How Many Puppies Can a German Shepherd Have?

Zack Keithy, our author, is a certified veterinarian technician (UC Blue Ash) for over 6 years (contact him here). The articles written here are based on his expertise and experience, combined with a review by our expert vet reviewers including Dr M. Tarantino. Learn more about us here.

German Shepherds are one of the most popular breeds of dogs in the world.

They are known for their loyal and friendly personalities, and many people choose them as their pets.

No wonder there are many people who want to breed them for themselves or to sell them.

This begs the question, how many puppies can a German Shepherd have?

A German Shepherd has on average 8 puppies in one litter, and this can range from anything between 1 and 15. It is important to understand that this number depends on a number of factors such as age and health, and will not be exactly the same for every GSD.

In this post, I will cover more about German Shepherd litters, what influences their size, as well as some important information about breeding them.

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Some Facts and Trivia About German Shepherd Dogs

I thought it would be interesting to kick off this post with some facts and trivia about German Shepherds so that we can all know this unique dog better!

  • These dogs are renowned for their intelligence, and many of them are capable of quickly picking up new behaviors. They also have a strong desire to collaborate and work with us humans, a quality that many interpret as a desire to win over their owners. It makes sense why this breed is a top Obedience competitor and excels at so many different activities.
  • German Shepherds served as Red Cross dogs, rescuers, guard dogs, messengers, and sentries in World War One, displaying their courage on the battlefield alongside their German soldier counterparts. Some even carried ammunition!
  • These dogs’ heads often tilt so they can see and hear better, making it one of the cutest and most defining actions a GSD makes! It is believed that they do that too to make sense of the commands we give.

How Many Puppies Can a German Shepherd Dog Have in One Litter?

A German Shepherd Dog most commonly has anywhere between six and ten puppies in one litter, with the average being eight. That’s a lot of puppies!

The mother will often have her first litter at age two and then another every year after that until she is about seven years old.

There is no way to predict the exact amount, but there are a number of factors that can affect how many puppies a female GSD will have in a litter, such as the age of the parents, the number of previous litters, health, and diet.

I will elaborate on these in the sections down below.

How Many Healthy Litters Can a German Shepherd Dog Have in Their Lifetime?

In theory, GSDs do not experience menopause and can carry on reproducing until they die.

Like other dogs, they experience two heat cycles a year, and each cycle lasts between six and eight months.

Just because they can mate twice a year does not mean they should.

German Shepherds should never be bred more than four to six times in their lifetime and should never be mated more than once a year.

This is to guarantee that it can be spayed and continue to have a good life after retirement.

Something else to note is the fact that there are countries that legally limit the number of times a dog can be bred in its lifetime, and that number is usually 4 to 6 times.

In the US, the American Kennel Club (AKC) does not accept registrations for dams that are bred over the age of 12 and under 8 months, and sires that are over the age of 12 and under 7 months.

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What Determines the Number of German Shepherd Puppies in a Litter?

In this section, we’ll discuss the key factors that determine the number of German Shepherd puppies in a litter.

1. Age of the dam

In general, as a dam matures, the size of her litter shrinks.

That does not mean that you breed your dog as young as possible though.

They need time to reach maturity and that usually means waiting till they are around 2 years of age.

Once your GSD breeds again after the first two litters, you should plan to have one or two extra puppies since, oddly enough, the first couple of litters are often smaller than the succeeding litters.

I should also emphasize that breeding a dog after the age of eight is not advised because it is too late to have puppies and may result in health problems for both the mother and the puppies.

If possible, you should stop reproducing your dog much before that and have it spayed, as this would improve its health in general.

2. Age of the sire

The father of your German Shepherd’s litter will also have an impact on the litter size, although less so than the mother.

Even if the dam is exceptionally productive, there may be fewer puppies in each litter because a dog’s sperm quality begins to drop at the age of 5 to 6.

Occasionally, breeders will utilize artificial insemination to aid in breeding elderly males.

3. Health of the mom

Your German Shepherd’s health must be your primary priority if you plan to breed it.

The simple fact is that a weak or sickly mother will give birth to a poor puppy.

Therefore, monitoring the mother’s weight while she is pregnant is one of the most crucial things to do if you decide to breed your dog.

For instance, if the mother is overweight, she can have joint problems and, like a human mother, make labor and delivery more difficult.

In order to prevent obesity, which will cause unnecessary problems, avoid overfeeding your dog.

The best diet for a pregnant dog is one that is wholesome, balanced, and palatable.

4. Size of dog

Despite the fact that German Shepherds are a large dog breed, there are size variations between them too.

