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Article series written by SpottyDog and LittleLab - Breeding

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petchatlover's picture
Joined: 09.10.2009


These articles were posted in the old Petchat so I thought I would add it here.

This is a series of advice and tips for novice breeders is not intended to replace any of the good books that cover the subject, but regrettably very few of them include much beyond what to expect and what to do during the pregnancy. I hope that I will go above and beyond that, and the series of articles will be in four parts deciding to breed and choosing the mate, the mating and care of the bitch during pregnancy, the whelping (giving birth) and care of the puppies up to 8 weeks. Where there are choices to be made such as docking, I will endeavour to give a balanced view so the reader makes an informed decision.

1. The Big Decision and Choosing a Mate

Choosing to bring a litter of puppies into a world that is full of unwanted dogs is not one that should be taken lightly. Think about the reasons why you want to do it and bear in mind the following fallacies:-

She should have a litter as it makes speying easier

- for whom? Not the bitch

I will make a tidy sum selling the puppies

- you may end up out of pocket and the taxman is currently investigating undeclared income from puppies. The position is complex but do not assume it is tax free.

It is natural for a bitch to have a litter and it would be cruel not to

- in the wild, only the alpha bitch mates. Therefore most in the pack will never do so. Also, BE VERY AWARE THAT YOU COULD LOSE THE BITCH if things go wrong.

- it will be nice for the kids

- so are they going to muck out the puppies five times a day?

Will my dog will make a good father

- male dogs do not recognise puppies as their own. They are too busy looking out for the next available female.

It will be lovely to have puppies in the house

- puppies are hard work. They need time, warmth and space if they are to be reared properly and when not asleep, are constantly peeing, pooing and shrieking. Can you stand that for two months?

Dalmation Puppy Litter

So you know what you are letting yourself in for, you have potential homes for the puppies and plenty of time to look after the bitch and the litter with adequate facilities for their well being, including some space to run and play in.

If you have a male dog the decision may seem to be easier. After all, once the mating has taken place the dog's role is over. Physically it is, but a responsible stud dog owner, whether the mating is a one-off or the first of many, should help the bitch owner in finding good homes for the puppies and giving whatever support is appropriate.

Finally, whether you have a dog or a bitch and want to breed take a critical look at your dog. Is he/she is tip top condition? Pregnancy and whelping takes a lot out of the bitch, she may not be back up to full hard condition until a year after the births. Does either the dog or the bitch have or carry hereditary faults or conditions that would be irresponsible to pass on? And if you are mating cross breeds or two different pedigrees use some common sense on their relative sizes! Age of the bitch Kennel Club guidelines say the bitch must be at least a year old and no older than eight, but larger breeds take a lot longer to mature properly, for example Dalmatians need to be at least two years old before they are mated. This is not a moralistic, child bride issue, but breeding from an immature bitch gives rise to two potential problems her inability to teach the puppies the basics of living in the litter including toilet training and discipline, and the fact that the pregnancy drains the bitch of calcium resources which she may not have sufficient reserves of if she is still growing and filling out.

The proud parent dalmation

Choosing a mate can be fraught with difficulties for the novice, but to an extent it depends on why you are breeding. At one end of the scale, when I wanted to choose a stud dog for one of my bitches my aim was to produce a litter from which I could pick a puppy that could go on to do well in the show ring, to be a better example than his or her mother, thus improving the breed. So apart from studying pedigrees to find a good match, which is a skill in itself, do I restrict my search to dogs in the show ring or consider non-shown, unproved dogs that have never been shown? A show dog is not necessarily better than another suitably bred one but beware, a litter mate does NOT comprise exactly the same genes. it's a bit of a minefield.

The best advice for a novice with specific requirements is to consult the breeder of their bitch. For the breeder producing healthy, happy puppies but not for the show ring specifically, for same breed matings look for some connection in the pedigree but beware of father/daughter, mother son, in other words something too close that could possibly throw up health problems. Most breeds have known faults which are tested for, always a good idea to ensure that both parents are tested with acceptable results or you could be producing a litter with some health problems. For cross breeds or two pure breeds, common sense applies and some of the above may be worth considering too.

Of course, if your young lady has got out and comes back with a smile on her face and her season stops in it's tracks the decision is made! Well, not exactly true as the vet can stop the fertilisation but if you are reading this.. you wont be going that route.

Dog Breeding for Novices - Part II

Mating and Pregnancy

Well you have decided on the stud dog, everything else is sorted out and your bitch is due in season any day. The first problem is, when do you mate? This varies from breed to breed and can be any time from day 10 to day 16 in a Dalmatian for example so it is impossible to say categorically. Tricky if you have to travel some distance to the stud dog!Breeding Dogs The bitch will be extremely pleased with herself during pregnancy and think that you don't know about her little secret.

