female dogs cycle into heat on average every six months. But this can vary, especially in the beginning, so it's a good idea to keep track. It can take some dogs 18-24 months to develop regular cycles. Small dogs will tend to go into heat more frequently, as much as three or four times a year.

What month do female dogs go into heat? ›

Starting when your female puppy is between six months and one year old, she'll begin her reproductive cycle, or “go into heat.” During this 3- to 4-week period, she's ready to mate and looking for dates. That said, every pup is different and your pup may be on her own timeline.

What are the 4 stages of a dog in heat? ›

The dog estrous cycle is made up of four stages. These are the proestrus, estrus, diestrus, and anestrus. The proestrus is the most obvious stage, while the other stages are more subtle.

How long will a dog bleed in heat? ›

How long does a dog in heat bleed? Dogs in heat tend to bleed for approximately a week to 10 days. Some dogs bleed very heavily and others so lightly that it's barely noticeable.

Can 2 yellow labs have black puppies? ›

Two yellow Labradors mated together will never throw brown or black puppies. All their offspring will be yellow. This is because yellow dogs do not possess the big E gene which is needed to switch off the masking effect.

How many puppies will a Labrador have? ›

In a typical litter, Labrador Retrievers can have 5 to 10 puppies, depending on size, age, health, diet, and genetic diversity. That said, a Labrador's first litter is typically smaller than the average.

Is it OK for a 1 year old dog to get pregnant? ›

Some smaller breeds can go into sexual maturity at four months, while larger breeds may need to wait until they are two years old. The best age for a dog to get pregnant will depend on when she reaches sexual maturity.

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