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As a Pro Club member, you can establish helpful breeding connections, access troves of nutritional and breed research and confirm your commitment to excellent dogs.

But where do you start? No matter if you’re new to Pro Club, dog breeding or dog competitions, we’ve got the resources that can help you on your journey to create winning moments.

New to Breeding

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Emergency Preparedness for Kennels

As you continue your breeding career, it is likely that the number of dogs in your kennel will grow. As this number increases, so does the need to plan for their care in case of an emergency. Follow these tips to help prepare your kennel for an emergency:

  • Find alternative shelter for your dogs. Whether it is a boarding kennel, veterinarian’s office or local shelter, identify and secure a safe place for your dogs. Establish a “buddy kennel,” or partnership with another kennel, to house each other’s dogs in case the other is experiencing an emergency. Having multiple buddy kennels in diverse locations helps to ensure your dogs will always have a refuge.
  • Create emergency kits. These should include:
    • Kennels, leashes or lines for every dog
    • Canine first-aid kit
    • Up to a week’s worth of food
    • Liquid dish soap and disinfectant
    • Disposable garbage bags
    • Medical records in waterproof container
    • Travel carrier/crate for each dog
    • Two weeks’ supplies of medications
  • Identify your dogs. Being able to identify your dogs can help reunite you with them or settle disputes when claiming animals from temporary housing. An identification tag, including the dog’s name, phone number of owner and urgent medical needs, is the least that owners should provide. The American Kennel Club (AKC) recommends using a microchip and registering it with the AKC Reunite Program.
  • Have transportation ready. Prepare for evacuation at the first sign of danger to give yourself ample time to get all your dogs out of harm’s way. If you do not have enough resources to move all your dogs at once, plan how you will successfully move your dogs to safety.
  • Designate a caregiver. If there are times when the dogs are left alone, have designated kennel help to come over and aid your dogs in case of an emergency.

Published September 2015

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Learning From Master Breeders

Master breeders have developed successful breeding programs through years of practice. Not every litter turns out as expected; not every Champion reproduces himself or herself. Despite setbacks, master breeders remain dedicated to producing the best examples of their breed. The rewards, they say, outweigh the challenges.

First, expert breeders recommend keeping only one from each litter and being prepared to find the pup a new home if he or she does not mature as expected. Being critical of your own dogs is the first step toward achieving excellence in your bloodline.

Master breeders also advise that no rule is an absolute. A breeding pair that seems perfectly matched may not reproduce themselves. In the end, you can do everything right but still not get the desired result. This will happen to every breeder at some time, but master breeders encourage you to not get discouraged.

All master breeders begin as diligent students of their breed standard and never truly stop. Talking with other breeders, researching pedigrees and studying breed history are ways master breeders recommend to keep learning. Being an ongoing student of the breed allows you to focus your breeding efforts and create excellent pairings.

Finally, master breeders emphasize the essential role that mentors play in creating a successful line. A mentor can help you form the ideal image of your breed, offer objective feedback and provide information a dog’s pedigree leaves out. As former novices themselves, most experienced breeders are open to helping beginners. All they ask in return is that you will someday pass along your knowledge to the next generation of breeders.

Published September 2015

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The Genetics Behind Canine Behavior and Temperament

Seasoned breeders have undoubtedly experienced the thrill of having a show dog’s good temperament or a sporting dog’s drive passed to their progeny. While nurture versus nature always has been strongly debated, scientific research shows that certain behaviors relate to genetic makeup.

Much like hereditary diseases, some breeds are known for displaying specific behaviors. These behaviors were created through selective pressure, whether purposefully or as the byproduct of breeding for another trait. For example, Doberman Pinschers are known for a behavior, almost exclusive to the breed, called “flank sucking,” in which dogs will suck on their flank, foot or a blanket to relax. When comparing genotypes of dogs that exhibited the behavior and those that did not, a variation on a gene called Cadherin 2 (CDH2) offers an explanation as to why only some dogs exhibit that behavior and supports the claim that behavior and temperament, like physical traits, are linked to a dog’s DNA.

