SILENT SEASON POLL RESULTS
ESTRUS CYCLES IN THE DOG
Missed matings and non-fertile matings are nearly as common as accidental breedings and unexpected pregnancies. Wolf seasons and silent estrus cycles are the common denominator.
We reasoned that missed, accidental and problem matings must be connected but it was painfully obvious that few vets have enough practical reproductive experience on which to base “wolf” (signal) or silent seasons research.
This will be an ongoing survey so if you are a veterinarian with a good breeder clientele, please let us hear from you!!!
Factual information regarding odd estrus cycles was needed from experienced breeders in order to help newer dog breeders solve the mystery of silent, prolonged estrus cycles known as “wolf seasons” in the canine. The Dog Press agreed to poll over 9,000 subscribers, professionally involved in the sport as breeders, dog show exhibitors, judges, and handlers. See link below for the original poll.
We were prompted to do this survey because of the growing number of complaints that vets today know more about spay and neuter than about canine reproduction. This phenomenon poses a serious dilemma for hobby breeders who strive to produce high quality purebred puppies. It will also have a terrible impact on pet owners who seek a carefully created, genetically researched, healthy, purebred typical of its breed.
Show, performance, and practical purpose breeders cannot afford the ever-increasing expense necessary to achieve a particular mating which then fails to produce a litter. Conversely, no one wants an unplanned litter. We hope the joint effort of The Dog Press and this website, along with the more than 200 hundred breeders who took time to respond to the poll will help others successfully manage and improve upon the art of breeding purebred dogs.
Your experiences and those of new breeders to whom you have sold breeding stock may be a topic for another interesting survey. It certainly appears that vet school curriculums have changed over the past two decades. Let us know If you would like us to conduct a
survey on the shortage of canine reproductive-specialty vets with solid education or experience.
Tabulated summaries of the poll: by 4 to 1, breeders report one or more wolf and/or silent seasons. By 3:1 prolonged or silent seasons resulted in observed matings and of those, nearly 100% produced litters of normal size and viability. Due to poor wording on question #5, we are unable to determine a connection between prolonged heat cycles and unavailable breeding age males. If you have noticed a
correlation between wolf or skipped seasons and potential mates please report your observations.
We selected a few significant responses to highlight, among them is Mike Slater of Rosewood kennels whose primary breed is “Whippets for the last 13 years, Dobermans for 25 years.” In his many years of experience, Mike said in response to question #1 “None, never.”
Another breeder let us know she has had “No problems so far. The one time we suspected it, the problem turned out to be a UTI.” Ellyn Signet, Dufenhof Greater Swiss, since 1992.
Typical of signal or wolf seasons, is this report from Diane Laratta, Hollowell Whippets who says “It's been many years since a standard poodle I wanted to breed had a silent season. I don't recall if it was her first season, but approximately two to three weeks later, she came into a full season and was successfully bred at home.”
Janice Koler-Matznick, M.S., C.A.A.A.B. gives a different perspective, stating “I think this is an interesting and potentially valuable survey, however, as a biologist I have a strong objection to calling this a "wolf" trait. Wolves have a normal length estrus that exactly matches a domestic dog's in hormone cycling. The lead-up to the actual estrus cycle during late winter is triggered by environmental factors releasing increasing hormones mainly in males. I have kept Rhodesian Ridgebacks for 40 years and have never noticed any silent heats. However, I also study New Guinea singing dogs (the "other" dingo) and these have unique repeated cycles, up to 3 within a 6 month annual "breeding season" Sept. - Feb. These are complete cycles as verified by hormone testing."
The 7 questions asked and randomly sampled responses numbered accordingly.
#1 - How many times have you confirmed a silent season in one of your own bitches?
#2 - Was it a first season? If not, has this bitch previously experienced a silent season?
#3 – Approximately how long did the attractive phase of her silent/wolf season last?
#4 - How many days or weeks elapsed before she came into true estrus?
#5 - Was the bitch sent out for breeding or at home to be bred to your stud dog?
#6 - Did she readily accept the stud dog?
#7 - Did a litter result and if so, how many pups were born?
I will answer the questions about these wild dogs which have never been subjected to artificial selection.