This is Bella at Day 50 two weeks to go!

To find out, you need to understand a little about the bitch's reproductive system and the way things happen.

For those of you familiar with the human version, forget that completely, it is virtually the other way round in a dog.

To be specific, she will bleed, then as the bleeding stops she will be ready to be mated, THEN she will ovulate (produce the egg) for fertilisation which will start the pregnancy.

This is how so many pet bitch owners get caught out, they assume that the season is the bleeding, when that stops the season is over so the bitch is allowed to mix again. then WHAM! The inevitable happens and nine weeks later you have more dogs than you started with.

To get a rough idea of timing, when your bitch is due in season touch a piece of tissue or kitchen roll over her back end, there should be a small damp mark, when this changes to pink (or it may show blood straight off) call that DAY 1. She should be ready any time from about day 10 on, but check with your breeder for anything relating to your breed or that line that might suggest otherwise. When she is in full season, there will be the discharge of blood and characteristic swelling in the same place, breeds such as Dalmatians with little coat look really swollen and it is impossible to miss! When the blood slows down the swelling will still be there but may have subsided slightly. She could then be ready. To be sure, get her standing and rub the root of her tail. If she plants her back legs firmly and swishes her tail to one side, she is ready get her to the boyfriend!A bitch ready to be mated is not shy in the least but if it is her first time, she may find the mating process tedious. Let her meet the stud dog through a fence to start with so they can sniff each other and you can make sure there is no aggression. The bitch will flirt, the dog will stand very tall and proud with his neck arched to show the bitch what a catch he is. Once you are sure they are not going to kill each other, let them run together and they will race around and play for a while. Don't do this in a large field as once they are together, you and the stud dog owner will need to grab them.

Now, the actual mating happens in three parts and you need to understand this for a successful coupling as the bitch may struggle and break away too early, causing great discomfort or pain to the male. First, what everyone assumes is the mating, the dog mounts the bitch from behind and starts to make frantic pelvic thrusts. This is not the mating, this is just his way of getting into position. If you look at the interior structure of a bitch, the reproductive parts are a long way forward compared to a human so the male dog is relatively well-endowed.. it has a long way to go so the thrusting is the means of pushing a lot of muscle some considerable distance. Once the dog is in position, the bitch's muscles clamp down so he can't escape and at this point, he will climb off her and turn so they are facing opposite ways, bum to bum. He may need some help lifting one leg over her rump to get into that position (hence the well-known phrase about getting a leg over) so either you or the stud dog owner should assist.

The next bit is the boring bit. Nothing seems to be happening but in fact the transfer of semen is taking place (a bit like having the heating oil delivered, one bitch owner remarked to me once) and this can take anything up to an hour so make sure you have cushions or low chairs available as you make polite conversation with the stud dog owner. The bitch may find this quite alarming and you may need to talk to her and sooth her, making sure she doesn't whip round and bend the dog�s most prized possession, make sure they stay in a straight line until the finish.The final stage of the mating is a rush of neutral fluid from the dog that literally shoots everything deposited as high up in the bitch as possible to make sure of subsequent fertilisation.

He then breaks the tie, comes out and will embark on a marathon licking session as his manhood retracts back in. Beware of the bitches reaction, she may feel snappy towards the dog and want to bite him! This is perfectly natural. Many breeders do a repeat mating 48 hours later to make sure.You then have a waiting game where nothing really happens for four weeks, although you will notice in most bitches a serene look on their faces and a more placid outlook on life. Whoever wrote 101 Dalmatians where there is a description of this, has got it absolutely right. The most obvious sign after that is the pinking up of her nipples which can become quite a vivid colour. At mating plus 28 days you can have her scanned, but this will not tell you how many she will have, just that she is pregnant. The reason for this is that any foetuses that are imperfect will be allowed to die and be reabsorbed into the bitch's system so you could have 12 being formed at an early stage but only 9 or 10 delivered. This is nature's way of ensuring that the puppies which are born have the best chance of survival as one which is deformed or unable to be fully mobile or unable to thrive would be picked off by predators in the wild. Once the pregnancy is confirmed at around 28 days, you then have to start to increase the amount and quality of the food you give her.

A good trick is to feed her puppy food, she is well able to take the higher levels of nutrients during pregnancy and this will go into her bloodstream and subsequently into her milk, so when you come to wean the pups it will not be a shock to their systems. Roughly speaking you should increase the food gradually until she is eating about double her normal rations. Usually a bitch will determine how much she needs so monitor it and give her more if she seems to want it.