As a beginner breeder, it is important to select a foundation bitch with a good disposition and free of behavioral issues, as her genes are the building blocks of your bloodline. Before breeding, look for behavioral issues several generations back because recessive traits can lay dormant for generations. Finally, be selective in choosing a stud dog. Do not compromise good temperament for a perfect topline or outstanding athleticism. By including behavior and temperament in your breeding selection, you will be more likely to produce dogs that not only fit the standard, but are mentally sound and have a great temperament for the conformation ring or in the field.

Published September 2015

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Breeding Multiple Generations of Champions

Breeding champions of any breed is no easy task. It involves patience, diligence and hard work. Successful breeding also involves luck, and most importantly, having fun. Here are tips on how to breed multiple generations of champion show and sporting dogs.

  • Seek mentors who can give sound advice. Look for those who are positive influences and be cautious of those who only criticize and never praise.
  • Have a picture of the ideal dog of your breed in mind and know what kind of dog you want to produce. Research and learn about the breed before breeding your first litter.
  • Buy the best foundation bitch you can. Look for one that is sound with good temperament and that represents the breed well.
  • Breed to a stud dog that is right for your bitch. Never rush to breed to the current “popular” stud and never use convenience of breeding as the reason for selecting a stud.
  • Do not be kennel blind. Always be objective when evaluating your dogs.
  • Set goals that are realistic for you. Dog shows and field trials have many levels. Decide where you fit in.
  • Don’t forget that successful breeding involves quite a bit of luck. It is important to have fun. If breeding and showing dogs isn’t fun, you should stop doing it.

Published January 2015

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Evaluating Puppies

Knowing which puppies to keep for competition, place in pet homes or to sell to hobby sportsmen is one of the most important decisions a breeder makes. It is a skill that comes with experience. By following these tips, novice breeders can learn to train their eye to objectively evaluate young puppies. 

  • Eight weeks of age is not necessarily a magical date to evaluate puppies. You may need to keep one or two puppies longer before making a decision.
  • Train your eye to identify proper structure and conformation by studying the illustrated AKC standard of your breed. Attend dog shows to see which dogs are selected as Best of Breed winners and field trials to learn the traits that are important to succeed.
  • Make a checklist based on the breed standard and go through it with each puppy, looking at such things as eye color and shape, plus coat color and texture. Become familiar with disqualifying faults related to structure, poor breed type and poor movement.
  • Evaluate puppies individually, not as a group. Recording puppies as they move and playing the video in slow motion helps to identify gait problems. Movement should be evaluated on a smooth surface rather than grass so you are able to see more.
  • Test for temperament by placing a puppy in an unfamiliar area without his or her littermates or dam. This way, you can see how the puppy reacts to changes in the environment.
  • First identify puppies that are the least likely to succeed in the show ring or field trial. These are the ones that have the most faults. This will help to narrow down the decision-making process.
  • Don’t be forgiving in the selection of puppies or breeding partners. Hold out for the best. 

Published January 2015

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Knowing When Puppies Need Veterinary Care

Veterinary care is crucial during a puppy’s first year. Refer to these general guidelines to get an idea of the veterinary visits, which largely consist of vaccinations, your puppy will need during the first year. 

Puppy’s Age (6 to 10 weeks)

Veterinary Visit to Include

A baseline physical examination, including:

  • Fecal examination
  • First vaccinations for core vaccines: Distemper, Hepatitis, Parainfluenxa, Parvovirus (DHPP)

Ask your veterinarian if the following non-core vaccinations are necessary:

  • Bordetella (Canine Cough Complex)
  • Lyme Disease
  • Coronavirus (DHLPPC)
  • Leptospirosis

It’s important to limit exposure to public places and other dogs until the 16-week core vaccination schedule is complete.

