Sexual behaviour

Duhayer_Royal_canin

Males reach puberty at around 7-10 months on average, depending on the breed. Small breeds develop earlier than medium breeds, which in turn develop earlier than large breeds. The earliest cases have been observed at 6 months, the latest at three years. First oestrus together with sexual maturity or puberty occurs in females at 6-12 months. Females have two oestrous cycles every year. The onset of oestrus does not appear to be directly connected with the seasons, although it is more likely to occur in autumn or spring.

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Oestrus – the period when the female is sexually receptive, or “on heat” – lasts for about three weeks. The first half of the oestrous cycle is known as pro-oestrus, when the female attracts males but rejects their attempts to mate. It is characterised by swelling of the vulva and bloody discharge. Oestrus occurs in the second half of the oestrous cycle. By now, the female is nervous and willing to mate, especially between the tenth and twelfth day of oestrus. Ovulation occurs around day 11-12. It is spontaneous and provoked by the release of luteinising hormone by the pituitary gland.

Some females can still be fertilised up to and beyond two weeks after oestrus. The dog’s spermatozoa are highly resilient and can fertilise a female who is mated at the end of pro-oestrus. Females always ovulate several times, which means that the puppies in a given litter can have different fathers. Oestrus is followed by metoestrus, which lasts for around two months. Pseudo-pregnancies are possible, characterised by behavioural changes and milk production. The final phase is anoestrus, the period of rest lasting 3 to 4 months. The whole oestrous cycle generally takes 6 months to complete, producing two cycles per year, although it can take 10-12 months without being a cause for concern.

Duhayer_Royal_canin

The male knows that the female is in oestrus (heat) by the smell of the female’s urine, which contains oestrogen metabolites. The female will also actively seek out males during oestrus. When they meet they will smell each other vigorously. These meetings are often characterised by invitations to play. If the female is in the pro-oestrus phase, she will not remain still for long, moving about, turning around, lying down, getting back up and sitting alternately, which makes it impossible for the male to mount her. This all changes during the oestrus phase, when the female finally allows the male to mount her. The male prefers to do this in a familiar environment impregnated with his own odour, so females are typically taken to males for mating. A subordinate dog is unable to mate in front of a dominant member of its “pack”; therefore, dominant owners should not be present during mating attempts.

Hormonal contraceptives can be administered orally or intravenously to inhibit oestrus, but only during anoestrus, one or two months before the expected onset of oestrus. Contraceptives do have side effects and may cause uterine infections, so if the female is not going to be used for breeding, neutering is preferable. Once the ovaries are removed the female will not have another oestrous cycle. If neutering is carried out before puberty there is a reduced risk of diseases of the genitals or mammary glands.

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Sexual behaviour
    Sexual behaviour

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