We are supported by commissions earned for purchases made through the links in our articles. Learn more.

How Many Puppies Can A Dog Have? Factors Determining litter size

Key Takeaways

  • A dog can have 1 to 12 puppies, with the average litter size being 5 to 6 puppies.
  • According to AKC, litter size depends on the breed of the dog.
  • Other factors that affect a dog’s litter size include: size and breed, time and method of conception, age, number of pregnancies, overall health, and diet.
  • Always seek veterinary advice when it comes to your dog’s pregnancy and caring for the mother and her litter.

If your dog is expecting puppies soon, you’re probably wondering how many puppies she would have. Generally, litter size can range from 1 to 12 puppies, but the average is 5 to 6 for most dogs. According to American Kennel Club (AKC), the number of puppies a dog can have largely depends on the breed.

This can be an exciting but very apprehensive time. I always remind pet parents of pregnant dogs to make sure that both the mother dog and newborn puppies remain healthy and safe during the delivery. It’s important to determine when your dog is due and also familiarize yourself with the birthing process to ensure everything goes smoothly. In this article, I’ll cover other things you need to know about determining litter size.

How Do You Determine the Number of Puppies Per Litter?

Above all else, the most important thing you can do for your expectant mother is to take her to the veterinarian. Ideally, you should go after the 45th day of your dog’s pregnancy. This is when the veterinarian can take an x-ray of her stomach and give you an idea the number of puppies to expect per litter during the whelping process.

During the appointment, your veterinarian will also provide you with information on the birthing process and prepare you for the birth so you can help your dog through it. Most importantly, your veterinarian will tell you what you shouldn’t do, and how to tell if your dog needs professional help. It’s important to have a backup plan and know where an emergency animal hospital is just in case.

The veterinarian will also provide nutritional information for your dog. By the 45th day, your dog should transition to dog food that is high in nutrients and calories. While a high-performance food may work, you can also use puppy food instead, which you will be needing in a short amount of time anyway once the puppies are weaned.

Typical Dog Litter Sizes

Typically, an average dog litter will range in size from one to 12 puppies. However, some can still have up to 15 puppies. Size, health status, breed, and pregnancy history are some other factors affecting litter size too.

Litter of pug puppies.

Large breeds of dogs usually produce a larger litter of puppies, whereas small dog breeds will have fewer pups—sometimes even just two. This is due to the smaller stature of the small dog breeds. Your dog will also have fewer puppies if it’s her first litter but will likely have more puppies each pregnancy thereafter. It’s also important that your dog stays healthy, which also plays a huge role in how many puppies she will have. A dog’s good nutrition allows her to produce more puppies that will develop as well as survive the pregnancy process.

How Many Puppies Do Different Dog Breeds Have?

Here is a quick breakdown of different dog breeds and their average litter size:

Breed Type Number of puppies per litter

  • Miniature or Teacup Chihuahua One to two
  • Pomeranian, Shih Tzu One to four
  • Cattle Dog, Australian Shepherd Three to six
  • Golden Retriever, Doberman, Pitbull Four to eight
  • Mastiff, Great Dane, Cane Corso Eight to 10 or more

While some dog breeds are able to have a lot of puppies, that doesn’t mean that every puppy will survive the birthing process. It’s not unusual for dogs to give birth to eight puppies, but only four survive. Some puppies can be stillborn while others just won’t survive the first day of life.

How many puppies a dog will have will vary widely with smaller breed dogs typically having between one and four puppies in a litter and larger to medium-sized breed dogs having up to 10 to 15 puppies in a litter. However, it is also possible that a larger breed dog will only have between one and two puppies. Owners of mixed-breed dogs can opt for a dog DNA test to help them get a better idea of what to expect beforehand. That said, the litter size really depends on several factors, so there isn’t a tried and true formula.

Factors That Can Determine a Dog’s Litter Size

Several factors will determine how many puppies are in a litter. Some things are predetermined genetically and others have more to do with health and lifestyle.

Size and Breed

Obviously, the most significant factor is your dog’s size and breed. A larger breed dog will typically always have a larger litter than a smaller breed dog. On average, a large breed dog will have seven puppies in a litter while miniature breeds will only have three.

Dog breeds like Labradors and Great Danes are known for having litters of over 10 puppies at a time. Their bodies are designed to handle the development and delivery of that many puppies better than other breeds.

You also want to consider the lineage of your dog. A mixed-breed dog also tends to have bigger litters because of its diverse and gene pool. In comparison, a dog that has been inbred will have specific traits that cause them to have fewer puppies in their litter.  