#1 - 70% of NGSDs that are not impregnated the first estrus come
into a second "silent" estrus, and 10% of those not pregnant on
the second cycle come in a third, also silent, time.
#2 - Yes, even on the first estrus. See above.
#3 – The same as for the noticeable cycles. About three weeks
#4 - True estrus was first. Silent estruses with no humanly
visible external signs came after.
#5 - All NGSD breedings are with resident males as shipping
these wild dogs is too traumatic for them.
#6 - The females actively court the males, including mounting
and thrusting and increased play behavior.
#7 - All breedings, even during silent 2nd and 3rd estruses,
result in average size litters 3 - 6 pups.
Janice Koler-Matznick, M.S., C.A.A.A.B. - Kandu Rhodesian
Ridgebacks, The New Guinea Singing Dog Society
#1 In many
years with my Rottweilers I saw only two, in my American
Staffordshires never. But my Beaucerons do it almost all the
time. In fact, with them you are lucky if they actually *show*
during their first season, and after that you have to be very
diligent to catch them. The boys know though!
#2 No. In fact both the Rotts who did this were older bitches. I
have had a couple of the Beaucerons who had silent seasons for
their first heat however. And most do so for all subsequent
#3 With the Rotts, maybe a day or two. With the Beauces, it has
been usually about 3-5 days, just like a normal season.
#4 Both of the Rotts were spayed as I saw this as a sign of
hormonal decline and decided to spay them to prevent pyometra.
In the Beaucerons, this *is* their true estrus. They will cycle
anywhere from 4-8 months, averaging 6 months.
#5 Because of the difficulty of determining heat in the Beauces,
almost all breedings are in house. Occasionally we will arrange
with fellow breeders for a 'fly by' to get a girl to them in
time for breeding, or another method is to just send them the
bitch and leave her with them for a month or so and let her run
with the male. (We are talking *good* friends here of course...)
#6 Oh you betcha!
#7 Litters usually result, size averages from 6-12 pups, we
average about 9.
Lenna Hanna-O'Neill, breeder since 1978, Beaucerons since
#1 - 1 to 3
#2 - No
#3 – I don't
#4 – not sure
about true estrus cycle.
#5 - At home.
#7 - Yes: 5
and 2 from one bitch. 6 on the ground right now from her
daughter. Basenjis normally come in season once a year, usually
in late August to early November. All 3 of these silent seasons
were also very off-season: May, December, and February.
Anne Humphreys, Dharian Basenjis
- 3 times (silent cycles)
#2 - First season for one of the three.
#3 –6 weeks
#4 - 4 weeks for estrus.
#5 - In one case, I finally sent the bitch to an outside male,
and she came in season almost immediately once there.
#6 - All girls have readily accepted males.
#7 – 3 to 4 puppies--good for a toy breed.
Patricia McCann, Greater Chicagoland Papillon
Club, AKC Legislative Liason
#1 - more
silent estrus cycles than I can count; “I had one line that
passed this trait on down the line and it drove me nuts!”
#2 - Never a first heat cycle; this is hereditary in one of my
lines...happened nearly every season
#3 –Generally 7 to 10 days
#4 - The silent season WAS a true estrus.
#5 – Bred at home.
#6 - Oh yes.
#7 - Normal number of 3 to 7..
Maxwell’s Rat Terriers, since 1976.
#1 - 3 times silent season in the same bitch.
#2 - Her first season was totally normal--next 2 were "silent".
#3 –Approximately 4 days. At the very first sign of interest by
the males, we progesterone tested and … she was bred that day
#4 – No normal season since the last silent season. First
season normal 4/07, subsequent seasons "silent" 10/07, 5/08 and
12/08. During the first two "silent" seasons, she was actively
being shown and finished during the second one. We started
progesterone testing during the 2nd season.
#5 - Commuted from home to the stud dog, timing determined by
#6 - We did AI breedings
#7 - 4 vibrantly healthy puppies born 3/2/09, easy labor, plenty
of milk, excellent mother.
Candy Wisnieski, Norwood Collies, New Jersey
#1 – Four times (wolf season)
#2 - Yes, but I didn't identify it then. She has since had 3
silent seasons and her daughter has had one. She is now 9 years
old and has produced three beautiful litters.
