Before breeding your dog, there are many issues you should consider. There are plenty of dogs in the world and many are euthanized in shelters every day. If you plan on breeding your dog, you should be sure that you can provide a home for any unwanted puppies and that you can place puppies in good homes if you plan on selling or giving them away. Also, you should try to evaluate your animal before you breed it, especially if it is a purebred dog, since there are many genetic diseases evident in pedigreed bloodlines. If you breed a dog with a genetic disorder or predisposition, this trait will most probably show up in its puppies. Diseases like hip dysplasia are rather common in some larger breed dogs simply because breeders continued to breed animals who were showing symptoms of such disorders or those who were breeding animals too young to show symptoms. Although these diseases may occur randomly in many animals, it is best not to breed animals who do develop them since this will probably perpetuate the trait among the puppies and their offspring.
Younger animals should usually have x-ray screening or blood tests for disorders common to their breed to determine whether or not they will develop these problems as they age. The main goal in breeding is usually the improvement of a dog breed. For this reason, “back breeding” or “line breeding” in which dogs are crossed to relatives are not recommended. This sort of practice can serve to exacerbate genetic problems which may not be physically manifested but which can become evident in litters later on down the line. Breeding dogs can be rather expensive and you must be prepared financially for such a process. Screening for genetic disorders in addition to regular exams during pregnancy or treating possible complications can become quite expensive. After puppies are born, they will also usually need their first vaccinations in addition to requiring plenty of time and attention.
When selecting a mate for your dog, you should look at his or her faults and try to find a mate who will probably correct such faults. For example, if your dog has a smaller body than may be considered perfect for her breed, you may want to mate her with a dog who has a larger body rather than another dog who is also on the smaller end of the scale. Dogs who have the same faults should not be bred together. A dog’s temperament is also strongly linked to its genetic inheritance, so if your dog does not have a nice temperament it may not be a good idea to breed it. Also, a male dog who is significantly larger than the female he is bred to may produce very large puppies, which can cause birthing complications or make it impossible for the female to give birth without having a Caesarian section. If you cannot find an appropriate mate for your dog locally, you can impregnate a dog using artificial insemination. This may require the aid of your veterinarian, as your female dog may require hormone treatment. Your veterinarian may also aid in finding a sire.
The next step in breeding your dog will be to determine when her body will be hormonally appropriate for conception. In order to breed, the female will have to go into “heat”, an occurrence that usually takes place twice each year. Heat is a term used to describe the mentrual period of a dog. The heat cycle is generally counted from the time when the female dog begins to bleed. Menstrual fluid or blood will drip from her vulva. About nine days later, she will be ready to breed. This stage is frequently known as “standing heat”. Females in standing heat will often attempt to break out of the house, yard, or leash to mate. The dog will make advances toward the male such as lifting her tail in front of him or prancing about near his face. When you run your hand down her back, the dog will generally lift her tail. A good male dog will usually refrain from mating with the female until she is actually ovulating.
This usually occurs between ten days and two weeks after she has begun the heat cycle. This time may vary, however, from breed to breed and you should know the specific day on which your dog will begin to ovulate so you are ready to mate her. The male dog can sometimes sense the female’s ovulation through a hormone her body will begin to emit known as progesterone. Progesterone is present in high amounts during ovulation. Ovulation tests may be performed with an at-home testing kit or your veterinarian may test your dog for you. When the female is ovulating, her eggs will need about 48 hours to “ripen” or become receptive to fertilization by the male’s sperm. If you breed your dog too early or too late following ovulation, she may not become pregnant. To ensure pregnancy, many breeders will mate their dogs twice; once on the eleventh day of the heat cycle, and again on the fourteenth day. Females who are not in good health, who have been mated to dogs with low sperm counts, who are too young or too old, or who have had a “false” or irregular heat cycle may not become pregnant. The sperm can actually live inside the female’s body for several days after copulation.
It is generally advisable to be present while your dogs are mating, although most interference is not recommended. Your presence is needed because one dog may become aggressive and cause physical harm to the other. Also, complications may arise during the physical mating. The dog’s penis swells up when it is inside the female’s body, and if he tries to remove it before copulation is over, one or both of the dogs may be hurt. Upon ejaculation, the penile swelling will reduce and the dogs can disengage. While in heat, the female may be bred to any number of dogs. Each puppy may have a different father. However, each puppy cannot have more than one father. Usually, it is recommended to breed an experienced male to a female who has never been bred, and vice versa.