A larger female GSD might give birth to more puppies than a smaller one.

For instance, a German Shepherd that weighs 70 pounds won’t be able to carry as many puppies as one that weighs 100 pounds.

5. Litter in which mom was born

Your German Shepherd’s level of fertility is likely to be inherited from her mother.

She will probably have a sizable first litter if she was born into a sizable litter herself.

On the other hand, if your girl herself was born in a small litter, you can probably expect that she will have a small first litter.

6. Type of breeding

Given how easily it could become complicated, this is actually a subject that is best left for another essay.

In reality, however, the process of reproduction can also have a significant impact on the number of puppies.

For instance, when inbreeding is prevalent, the quality of a litter may be affected.

In this case, the litter will be smaller, which will also affect the health of the puppies by lowering their life expectancy and raising their risk of acquiring genetic defects.

The closer the relationships between the dogs become, the more likely it is that these issues will arise.

Linebreeding, on the other hand, aims to maintain sufficient genetic diversity while preserving the best genes from a bloodline, making it frequently a safer method of dog breeding.

7. Time of breeding

It is said that a dam is more likely to have a larger litter size the closer she is to ovulation.

This is defined as the period after the estrogen period when the Luteinizing hormone triggers ovulation.

Unfortunately, I have not been able to find any studies supporting this theory, so at this point, I would say this factor is probably not that significant.

At What Age Can You Breed a German Shepherd Dog?

What Age Can You Breed a German Shepherd Dog

Despite the fact that GSDs are technically able to start reproducing once they reach their first heat cycle, this behavior is typically discouraged.

The first heat cycle usually occurs when the dog is 6 months old, which is far too young to begin reproducing.

In order to give your dog enough time to develop sexually and put on weight and size, it is advised to wait until she is at least in her second heat cycle.

In fact, the majority of ethical breeders will wait until that 2 years old before breeding them since a dog will have passed all required medical checks by that time.

What Age Do German Shepherd Dogs Go in Heat?

Most female GSDs go through their first heat cycle between the ages of 9 and 12 months, common for larger dog breeds.

If your girl hasn’t gone through her first heat cycle by the time she is 18 months old, speak with your veterinarian to rule out any underlying medical conditions.

A useful rule of thumb is that it will go into heat at about the same age that its mother did.

How Do You Know if Your German Shepherd Dog is in Heat?

Bloody discharge, receptivity to male dogs, agitated behavior, and many other symptoms can be signs of a dog in heat.

Here’s a breakdown:

  • Swollen vulva
  • Discharge from the vulva
  • Receptive to male dogs
  • Change in appetite
  • Excessive licking of the genital area
  • Agitated, anxious, or aggressive behavior
  • Urinating more frequently
  • Holding its tail close to the body

How Often Do German Shepherd Dogs Go Into Heat?

A German Shepherd will go into heat once every 6 to 8 months, but this can vary depending on each individual dog.

While some dogs’ cycles could be a little bit longer or shorter than others, you should be keeping track of when they happen.

Consult your veterinarian to determine whether there is anything that could be causing your dog’s variable seasons.

There is often more time between seasons as dogs get older (but can still get pregnant).

How Long Does a German Shepherd Dog Stay in Heat?

When a dog is said to be in heat, we are usually referring to the estrus phase of the heat cycle, and that’s the time when they actually see “action”.

The entire cycle is as follows, and it is during the estrus period when a dog will show all the signs discussed above:

  • Phase 1: Proestrus (~7 to 10 days)
  • Phase 2: Estrus (~5 to 14 days)
  • Phase 3: Diestrus (~10 to 140 days)
  • Phase 4: Anestrus (~6 months)

How to Tell if My German Shepherd Dog is Pregnant?

Here are the most common signs that your GSD is pregnant:

  • Nipples enlarged
  • Increased hunger
  • Irritability (may have a short temper)
  • Decrease in activity and energy levels
  • Behavioral changes
  • Weight gain
  • Starts nesting
  • Seeks more attention

When you notice all of these happening, and about 25 days have passed since mating, you should bring your girl to the vet for an ultrasound or a blood test to determine if it’s pregnant.

How Long is a German Shepherd Dog Pregnant for?

How Long is a German Shepherd Dog Pregnant for?

Regardless of breed, dogs are typically pregnant for 56–64 days, or around two months.

Since the changes are still occurring inside the uterus, there won’t be many signs of pregnancy in your dog’s first two weeks.

However, at about three weeks of pregnancy, your GSD will start to lose hair around the breasts and grow bigger, darker nipples, the first obvious signs you will see.