The length of pregnancy depends to an extent on the breed but generally you can rely on 64 days after the mating. Readers who have had children will be interested to know that the bitch pregnancy is 9 weeks rather than 9 months but everything happens in exactly the same way, just at week 5 instead of month 5 which a friend of mine, who had four children, found astonishing and reassuring at the same time. You may wish to consider a supplement such as raspberry leaf or calcium, both of which can be beneficial, but take advice from other breeders. Don't let her race around, jump up or leap about, and avoid swimming in cold water on a warm day. Short lead walks can be given almost to the day she whelps and she will enjoy the opportunity to get out and sniff around even if she can only waddle.Breeding Dogs

Hannah at Day 61, just two days to go getting used to her new quarters.

This litter produced Bella, shown at the start.In the meantime, you will be preparing for the whelping coming up in Part 3.

What do you think of when someone says why don't you show your dog?

Does it conjure up images of highly groomed pooches being trotted around by over dressed professionals at Crufts?

Do you think, I will stand no chance because you need to learn the ropes before your tenth birthday?

Are you afraid you will make a fool of yourself?

Fear not! I started at the age of 40 and kicked off at Championship shows amongst the big names, qualified for Crufts and have competed there six times, BUT there is showing and showing Like all competitive situations, there are different levels and you can be as ambitious as you like, or just go for a good day out.

You don't even need a pedigree dog for the smallest type of show, the companion dog show.

This article will be based on the UK Kennel Club definitions and procedures at shows, it is slightly more complex in Ireland at the top level (which I am currently getting to grips with) due to Ireland being part of the Internationalscene which the UK isn't. However, we'll stick to the UK.

First of all, the different types of show.

At local village fairs and events you may find the COMPANION DOG show.

These will be advertised in the local paper and sometimes in the dog press. They are always in aid of a local charity and may be the only event, or held in conjunction with a fete or donkey derby for example.

There are classes for pedigrees (but you don't need to have your dog kennel club registered) split roughly by type and sometimes age for example sporting/non-sporting, puppies and veteran.

If you are not sure about the classification the person taking the money will help you.

Once the pedigree classes are through, they run fun classes for any dog, such as Most Handsome Male, Waggiest Tail, Sausage Race, etc etc. Many people who know nothing about showing go along and make a day of it, it's great for the kids too and nobody takes things very seriously.

You will find some serious people there out for practice or to introduce a puppy to something new.

Puppies, incidentally, need to be 6 months old or more to be shown in the UK.

Moving up a league is the Open show. This is a serious show in that it is for pedigree dogs only with registration papers, and you may have a breed class otherwise there is always a any variety you can go into. Having said it is serious, it is not big time and Champions are not encouraged. Entries are generally small and you get rosettes down to 5th place, usually. This is the type of show to go for if you want to see whether showing is for you.

You will meet others with the same breed as your own, new friendships may be struck up, and there will be more experienced people to ask advice of. You may need to travel a little further and they start at 10am, if you do well you could be there all day.

The competition is on a knock out basis. There are different classes for each breed according to age and amount won, and dogs and bitches compete together unless the breed is numerically large in which case they may be split.

After each class has been judged (there will be between three and six usually) the winners go in together for the Best of Breed to be picked. Some Open shows offer a Reserve Best of Breed too.

If you have entered more than one class, win one and come second in another, you are knocked out and cannot go forward for Best of Breed. There is nearly always a Best Puppy too. If you win Best of Breed you go forward to the next round, usually the Group. Therefore, all the terrier winners compete, all the hounds, etc. until you end up with seven or eight finalists for best in Show.

Within the Group, there are four places given. Just like Crufts, in fact, the Open Show is just a miniature version without the razzmatazz. The smaller Open shows do not operate the group system so all Best of Breed winners go in at the end and you stand for at least an hour waiting your turn � then Best in Show and Reserve Best in Show in chosen.

Of course, if you are not Best of Breed you can go home after your judging and do something else for the afternoon!

Championship shows these are run on the same basis as the Open shows but they are HUGE and run for three or four days, there are not many different venues so you may have to stay overnight, the entry fees are much bigger and it is more like Crufts lots of trade stands, marquees, flags flying. And much bigger classes.

In Dalmatians, the average entry is around 170 compared to 10 at Open shows, but there are many more classes and the breed is split dogs and bitches, the dog competition being first so you need to be an early riser if you have a male! This is the big time and if you read the dog papers, all the famous names will be there. It is a great place to meet experts and pick their brains even if you go as a spectator there is plenty to see and do.

