BREEDING A LITTER
Getting your Bitch Mated.
Breeding and rearing your first litter can be one of the most rewarding experiences you will ever encounter. Time and sometimes finance are of the essence and before embarking on this venture you should ask yourself if you have both. Breeding can be costly on either account. This established, you need to make sure that your bitch is in good hard condition, attention to diet and exercise, some months prior to mating, will achieve this, being too overweight will undoubtedly affect her fertility.
Choosing a stud dog can be another headache, which dog to use? Look at your bitch constructively and decide where you think she needs improvement. Remember you are ultimately aiming for stock as near to the breed standard as is possible. Ask to handle as many dogs as is feasible, a good temperament should be of paramount importance and the dog should excel where your bitch fails, whilst at the same time, complimenting her virtues. Having made your decision, approach the stud dog owner before your bitch comes into season, it helps if you can give a rough idea of when she is due. Do not leave things until the day your bitch is ready for mating as you may be disappointed, your chosen dog may already be booked or it may not be convenient for his owner, it also helps to have a second choice in mind just in case. Inform the stud owner the day your bitch comes into season, bitches are normally ready for mating around the 11th-13th day but a close eye should be kept on her as not all bitches conform to the norm. Checking her colour twice daily with white tissue is a good idea as any change can be observed. Once the colour changes from bright red to a watery straw colour your bitch should be ready for mating. Other signís are a swollen vulva with soft spongy tissue surrounding it and turning of the tail, however the latter may not happen with a maiden bitch.
The bitch is normally always taken to the dog, and, a few days prior to mating the hair around her back end should be tided up, as this will help the dog. Do not bath your bitch, as it is the smell she gives off that makes her attractive. Some bitches lose copious amounts of blood, which can coagulate around her vulva. If this happens sponging her rear end with plain warm water will help remove this. The stud owner will conduct proceedings and you may be asked to steady your bitch whilst the dog mounts her, however if you do not feel comfortable with this it is better for all concerned that you say so. A bitch will sense if you are anxious which in turn could make her uncooperative especially if she is a maiden bitch. A mating can last anything from 10 minutes to an hour or longer depending on the length of the tie. Once the dog has entered your bitch it is thought that he ejaculates in three fractions. Firstly to clear any urine residue, secondly delivery of the sperm (which is normally within 1-2 minutes of entry) and thirdly a copious amount of prostrate fluid which washes the sperm up the uterine horns. Do not worry if a tie is not effected, it is preferred, but not necessary for a successful mating. Providing the dog is held in place for a good 10 minutes or more enough prostrate fluid will have been emitted to transport the sperm.
Once the mating is over it is advisable to allow your bitch a short time to relax before taking her home. I always leave my boys girlfriends shut in a roomy dog box in a quiet place for half an hour or more. It is customary to pay the stud fee at the time of mating. Remember you are paying for the service of the dog not for any resulting puppies. You should be given a copy of the stud dogís pedigree and the KC registration form, although some breeders like to forward the latter later on when the litter is actually born.
Once back home your bitch can continue her normal life, but remember she is still in season, highly attractive to other dogs. For this reason she should be kept away from any males until her season is completely finished. Your bitch can then have a good bath to rid her of any smells. Pregnancy usually lasts around 63 days. Early signís of pregnancy can be morning sickness, an increase in appetite and a change in general behaviour. All, some or none of these signs may manifest themselves. If it is imperative for you to know if your bitch is in whelp your vet can examine her manually, before the developing embryos have embedded into the uterine walls. Or an ultra sound scan can be performed at around 28 days, but remember you do not always get a true picture of how many pups, if any, are being carried. I feel it is better to let nature take its course with the least interference as possible. One sure sign that your bitch is in whelp, is a clear sticky discharge from the vulva that appears at around 35 days this is normally when you see a pronounced change in the teats which become pointed, erect and red in colour. If a large litter is being carried a change in her size will be noticeable at around six weeks but this change in size may not show itself until much later if there are only one or two puppies being carried. Continue with daily exercise for as long as your bitch will oblige, this will help keep her muscles toned and strengthened and will help with expulsion of the puppies come whelping time. Do not force this daily exercise, let your bitch dictate how far and for how long she needs to be walked, especially when her time is drawing near.
Feeding your bitch whilst in whelp is an issue that some breeders may have differing opinions on. I do not give any extra food before the sixth week and even then I only increase the daily ration slightly. My theory is that if there is only a small litter on board then too much extra food will cause large puppies which could result in whelping difficulties. Of course if the litter is to be an average 4 - 5 puppies then a little extra is needed. My rule of thumb is to increase the daily portion by half spread over the final three weeks. It is wise to give the daily ration in two or three smaller portions spread over the day. There is very little room for a full tummy and puppies! I do not give any extra vitamins or minerals, if your bitch is getting a balanced diet she will be getting all she needs.
© Sue Baker 2005