Things to Consider

  • Be prepared to give your puppy’s history (birthdate, any vaccinations already received)
  • Discuss core and non-core vaccinations with your veterinarian and establish vaccination schedule
    • Core vaccinations are those required by law or needed by all puppies
    • Non-Core vaccinations are optional depending on your veterinarian’s recommendation, where you live and your dog’s lifestyle
  • Discuss puppy training classes (cost, location, etc.) and begin classes once the puppy has completed the core vaccination schedule (usually at 16 weeks)

Puppy’s Age (10 to 12 weeks)

Veterinary Visit to Include

Vaccinations:

  • Second vaccination/booster for DHPP
  • Rabies vaccine (check with your veterinarian on timing, as laws vary among states)

Things to Consider

Talk to your veterinarian about:

  • Heartworm and flea prevention programs
  • Puppy training classes, if you haven’t done so already
  • How to properly brush your puppy’s teeth

Puppy’s Age (14 to 16 weeks)

Veterinary Visit to Include

Vaccinations:

  • Third vaccination/booster for DHPP

Now is a great time to introduce grooming and regular dental care. If you perform at-home grooming regularly, your puppy will get used to it, which will help as he/she gets older.

  • Begin with short, daily grooming sessions
  • Brush your puppy all over including his/her underside
  • Handle your puppy’s paws so he/she will allow nails to be trimmed
  • Reassure and praise your puppy as you groom

Training considerations:

If your puppy has completed the 16-week core vaccination schedule, you can begin obedience class training and/or puppy agility class

Puppy’s Age (6 months)

Veterinary Visit to Include

  • Physical exam for overall development and body condition
  • Dental check-up (most of your puppy’s permanent canine teeth have come in)

Possible fourth vaccination/booster for DHPP, depending on how early the Distemper vaccine series is administered

Things to Consider

Talk to your veterinarian about:

  • Any concerns you have with your puppy’s behavior or health
  • Your puppy’s weight and how to tell if he/she is getting too heavy

Training considerations:

Begin obedience class training and/or puppy agility class if you haven’t already

Published January 2015

 

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Artificial Insemination

Determining the best method of breeding involves evaluating whether artificial insemination (AI) is preferable over natural breeding.

For example, it might be more economical to collect and ship semen for AI than to transport a bitch for breeding. AI also alleviates the stress caused by shipping the bitch to the stud dog, as stress can alter a bitch’s heat cycle.

For a stud dog, semen can be collected without interrupting a successful show or field career. AI also allows for semen to be tested prior to the breeding to make sure it is viable.

Other reasons to opt for AI include:

  • A significant size difference in the breeding pair
  • Time constraints on the part of the breeder or the stud dog owner
  • Risk of injury

As for choosing a method for collecting and preserving sperm, fresh semen can have as good a conception rate as a natural mating in a dog and bitch with normal fertility. Fresh dog sperm lives 11 days and is capable of fertilizing an egg for six of those days. A breeding with fresh semen gives a breeder the most flexibility when it comes to timing, and insemination can occur before and after ovulation.

By comparison, fresh chilled semen is viable for 48 hours and frozen semen for only 12 hours. Timing is critical since frozen semen has a very short fertilizing life. Using frozen semen also requires careful attention to semen thawing as it can readily be damaged during thawing and preparation for insemination. Surgical insemination results in the highest fertility when using frozen semen. 

Published January 2014

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Breeding Basics

Dog breeding requires hard work and dedication. It is a constant learning process that starts with choosing breeding partners and culminates with raising a healthy litter of puppies. To be a good breeder, you should breed with a purpose – aim to improve your breed and have a vision of the ideal dog. The goal should be to advance your breed.

Novice breeders should find a mentor or master breeder to help them learn best practices. Parent breed clubs often have approved mentor lists of breeders with years of experience. Local all-breed and sporting clubs are excellent sources as well.

