So, you’re planning to breed your dog. Well, I’ve been there, done that and got the t-shirt, and I can tell you that if you think it’s just a matter of putting a male and an in-season female together and expecting nature to take its course, you might be mistaken. I’ve suggested before that dogs aren’t always the sharpest tools in the shed (See 15 Stories that Prove that Dogs Can Be Really, Really Stupid), and this can be especially true when it comes to breeding. Sometimes, believe it or not, they actually need help getting the job done.
If your “ick” tolerance is really low (okay, maybe even moderately low), stop now. Read one of my other posts, or go find cute pictures of puppies on social media. This is going to get kind of nasty in a bit. Not right away of course – all things in good time. But we will get there, and if you’re squeamish, you might want to just bail now – I won’t warn you again. I’m going to tell you how to help the dog and bitch to mate, and what you need to do if an unplanned mating happens. It’s not pretty material.
Most of the time, when the bitch is ready to be serviced, and a dog is present, nature does sort of take over and the breeding occurs easily. Sometimes, though, you’ll end up with animals who just can’t seem to get the idea – the dog might be trying to mount the bitch’s head, the bitch will try to mount the dog, or both of them will just sort of goof around and never really get the idea at all. This is when you’re going to have to take matters into your own hands and show them what to do. If you want to ensure a breeding, and not cause damage to either party, follow these five tips.
1. Hold the Bitch
If you have a beautiful bitch, and you’ve chosen a handsome dog to be her mate, it’s always a good idea to make sure that she is secure and on lead. Let the dogs play together, but watch for signs of aggression, especially if the bitch hasn’t been around a lot of other dogs – she might not realize that this handsome boy is a lover, not a fighter. With her collared and on lead, you can control the courtship, which is an essential part of the breeding. They need to get to know one another – after all, you don’t just bang the first guy you meet in the bar, do you?
Oh. You do? Well, just forget I went there, okay?
Back to my original point. Let the two dogs socialize. It might take a while. In fact, you might be holding your bitch on lead for a couple of hours before she feels ready to mate with the dog, but that’s simply the time that you’re going to have to invest if you want a successful breeding.
2. Use a Table
This is a technique that can be very helpful if you’re having difficulty encouraging two small dogs to mate. If you put them on a table, you and the other dog’s person can work together to maneuver them into position, and hold them steady once they are in position. Sometimes a bitch, especially if it’s her first time, can become nervous when the dog inserts his penis. If she panics, you can hold them together until the “lock” or “tie” is achieved.
Sometimes when I suggest this, people ask me, “But Ash, aren’t you actually participating in a rape?” I suppose that technically you could say that this is what’s happening, but realistically, concepts like “rape” are human constructs, and I really doubt that they have much to do with dog breeding, simply because I’ve never seen a bitch traumatized after the act. Once the breeding is over and done, she’s probably just going to want to run and play with the dog. Or now that she knows what’s involved, have another go at breeding.
That said, though, if it’s her first time, assume that the bitch will require a bit longer “courtship” than if she’s experienced, so let her have the time she needs, and then be prepared to hold her. Once the dog’s penis is fully expanded (and it can take a few minutes) even an inexperienced bitch will usually stand without assistance.
3. Watch for Slip Mating
Slip mating occurs when the dog’s penis is inside the bitch, and it has become distended and enlarged, but slides out before they “tie.” This is something that can be incredibly frustrating to the humans who are trying to facilitate the breeding, because the dog will mount the bitch, jump off, mount her again, jump off – well, you get the idea.
If the bitch is in full heat, she will probably go out of her way to accommodate the dog, so it’s probably best to just leave things to work out on their own – sometimes dogs don’t take it kindly if you interfere when they’re trying to breed. You can steady the bitch, but it is probably best if you leave the dog alone, at least until you’re sure that he’s locked inside her. Then you can steady him, or have another person steady him, just for a short period until his knot enlarges.
Even if you’re unable to steady the animals, don’t assume that a breeding hasn’t taken place – as long as the dog has ejaculated inside the bitch, chances are that a litter is on its way. If he hasn’t ejaculated, he’ll probably try again until he gets the job done.
4. Be Alert to Premature Withdrawal
If the dog’s penis is fully distended, but he has not bred the bitch, once he withdraws you will notice that his penis is still fully distended. You will probably also notice ejaculate dripping out of the tip of the penis, in the same way that it would if a tie had actually occurred.
