HE is the master of canine reproduction; better than ovulation tests, smears, "days in season", etc. Managing the stud dog, effecting the mating, and other sound advice by the breeder-owner of nine All-Time Top 10 sires and dams.
THE STUD NOSE KNOWS
Barbara J. Andrews, Journalist, AKC Master Breeder
Small animal vets spend more time learning about pharmaceuticals and surgical procedures than canine reproduction. Good vets take extra courses or self-educate if they have a breeder clientele. Others treat stud dog owners as though we had the mange!
The Working Stud Dog
You hear that phrase but what does it mean? For breeders, it means a stud dog that is frequently used and "never misses." Siring success has as much to do with the stud dog owner as with the stud dog himself. Veterinary technology has smears and ovulation tests to determine when the bitch is ready to be bred but there is no substitute for a working stud dog and an experienced owner who can read the dog.
Illogically, many vets refute this, having been taught that repeated smears are the only reliable ovulation diagnostics. I actually had a vet say it is foolhardy to rely on a dog and miss the optimum breeding dates! If your otherwise good vet can only spout vet school rhetoric, go elsewhere.
If the experienced stud dog says she’s not ready, trust him! When you think about it, who knows more about a dog, the dog or the human? Who can sniff out the estrus bitch from a half mile away and go straight to her doorstep? Certainly not the vet.
Timing The Breeding and Ovulation:
Let the experienced stud court and encourage the bitch to optimize her estrus cycle. No matter what the anyone says, day seventeen is not the end of the world. We have frequently mated bitches well past the eighteenth day and they presented litters to disbelieving owners. Had their veterinarian’s professor been in control, the bitch would never have conceived.
Here’s a classic example. Our Akita, Sachmo, was infallible. Never at public stud, he nonetheless sired over 100 AKC champions. We once made an exception for a vet who lived in Canada, had a 6 year old champion bitch that had never conceived, and who was willing to make the long drive because Sachmo was reputed to be an extraordinary stud dog. She took smears every day, and mercilessly, she called every day to report them to me! Finally she exclaimed “Freddie is ready!!!” She arrived late the next day but my stud dog said “not yet.” The vet insisted Freddie was ready. My husband said it would be at least two more days, probably longer.
The lady Vet had a fit but elected to stay over, no doubt to prove us wrong. She had brought her slides and microscope, with which she continued to harass us and Freddie. Three days went by. Her husband was also a vet and he was pressuring her to return. My husband suggested to the owner that her impatience was why Freddie had never conceived! She became increasingly cantankerous and when on the fourth day, she said our stud was a dud, Bill graciously invited her to hit the road.
Stubbornly, she refused, muttering about cells having already cornified and inexperienced stud dogs. Bill bit his lip, our stud dog, already the sire of nearly 50 champions, walked away and lifted his leg on her comment. The next day, she called from the motel, joyously shouting into the phone, “Freddie is ready!” Bill told her to come on. Our "dud of a stud" quickly tied the amorous Freddie. The vet left that very day; no second breeding. Freddie whelped a litter of six and we heard from Canadians that was the only litter she ever had.
Ship The Bitch or Ship The Semen?
That is a no-brainer! Today we have options but It is always best not to ship the bitch. If the stud dog is too far away to make the drive - have the semen shipped to you instead of shipping the bitch to the semen! It’s far less costly and stressful for both of you than a round trip flight or a long trip.
Be aware though, chilled or frozen semen comes with its own package of potential problems. First and foremost, you loose the advantage of the stud dog’s assessment. Just as cattle ranchers use a teaser bull to mark ovulating cows, if you opt for shipped semen, you should find a working stud dog in your area and arrange to make use of his indisputable talent. The opportunity to use his keen senses and to evaluate the stay-at-home bitch’s reaction with him is more reliable than any ovulation test. The experienced stud dog owner can “read” the dogs and tell you when to have the semen shipped. Expect to pay the local stud owner for time and trouble. The stud dog will work for free!
Semen insemination: Most professionals prefer to inseminate the bitch by uterine implant which requires nearly the same degree of invasive surgery as performing a c-section, and costs as much. My friend, a nationally known theriogenologist prefers a process whereby the semen is placed in the uterus through an endoscopic vaginal procedure which eliminates surgical risk but conversely, could result in damage to the uterine wall.
Talk it over in advance with a reproductive veterinarian. Do not assume proficiency because your own vet is conscientious and capable on routine stuff. Ask around and locate a vet or university that deals with canine reproduction on a regular basis. And by the way, a vet who is skilled in canine reproduction will also know of a dependable stud dog. If the Veterinarian doesn’t know, it’s a safe bet he or she is NOT a “reproductive expert.” Find someone else.
Prior to Mating The Bitch
Whether breeding naturally or by chilled or frozen semen, your bitch should be in optimum weight, not a bit of fat on her. Internal fat can reduce chances of proper fertilization. She should be in good muscle tone. Her coat should glisten with health. She should be happy and in a good mental state. She should be free of parasites, inside and out. Do not bathe her just before she meets the stud dog. He won’t appreciate it.
Vets usually suggest pre-breeding booster shots. Personally, I advise against it but then I have no financial stake in the matter. If she is being shipped to the stud, she will need a current rabies certificate. If his semen is being shipped, it matters not.
If you are sure that she hasn’t been exposed, you might skip the brucellosis test but if she is being taken to a stud dog, they will wisely insist on a certificate and so should you! It is a sensible precaution for both parties.
Managing The Stud Dog
This will be the shortest section. He knows when his work is done because a working stud dog knows (better than any smear) when she is past being hormonally receptive. Any kind of insemination, fresh or frozen is a waste of time and an insult to a good stud dog.
Feed your stud dog real food, meaning supplement commercial dog food with raw beef, chicken stew or depending on his size, raw chicken wings or legs. Cooked fish, especially for northern breeds. Give him safe raw beef knuckle bones with which to while away his time between visiting bitches. Keep him clean and well groomed, including teeth and toenails. Check his sheath for any unnatural discharge. Do NOT inundate his immune system with vaccines.
Be aware of his position and prestige. If this part sounds silly, click out now because a potent, powerful stud dog is the pack leader, just as the most dominant stallion is the herd sire. Regardless of breed, a working stud dog must be treated with human respect and love. He must be at the top of the hierarchy, in the #1 position whether in your home or your kennel. You will still be the boss because you are the human but among dogs, he is the king.
Trust me, the working stud dog's psyche is as important as his sperm count.
Good luck and remember, the nose knows!
Portions extracted from ShowSight Magazine July 2009 On The Line Column