Choosing the best stud dog to breed to your female involves determining the attributes you want to improve. You should assess the faults and qualities of both the sire and dam. This entails:

  • Evaluating bloodlines and reproductive histories to ensure it would be a healthy match free of genetic diseases
  • Studying the dogs’ temperament, conformation and performance attributes  
  • Observing your breed ringside or at sporting events to determine what will bring you closer to producing the perfect dog

Before breeding your first litter, you should do your homework to learn as much as you can about breeding basics. For example, timing is key. Improper timing is the most common cause of infertility in bitches. Progesterone testing, which measures the hormone progesterone in the blood, will help you determine the time of ovulation – and thus the best time to breed.  

 A successful breeding will produce puppies approximately 63 days later. During this time, it is essential to provide optimal care to your pregnant bitch. Feeding a complete and balanced dog food for all life stages and providing opportunities for exercise are important.

For now, it’s time to build a whelping box that will provide a warm, dry, draft-free environment for the dam and her newborn puppies. Once the puppies are whelped, the hard work begins to successfully raise the litter. In the beginning, you will need to check on the puppies several times throughout the day and night to be sure they are nursing and receiving the antibody-rich colostrum from the dam. As the puppies begin growing, your role expands to include providing puppy socialization, exercise and veterinary care.

If you’ve done your homework well, you could be on the road to a successful career as a breeder of top-quality show or sporting dogs.

Published August 2013

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Caring For Neonates

The neonatal period — from birth to 3 days of age — is a critical stage for puppies. Most importantly, temperatures must be balanced and consistent.

Excessively high temperatures and high humidity can lead to death from respiratory infection. Puppies also may become dehydrated. Dams that are overly warm may spend less time with their puppies and produce less milk.

On the other hand, hypothermia can occur when puppies are too cold, which may lead to suppressed activity and suckling in addition to slowed gastrointestinal function. Puppies with hypothermia that are supplemented with milk replacer may continue to deteriorate if they don’t receive additional support. They also are at risk for being ignored by the dam.

Keep temperatures no lower than 80 to 85 degrees Fahrenheit and don’t let them fluctuate. As puppies become older, gradually drop the temperature a few degrees at a time so they can adjust.

Cleanliness also is vital for healthy puppies. Towels and blankets are best for raising puppies, as they allow better motility than newspapers so puppies can get up and around sooner. Be sure to change the towels and blankets often, preferably at least six times a day to keep the area clean. 

Published August 2014

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Choosing a Strong Foundation Bitch

The backbone of a successful breeding program starts with a strong foundation bitch line. A new breeder should choose the best bitch possible to breed to the best sire possible. Improving the breed to more closely exemplify the standard should be the goal of any breeding program.

Pay attention to what the breed was originally bred to do. For example, a foundation bitch for show dog lines should have, at a minimum, excellent conformation, breed type and temperament. Bitches used for sporting dog lines should have quality performance traits. Depending on the sport, they should excel with good scent and tracking abilities, be stylish on birds and keen on retrieving. All potential brood bitches should be healthy and in ideal body condition.

In selecting a foundation bitch, it is important to pay attention to the whole family rather than just the individual. A breeder should evaluate the bitch’s bloodline to ensure the line is healthy and free of diseases. 

Maintaining the highest quality line takes diligence and careful planning and selection. It is essential for a foundation bitch to be balanced in all aspects, physically, mentally and emotionally. Making the effort to establish a strong bitch line will pay dividends in your breeding program for generations to come.

Published August 2013

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Developmental Stages in Puppies

New puppies come into the world full of promise and opportunity. Helping them develop into confident, well-balanced adult dogs involves understanding the important stages of canine social and behavioral development and knowing the optimal times to maximize learning and socialization opportunities.

  • Neonatal (0 to 14 days) – Puppies are born blind and deaf and are totally dependent on their mother for survival. Ninety percent of their time is spent sleeping.
  • Transitional Period (14 to 28 days) – Eyes open completely around 13 days, with useable vision at 18 to 21 days. Ears open around 3 weeks. Puppies can crawl backward, wag their tails and start to walk. Rapid development of motor skills and imprinting occurs.
  • Socialization Period (4 to 12 weeks) – Weaning takes place. Socialization to dogs occurs at 4 to 6 weeks and to people at 6 to 12 weeks. If these opportunities are missed, the puppy will most likely always be fearful of dogs and/or humans. A fear period takes place around 8 to 10 weeks.
  • Juvenile Period (3 to 6 months) – Rapid physical development and independence kicks in around 13 weeks. A second fear period occurs between 4 and 10 months. 

