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Canine Reproduction


Landmark study finds lower conception rates and more frequent litter rejection in show dogs, possibly due to frozen semen and AI, artificial insemination.





Compiled by Staff


This updated canine fertility study revealed reasons for increased mating problems, flakey seasons, litter rejection or small litter size in purebred dogs.


We first ran this in 2011 and now, in late 2021 nothing has changed. Ten years ago dog breeders reported lack of libido, mating problems, low fertility and four cases of dams that ignored their newborns in show-bred purebreds. People said things like "mutts always get pregnant" and the truth to that was simple; left to their natural instincts, unsupervised strays usually do get pregnant... The key fact is we interfere too much with our beloved purebreds.


New breeders or people thinking about a new breed were often told that fertility problems were "common in that line." Many subscribers said asking others in the breed was futile because no one discusses conception rates or litter rejection - unless it is in someone else's bloodline.


Dobermans, like all breeds, can have flakey seasons, split heat, or non-productive breeding cyclesBreeders reported frustration with veterinarians who just weren't interested in canine reproduction. Several readers said most vets just "go through the motions", "don't know what they're doing" and perform "lots of pricy tests"  before referring them to a reproductive specialist. One knowledgeable breeder said "the specialty practice was “non-productive" but terribly expensive!"


Sally F. in Des Moines had to take her Champion Doberman bitch out of state before finding a vet who discovered a vaginal stricture and incised it, thus allowing normal copulation. 


Rita B. tried to get her new male to breed her proven German Shepherd bitch.  She called a breeder friend to come help and he observed that the young male was subservient to her older, dominant bitch.  Rita arranged a different mating for the young dog and hopes a successful experience will enable him to breed the dominant bitch next time.


 If you are an experienced dog breeder, we welcome your feedback or data on our facebook page


What Causes Flakey Seasons or Infertility?

Several breeders complained about low fertility in their females or reduced sexual aggression in their stud dog. Everything is blamed on "the dog food" but with good reason... Switch to a high-meat diet was good advice from Andrew.  Many new breeders were told "it is just the breed.” 


We had no advice for owners of some breeds that are structurally disadvantaged at both copulation and whelping. One of our veterinary members astutely recommended they get a breed that isn't deformed by 'more is better' type exaggerations. He also noted "C-sections should not be the norm in any breed."


A tantalizing theory also emerged in the 2011 responses to this report and our staff had hoped a veterinary school might do more research. Indications were that show dogs have smaller litters than mixed breeds of similar size.  This was emphasized as several breeders observed that “farm dogs get pregnant every heat cycle” and also referred to puppy mill bitches. Jeremy in Chicago replied to the survey stating his top winning bitch had two “flakey seasons" in a row even though “every puppy mill in the country is having puppies” and “the mutt three doors down just had a litter of ten!" Many show breeders inserted similar comments.


Obviously campaign stress can affect a bitch's reproductive cycle as in Jeremy’s case.  Some dogs adjust well to being on the road but changes in water, altitude, weather, and the stress of being crated can bring on physical and psychological anomalies.  


A handler expressed concern over the constant “vibration” and hum he experiences when trying to sleep while his partner drives.  He has a top of the line rig but said even so, he was fatigued and “worn out” after a long drive. He said they "ditto that for the dogs who can't tell us what effects they endure."


A well-known Arizona owner handler said that her current bitch had regular seasons when they were spot showing her as a youngster but that she hasn’t had a normal heat cycle since they began campaigning her. She said they are pulling her and will try breeding her first.


Another respondent said she read something in TheDogPlace about bitches not ovulating when taken to the stud dog because they instinctively didn’t want to get pregnant in a strange place. She cited The Mechanics Of Canine Reproduction Ref #1


Conscientious breeders spare no expense in the care of their show and breeding stock.  A few suggested puppy mill bitches are more productive because they are not inbred but an inside source revealed that the opposite is true in smaller operations. He said they do inbreed and generally do not receive the same high level of care as our pampered purebreds but that they are "culled" when puppy production declines. YEEKS!


A highly respected show breeder said larger litter size and higher conception rates in puppy mills are simply the result of more frequent matings as in feral dogs. That observation prompted discovery of Canine Infertility Disease {Ref #2}.  The fact is shipped or owner transported bitches are usually covered only once or twice whereas stray bitches are fertilized dozens of times.


“Street Dog” Fertility and Reproductive Health

Despite what we’ve been led to believe, underfed and medically disadvantaged dogs maintain high fertility rates, whelp and rear normal litters with comparatively few problems. From the inner-city slums to Aboriginal villages around the world, rare is the intact female that manages to pass through a season without getting pregnant.


That fact begs the question; “what is wrong with our carefully bred and meticulously cared-for ‘show dogs?" And as a prominent Cocker Spaniel breeder asked “What is the common denominator between street dogs and puppy mill dogs?”  With no public statistics and no comparative fertility studies, we had to base conclusions on four factors (F1 > F4) which we know to be true.


Factor #1 Canine Fertility And Nutrition

Stray and feral dogs eat whatever they can scavenge from friendly people, garbage cans and dumps. As recently as 8 dog-lives ago, there were few "packaged" foods. Most dogs were fed table scraps;  meat, poultry, milk, eggs, and veggies. The average family pet ate a diet amazingly similar to that of scavenging strays and indigenous village dogs and they saw the veterinarian about as often...


