How Many Puppies Do Dogs Have?

If you’ve had your dog since she was a small puppy, you’re probably excited to become a grandparent someday. Many factors play a part in determining how many puppies do dogs have or will have in the future.

If this is the first litter your dog is having, you are likely to be worried about how many puppies she is expected to have and how many she will continue to have in the future.

When my first dog was pregnant, I was confused and had no idea how many puppies there would be in a litter. I also wanted to know how many a dog can typically have in a year and their entire life, as well.

I wished I had the answers that I do now because I needed to arrange a space for these puppies beforehand. I also needed an idea of when to get her spayed because I was responsible for the puppies.

As I gained more experience, my dog owner friends had dogs that were pregnant and would often wonder, ‘how many puppies do dogs have?’ So I decided to make it as clear for them as possible, with an article that discusses all the factors and questions regarding dog litters.

There are so many reasons why you should know how many puppies your dog will have. You need to arrange homes for all the puppies.

You need to start by asking the family and friends you trust if they would like to adopt one of your puppies. You also need an idea of the number of puppies because it determines whether your dog will be able to have a delivery at home, or if a veterinarian needs to intervene.

Not knowing how many puppies your dog is expecting might catch you off guard if there are any complications during the birth of the puppies.

How Many Puppies Do Dogs Have in a Year?

If your dog’s health is normal and she is the right weight and size for her age and breed, she could theoretically have up to three litters in a year. If the average size of a litter is six to seven puppies, this means she could have around 18 to 21 puppies in a year.

When a dog has her first litter, she will have lesser puppies in it than when she gets a bit older and has litters later on. Some dogs will have only one puppy in their first litter but have more in later litters.

How Many Puppies Do Dogs Have in a Lifetime?

On average, a dog can have 3 litters per year, and their optimum ages for breeding are from the ages of 2-5. If a dog and her babies together were producing babies, they could have up to 67,000 puppies in a matter of 6 years. Here is the litter size of different dog breeds in a lifetime.

  • Pomeranians will have 1-4 puppies per litter
  • Border Terriers will have 2-8 puppies per litter
  • Boxers will have 5-8 puppies per litter
  • Bullmastiffs will have 5-13 puppies per litter
  • Labrador Retrievers will have 5-13 puppies per litter
  • German Shepherds will have 5-9 puppies per litter
  • American Cocker Spaniels will have 3-7 puppies per litter
  • Yorkies and Chihuahuas will have 2-5 puppies per litter

How Many Puppies Can a Small Dog Have?

Some dogs, like Chihuahuas, only have 2 puppies in each litter. A terrier will only have around 2-3 puppies in a litter. Smaller breeds of dogs usually have 1 or 2, because that is as much as their bodies can bear.

Having too many puppies in a litter becomes problematic for smaller dogs and leads to stillborn. The mother also has a harder time taking care of more puppies than she can physically handle. If a little dog becomes a mother, she can quickly become malnourished and dehydrated if she has more puppies in her litter than she can manage to nurse.

What Determines the Number of Puppies a Dog Will Have?

Different factors affect the number of puppies a dog will have, mainly the ones we discuss below:

Age

Usually, dogs will stay fertile for their whole lives, but they have certain ages where they are more fertile than other times. They have the most puppies when their ages are from 2 to 5 years, which is early adulthood. You can still breed a dog that is 6 years old, but she will have a smaller litter than she would have when she was younger.

Most dogs have fewer puppies in their first litter, even if they are a young adult. However, if they have another litter during the same age, it will have more puppies.

You may not have known this, but the age of the father plays a role as well. Even though the impact of the sire’s age is not as influential in determining the litter size, it still matters. If a male has gotten old, his sperm count will decrease.

This is why you will most likely only get a large size litter if the sire is around 5 years or younger. A stud who is older than 5 years might not be able to sire as many puppies as a younger dog.

Breed

Another factor to keep in mind is the dog’s breed. Breeds that have naturally larger dog sizes have larger litter sizes as well. Breeds like Pomeranians, Chihuahuas and Shih Tzus have smaller litters. They give birth to only 2 to 4 puppies per litter.

Larger breeds, like Cane Corsos and Great Danes, can have as many as 8 puppies in one litter. A Bullmastiff can have a litter ranging from 5, all the way to 13 puppies in one go.

Some dogs may not follow these norms, like a Pekingese dog. They can have a litter of 10 despite their small size.

Health

The healthier a dog, the more puppies her litter will have. The offspring will also have healthier puppies too. A dog that is not in perfect health will have a harder time in the birthing and whelping and can end up at the vet’s if she has issues during delivery.

An unhealthy dog may also not be able to take care of her puppies as well as a healthy mother can. Make sure your dog is the right weight and is eating the right food to boost your chances of having a larger litter.

Being overweight is not a sign of health. You need to increase your dog’s health by feeding her more proteins and supplements. Check with your vet if adding supplements to the food is safe for your dog.

Nutrition

The diet of a dog plays a crucial role in how many puppies they have in their litters. Dogs that have a diet of high-quality, commercial food along with supplements for high levels of protein, like cheese and meats, tend to produce more puppies. Dogs that have below-standard food or food without protein supplements do not have as large litters.

Make sure you increase your dog’s diet as she progresses in her pregnancy so that she can pass on the food she is taking on to her puppies. An ill-fed dog will start to lose all her energy and nutrients because she will keep giving away all the nutrients she has collected to her puppies.

Feed your dog cottage cheese, and formulated dog food can help increase the litter size.

Size

As discussed above, larger dog breeds give birth to more puppies. A Lab weighing 45 pounds might give birth to 5 or 6 puppies only. An 85 pound, large Lab with a bigger build might give birth to as many as 10 puppies.