The main thing to remember though. There is NOTHING TO STOP YOU going in at the Championship show level if you want to, some trainers will tell you not to as a novice but just bear in mind that at a show last year, a complete novice went to a championship show with her Dalmatian as her first ever show, won a big class, and her dog was Reserve best dog, thus qualifying for Crufts for life.

If your dog is good enough, and you have been to training classes.. it can happen. Some years previously, a novice did the same thing then went on to become the breed record holder, his dog gaining more Challenge Certificates (award for best male dog on the day) than anyone else in the breed's history.

That is the stuff that dreams are made of. But for the majority, they get placed often enough to make it a pleasure, they know their dog will never be a Champion but they have made new friends and their dog loves going. So pick your level, and get going.

Just how you prepare will be coming up in Part 2!

Part 2: Showing

So � you have decided to have a go. Regardless of which level you are going to start at (and you may do all kinds of shows to start with) there is a certain amount of preparation to be done if you don�t want to make a complete fool of yourself although you still might � I have, often! Preparation falls into three parts � you, the dog and the show entry.

Handling is an acquired skill learned over many years, in fact many top handlers start as soon as they can walk. It is true that a good handler will make any dog look far better than it actually is, I have seen this many times with well known handlers taking my Dallies in the ring, including a professional handler aged only 19 who made Polo look totally different (she managed to get him a fourth in the biggest Dalmatian class of the day at Crufts that year). I know how much I have improved since I started, but I know what it is like when you are a novice. Plus I will never be THAT good�. I didn�t start until I was 40. If you are just going to enjoy some companion dog shows with either your pedigree or cross breed, it is probably not necessary to go to the special ring craft classes that are available but you will please the judge and look even better if you practice some basics.

A show dog needs to stand calmly on a loose lead so that the judge can have a good look at construction and the overall picture

This is Bella at Crufts 2002 after competing in the Special Puppy class

First of all, your dog needs to be under control. In the ring, you should use a simple collar and lead, probably thinner than you normally use to show off your dog's excellent neck and shoulders so no point trying if you struggle with him in a halti. Do some basic obedience training, get some help if you need to, but you should be able to stand with your dog still, a few paces away so that the judge can go over him, the judge may look at the teeth so make sure there will be no objection to this! Dogs with dodgy temperaments may be asked to leave. Once the dog has been gone over, you will be asked to trot him either in a triangle or up and down, or both. If you start down the order a bit you will see what others are doing.

A 'triangle' means trotting away from where the judge is standing as far as theright hand corner, doing a left turn as far as the next corner, then back to the judge. Remember not to knock the judge down if you are looking down at what the dog is doing!

In the UK, the triangle is nearly always this way round, but beware some judges have a strange sense of humour and do it the other way, so practise both! With your dog on the left hand side, (for this direction) you need to slow down and turn the dog away from you before you trip over it at the corner, but it is acceptable to turn right round to the right at the corners if that is easier.

If you are going to do Open or Championship shows it is essential to go to ring craft classes every week, many obedience classes do ring craft as well, as at your vets they may know the nearest one to you. Most ring craft classes hold a monthly match night so you can practise under show conditions in a knockout competition. At ring craft, there will be handling experts and they will always go out of their way to help a novice. However, they do not always know breed specific things and the biggest difference between handling breeds is the way they are presented when standing. For example, Poodles, English Setters and Scottish Terriers are placed ie the handler will place their legs into the ideal position and hold up their head and possibly tail so they are presented in the perfect position to show their attributes. Dalmatians however are free standing in that they must stand up square and alert, looking attentively at the handler, without the handler touching them. The secret to this is bait.. a pocket full of small treats, but I will come on to that in the next section! You may also need to know whether your breed is a table dog or not small breeds are stood on a table to the judge can get a proper look and feel of them. Some small breeds are weighed, too, such as Dachshunds. Again, your dog must become accustomed to this without a fuss. At ring craft you will do various exercises and be taught such things as how to make sure that you are never between the judge and your dog your trousers are not being judged!

Preparation of the dog grooming requirements depend on the breed and vary enormously. Clearly there is a vast difference between a Hungarian Puli and a Standard Poodle! Obviously you do not show your dog unless it is in tip top condition and health, and correctly presented. Don't forget the teeth! The best way to learn about preparation of the dog is to talk to an experienced person in the breed who shows, perhaps the person who you bought the dog from. Beware of books on the subject, many of them are American and sometimes different rules apply in the UK. Beware also of certain products sold over the counter, some are illegal in the show ring as you must not do anything to alter the dog's coat that includes chalk although there are dustclouds of it at most venues!