Top show kennels of the past used readily available meat and  "back then" hormone-free dairy products.  Dogs fed that way today still produce big litters of viable, healthy puppies as in this Berner litter.


In today's competitive pet food industry, even those companies which would prefer to use quality meat ingredients are forced to allocate a high % of the budget to advertising, commissions, and out-marketing grocery store brands. So they skimp on expensive meat... "Meat meal" can be anything from diseased livestock to road kill. The additives, which often include potentially harmful Ingredients {Ref #3} including hormones fed to the livestock, were noted as contributing to low fertility, irregular heat cycles, and small litter size.


Factor #2 in Canine Fertility = Veterinary Care

stray dogs breed indiscriminantlyStrays and puppy mill dogs receive minimal medical attention. Less or NO  immunizations, heartworm preventives, antibiotics, etc.


At the first sign of a sniffle, the show breeder's dogs go on antibiotics because veterinarians acquiesce to our demands to "do something." Think about it. For over two decades "responsible" breeders have dutifully inundated our dogs with immunizations, antibiotics, weird supplements and questionable medications.


This fertility study would be meaningless if we failed to note the ever-increasing list of diseases for which we medicate and vaccinate.


Rabies vaccine is vital to protect human health and puppy shots were gratefully welcomed but a scientific debate would have to weigh repeated boosters to protect against the remote possibility of adult dog infection. How many Whooping cough  against the certainty of impacting the canine reproductive system with over-vaccination.  The same is true of the many herbal, coat, and nutritional supplements with which we bombard our dogs.


Breeding Pair Selection Affects Fertility

In nature only the smartest, most powerful and dominant males win breeding rights. Whether elephant, equine, feline, To some extent that is""Last but far from least is the degree of managed matings which many geneticists would classify as inbreeding.  As dog breeders, staff and successful show breeders would disagree that inbreeding inherently reduces reproductive ability so long as breeders select for reproductive ability and mating vigor when choosing breeding partners.


Natural selection and survival rates in the stray or indigenous canine population weeds out unthrifty or sexually weak animals.  Bitches that experience flakey seasons are unattractive to virile, sexually aggressive males.  We regularly upset nature’s balance as evidenced by artificial inseminating a "crazy bitch" with semen collected from a dim-witted submissive male with no sex drive.


The inescapable fact is that show breeders routinely compensate for dogs which, in the natural state, could never contribute to the gene pool.


Artificial (AI) Insemination and Whelping

Show dog breeders progressed from inserting fresh semen (from an inept stud dog or due to a fractious bitch) to the use of chilled or frozen semen.   The practice was embraced by hobby breeders who welcomed the convenience, thus reducing expense and risk in shipping a beloved bitch and/or transmitting infection to either sire of dam.  The fertility study highlighted AI as a significant factor because the use of frozen semen can mask virility or mating problems which can plague us in the next generation.


A timid stud can be collected.  A reluctant bitch can be inseminated.  But left to their own devices, the two would be unlikely to mate and by resorting to artificial insemination, we risk doubling up on bad reproductive genes!  Neither bitch nor stud owner know that they are complicit in compounding one of the worst genetic problems because neither of them know about the sexual dysfunction of the other dog.


Think about it.  The semen of a sexually feeble dog in California can unknowingly be inseminated into an unbreedable bitch in New York.


We plan to C-section a bitch because we love her and value her exceptional qualities or breed type.  In many breeds, the dam isn’t given a chance to deliver her litter.  While the resulting litter may be a huge asset to the breeder, even to the breed itself, we must analyze the overall benefit to the future of the domestic canine.  Could that litter have been created or would that breed survive without human intervention?  Are there any dogs of that breed which can and do reproduce naturally?  Then Outcross!


Reproductive Study Summary

Our researchers value the advances and life-saving veterinary sciences of canine reproduction but as breeders we could not conduct or conclude this study without being objective.  We are commanded to take a deep breath and realize there is a profound lesson to be learned in Survival Of The Fittest.  Whether in the Arctic tundra or the African savannah, nature allows only the strongest and most virile animals to reproduce.


If we denied the evidence of nutrition, medicine, and human interference as the primary reasons for diminished reproductive ability in today’s most elite canines, we would be short-sighted and therefore comprise the study.


routine veterinary exams are important for your dogSpeaking of which, we were at first amazed to find no other study on comparative reproduction in show dogs vs. feral or stray dogs.  Then we arrived at an inescapable conclusion.  Stray/feral dogs scavenge garbage cans, dumps, roadside scraps, etc. instead of eating fake-food.


Regardless of the society in which they live, non-owned dogs are also spared the veterinary care excesses of purebred breeding stock.  Of course there's an unwillingness to explore the impact of diet and pet-meds on the canine reproductive system but we think it safe to say that loss of reproductive vigor in pampered purebreds indicts the pharmaceutical and commercially prepared food industries.


We then had to ask, would veterinary universities that count on research grants from those industries bite the hand that feeds them?


Probably not.  And that explains why our independent researchers could find no published data on the cause of rising infertility in the well bred purebred.  We trust however, that you will find value in this study and select your next sire or dam for genetic and physical fertility as well as the physical and behavioral qualities that typify your breed!


Reference Information:  [1]  The Mechanics Of Mating  ~  [2]  Canine Infertility Disease  ~  [3]  Dog Food Ingredients

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