Even though the rule generally applies to all dog breeds, some small dogs, like the Pekingese has 10 puppies despite being only 14 pounds at most.

You should not try to over breed a little dog because this affects the health of their litter, and they might not be able to deliver naturally. If you are opting for artificial insemination, it is better not to choose for a small dog that may not be able to handle a large litter size.

Hereditary Traits

Dogs that have smaller gene pools tend to have lesser puppies. The smaller the gene pool gets, the smaller the litter size. Dogs that have had numerous breeds in their ancestors have bigger litters.

When your dog’s breed has continuously been inbred for generations, you will not get as many puppies from a litter. If your dog has had different breeders, their litters might be more substantial.

Most dogs will produce smaller litters initially, but their second and third litters will be larger. The genetic background of the father matters as well. If the sire has a healthy genetic makeup and has a breed, size, and age that leads to larger and healthier litters, your dam will have more puppies.

When you keep breeding your dog within the same gene pool, their genetic trait of being fertile lessens, because they don’t inherit that trait.

Reproductive History

The number of litter plays a vital role in how many puppies there will be in the offspring. If it’s your dog’s first litter, there are going to be lesser puppies in it. This does not mean that your puppy will continue to have offspring of this size because the first litter is always the smallest.

The number of puppies that your dog has in each litter usually increases with the number of the pregnancy. Most dogs have their biggest offspring when they give birth to the third or fourth time. After the third or fourth time, the litters begin to decrease in size again.

The way your dog was bred to produce a litter is also meaningful. If your dog was artificially inseminated, she’s likely to have fewer puppies. This is because artificial insemination results in loss and damage of sperm through the storage and transport processes. Natural insemination leads to larger litters, but some people do not opt for this because their dog is uncooperative.

Although artificial insemination might give you a smaller litter, you also get to have more control over how many puppies you want. It also encourages using a sire that has qualities that you liked and would like to have in your dogs in the future.

According to the American Kennel Club, dogs that give birth to litters in the spring have larger litter sizes than other seasons, but this does not always have to be the case.

Which Dog Breeds Have the Highest Number of Puppies?

The largest litter ever recorded was by a Neapolitan Mastiff that gave birth to 24 puppies in 2004. The larger a dog is predisposed to be, the larger its litter size. Bullmastiffs have some of the most abundant litter sizes of all dogs, as well.

Which Dog Breeds Have the Lowest Number of Puppies?

The most critical factor in determining the size of a litter is the size of the mother’s breed. This is why the breeds that have the least number of puppies in their litter are the smaller ones. Chihuahuas and Yorkies have some of the smallest litters out of all dogs.

Is There a Way to Estimate the Litter Size of Dogs?

There are a couple of ways to determine the number of puppies your dog will have. A traditional way to try and guess how many puppies there are going to be in your dog’s litter is by trying a feeling for the puppies.

Feel for the uterus and try to get an idea of how many puppy bodies you can count. You can’t feel for the babies before 25-28 days. Even when you do manage to feel for the babies, there are high chances that your count is wrong. You could be feeling the babies and not realize it, because they’re tiny and oddly shaped. They’re also so little that you might skip one while counting.

It’s also better to leave this feeling job to the vet because you might accidentally squish a puppy and damage them.

Ultrasound

When your dog has been pregnant for around 25 days, you’ll be asked to go for an ultrasound that will let your vet count the number of puppies.

Ultrasounds are safe for the puppies, but they might give an inaccurate count of the number in the uterus. This is because if one puppy is placed directly under or behind another puppy, it might be missed when the ultrasound sends out waves.

Sometimes, an ultrasound is only used to tell you whether your dog is pregnant, and can’t accurately tell you how many puppies there are.

X-ray

You can get an X-ray, which is the most preferred way and gets the closest estimate. Around the 45th day of gestation, the puppies will start forming proper bone structure, like harder bones that have mineralized to a further extent. This makes it easier to see them on an x-ray.

A vet can use the x-ray to count the number of skulls they see in the uterus and will be able to give you an estimate of the number of puppies.

Some vets ask you to wait until the 55th day of gestation before getting an x-ray done. This is because the bones of the puppies become fully developed by this time, so counting the skulls in an x-ray is less likely to be inaccurate.

Another benefit of a late x-ray is delaying the amount of radiation the puppies are exposed to when they’re extremely underdeveloped. It gives the vet an idea of how the dog needs to give birth as well, by judging the positions of the fetuses.

Now You Know How Many Puppies Do Dogs Have

If you want to breed dogs, it is up to you to choose a breed that naturally has bigger litters than other breeds. Many other factors are in your hands as well, such as the age of the dam and the age of the stud.

You can try to use an artificial method, like artificial insemination, to have puppies that are similar to a dog you had in the past, and you can also opt for a breed that is not inbred and can continue to be fertile in the future.

It is also essential to keep other aspects in mind, like making sure the dam is healthy enough to carry the litter to term. Puppies rely heavily on their mother for their food and well-being when they are born, and for a few months onwards.

If you do not take care of the health and diet of your dog, or you try to breed her when she is older, then you need to keep in mind that she may not produce as large of a litter as you want.

You also need to make sure she stays healthy enough to pass her nutrition onto her puppies so that they remain healthy as well. Not keeping these factors in mind can lead to stillborns or unformed fetuses that are distressing for your dog as well.

So, how many puppies do dogs have? There are only so many things you can do to predetermine this and keep it as much to your preference as possible. Even if you keep everything as planned out as you can, in the end, the number of puppies that your dog has in her litter depends on Mother Nature.