This is a common query among dog owners who are expecting a litter.

And there are certain claims going around that a dog’s nipples count decides how many puppies you’ll be having! Only if everything was so simple!

When a dog becomes pregnant, all her nipples start becoming ready to produce milk. It’s completely regardless of how many puppies are going to be born.


A few techniques are used to find out the litter size like early palpation. Palpation is essentially a technique when someone trained (most preferably a vet) gently feels the pregnant dog’s belly with his or her hand (sometimes both hands).

This is done to assert the size of the litter given the vet is able to make out the different puppies through the belly skin.

At the very early stages of pregnancy, palpation might be fruitless or not very accurate. However, in certain middle and later stages with an experienced vet, you can get an exact count of the puppies with a few minutes of palpation! During palpation, there are a couple of other factors that also play integral roles. The size, first of all, is important because larger breeds have larger belly sizes and the palpation is more time-consuming in that case. Secondly, sometimes the uterus is resting high, making it utterly difficult to have accurate palpation. The dog’s weight also affects how successful early palpation is going to be.

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But that’s enough about going to a vet. What about the nipples? Let’s take a round trip back to our central topic:

Can you count a dog’s nipples to predict litter size?

The simple answer is no. No, you cannot. The idea might be weirdly scientific but it’s really not.

Nipples of a mother dog do not predict the size of the litter, or how many puppies you will be having. It’s simply an old belief with zero scientific backing or proof. Dogs always have eight to ten nipples, while the litter size can be one.

You’re better off resorting to other ways of finding the litter size or waiting. Stop disturbing the dog by counter her nipples!

Some dogs can have fewer or more nipples than the 8 to 10 range, however, that’s quite rare. Also, you have to understand that a dog’s litter size will vary each pregnancy, or it is very possible to change. The nipples are a physiological feature and cannot change between pregnancies. How will that play out if counting nipples was the way to go to determine the size of the litter?

dog puppies

So, how many puppies is your dog going to have?

Well, it’s not as easy to tell as counting nipples, that one’s for sure!

Larger breeds of dogs usually have larger litter sizes. Naturally, smaller dogs usually end up with fewer puppies. A bullmastiff can have a litter size of five to thirteen! Here are a few other breeds from large size to small size with their estimated litter sizes:

  • Labrador retriever: five to ten.
  • German shepherd: five to nine.
  • American cocker spaniel: three to seven.
  • Yorkie: two to five.
  • Chihuahua: two to four.
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Another factor is the dog’s individuality. A small dog can have more puppies than a large dog on many occasions. So, it all differs from dog to dog basically.

But yeah, generally, smaller breeds have fewer puppies because a larger litter size will cause obvious complications during delivery, not to mention post-delivery exhaustion can be very high if a small dog delivers a high number of puppies. 

Nevertheless, it does happen and complications do arise in many cases. The Pekingese, a small breed of dog barely weighing around 8-15 lbs. can have an average litter size of 10!

pug nurse

How many puppies?

If you really, really want to know how many puppies your dog is going to have, then I’m sure you know the best way to go about it already. Of course, you count how many times she drinks water in a day.

Just kidding.

Get your pregnant dog to a vet for a checkup. There are multiple ways in which a vet can determine the size or the size range of the litter to come. X-rays, ultrasound, and palpation – all methods work here but it’s usually a good idea to get your dog checked up as close to delivery as possible. Just impregnated dogs won’t have a well-defined litter size just yet.

Older dams usually give birth to fewer puppies. It’s also seen that the first couple of litters from a dam are generally smaller than her future litters. So, you can consider the third or fourth pregnancy of your dog to yield the largest litter size of her lifetime.

Also worth noting might be the fact that dams that are inseminated artificially instead of the natural way of impregnation produce litters of smaller sizes. Perhaps it has something to do with a portion of the sperm content going lost during the collection and insemination procedures.

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Further, the time of the year also has an impact on the size of a dam’s litter. It’s typically common knowledge that a litter of puppies is smaller around the winter or summer than that around the springtime. What can I say, perhaps there’s more love in the air in springtime? Who knows!

So, as we learned today, getting a vet’s professional opinion is much more accurate than relying on half-baked old beliefs that have no science behind them. Not only will it actually work, but it will also make sure you don’t accidentally stop counting the dad’s nipples as both male and female dogs have nipples!

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Hi! I'm Anna and I´m a certified cynologist (KAU, ACW). Expert, blue cross volunteer, owner of Chinese crested kennel "Salvador Dali" and breedless friend called Fenya. "I can't imagine my life without dogs and I totally support the idea #AdoptDontShop".