Published December 2014

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Getting Ready to Breed

A lot of work goes into getting ready to breed. First, the breeder must study pedigrees and select the best breeding pair. Next, the breeder must be sure that the bitch and stud dog are healthy. Here are some considerations before breeding.

A healthy male dog is crucial for successful breeding. One way to determine his viability is to have a veterinarian perform a male breeding soundness evaluation (BSE). The BSE is a thorough examination that includes a physical and complete medical history detailing vaccination information, illnesses and injuries. It also includes a review of brucellosis testing results and an evaluation of the dog’s sperm and semen quality. Brucellosis, caused by the bacterium Brucella canis, is a highly contagious reproductive disease that can cause infertility, abortions and stillbirths in dogs.

Being sure your brood bitch is healthy is paramount to producing healthy litters. Prior to breeding, she should have a complete blood count analysis. By checking her liver and kidney function as well as protein levels, a breeder will have a better idea whether the bitch is physically and nutritionally ready to whelp a litter of puppies. A breeder also should check for heartworm and parasites. Testing for brucellosis is important for bitches as well.

Published August 2013

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Knowing When to Intervene

Intervention within the first 72 hours of a puppy’s life should be used judiciously. Experience can help you with puppy care, but when in doubt, consult a veterinarian.

For example, in large litters, two or three of the smallest puppies may need assistance with suckling. Sometimes older bitches, especially in sporting breeds, can develop large, fleshy nipples that can make it difficult for a small or weak puppy to grasp the nipple. Thus, intervention would be required to help these puppies nurse.

When puppies are not doing well, refer to your veterinarian. Normally, puppies should be fed daily in divided feedings from 20 to 26 kcal per 100 grams in body weight. The maximum comfortable stomach capacity is about 20 milliliters per pound of body weight. You should measure a puppy’s body weight every day when using supplementation. When deciding whether to intervene with supplementation, you should measure body weight at birth, 12 hours and 24 hours. Most normal puppies should come close to doubling their body weight in the first week or so.

If you notice any of the following signs in puppies during the first 72 hours after birth, you may need to intervene as a puppy may be at risk:

  • Poor nursing
  • Separation by the bitch
  • Lying on its side instead of chest
  • Lying with its mouth open
  • Little movement compared to the rest of the litter
  • Restlessness and crying despite appearing to nurse

Published August 2014

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Neurological Development

Days 21 to 28, the maturational transition, are a critical time when significant neurological maturation takes place. It also is when there is a peak lactation demand. If a puppy is having problems with neurological development, it becomes most evident during this time.

A simple way to tell if a neonatal or young nursing puppy is neurologically sound is whether the puppy perceives hunger and can crawl to find the nipple and nurse. At day 21, a puppy usually still has uncoordinated walking, but by day 28, it should be coordinated. This also is the time when rooting and suckling reflexes are abolished, and more adolescent-like behavior begins. 

Published August 2014

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Nutrition During Gestation

Nutrition is an important part of a dog’s life, particularly during gestation. A dam’s body weight increases due to growing fetuses, fluid and developing placental tissues and mammary glands. Thus, a dam should be offered gradually increasing amounts of food during the nine weeks of gestation.

During the first 10 to 14 days, an increase of about 13 percent is recommended. Most dams have a partial loss of appetite around the third week of gestation, but during weeks four through seven, about 40 percent more food is consumed than during maintenance. As fetal development continues, progressively less abdominal space is available for comfortable digestive tract expansion and function. Frequent feedings of smaller meals may be helpful.

