How do I know my dog is in labour?
May 24, 2023

How do I know my dog is in labour?

As exciting as new puppies are, helping your dog through labour can be nerve-racking for a first-time breeder. This quick guide will talk you through the stages of labour and the tell-tale signs to look out for, so you can be ready to go.

The stages of dog labour

Dog labour is divided into three stages, just like in humans. Each stage serves a specific purpose in the birthing process.

Stage 1 - Contractions

The first stage of dog labour is characterised by contractions, which can last anywhere from 3-12 hours. During this stage, your dog may become restless and unsettled. You may notice that she is panting, pacing, or digging at the ground. These are all signs that labour has begun and that your dog is preparing to deliver her puppies.

Stage 2 - Delivery of puppies

The second stage of dog labour is the delivery of the puppies. This is when your dog will start to deliver her puppies, and it can last anywhere from a few minutes to a few hours. Puppies are usually delivered within 20 minutes between births, but there can be gaps of up to 2 hours. During this stage, you should monitor your dog closely and ensure she is comfortable and the delivery is progressing normally.

Stage 3 - Delivery of placenta

The third and final stage of dog labour is the delivery of the placentas. Placentas should be delivered after each puppy is born, and you should track how many have been delivered. It is important to note that not all placentas may be visible, as the mother's body may absorb some. If you are unsure if all the placentas have been delivered, consult your veterinarian.

During each stage of dog labour, it is important to provide your dog with a calm and stress-free environment. Make sure that she has access to clean water and a comfortable place to rest.

Read our guide to prepare your house for your dog’s first litter!

You should also be prepared for any emergencies during labour, like a puppy becoming stuck in the birth canal or your dog experiencing difficulty delivering her puppies. If you have any concerns about your dog's labour or her puppies' health, you should contact your veterinarian immediately.

Signs your dog is in labour

Your dog will show plenty of signs that she’s started labour. Some signs are more obvious than others, but typical things to look out for include:

  1. A drop in temperature: Your dog's temperature dropping from 38.5 to 37 degrees Celsius is one of the early signs of labour. This usually happens 12-24 hours before labour begins. To monitor this, take her temperature twice daily during the final week leading up to her due date.
  2. Restlessness: Your dog may become restless and unable to settle down. She may pace or whine and seem uncomfortable. This is a sign that labour is imminent.
  3. Changes to nesting behaviour: Your dog may become more focused on creating a nest for her puppies. She may gather blankets or other soft items and dig or scratch at her bedding.
  4. Loss of appetite: Your dog may lose interest in food and may not want to eat. This is a sign that labour is near.
  5. Panting: Your dog may start to pant heavily and rapidly. This is a sign that her contractions have started, and she could be in pain.
  6. Tiredness: Your dog may start to seem tired or lethargic. This is because the early stages of labour can be tiring for her. She may want to rest or sleep more than usual.

Paws in Work offers support for first-time breeders and puppies

Once your litter is weaned and ready to take on the world, try Paws In Work’s puppy socialisation programme. It’s a great way to give yourself and your hard-working dog mum a little break while the puppies get valuable social interaction.

And for more valuable information for first-time breeders, keep an eye on the Paws in Work blog or get in touch with our breeder team at

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