#3 – About a week. Only identified because the other bitches would mount her. No stud dog on site. Other breeders told me of (similar) experiences.
#4 - Her next heat season...6 mos later.
#5 – She was not bred so #6 & #7 N/A.
Julie Slauterbeck, Toy Fox Terriers
#1 – One silent estrus.
#2 - Not her first season. Seasons were not previously silent but when bred
during what appeared to be normal seasons the bitch did not
sorry, can't remember -- it's been too long.
#4 - Did not
progress into visible season but she conceived during the silent
#5 - In house
#6 - Yes.
#7 - 3 puppies.
Elyse Vandermolen, Clearlake Papillons
#1 - First
bitch, 6 times. Once in 2nd bitch.
#2 - First bitch, normal first season and silent seasons from
then on, 2nd bitch is No, second season. First was normal.
#3 - Normal period about 5 days; Unsure on 2nd bitch
as she was in house away from males all during what I thought
was a true season (flagging, cessation of color and softening of
vulva), realized it was a wolf season in hindsight upon seeing
her bred 5 weeks later.
#4 - Unsure as we were unable to catch a fertile time
ourselves; 2nd bitch about 5 weeks before true
#5 - Sent out once and failed, other times bred at home. Only
once was bred and that was an accidental breeding as we had no
idea she was in a true estrus. 2nd bitch, bred at
home accidentally after we thought she was well past season, was
not planning on breeding her then.
#6 - Only breeding witnessed was the accidental breeding. 2nd
bitch, Yes, during true estrus.
#7 - Yes, the accidental, on way up to house in snow storm,
while running ,both dogs on lead - resulted in 8 puppies. Note-
This bitch was the alpha bitch in the kennel at the time.
Daughter (only bitch not spayed out of the litter-now 7 yrs
old) has had normal seasons every time and she is the alpha
bitch currently. 2nd bitch had 8 puppies, one
breeding (accidental) as I thought her season was well past so
she was allowed to play with her male buddy/littermate again.
Note- This bitch is a upper/middle ranking bitch in the pack,
but not the alpha bitch.
Michelle McKim, Willowynd Collies
#1 - Twice
#2 - No. Both same bitch.
#3 - About 24 hours going by the male's behavior.
#4 - She was 13 m old first time, no swelling or drainage, nor
was there behavioral changes in her or the male. She came into
another 'silent' heat after only 3 months post delivery. After
second silent heat, she came back in estrus after 7 months, and
had a 'normal' estrus cycle from then on.
#5 - Home, was not supposed to be bred that heat cycle.
#6 – Yes, I figured out silent heat when I found them mating.
Only one mating occurred.
#7 – 2 pups, gestation normal.
#2- No, and Yes, 3 times total.
#3 - A week or so.
#4 - Season remained a silent heat. After bringing in for
possible uterine infection 7 months apart, had progesterone test
administered to confirm.
#5 - Sent out for breeding.
#6 - Yes, definitely, and stud dog was definitely convinced she
was in season.
#7 – No -unfortunately she developed a closed pyometra and
uterus ruptured - she did not survive emergency treatment.
Karen Soeder, Collie breeder
#1 - 3 times
#2 - Not first season and Yes she had.
#3 – Cycle lasted 5 days.
#4 - 3 Months
#5 - The bitch was bred at home.
#6 – Yes
#7 - No puppies were born. This happened with a Shiba Inu
imported from Japan.
Linn Vandiver, Desert Breeze Dogs
#1 - Over the
last 10 years, 7-10 false heats or wolf heats before the real
#2 - None were first heats.
#3 - All but one lasted 1-2 wks. The other was very unusual and
lasted 3 months. She had repeated cycles of wolf seasons until
we could spay her because she only came out of heat for about 1
wk every 4 months.
#4 - Some within about 10 days, some within 2-3 months.
#5 - All are bred here at home.
#6 - Yes, they were all hussys.
#7 - Normal litters of 4-8.
Donna Fitzpatrick, Trinity Farms, Russell Terriers for
over 30 years.
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