As the 4th most popular dog breed in America, according to the American Kennel Club (AKC), the Golden Retriever is the perfect pet for any family home.
Known to be loyal, intelligent, sociable, and caring, the nature of these dogs means that they are adaptable, and it’s easy to see how they rank so high in popularity.
Have children? Great – the Golden Retriever is wonderful around children! Need a breed to train as a service dog that has the intelligence to learn and retain, yet not be frightened of social situations? Then the Golden Retriever is your breed!
Originally bred as a gun dog in Scotland in the United Kingdom, the Golden Retriever’s ancestors (now extinct) are the Tweed Water Spaniel and the Wavy-Coated Golden Retriever.
Though originating from the UK, the Golden Retriever is a well-liked dog across the Western World, and if you’re here, you might be wondering, from a pup to a dog, what you can expect in terms of reproduction for your luscious locked pooch!
We had a gorgeous litter of golden pups growing up and got to witness, first-hand the whole process. It was beautiful – but a little scary at times.
If you’re breeding your gorgeous golden girl, read on to learn about the first heat, the birth, and everything else you can expect from your Golden Retriever mom-to-be.
The first heat cycle (sometimes referred to as season) of the Golden Retriever is generally from 6 months up to 15 months.
What signs do you need to look out for that the heat cycle has started? Your dog may be bleeding from the vulva, the vulva is usually swollen, they may urinate more frequently, and they may also lick their back end more frequently.
In terms of behavioral changes, you may find she may start mounting, appear to be restless, appear to be looking for male attention, and generally be over-friendly to male dogs in particular. It is not uncommon for dogs in heat to show aggression to other females.
Each heat cycle will last around three weeks, and after the first heat cycle, you can usually expect that your Golden Retriever will be in heat twice per year.
As with any reproductive cycle, though, these can vary and are just average figures.
Signs Of Pregnancy
If your Golden Retriever has mated during the “Estrus” phase of her cycle, then you may be on the lookout for signs she may be pregnant.
During the first few weeks of pregnancy, you may find your Golden Retriever has a reduced appetite and may even vomit. These symptoms can occur around the second or third week.
Behaviorally, your dog may seem to get irritable and tired more easily than she normally would.
The physical symptoms of your Golden may not show up until around day 40 of her pregnancy, by which time you can usually expect a swollen stomach and some weight gain, and her appetite may then begin to increase again.
The swelling of your pregnant golden retriever’s belly will continue for around another three weeks, and finally, her nipples will usually begin to increase in size and may leak milk during the last week of her pregnancy.
How Long Does The Pregnancy Last?
The average length of pregnancy for a Golden Retriever is nine weeks or 63 days. Again, as with any animal, this can vary by a few days.
How To Look After Your Golden Retriever During Pregnancy
It is important to maintain regular exercise during pregnancy. Although her energy levels may be decreased initially, it is important to support momma to keep moving.
That being said, if she does seem to be reluctant, allow her to listen to her body and rest if she needs to. This is particularly important in the later stages.
We used to take Jasmine for gentle walks when she was pregnant, and she still enjoyed visiting the park until the final weeks of her pregnancy. It always felt important to get her out in the fresh air.
In terms of feeding, it is not unusual for dogs’ appetite to rapidly increase in the later stages, sometimes eating 2 or 3 times more than they usually would.
It’s important to feed her good quality food, and you may even want to purchase food that has been made for pregnant dogs, as this will have all the required nutrients – feeding puppy food can also be a good option, but chat to your vet first.
Preparing For Your Golden’s Birth
As the pregnancy is so short, it’s important to get prepared as that due date fast approaches.
In the latter two weeks of her pregnancy, you will want to create a nest in a quiet area of the home for mom and her new arrivals.
It is important that she is able to get used to this area prior to her little bundles of joy arriving, so adding her bedding and her toys to it is a good idea to allow her to get comfortable there and make it her own.
The area will need to be big enough for mom and her pups to be comfortable, have room for movement, and also be able to fit puppy pads in.
It also needs to be high to ensure cheeky, adventurous puppies cannot escape. Some people choose a cardboard box, some choose a “den” area which is becoming more of a popular choice in modern times.
Make sure you have the out-of-hours number for your vet to hand in case of any complications.
Finally, you will need plenty of clean towels available, as well as nail scissors in case assistance is required.
Signs Your Golden Retriever Is Going Into Labour
When your Golden Retriever is pregnant, towards the end, you will want to look for signs that she is going into labor.
Although dogs can whelp (give birth) on their own, most dog owners will want to make sure that they are there, ready to support the mother and to monitor for any signs of complications.
The earliest sign of labor is the temperature dropping. To make sure you know when this happens, it is recommended that you take her temperature twice per day in the last expected week of pregnancy.
Generally the temperature will usually be a stable 38.5°C and will usually drop to around 37°C. You can expect labor to start between 12 and 24 hours following this drop.
Behaviorally, she may become more restless and show nesting behaviors. I remember this distinctly when Jasmine went into labor – she couldn’t settle.
Physically, she may lose her appetite, begin vomiting, and show signs of tiredness. Panting and shivering are signs that your dog is in pain, which can indicate contractions have started.
You may see her stomach hardening and be able to feel the contractions by putting your hand on her stomach.
From the start of contractions, the labor will normally last between 3 and 12 hours.
Stay with your Golden throughout the pregnancy – the reassurance of your presence will make all the difference as she works hard to bring her pups into the world.
How Many Pups Are In A Litter?
The average size for a Golden Retriever litter is eight puppies. The first litter she has will usually be smaller than the litters she has subsequent to the first.
Despite the average being eight puppies, this can vary from around 4 to 12 puppies.
When we bred Jazzy and Aladdin, we had five pups! As Jasmine’s first litter, I’m glad she didn’t have a huge amount of pups.
Once the puppies are here, that’s where the fun starts!
Give them the chance to settle in their nest with mom once they’re safely delivered and checked over, and make sure you are on hand to give any support and love required!
Further reading: Understanding slip mating.
The Final Woof
If you’re looking to breed your Golden Retriever, you’re in for a truly wonderful experience.
Remember, responsible breeding is important, so only make plans for pups if you can afford it, have the time to dedicate to proper care of mom and the babies, and know you can find the absolute best homes for the little ones.
In this guide, I’ve shared some of the experiences that we had when we bred our own pooches, but remember to work closely with your vet to ensure your Golden has the absolute best care.