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German Shepherd Litter Size: ALL You Need to Know

If you’re a German Shepherd owner or a new breeder, one question that might be on your mind is: How many puppies can a German Shepherd have?

This article covers ALL you need to know about German Shepherd litter size, and the factors determining just how many cute GSD pups you’ll likely have.

german shepherd litter size

Average German Shepherd Litter Size

When it comes to German Shepherds, the average litter size can vary, but it typically ranges from 4 to 9 puppies.

However, it’s not uncommon for some litters to be as small as 1 or 2, or as large as 10 or more!

According to PetMD, these numbers are average, but it’s always important to remember that every dog is unique and these figures can vary from dog to dog.

It’s also essential to remember that these are average numbers. Each German Shepherd female, and each pregnancy, is unique.

This means the range can fluctuate depending on several factors, including the mother’s health, age, and genetic predispositions.

5 Factors Affecting Litter Size

A handful of factors can significantly influence the size of a German Shepherd litter.

Here are some of the most prominent ones:

Mother’s Age:

The age of the mother dog can greatly affect the number of puppies she can produce. Younger female German Shepherds, particularly those having their first or second litter, usually have smaller litters. However, as per ASPCA, once a female reaches optimal breeding age, her litter size can increase.

Mother’s Health:

A mother dog’s overall health and nutrition status play a crucial role in the size of the litter. A healthy dog with proper nutrition and regular exercise is more likely to have a larger litter, as noted by AVMA.


Genetics can also influence litter size. Some German Shepherds are predisposed to have larger litters than others due to their genetic makeup.

Breeding Practices:

The type of breeding practice used can have a significant effect on the size of the litter. For example, natural mating might yield different results compared to artificial insemination.

Size of the Mother:

It’s logical to think that the larger the mother, the larger the litter size. Larger German Shepherds tend to have more room to carry more puppies, resulting in larger litters.

An interesting point to make here is that all of these factors apply to the stud too (male dog used for breeding).

Second, Third and Fourth Litter Sizes

It’s important to note that a German Shepherd’s first litter is often smaller than subsequent litters.

A first-time mother may only have 1 to 4 puppies, according to VCA Hospitals.

As the mother ages and goes through more reproductive cycles, she may have larger litters.

For instance, the second and third litters of a German Shepherd are usually the largest.

The size of these litters can often range from 6 to 9 puppies, although this can certainly vary from dog to dog.

By the fourth litter, however, the size may start to decrease again.

This can be due to the mother’s age, health status, and individual genetic factors.

But why does this happen? Well, as dogs age, they may experience changes in their reproductive health, just like humans do. They may become less fertile, and their bodies may not be able to support as many puppies. This could potentially lead to smaller litters.

Can You Check How Many Puppies Your Pregnant GSD Has?

Predicting the exact number of puppies in a pregnant German Shepherd can be challenging without the use of veterinary diagnostic tools.

That said, there are several methods that veterinarians can use to estimate the number of puppies a pregnant dog is carrying:

  1. Palpation: Around the third week of pregnancy, a veterinarian may be able to feel the small embryos by gently palpating the dog’s abdomen. However, this method is not always accurate in determining the number of puppies and requires a skilled touch to avoid harming the puppies or the mother.
  2. Ultrasound: An ultrasound can be conducted after about 25 days into the pregnancy. While this method can detect a heartbeat and show the number of embryos, the rapid movement of puppies can make it challenging to count them accurately.
  3. X-rays: This is the most accurate method to determine the number of puppies in a litter. It can be performed later in the pregnancy, around day 45, when the puppies’ skeletons have mineralized and become visible on an X-ray. An X-ray will show the number of puppy skulls and spines, allowing the vet to count the number of puppies accurately.
  4. Hormone Testing: A test for the hormone relaxin can confirm a dog’s pregnancy, but it does not provide a count of the number of puppies.

It’s important to note that all these tests should be conducted by a trained veterinary professional to ensure the safety and health of the mother and her puppies.

How Many Litters Can a German Shepherd Have?

When it comes to the total number of litters a German Shepherd can have during its lifetime, there is no definitive number.

But general safety guidelines would mean a German Shepherd can safely have around 5-8 litters in her life.

It depends on several factors, including the health of the dog, frequency of breeding, and age of retirement from breeding.

Responsible breeders often limit the number of litters a female GSD has during her lifetime to maintain the dog’s overall health and wellbeing.

According to guidelines by the American Kennel Club (AKC), breeders are encouraged to limit a female dog’s reproduction to no more than one litter a year, and often stop breeding the female around 5 to 8 years of age.

This means that, hypothetically, a healthy GSD could have around 5 to 8 litters in her lifetime if she starts breeding at a year old, but this could vary depending on individual circumstances.

But then again, it’s recommended to wait until the third or fourth heat cycle before breeding, meaning she would be 2-3 years old.

How Many Litters Per Year?

Generally, it’s recommended for a German Shepherd to have one litter per year.

This recommendation comes from the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA). This allows the mother dog to fully recover and be in optimal health before going through another pregnancy.

Runts in German Shepherd Litters

Although it’s not guaranteed, it’s fairly common for German Shepherds, like many other dog breeds, to have a runt in their litters.

A “runt” is a term often used to describe the smallest puppy in a litter. They are usually the last ones to be born and can have a harder time competing with their siblings for their mother’s attention and milk.

Just because a puppy starts life as the smallest doesn’t mean it won’t thrive with proper care and attention.

It’s important to closely monitor runts to ensure they are feeding properly and gaining weight. In some cases, they might require extra care, such as supplemental feeding, to help them catch up with their siblings. Always consult with your vet if you have concerns about a puppy’s development or health.

It’s also worth noting that being the smallest in the litter does not necessarily predict future health issues or the dog’s size as an adult.

Last thoughts

Understanding German Shepherd litter sizes can help prospective owners and breeders prepare for the exciting journey of bringing new life into the world. Always remember, no matter how many puppies a German Shepherd has, each one is unique and has its own special place in the world. Whether a litter has 1 puppy or 10, each German Shepherd puppy is a joy to behold!

In conclusion, the size of a German Shepherd’s litter can vary greatly depending on a multitude of factors. Understanding these can help you better prepare and provide the necessary care and resources for your German Shepherd during her pregnancy. After all, it’s our job to make sure our furry friends are as comfortable and cared for as possible!


Before making any decisions that could affect the health and/or safety of your dog, you should always consult a trained veterinarian in your local area. Even though this content may have been written/reviewed by a trained veterinarian, our advice to you is to always consult your own local veterinarian in person. Please read our full dislcaimer if you have any questions.