Are you considering breeding GSDs and curious about litter size? Or did Christmas come early, and you are expecting a new pack of precious pups with your pregnant German Shepherd? In both of these cases, people want to know how many puppies can a German Shepherd have? The answer to this question depends on several different factors and can range from one to double digits.
How Many Puppies Can A German Shepherd Have?
The breed on average has around 4-8 puppies per litter depending on the circumstances. That being said, there have been instances of litters as small as one all the way up to 15 puppies in a single litter. Those are rare occasions and usually extenuating circumstances.
Fun Fact: A Norwegian study published in 2010 found that the average litter size for German Shepherds was 6.1.
How Many Times Can A German Shepherd Give Birth?
A female German Shepherd can give birth approximately 14 times in her life. Starting at the age of two, (some say 3 for health reasons), she can conceive two litters per year. She can continue breeding safely until she is around 8 years old.
Once she is beyond that age, she becomes more susceptible to birth defects as the quality of her eggs decline. She also is less likely to carry to full term during her pregnancy.
How Long Is The Heat Cycle?
Large dog breeds like the GSD normally go into heat every six months. This heat cycle usually lasts close to 3 weeks and consists of 4 different stages. During this period, they can be impregnated by a male.
The 4 Reproductive Cycle Stages:
- Proestrus: Females start attracting males. Normally lasts around 9 days.
- Estrus: Bitch is ready to mate with male. Normally lasts between 3 and 11 days.
- Diestrus: The final stage at day 14. Mating stops as the vulva returns to natural state.
- Anestrus: The time in between two heat cycles which is usually 6 months.
While a female German Shepherd can experience heat cycles during her first year, she may not be ready emotionally. It is also better to wait until the 2-year mark for various health reasons.
Fun Fact: A female dog that has been mated can still be impregnated by another dog during the heat cycle.
How Long Is A German Shepherd Pregnant For?
Luckily for breeders or new owners expecting a fresh litter of pups, German Shepherds aren’t pregnant for that long. At least compared to their human counterparts. Normal gestation period for a GSD is right around 9 weeks. This is almost 7 months less than humans.
What Determines Size Of The Litter?
Several factors can play a role when determining how many puppies a German Shepherd can have. Age, genetics, nutrition and other components all have an impact on the size of the litter. Here are some of the main deciding factors.
Fun Fact: The first and second litters are usually the smallest while the third and fourth are usually the biggest.
The age of the female GSD plays a main role in estimating the number of newborns in a litter. Two to five is the prime age range for producing the largest litter. The older a dam gets after five, the smaller their litters get.
This is true for male sires as well. From two to five years old, their sperm has a much higher chance of fertilizing the female’s eggs. Once they are beyond this age, their sperm count lowers, and the quality becomes less and less.
The breed and therefore size of the dog is the greatest factor when determining how many offspring a dog can have. Because the GSD is a large dog breed, they have more puppies averaging around 6 per litter. This is because their larger body has more room for tiny pups.
In contrast, smaller dog breeds such as Chihuahuas, Pomeranians or Toy Poodles average around 3 puppies per litter. There are even instances when they only produce one puppy. These are referred to as “singletons.”
Litter size does run in the family. But genetics is only responsible for around 15% when it comes to the number of offspring. This is not including the breed of the dog. Genetics does however have a big impact on the coat color, eye color and size of the German Shepherd.
The coefficient of inbreeding has a pretty big impact on litter size. Studies have clearly shown that close inbreeding results in less puppies. This means that while some characteristics or traits may be improved with inbreeding, smaller litters will be more prevalent.
Nutrition definitely plays a role in the number of sweet newborn pups in a litter. Healthier GSDs will produce more puppies while less healthy obese GSDs will produce less puppies. Feeding your German Shepherd, a high-quality diet that is high in protein will increase the chance of a bigger litter.
The proper amount of nutrients is crucial leading up to, during and following a dog’s pregnancy. A lack of nutrients can have devastating results including abortions and stillbirths. On the other hand, over-feeding can cause obesity which can lead to a difficult and longer labor.
Time of Year:
While some say that “springtime” produces larger litters, this study published in 2017, found no correlation between seasonality and litter size. The number of puppies from each litter was consistent throughout the year for dogs in a controlled environment.
Can You Increase The Number Of Offspring?
There is no way to be 100% sure of how many puppies a German Shepherd will deliver. You can, however, increase the odds with some simple choices. Feeding them a healthy diet that is rich in nutrients is the best way. The AKC has some expert advice on feeding a pregnant female.
Recommended Diet for Pregnant Female:
- Calcium (1-1.8% range)
- Fat (17% is optimal)
- High protein (at least 29%)
- Low Fiber
- Phosphorous (.8-1.6% range)
- Soluble Carbohydrates (high amount)
Note: A pregnant female GSD’s food intake should increase by 25% at around six weeks during their pregnancy.
We hope that this article gave you some helpful insight into how many puppies a German Shepherd can have. While there is no exact science regarding the exact litter size of your GSD, there are some helpful clues to get an idea of the number of offspring.
Remember a healthy German Shepherd with minimal inbreeding is the best route to a lot of cute, precious fluffy puppies!
Please leave a comment below and let us know what you think!
How many offspring has your GSD had? What is the largest litter you have ever seen? Let us know! We would love to hear about your personal experience!