It’s completely normal to have tons of questions when your dog gets pregnant. When will she give birth? Will you know what to do when she goes into labor? How long will it take to give birth? And more. Don’t worry, it’s all a lot simpler than it seems, and if everything goes smoothly, you can be the one to attend to her when the time comes.

It’s important to know a few tips that will make it easier for your dog to give birth, and for you to observe her during the last days of gestation and support her at all times. We’ll go over some of the most notorious signs that a dog is going to give birth, imminently, and what to do.

How long is a dog’s pregnancy?

The total duration of a dog’s gestation period varies widely based on her age, size and breed. Some dogs have a gestation period of just 55 days, while others can be nearly 70 days.

Since you will be going to the vet to do routine ultrasounds and make sure everything is ok, they can give you some clue as to how long your dog’s pregnancy will last. This is because, on the ultrasound, they can see how the puppies are developing and give you an estimated due date.

Dogs don’t follow schedules, of course. They just give birth when mother nature says it’s time, when they bodies start to go into labor.

How many puppies can a dog have?

It’s impossible to guess how many puppies will be in a litter because it depends on her size, breed, and health. She could have two, three or even ten pups in a single litter. But don’t freak out if there are more—there have been documented cases of as many as 15 puppies in a litter.

The good news is, your vet can tell you exactly how many puppies you’ll have thanks to routine ultrasounds. They will be able to see and count them all.

If the number of puppies is more than you are able to keep, you should start looking for homes now. Then, when they are two or three months old, you will be able to separate them from their mother.

What are the symptoms or signs that a dog is going to give birth?

Your dog might not present these symptoms to the letter, because every dog is unique… But we can say that, in general, most dogs will show one or several of these symptoms before giving birth.

Below, we’ll explain what they are, what they mean and how you should react. Remember that giving birth is a very intimate moment for your dog, so you should stay with her and give her all of your love and support.

The perfect spot to give birth

A very common sign is that your dog will look for a calm, cozy place to give birth. Usually, these are places that, in a sense, resemble a den. Your dog is looking for a safe, quiet place in the house or outside, and will start to find a comfortable position until the time comes.

Some dogs will curl up in a ball as if they were incubating an egg, which is known as the nest position. This sort of behavior is a clue that she will give birth soon.

She wants your attention and avoids other dogs

When your dog knows that birth is imminent, she will avoid being near other dogs or animals. This is an ancestral form of protection, in case other animals or dogs try to attack her while she is giving birth or try to harm her puppies.

If you have other dogs at home, you need to keep them from disturbing her and keep them away while she gives birth. On the other hand, it’s completely normal for her to come looking for her owner and get your attention. She knows she’s about to give birth, and she wants you by her side to help and support her.

If you think you might get overwhelmed by this situation, you can call your veterinarian to accompany you through the process. However, it is something you can totally do yourself as long as there are no complications.

If you notice that your dog is more nervous than usual, it’s because the time is near. It’s completely normal for her to be a little agitated, since this is an exceptional moment for her.

My dog is licking her genitals and liquid is coming out

This is another clear sign that birth is right around the corner. When your dog starts to lick herself insistently, you will see that a viscous liquid will soon start to come out of her genitals.

It is a sort of cap that forms naturally to prevent infections entering the uterus, and before giving birth, this greenish, whitish or yellowish cap will be expelled. It’s not very pleasant to look at, but it’s nothing to worry about—it’s completely natural.

It’s also common for her not to eat her usual food, because in the hours or days leading up to birth, they often lose their appetite. This is nothing to be concerned about.

Increase in temperature and contractions

A good trick to determine when your dog is going into labor is by measuring her body temperature rectally (anus, butt). Your dog’s body temperature will be about 100°F (38°C) in the days leading up to birth, but when she’s about to go into labor, her temperature will go down a few degrees.

Contractions are also a clear sign that birth is imminent, just like with humans. You will be able to see the contractions on your dog’s belly, count them, and watch the miracle of life unfold.

What should I do when my dog is giving birth?

In truth, you shouldn’t do anything, but it’s very important that you stay next to her while you do nothing. Once your dog has chosen where she will give birth, you should prepare it will clean towels or sheets to make her comfortable.

When the time is near, she will adopt a comfortable position to give birth. She might lie down on one side and wait for the puppies to start coming out one by one, or she might stand and watch them fall out (check out the video). Sometimes, it can take up to 40 minutes between one pup and the next, so you’ll have to be very patient.

When a puppy is born, the mother will start to lick him until he starts to breathe on his own. You don’t need to do anything at all here; just join her in that magical moment. Then, your dog will move the pup so he can start to suckle, or failing that, the pup will start to do it by himself.

Once all the puppies have been born, all you have to do is make sure they and their mother are comfortable. She will feed and care for them during their first hours of life, during which time you should just be there for your dog and give her affection when it’s over.

Sometimes, dogs will eat the placenta and other bits from the birth. This is very normal and natural, since it is very rich in nutrients that your dog needs.

If you see that any of the puppies is stillborn or dies during the birth, you should remove him. And if you notice any complications, for example, the presence of black or very dark, foul smelling blood, you need to notify your vet right away.

How to care for a dog and her puppies after birth

Puppies will usually nurse until they are at least two months old, so your job will revolve around hygiene and keeping them comfortable. Periodically change out the towels or sheets, clean up their urine and feces, etc.

Your mama dog needs to be fed a special food for dogs who are nursing. You can find this type of food at any vet’s office and we strongly recommend that you do, because it contains many essential nutrients for breastfeeding and for your dog to regain her strength.

You do need to make sure that strangers, people your dog doesn’t know, don’t go near her or her puppies. Her protective instinct might take over and make her defensive. As for everything else, your veterinarian will give you some guidelines to follow based on the condition of the puppies.

Remember to pick out some nice names for your puppies and give them all the love they deserve. To them, you’re a part of their family, too—don’t let them down.