So - you think your dog and you are sufficiently trained to have a go, your dog is in beautiful conditions so now you want to enter. Well, you may or may not be too late! For companion dog shows, you enter on the day so that is simple, just turn up, enter the classes you fancy, and off you go. However, for Open and Championship shows you normally have to enter at least six weeks ahead by obtaining the schedule/entry form and sending off the completed entry with the relevant fees. These days, many big shows (including Opens) can be entered online and you can also download the schedules. Once you have entered a show, the secretary will probably send you the schedule the following year automatically but for the first year, there could be a lot of SAEs to send off if the show details are not online.

Take at look at these links and have a look at some schedules, it will give you an idea of what to expect:-


In the next section, we will go through what actually happens when you get to the show ground..

Dog Training - You are the Leader - Article submitted by LittleLab

Is your dog charging out the door, slipping his collar and getting agressive towards other dogs ?

Is your dog a fussy eater ?

Does your dog sleep on the sofa and bed ?

Does your dog jump up at people and barges through doors first ?

All of this behaviour is that of a dog that thinks its leader and you have elevated him to that position!

You have to go back to basics and you have to show him that the humans in the family are at the top of the pecking order and therefore he should look to you before he does something.

He needs to be taught that he is at the bottom of the pack and your family are at the top. It can take a matter of weeks to turn a hooligan around

A few simple steps for addressing the positioning:

1. Humans eat first....

Always feed your dog after the family have eaten or gesture eat, which means eating a biscuit after you have prepared his food and showing him you are eating (if all the family are at home ideally you should all eat), then when you have finished put his food down, if he leaves it, after 5 mins remove it and do not feed him until the next meal time. (this is very important, this means no sneaky treats either!) - remember treats are reserved for rewarding good behaviour only!

2. Humans go through the door first....

Always walk through any door or narrow opening before your dog, if he tries to barge through, gently restrain him, don't say anything, hold him back and YOU walk through first. The top dog would always be allowed to lead the way - remember the key word here is LEADER!

3. Never greet your dog...

Sounds harsh, but it's not, when ever there is a separation of longer than 5 mins, ignore your dog when reuniting, greet any humans first, then give it 5 mins, if he is bouncing around trying to get your attention, ignore him, push him gently away, then when he is calm and only then, call him to you, if he doesn't come, ignore him, DON'T GO TO HIM. I promise you, after a few days 5mins will become 5 secs before becomes calm and you will be able to call him to you almost straight away.

4. On the walk...

If he bounces around when you get the lead, put the lead away sit down, when he is calm, try again, each time he jumps around, put the lead back and sit down and ignore him, he will soon learn that calm behaviour is rewarded...however if when the lead is on he jumps around, take the lead off, put it away, sit down and ignore til calm....you will find that its sinks in very quickly what is expected.... then follow step 2.. and then if he pulls STOP turn around and go back indoors, you will feel like you are never going to get anywhere...but patience will be rewarded - LEADER LEADS!

5. Other dogs..percieved threat...

By now your dog is beginning to believe that YOU are the leader NOT him, which should mean he starts to look at you, if he pulls...STOP.. do not pull against him, every time he pulls, you stop, he'll soon realize pulling gets you no where. Reward and praise is so vital, everytime he does something that is acceptable behaviour reward him with a treat.

When you see another dog, get him to sit, don't wrestle with him, start at a distance, when you see the dog, if he ignores it, praise him, if he starts to pull..STOP, as soon as he shows the right behaviour reward, this can mean ether favourite ball or treat, you may have to keep him on a long lead for a while until you can assure him that you are the best LEADER ever and that you are the one that's going to decide the threats or not.

On each successive walk move in a little closer, until you can walk past another dog without an incident, as soon as he becomes uncomfortable move away, when he shows the correct behaviour reward.

6. Other high status doggie don'ts (for the time being)

Bedrooms and particularly beds should be no go areas, these should be reserved for high ranking humans

Sofa and chairs the same..percieved as high status areas.. firm off and reward when he does the correct behaviour...never give up the sofa for your dog!! (You know who you are )

NO means NO, never give in.

A dog should do something because it wants to not because its Trained or Coerced into doing it. I ASK my dogs I never have to TELL.

In the meantime, make sure when you open the front door, you ask the visitor to wait whilst you clip on a lead, then ask ALL your visitors to follow the IGNORE when greeting ritual. Ask your dog to sit or stand (treat reward) open the door, hold the dog ask him to stay (treat reward when he does) greet your guest. Follow step 2 and 3.