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 but getting her pregnant to the right stud dog isn't always easy.
Responsible dog breeders know better so here's how to get a successful mating. Over the last five decades, I’ve bred Dobermans, Rottweilers, Akitas, and Toy Fox Terriers, all easy breeders. Ah, but I have also bred Bull Terriers and Chihuahuas, both of which are prone to mating and whelping problems. I've also hands-on assisted with mating difficulties in breeds ranging from Great Danes to Japanese Chins.
So with no breed blinders on, 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 sexually aggressive but easily managed and politely persuasive with the visiting bitch. The bitch should be social with other others dogs, confident, and not easily stressed. Even so, frustrating problems can be encountered. If effecting the mating was reliably easy, you wouldn’t be reading this.
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 is not. It is a strange place. She will feel abandoned. Instinct warns her not to have babies in a potentially hostile environment. If she’s 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 owner.
Bitches React To Stress
New surroundings are instinctively regarded as hostile, causing a sensitive or primitive breed to undergo chemical changes that can prevent ovulation. Even if she has ovulated prior to her romantic rendezvous (an ideal situation that in itself eliminates postponed ovulation), excessive stress may cause her to reject uterine attachment of the fertilized eggs.
Arriving too early can result in delayed ovulation or no egg release at all! The most common mistake is sending the bitch too early. Once released, the eggs remain fertile for several days. If ovulation and receptiveness is delayed, a worried stud owner may inseminate her so as to collect the fee 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. Primitive breeds may not ovulate under such circumstances. Just trust me on this: in the wild, only the dominant bitch will ovulate if a drought is imminent. 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 little apple cider vinegar in advance and trust the stud owner to keep her on it because adding lemon juice to city water rarely works.
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. In handling a bitch, anything other than total honesty on the part of the stud owner is the worst kind of deception. Pity the trusting bitch owner who believes something is wrong with his bitch when she misses the mating 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. Let's cover some common problems that can cause mating/conception failures. If the stud dog or his owners are inexperienced, odds favor a miss in the making. Worse yet, if the vets involved lack practical experience in small animal reproduction, the odds against conception increase. Vaginal cytology is still unreliable. Progesterone testing was a step forward but inaccuracies account for many missed matings, wasted journeys and dashed hopes.
If you have a maiden bitch, read this twice! Breed her locally to prove her if you can't find the right stud dog/stud owner combination. 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, including your old shoes. Reserve 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 mated 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 shipping the semen instead of sending the bitch to the semen, not vise-versa. Locate a veterinarian that deals with canine reproductive problems 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 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
WARNING: Artificial Insemination incompetence make one wonder how some vets ever became parents! Do not assume proficiency just because your local vet is conscientious and capable on routine stuff. A good canine reproduction veterinarian will know of a dependable stud dog. If not, it’s a safe bet he or she is NOT a “reproductive expert.” If you are taking the bitch to the stud dog, employ a local working stud dog’s keen senses and also evaluate the bitch’s reaction. Cattle ranchers use a teaser bull to mark ovulating cows. Make use of the good stud dog’s indisputable talent in determining when to have the semen on hand or when to make the trip. And do offer 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 stud dog owner who will work with you, and owning 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 Survival Of The Fittest ShowSight Magazine April 1998
and the author's AKC Gazette Breeding Series columns, September and December 2007