Dog Breeding 101
Breeding your dog is a big responsibility. There are many factors to consider, as you will have to ensure the wellbeing of the mother and her puppies, as well as fulfil the expectations of the future owners. Your dog will need long-term care before breeding so that the puppies turn out healthy. The most successful dog breeders have spent a lot of time studying how to breed their dog before even planning on a litter of puppies.
Educating yourself about the process of dog breeding is one of the most important things to do before actually breeding your dog. For those who want to breed dogs as a business, you likely have local resources if you are interested in learning how to become a registered dog breeder. Breeding your dog ethically and responsibly is going to be paramount when you sell your dogs. You will have clients who are expecting that the dogs they get from you are free from health and behavioural problems.
Your Dog’s Reproductive Cycle
Female dogs have a reproductive cycle that goes through four phases. Unspayed female dogs typically have two periods of “heat” called estrus cycles per year. These cycles last around two to three weeks. However, the interval between these cycles may be different for your specific dog. A female dog’s first heat generally happens between 6 months and 15 months of age, but can happen later if for large dog breeds. It is generally advised that dogs be 12 months of age before their first mating.
- Proestrus – This is the first phase of the estrus cycle lasting around a week. The female dog’s vulva will become swollen, and they will start attracting males.
- Estrus – This is the active mating period, where the female dog will allow males to mount her. Ovulation will occur around two to three days after mating.
- Diestrus – This is the resting period ten to 140 days after the female dog’s heat.
- Anestrus – This is the period of downtime between the two estrus cycles, which lasts around six months.
Male dogs have no such cycle, and will respond to female dogs whenever they are in heat.
Before deciding to breed your dog, a trip to a trustworthy veterinarian is in order. They should be able to give your dog a thorough health check to see whether the dog is fit to breed. The veterinarian will have to consider the dog’s age, breed, and overall well being before approving the dog for breeding. Female dogs will have to head to the vet several weeks or months before the estrus cycle when you plan to breed the dog.
A female dog should be in good health, have up-to-date vaccinations, and be free from parasites. The standard wellness checks will be performed, such as a stool test and heartworm test. It is also recommended that the dog be tested for brucellosis, which is a type of bacterial sexually transmitted disease. To ensure that the dog is clear of problems, one or more of the following tests may be conducted:
- Hip and elbow scoring
- Eye testing
- Hearing tests
- Inherited disease/DNA testing
- Respiratory function
Your vet will know more about the specific tests that need to be performed on your dog. Your vet should also evaluate your dog’s temperament, as nervous, anxious or fearful dogs tend to pass these characteristics down to their puppies.
Determining if Your Dog is Pregnant
For dogs, the gestation period is normally around 63 days from conception. However, it’s not exactly easy to tell when to begin counting these days. The male dog’s sperm is able to live for several days inside the female, and the female’s eggs are fertile for up to two days. The day of mating may not be the conception date. It is likely that you will have to visit your veterinarian to determine whether your dog is pregnant. Let your vet know when the mating occurred, or at least an approximate timeframe if you did not witness the mating happen.
There are four methods that can be used to tell if your dog is pregnant:
- Hormone test
Your vet will be better able to determine which test to perform on your dog.
Once you have determined that the dog is pregnant, you can begin preparing for the puppies. This also involves prenatal care as directed by your veterinarian, as your female dog’s health will determine the health of the puppies. A couple of weeks before the expected due date of your litter, you should prepare a whelping box where your female dog can have her puppies, ideally located somewhere your dog feels safe. You can either construct a whelping box yourself, or purchase a ready-made whelping box. What matters is that it is safe, comfortable and, most importantly, easy to clean, because you’ll be cleaning it out almost daily.
The day before your female dog gives birth, they will likely lose their appetite and start to become restless. They may start looking for a place to give birth, often shown by digging or hiding under furniture. Direct your dog to their whelping box so that they don’t need to be moved later on, which is more difficult for both you and the dog. Make sure you know where the nearest emergency vet hospital is, as well as have on hand the number for your veterinarian.
Take your dog’s rectal temperature periodically – the normal range is 38.3C to 39.8C. Once it drops around one degree to between approximately 37.0C and 37.5C, they should give birth within 24 hours.
Once your dog has given birth, bring her and her puppies to your veterinarian within the first 24 hours to make sure that they’re all healthy. If they’re all clear, you can ask your vet about how to care for your female dog while they’re nursing their puppies. You’ll likely have to make dietary changes to keep up with your female dog’s nutritional needs while they raise their pups.
Your dog will likely be very protective of their puppies for the next couple of weeks, so avoid bringing any strangers over during this period. Also limit handling of the puppies until they are a few weeks old. Daily changes for the whelping box bedding are a good idea, and the whelping box itself will need to be disinfected weekly.