How Do I Know When My German Shepherd Dog is About to Give Birth?

It is good to be aware that dogs usually give birth around 2 months (55 to 64 days) after getting pregnant so that you can prepare for it.

As the time draws nearer, there will be a number of telltale signs that your dog might be whelping soon.

  • Restlessness
  • Vomiting
  • Not eating much
  • Digging and scratching
  • Lethargy
  • Start producing milk
  • Spending more time in her “nest”
  • Shivering
  • Panting
  • Straining
  • Drop in body temperature

Care Tips for a Pregnant German Shepherd Dog

The most important thing you can do is to keep your German Shepherd dog healthy and comfortable during her pregnancy.

This will help her have a smoother, easier delivery and reduce the chances of complications or problems after the puppies are born.

Here are some tips:

Regular checkups

You can schedule regular checkups with your vet, but more critically in the last few weeks of pregnancy, or if you notice any changes in your dog’s behavior.

This will help make sure that everything is going as it should be during pregnancy and birth.

Balanced diet

During pregnancy, your GSD really needs to have a balanced diet and you have to make it as palatable and easily digestible as possible.

This means that she should get plenty of protein (chicken is a good choice), and some fruits and vegetables for vitamins and minerals.

You can also supplement the diet with calcium tablets or other supplements if you want to be extra careful about making sure your dog gets everything she needs during this time.

Quiet environment

It’s crucial to keep your dog in a peaceful setting while she’s expecting, especially if it’s her first litter.

Keeping her from becoming anxious will help prevent issues during labor and for the puppies themselves.

Keep your GSD indoors and away during those times if you know there will be loud noises, like fireworks or other people in the house, so she won’t be alarmed by the bustle.


Despite the fact that pregnant dogs shouldn’t engage in strenuous exercise, they can still gain from attention, light play, and regular short walks.

A pregnant dog shouldn’t be overstimulated, but you also shouldn’t let her become too passive.

A pregnant dog must be kept apart from other dogs and animals during the final three weeks of pregnancy; as a result, allow her to receive some mild exercise inside during this time rather than taking her outside.

One last thing: Be gentle with them during this period!

Should You Breed German Shepherd Dogs?

Breeding German Shepherd Dogs is a serious undertaking.

If you are considering breeding your girl, be sure that you have the time and resources to do so properly.

There are also a number of considerations you need to have in mind.

If you’re thinking about breeding your dog, it’s important to educate yourself on the responsibilities involved with raising puppies before making any decisions.

It’s not just about having pups to sell—it’s also about making sure that you have healthy, happy dogs who can produce good litters as well.

You need to do your research first and get the right equipment to make sure everything goes smoothly.

You’ll also want to pick out a mate that complements your female dog and produces puppies with conformation and temperament traits that are similar to hers.

If you feel unable to take on the responsibilities, it is wiser to adopt one from the shelter or rescue instead.

There are lots of them that need our love and help too!

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

How many times can a German Shepherd give birth in a lifetime?

In theory, female dogs do not experience menopause, which means they can be pregnant even in old age. However, an ethical breeder will only breed a GSD once a year, and stop doing so when the dog reaches about 7 years old.

What is the biggest German Shepherd litter?

The biggest German Shepherd litter ever recorded is 16, and that honor belongs to Unity, who is in the care of the charity outfit Guide Dogs. She was bred with a prolific Golden Retriever, Trigger, to achieve this feat in January 2022.

What is the best age to breed a German Shepherd?

The best age to breed a German Shepherd or any dog is after 2 years old. If a dog is bred too young, it may not be healthy or mature enough to be able to be a good parent.

In Conclusion: How Many Puppies Can a German Shepherd Have?

I’ve covered a lot of ground here, so hopefully, you feel more knowledgeable about breeding German Shepherds and how many puppies they can have.

If you’re not sure whether you should breed them, think about adopting one from a shelter or rescue group instead.

There are lots of them that really need our help, home, and love.

Check out the litter sizes of other dog breeds here.

You’ve made it to the end, but I hope it’s not the end of our journey. We want to hear your voice! Share your thoughts, problems, suggestions, or anything related to your dog in the comments section. And don’t forget to join our newsletter today too.

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Zack Keithy
Zack Keithy

Hey, I'm Zack, the Chief Editor here. I was formerly a Certified Veterinary Technician (CVT) for a good 6 years before moving on to greener pastures. Right now, I am still heavily involved in dog parenting duties, and it is my desire to share all our knowledge with fellow dog owners out there! Connect with me on LinkedIn, or read more about Canine Care Central!

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