After mating, the body of the female dog will reabsorb some eggs, generally unfertilized or unhealthy eggs. Although the female’s body determines the number of puppies in the litter, it is the male’s sperm that determines the sex of the pups.
It may be quite easy to determine whether or not your dog is pregnant because she will appear pregnant. If you want to know before the puppies begin to fill out, you can palpitate your dog’s stomach. After she is three or four weeks pregnant, you may feel the puppies. Your veterinarian can also perform an ultrasound for you. Often it will be recommended that pregnant dogs be placed on high protein diets. About two weeks before your dog goes into labor, you may wish to supplement her with calcium. Many people will offer dairy products like cottage cheese or yogurt to their dogs in order to meet this need. Many breeds, toys especially, can suffer from calcium deficiencies or Eclampsia and may go into seizures or shock characterized by the stiffening of body and limbs and shaking or shivering. They will have to be taken to the veterinarian immediately and dosed with a slow calcium injection. Many people like to begin feeding pregnant dogs puppy food about two weeks before the puppies are born. That way, the puppies and the mother receive an added nutritional benefit. Also, after they are born, the puppies may begin to eat the mother’s food when they are ready.
Generally, pregnant dogs will require a whelping box where they may bear their puppies. You can purchase a whelping box or you can use a structure you may already have, such as a large cardboard box. The whelping box or area should have sides so the dog feels comfortable inside. It should be in a quiet area of the house but in a place where you have easy access to so you can help the dog when she is in labor. Generally, the whelping box should be big enough that the dog can lay inside it comfortably without laying on top of any of her puppies. You may line it with old carpeting or towels, and place newspapers on top of these. Have some intact newspapers and some shredded. Many times the dog may shred her own strips of newspaper. Be sure the whelping box is fairly easy to clean, as whelping is a very messy process. Also, although the puppies may need to be kept warm after birthing, if the mother is too hot she may reject them. You should try to keep the room or area at a temperature comfortable for the mother, as the puppies may be placed on a heating pad in order to keep them warm.
The gestation period lasts about 61 days, although dogs who are having their first litter may whelp, or bear their pups, later than dogs who have been bred before. Larger litters may also be born in a term less than the usual gestation period. Keeping in contact with a veterinarian will help you to know if your dog’s pregnancy is progressing normally and also whether or not she will be able to bear her pups naturally or if she will need a Caesarian section. About ten days before your dog is due to have her puppies, you should begin to take her temperature. When her temperature drops below 99 degrees Fahrenheit, she is likely on the verge of whelping. Others signs that your dog is about to bear her pups include the refusal of food, panting, restlessness, rearranging, digging, or moving nesting material in the whelping area, watery vaginal discharge, and contractions. The dog may stare at or lick at her vagina, or she may try to hide in a dark place or under a bed. Some dogs may fool you by going into false labor. If labor, or “pushing” effort has continued for more than two hours with no resulting puppy, it is probably necessary to call your vet.
This will also be advisable if the mother passes a bloody or dark green fluid before any puppies are born. Because litters can range in number from one to 20 puppies, labor may take several hours. When the last puppy has been born, the dog will begin to appear more relaxed and may leave her whelping box to relieve herself. Sometimes she may leave to do this in mid-labor, and you should follow her lest she accidentally birth a puppy while she is outside. During whelping, you should be on hand to assist your dog along with some equipment. You may wish to have a flashlight and a space heater if your dog is giving birth outside, as many times whelping occurs at night. You should also have some towels on hand, along with a bowl of water, a pair of sterile scissors, some antibacterial soap, sturdy thread, cotton balls, cotton swabs, and a heating pad. As each puppy is born, it will be accompanied by or preceded by a blackish sac. You should pay careful attention that each sac is birthed with each puppy. If these sacs remain inside the mother, they can result in serious infections.
Generally, the sacs will be over the puppies and the mother will break them by licking or nibbling at them. If the mother is not paying attention or the sac is not properly removed from a puppy, it can die. Some puppies are born in a breech position. This means that its hind end, rather than head and front feet, emerges from the mother’s body first. In breech births, the possibility of the puppy suffocating or drowning is high. As the dog pushes, you can aid her by very gently tugging the puppy while the dog pushes. After the puppy emerges, gently clear the sac away from the nose, mouth, and neck. Some puppies born correctly may need to have their noses and mouths cleared as well. If the puppy is not breathing, pick it up securely in one hand. The puppy’s head should point at the floor as your arm hangs down. Swing your arm back and forth in an easy motion, halting just as the puppy’s nose points directly at the floor. If you shake the puppy too severely you can cause brain damage.