Time and Method of Conception

Believe it or not, how your dog conceived the puppies may actually factor into how many puppies she may have. Some dogs conceive naturally, which will give her a better chance of having a larger litter, while other puppies are artificially inseminated. Preserved semen tends to kill a lot of sperm cells through the freezing process, which then decreases fertilization leading to fewer puppies in a litter.

The date of impregnation is also important. Breeders have discovered that female dogs that conceive within the 48 hours after they ovulate will also have a large litter.


When it comes to getting pregnant, dogs do not have a cutoff age. A female dog will stay fertile until its old age. However, early adulthood is usually when a dog is likely to have a larger litter. Dogs are most fertile between two and five years of age, and their litter size will decrease as they get older.

Number of Pregnancies

With each heat cycle, a dog is ready to have another littler—yes, a single female dog can have quite a few litters throughout her life. And, every time she becomes pregnant, she has a higher chance of having even more pups with the next litter. Usually, you see these larger litters on pregnancy numbers three, four, and five.

The first pregnancy is the exception to the rule since it is typically a lot smaller. No one really knows why, but a lot of people believe that it is due to the dog being unfamiliar with the pregnancy process. As their hormones change, your dog will go through stress and anxiety, which can affect her developing eggs. After your dog has been pregnant once, she will know what to expect and experience less anxiety.

Overall Health

Becoming pregnant can be pretty taxing on a dog’s body. And, if she isn’t in very good shape, to begin with, she probably won’t have a very big litter. Plus, having poor health can lead to problems during birth, so it’s important for your dog to stay healthy throughout her entire pregnancy.


Your dog’s health and diet are related. Whether you make your own dog food or you feed your dog commercial food, the food’s quality can factor into how many puppies she will have and how smooth the birth will be. A Pitbull puppy’s body requires a constant nutrient-rich best food diet to support its growth. When she doesn’t get enough nutrients, the puppies may die in utero or she will give birth prematurely.

Breeders will sometimes choose to changes their dogs’ diet in order to increase the size of the litter. Typically, they choose to enhance the food the dog is already getting with added protein. No one knows if this is really beneficial to a pregnant pooch or not, so make sure to ask your veterinarian before you make dietary changes to your pregnant dog’s diet.

Does the Father Have an Effect on the size of the litter?

The father also is a factor in the size of the litter in a limited capacity. Overall health and genetics will have an effect on how the sperm will perform as well as how the female dog’s body reacts to his sperm that is most important.  

Sleeping puppy litter.

Can a Dog Have Two Litters in a Year?

A dog can technically get pregnant again in her next heat cycle after she gives birth. And since female dogs only go through heat two times a year, it is entirely possible that she can have two different litters in the same year. Dogs that go through heat even more frequently can even have up to three litters in a year.

However, there is a lot of risk for a dog when having multiple pregnancies in the same year. Her body will go through a lot when delivers her pups. And we’re not just talking about the pregnancy period, but also after she gives birth. A female dog will also support the puppies she just had until they are weaned off of her milk.

Remember that breeding dogs again before they have a chance to fully recover can be dangerous. Keep in mind how long are dogs pregnant, how recent their last litter was, and what their current health is. Dogs need to be in really good health in order to have a healthy litter, which is why a lot of breeders will skip a breeding cycle right after a dog gives birth.


Can a dog have 15 puppies?

Typically, the average litter will contain six puppies, but it may vary depending on the mother’s size. There are some breeds that will only have one or two puppies while other breeds may have up to 15 puppies. A larger breed dog will typically have around seven puppies in a litter, but it’s also not uncommon for a larger breed dog to have up to 12.  

Can a dog have 14 puppies in one litter?

It is most definitely possible for a dog to have 14 puppies, but typically you will see around six or seven in a litter. It also depends on the size of the mother. Larger breed dogs are most likely to have larger litters that can contain up to 15 puppies.

Can a dog have 20 puppies?

Typically, large or giant breeds will have litters with around seven puppies in it, but it’s not uncommon to have up to 12. While rare, there have been reports of dogs have 20 puppies in a litter. So, it’s definitely possible, but not as probable.

Can a dog only have 3 puppies?

Absolutely. Dogs typically have two or more puppies at a time. Average litter sizes tend to range between three and seven puppies depending on the dog’s breed and size of the mother. It is actually rare for a dog to only have one puppy, but it can happen.

Home » Pet Parenting » How Many Puppies Can A Dog Have? Factors Determining litter size

Leave a Comment