During the final two weeks of gestation, food consumption may decrease. Breeders should be especially conscious of a dam’s alertness, responsiveness, breathing patterns, and activity during this time, as changes could indicate impending toxicity or potential difficulty with whelping. A well-balanced diet is critical in supporting the bitch and assuring her puppies’ good health. 

Published January 2014

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Nutritional Firsts for Puppies

Feeding puppies a high-quality puppy food is key to their optimal growth and development. It starts with the dam’s milk, which is rich in immune-protective colostrum for growing puppies.

The neonatal period is challenging for the immune system. Puppies leave the relatively sterile environment of the uterus and enter one filled with potentially dangerous microorganisms. Immediately after whelping, and for the first 24 to 72 hours, a dam produces a special milk called colostrum. Puppies receive little passive immune protection across the placenta, so consumption of colostrum, which is rich in maternal antibodies, is extremely important. After puppies ingest colostrum, the levels of circulating antibodies reach adult levels and provide protection from infectious diseases.

Some puppies may fail to receive adequate levels of maternal antibody protection because of poor quality colostrum, insufficient colostrum production, failure to absorb adequate amounts of antibodies despite adequate ingestion, or failure of puppies to nurse effectively. Puppies that do not receive adequate colostrum are at considerably more risk than puppies that have received passive maternal antibodies.

From weaning until a puppy is about 6 months old, its energy needs are about twice that of an adult dog of the same weight. After six months, energy requirements begin to decline as does the rate of growth. Puppies have less digestive capacity, smaller mouths, and smaller and fewer teeth than adult dogs. As a result, they are limited in the amount of food they can eat and digest in a single meal.

If the food is poorly digested or has low energy and nutrient density, a larger quantity must be eaten. The long-term consequence can be comprised growth and impaired muscle and skeletal development. Puppies benefit from eating a food that is energy and nutrient dense because the volume of food intake does not need to be excessive and intake will not be limited by the size of the puppy’s stomach. However, free-choice feeding is not recommended for growing dogs because it is difficult to monitor and control weight gain and growth. Overeating during growth also has been associated with increased incidence of developmental bone disease. Ideally puppies should be fed individually in order to control consumption.

Protein requirements for growing puppies are higher than the protein requirements of most adults. The increase is needed to build new tissues associated with growth. It’s important that the protein contained in puppy foods is of a high quality and very digestible to ensure sufficient levels of all essential amino acids are absorbed for use in ideal growth and development.

Diets for growing puppies should contain optimal but not excessive amounts of calcium and phosphorus. Unbalanced excesses of dietary calcium increase the likelihood of developmental bone diseases.

Published December 2014

 

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Preparing a Whelping Box

Breeders should help minimize stress for an expectant dam and her litter by providing a quiet, warm whelping area and a comfortable whelping box. At least five days before a dam is expected to whelp, she should be introduced to the whelping area and whelping box. This allows time for her to become adjusted and comfortable in this environment before puppies are born.

The whelping area should be draft free and temperature controlled. Although there are a variety of designs for whelping boxes, it is important to choose one that is warm and dry, easy to clean, and allows access to the mother while preventing the puppies from escaping too soon as they grow.

An ideal whelping box is from 1 ½ to 2 times the length of the dam. She should be able to stretch out in full length on her side with room to spare. A railing or ledge should be 3 to 4 inches from the floor around the inside periphery of the box to prevent the dam from crushing or suffocating a puppy that may get caught between her body and the sides of the box when she is lying down to nurse.

The bedding material should provide good traction, be easily cleaned, odorless, insect-free, and made of a material that will not be easily ingested by puppies, such as towels, mattress pads or diapers. Good materials include soft carpeting mounted on a frame that fits snugly inside the whelping box or finely shredded newspaper. For large litters, multiple changes a day may be necessary. Whelping boxes made of molded synthetic plastic often are excellent for this purpose.

A source of supplemental heat may be required, especially during the first week of life when puppies are not able to regulate their own body temperature. Puppies rely on the dam’s body heat and the warmth of their littermates to maintain a normal body temperature during this time. Supplemental heat should be placed so that both the dam and puppies can move to their own comfort area if they become too hot and also should not interfere with the dam getting up and down. Heat lamps and electric or water-filled heating pads are examples of appropriate heat sources. Make sure puppies do not have exposure to electrical cords or outlet boxes to chew on. 