Now, what you have to do if you want a breeding is collect the semen.
Don’t make that face; I warned you about the “ick” factor! Your job now, if you want a litter, is to collect the dripping semen in a wide-mouthed jar or bowl. Then, use an eye dropper or turkey baster to draw it up and insert it into the bitch. This is best achieved if you can convince her to lie on her back, as that will place her in the ideal position to receive the semen.
5. Watch for the Tie
This is actually the best type of mating, when the bitch and the dog lock up together. Usually, they will lock for anywhere from 10 minutes to an hour. You might find that the dog will try to adopt some pretty strange positions at this stage – he might want to turn around, for instance, so that he and the bitch are locked back to back. The dog and bitch might even lie down and rest together at this point. You don’t really need to do anything right now other than make sure that they’re not dragging one another around, so if it looks as though that is happening, try to keep them from moving and injuring one another.
When they release, you should ensure that the dog’s penis has fully retracted. If it hasn’t, then you’ll need to hold him upright and move the penis back into the sheath in order to prevent damage.
Again, I warned you.
Now that you know the five basic tips when it comes to natural breeding, let’s talk about how to get a litter in another way. Artificial insemination is possible for dogs, but used far less often than it is for cattle and other livestock. The reason for this is simply that there are usually plenty of dogs of the desired breed when a dog owner wants a litter. Occasionally, though, if the breed is rare, AI might be considered. If this is the case, you are usually better off to use a vet that specializes in AI rather than attempting to do the job on your own. This is because there are so many variables – how long has the semen been frozen, how long has it been in transit, whether it is still viable and so on. Veterinarians who specialize in AI know when to say “No, that semen is too old so I’m not going to waste my time,” and they know the techniques beyond the “eye dropper” and “turkey baster” thing that I just told you about, that will increase the chances of fertilization taking place.
So, when it comes to AI, the final word is that it’s not the best method, but if you have a very rare breed and no dog available, it may be the only way for you to get the litter you want.
What About the Litter You DON’T Want?
It happens. Despite your best intentions, and that wonderful dog that you had lined up for your bitch, Lady jumped the fence and mated with The Tramp. What do you do now?
Well, first, let’s talk about what you don’t do. If you find your beautiful purebred locked up with that mutt from next door, please don’t pull them apart. You could hurt him and traumatize her, and besides, fertilization has most likely already taken place. Just let them finish. Then take your bitch to the vet – he or she can provide a shot that will prevent the fertilization from being viable.
Is that the same as an abortion? Well, yes, sort of. But it’s getting rid of an unwanted litter while the puppies are still about the size of an eyelash, if that. And besides, do you really want those mixed breed puppies? The other thing, too, is that if you dither and wait to make a decision, the only way of getting rid of that litter will be to have your bitch spayed while she is carrying puppies. So make your decision quickly. There are already far too many unwanted mixed breed puppies in animal shelters, and you don’t want to add to the problem.
A Word on Stud Fees
Okay, this doesn’t really have to do with breeding as such. A breeding will succeed, or it won’t. But there’s a lot of conflict as to what is the proper etiquette when it comes to stud fees. From my perspective, it’s pretty simple – you asked for something, so you should pay for it in some way.
I remember the first time I bred a bitch – the owner of the dog said “Ash, you don’t owe me anything. I’m just glad Bubba had a good time with your girl.” The thing is, no matter what that person said, I sold puppies, and I got money, and he had a right to some of it. So please, if you’re at all a decent human being, don’t accept “Bubba had a good time.” That’s not a stud fee, and a stud fee is something that you always, always owe and pay when you have a successful breeding.
A stud fee is a payment of money, or a puppy out of the litter, and if you don’t offer that choice you’re an asshat. Worse, you’re a cheap asshat.
And Now, To Conclude
Breeding can be a very exciting time – you’re anticipating the litter to come, and you’re so excited! It doesn’t always happen easily, though, and you might have to help the dog and the bitch through the procedure if they’re not experienced. The whole thing might even get a bit messy, but you’re going to have to live with that if you want a litter. And finally, if someone is kind enough to lend you the use of their dog to service your bitch, even if they say that they don’t want a stud fee, make sure that they’re properly compensated in some way. It’s just good manne