Successful Canine Reproduction
Whether going out for stud service or not, ovulation timing, an experienced stud dog and a good reproductive vet can determine your breeding success.
MECHANICS OF MATING
A Hall Of Fame Breeder’s Perspective, by Barbara J. Andrews
Getting your top show bitch bred can be as simple as letting her out of your sight near a mutt but getting her pregnant to the right stud dog isn't always easy.
It is amazing how easily mis-matings can occur and how often planned breedings go astray. I've hands-on assisted with mating problems in many difficult breeds so let’s start with the first requirements for an easy mating - a male dog with a strong sex drive and a bitch in true estrus.
The male should be easily managed and politely persuasive with the visiting bitch. The breeding bitch should be socially confident with strangers and other dogs. Even so, frustrating problems can be encountered. If effecting the mating was reliably easy, you wouldn’t be reading this.
Breeding Bitch Fails to Ovulate
You have adroitly negotiated fees, contract, and transportation but you may be unprepared for the next hurdle. Bitches can fail to ovulate when shipped or even if driven to the stud owner. No matter how much you say “its ok” to her, it isn't. It is a strange place. Instinct warns her not to have babies in a potentially hostile environment. If the breeding bitch has been shown, she will be better prepared to accept new situations and being handled by strangers but a sheltered house pet will be in for significant emotional trauma, even with the most caring stud dog owner.
Bitch owners are always anxious but presenting or shipping a bitch too early in her season can result in delayed ovulation or none at all! So it follows that the most common breeding problem encountered by stud dog owners is attempting to breed the bitch too soon.
... And Then There's Stress
New surroundings are instinctively regarded as hostile, causing a sensitive or primitive breed to undergo chemical changes that can prevent ovulation. Even if your female has ovulated prior to her romantic rendezvous, (which is ideal because it eliminates postponed ovulation) excessive stress may cause a successfully mated bitch to reject uterine attachment of the fertilized eggs.
Being transported to the stud dog too early in her estrus cycle can result in delayed ovulation or no egg release at all! In fact, presenting the bitch too early in her heat cycle is the single most common mistake in off-site breedings. So, stud or bitch owner, relax, "it typically takes about 48 hours for all of the ova to be released from the ovary" says Jane Barber, DVM, Repro Specialist. If ovulation and receptiveness is delayed, a worried stud owner may inseminate her so as to collect the fee and/or avoid the risk of being said to have a dud for a stud. Sadly, stud owners can be absolute strangers to truth when it comes to unreceptive bitches.
Conception rate is as adversely affected by the bitch’s emotional state as by her physical condition. Although her food probably comes from a bag nowadays, her instinct perceives unaccustomed food as an uncertain supply. The more primitive dog breeds may not ovulate under such circumstances. For example, in the wild, only the dominant bitch will ovulate if food is scarce. So provide her regular food and insist that the stud owner use it! There’s little you can do about odd-tasting water other than to accustom her to a few drops of apple cider vinegar in her water in advance and trust the stud owner to keep her on it during her visit.
The Stud Dog Owner
Ethics, obligation, and keen attention by the stud owner are vital in order to prevent failure and repetition of the same problem on her next season. Pity the trusting bitch owner who believes something is wrong with his bitch when she misses after all those “forty minutes ties.”
Although our experience with visiting bitches is very limited as we rarely grant stud service, I have assisted dozens of breeders and veterinarians so let's cover some common problems that can cause mating or conception failures.
If the stud dog or his owners are inexperienced, odds favor a miss in the making. Worse yet, if the veterinarians involved lack practical experience in small animal reproduction, the odds against conception increase. Vaginal cytology can be unreliable. Progesterone testing was a big step forward but inaccuracies account for many missed matings, wasted journeys and dashed hopes.
If you have a maiden bitch, read this twice! Avoid shipping her or a long stressful trip by car. Breed a maiden bitch "locally" to prove her instead of shipping her off to the super-stud who has the perfect genetic package. An even more stress-free option nowadays is have frozen semen shipped to your vet but bear in mind that there is no substitute for a working stud dog and a stud owner who reads him well.
Okay so you got that part nailed. Now if she's going away to be mated, make sure she has as much “home stuff” as is possible, her blankie and your old shoes or pajamas. Reserve the use of sedatives or anti-depressants for yourself, not the brood bitch!
Hey stud dog owner! If he's proven, reliable, and he says the bitch is not ready, trust him! Let him court her (it may optimize the cycle) while you try to make the bitch owner understand that day seventeen is not the end of the world. We have bred bitches well past the twentieth day and smiled when disbelieving owners called to say “My bitch is pregnant!”
AI, Frozen or Chilled Semen
If you know she’s easily stressed, increase the odds of conception by having the semen shipped to her instead of sending the bitch to the semen. Locate a veterinarian that deals with canine reproduction on a regular basis. Note: old-fashioned vaginal insemination (AI) is only applicable with freshly collected semen. Most professionals believe the only reliable way to do chilled or frozen semen insemination is by uterine implant which requires nearly the same degree of invasive surgery as performing a c-section. One reproductive professor prefers a process whereby the semen is placed in the uterus through an endoscopic-like vaginal procedure. He says it eliminates surgical risk but cautions that it could damage the vaginal and/or uterine wall. If you are close to a top veterinary university, take advantage of frozen semen and plan well in advance of estrus.
Canine Reproduction Vet
The degree of incompetence in artificial insemination makes one wonder how some vets ever became parents! Do not assume proficiency just because your local vet is conscientious and capable on routine stuff. Find a canine reproduction specialist.
If you are taking or shipping the bitch to the stud dog, employ a local working stud dog’s keen nose to determine when she's "ready" or about to ovulate. Cattle ranchers use a teaser bull to mark ovulating cows. Make use of a good local stud dog’s indisputable talent in determining when to have the semen on hand or when to make the trip. Expect to pay the local stud owner for his time and trouble. The dog will work for free!
Assemble your new knowledge in advance, locate a good vet and a stud dog owner who will work with you. Objectively assess your bitch's structure, overall breed type, temperament, and genetics. Only a top quality, well prepared breeding bitch will equip you to be a successful breeder. Don’t become the often-disappointed bitch owner who doesn’t survive the first five years in the sport!
Excerpts from the author's column Survival Of The Fittest ShowSight Magazine April 1998
and the AKC Gazette Canine Reproduction columns, September and December 2007
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