By acting through its receptors (RXFP1, RXFP2), relaxin (RLN) exerts species-specific effects during pregnancy; possible luteotropic effects through stimulation of prolactin (PRL) release have been suggested. In the domestic dog (Canis lupus familiaris) serum PRL increases in pregnant bitches shortly after RLN appears in the circulation, and a possible functional relationship between the RLN and the PRL systems in regulating progesterone secretion has been implied. Therefore, here (Study 1) the luteal expression and localization of the RLN system was investigated by immunohistochemistry using custom-made antibodies and semi-quantitative PCR, at selected time points during gestation: pre-implantation (d. 8-12), post-implantation (d. 18-25), mid-gestation (d. 35-40) and at normal and antigestagen-induced luteolysis. Further, (Study 2) hypophyseal expression of the RLN system and its spatial association with PRL was assessed. Luteal expression of RLN, but not of its receptors, was time-dependent: it increased significantly following implantation towards mid-gestation and decreased at prepartum. Antigestagen treatment resulted in downregulation of RLN and RXFP2. Whereas RLN was localized in steroidogenic cells, RXFP1 and RXFP2 also stained strongly in macrophages and vascular endothelial cells. The RLN system was detected in the canine adenohypophysis and was co-localized with PRL in hypophyseal lactotrophs. The intraluteal RLN seems to be involved in regulating the canine corpus luteum (CL) in a time-dependent manner. The presence of RLN family members in the adenohypophysis implies their possible involvement in regulating the availability of PRL and other pituitary hormones.