Female dogs, or bitches, will mate only when in heat, or estrus, which occurs about every six months and lasts from 18 to 22 days. Whelping (giving birth) occurs after a gestation period of about nine weeks. The size of the litter varies to some extent with the size of the dog: toy dogs rarely bear more than 2 puppies, while the largest breeds average closer to 10.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.