Whether your litter is planned, or accidental there are many things to research and prepare for before you have a litter of puppies.

In theory you can put a female dog that is in heat with a male dog, and she may become pregnant. But, if you really want to ensure a good outcome, with healthy puppies you should do your homework and be prepared.

Firstly you should also ensure your bitch is in good health and getting a good diet before and during the pregnancy.

You can confirm pregnancy via ultrasound around 28-35 days after mating/ovulation. Don't just assume your bitch is pregnant, or not pregnant, some of the signs of pregnancy, not eating, weight gain from 6 weeks, milk production, can also be seen in a bitch having a phantom pregnancy. Note that no scanner will be able to give you a 100% accurate number (see number counting), but a singleton litter has its own problems which you need to be aware of prior to the birth.

You should prepare a safe, warm space where the puppies can be raised. Newborn puppies’ eyes are closed for roughly the first 10-12 days of life and they can wander off if not kept in a safe area. You will also need to make sure all of the puppies are nursing properly. This includes weighing to ensure they are gaining weight, if mum has no milk you will need to hand rear the puppies, but remember you will have to stimulate them to wee and poo if mum isn't doing it. Some mums are happy to care for the puppies even if they have no milk, each situation is different, but be prepared for possible problems.

Whelping problems are very commonplace and it is your responsibility to keep a close watch when your bitch is close to giving birth. You need to know what is normal and when you should call your vet. You will also need to check for puppies that are malformed and have a cleft palate which would prevent them from nursing normally.

There are many complications that can occur during pregnancy, birth, and postpartum. A few examples of complications are dystocia (the puppy can’t get through the birth canal) which will require a c-section, and hypocalcemia (calcium drop - I advise every person I see with a pregnant bitch to ensure they have a bottle of calcium available to prevent this, yet sometimes this advice falls on deaf ears and I get calls every week asking where they can get it urgently). All of these situations require medical attention from your veterinarian. The average price for a C section (as at 2022) is around £1500, out of hours up to £3,000.

Yet another problem is that the bitch may not have sufficient milk, and sometimes no milk at all, or she may not be prepared to care for her puppies. If you are faced with this situation, you'll have to act as the mother of the puppies nursing them with bottles or tube-feeding whatever the situation calls for. You will also need to stimulate them to wee and poo after every feed. Very time consuming if you have a litter of 6 plus pups as by the time you have finished one, you will have to start again. You're fortunate if a bitch becomes pregnant at the first mating time and then births puppies without experiencing any problems.

Plan how you are going to wean the puppies and when. Puppies should be weaned 3 - 4 times before they are 8 weeks of age, I worm at 2, 4, 6 and 8 weeks with Panacur, which is available from the online animal pharmacies.

All puppies have to be microchipped prior to going to their new homes, and registered into the breeders name and the new owner will transsfer into their own name.

If your puppies go to their new homes at 8 weeks of age, they do not need to be vaccinated, due to them being covered by mums immunity, but it is good practice to at least have a health check at the vets at the same time as having their microchip.

Having a litter of puppies is a big responsibility and requires preparation to ensure the best outcome for your dog and her new puppies. Completing your due diligence, rather than rushing to breed, will make the process more successful and less stressful.

Well matched dogs - even though canines look good together, doesn't mean that they are appropriate and you must be sure that these canines are right for each other prior to mating them. It'd be best to mate dogs of the same breed but if you wish to inter breed, you should look into the ancestral makeup of the breeds to ensure that the puppies aren't going to inherit any faults or health problems, for example, it's a bad idea to mate a Saint Bernard with a Bulldog.

Dog breeding is indeed an expensive activity and many breeders think that they can gain massive amounts of money within the breeding industry. Frankly, that might be factual with numerous bitches have one litter per year each, however if you own just a single female dog, it is not the case. The costs you may incur are too high as compared to the profits you're going to make when you account for the prices of stud costs, veterinarian costs, and the puppy expenses. Some breeders are not looking into the 'money' associated with this since they merely want to produce dogs that they could keep for pets at home or if their relatives or friends asked for puppies. For people that wish to try dog breeding, whatever your intentions may be, it's helpful to understand what you are letting yourself in for, what you're willing to spend and how much effort and time you have.