The swinging motion should cause the birthing fluid to clear from the puppy’s lungs and respiratory tract. This may also be done with an aspirator used for human newborns. After you have cleared the fluid out of the lungs, you can gently rub the puppy’s back or chest to encourage it to breathe. Perhaps you will need to rub its nose or mouth with a hand towel. Some puppies may be encouraged to breathe or suck when you place your little finger inside their mouths. If the puppy is still not breathing, you may need to rub or swing it more vigorously and attempt mouth-to-nose resuscitation.
You may need to cut and tie the umbilical cord of some puppies. Usually, this involves tying the cord with very heavy thread next to the abdominal wall. Then, about an inch above the thread, you can cut the cord. It is only advisable to interfere if the dog needs your help. Most dogs are fully able to bear, clean, and cut their puppies’ cords all by themselves. As the puppies are born, place them on a heating pad next to the mother so they are kept warm. Generally, the mother will lick the puppies vigorously, which will aid in encouraging them to breathe. The mother should encourage the puppies to suckle by moving them to her teats. If she does not, you may help by placing them in the correct area.
Usually, there will be a rest period when the mother has birthed each puppy. This may last from 15 minutes up to several hours. If the dog has not birthed a pup in more than three hours and appears distressed, you may wish to call your vet. Complications can arise even when labor has been ongoing; an exceptionally large puppy may be lodged in the birth canal, or it may be positioned in such a way that it cannot be delivered. If you need to take the mother to the veterinarian, it is usually best to take the puppies she has already borne along with her. If a Caesarian section is required, you may need to bottle feed the puppies until all medication has worked its way out of the mother’s milk. In these cases you will need to pay extra attention in order to ensure that the mother, as well as the puppies, is receiving very attentive and gentle care. Keep the mother and puppies warm, dry, and well fed, as the mother will need to recover from her C-section and may not be able to do these things herself.
After labor is over, you may wish to clean the whelping box quickly. If this is not done immediately, it will need to be done soon. The puppies should begin to nurse; if they do not, you may wish to help them find the mother’s teat. It may be a good idea to gently palpate the mother’s abdomen to be sure that there are no more puppies inside her. If you do feel a puppy and the mother shows no signs of giving birth to it within a reasonable period of time, you should call your veterinarian. Often, if you are breeding purebred animals or puppies for sale, the buyers will want to know the birth weights of the puppies. For this reason, many breeders will have a small scale on hand and weigh the puppies as they are born. For registration with some breed organizations or for your buyers’ peace of mind, you should try to investigate all required information so you can record it as the pups are born.
Many people like to supplement their dogs with extra Vitamin D, calcium, and phosphorus after whelping and will continue this practice until the puppies are weaned, as this will aid the mother in milk production. This milk contains antibodies that will help protect the puppies until they are old enough to be vaccinated. You should check the mother’s teats for redness, sensitivity, heat, or discoloration, as this may indicate an infection like mastitis. When the puppies are between three and five days of age, they will usually be old enough to have their dewclaws removed. You can ask your veterinarian how to do this, or another more experienced breeder can also help you. Although some purebred animals will need their tails and ears docked in order to meet breed standards, some people consider this cruel. If you do wish to dock ears or tails, this may also be done in your home after asking your veterinarian or another breeder to tell or show you how.
By four weeks of age, you may begin offering soft or soaked food to the puppies, who will begin to be acquiring their teeth. Most dog breeds will acquire teeth at different ages, so be sure you know your dog’s specific requirements in order to know when to provide hard food for the puppies to chew on. Hard food will facilitate cutting the teeth. While puppies are cutting their first teeth, they may have slight fevers and they may seem a bit lethargic. Sometime after they are six weeks of age, the puppies will need their first vaccinations. Many people disagree on the first shot. Some people believe six weeks is appropriate, while other s will wait until the puppies are about eight weeks old. Regardless of when they are vaccinated, it is usually advisable to leave the puppies with their mothers until they are at least seven and a half or eight weeks old.