Published May 2014

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Recognizing the Signs of a Possible Emergency Cesarean Section

One of the most common problems in breeding is losing puppies during delivery due to breeders letting bitches endure prolonged labor without getting help. Sometimes a difficult labor calls for veterinary intervention.

Two things keep a puppy oxygenated in the uterus: their heartbeat and the oxygen they receive through uterine blood flow. Oxytocin, a hormone given to bitches to stimulate contractions, is sometimes given to aid in whelping; however, when oxytocin administration is ill-timed, hypoxia (a deficiency of oxygen) may develop in puppies. Drugs such as oxytocin should not be given without veterinary consultation. Thus, a properly timed C-section will result in the best survival time.

Signs that indicate a difficult labor and the need for veterinary intervention include:

  • A bitch’s temperature drops and no signs of labor begin within 24 hours. Some veterinarians recommend starting to take the temperature of the bitch two or three times daily about one week prior to the anticipated whelping. This will help to ensure you do not miss the temperature drop that signals oncoming whelping.
  • The bitch strains for longer than an hour in hard labor without delivering a puppy.
  • More than three hours elapse between the births of puppies.
  • Green, black or red discharge can be seen before delivery, indicating placental separation. 

Published May 2014

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Socialization and Puppy Growth

The key period of socialization of puppies is from six to eight weeks. This also is the ideal age to begin basic training. Puppies should be given lots of attention and affection and consistently called by their name. They also should be gradually introduced to people and allowed to explore their surroundings. Puppies that are handled gently usually develop friendly and trusting attitudes toward people.

The most rapid growth in dogs occurs during the first six months. Toy and small breeds reach maturity by 12 months, compared with 12 to 18 months for medium breeds and 18 to 24 months for large and giant breeds. When they have reached maturity, most dogs have increased their birth weight 40 to 50 times.

Helping a puppy achieve its potential requires commitment and devotion. An owner or breeder who understands the importance of proper care for puppies during these growth stages is well on the way to providing a healthy beginning for their dog. 

Published December 2014

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Tracking Hormone Rates

Progesterone testing is one way breeders can know when a female dog is ovulating, and thus determine the ideal time to breed. When performed in an accurate and timely manner, it is the single most important tool for breeders.

Progesterone is a reproductive hormone that begins to increase in the bloodstream just prior to ovulation. For most bitches, a progesterone reading of 2.0 nanograms (one billionth of a gram) indicates a surge in the luteinizing hormone (LH) from the pituitary gland, which triggers the release of eggs from the follicles. When progesterone levels reach 5.0 to 10.0 nanograms, a bitch is ovulating.

After ovulation, the released eggs continue to go through maturation until they are mature two to three days later. Once the maturation process is completed, the eggs are ready for fertilization. Therefore, the prime time to breed is 48 to 72 hours post-ovulation.

To accurately identify the time of ovulation, a series of tests are conducted to map the rise of progesterone levels. Multiple testing becomes even more critical when chilled semen is being shipped to the bitch owner in another state or country and when using frozen semen. Both require precise timing to increase the potential for fertilization.

The key information breeders gain from progesterone testing is finding out when a bitch ovulates. This significantly increases the chance of a successful breeding. After you confirm ovulation with progesterone testing, you also know the bitch’s due date is 62 to 64 days later. 

Published January 2014

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Types of Breeding

In producing conformation and field champions, dog breeders use inbreeding, linebreeding and outcrossing. Here is information about each type of breeding.

  • Inbreeding is a mating between closely related dogs. Examples are breeding a dog to his or her parent, sibling or offspring. Breeders use inbreeding as a way to maintain the purity of their bloodlines and increase certain desirable traits in their dogs.
  • Linebreeding is a breeding between dogs with common ancestors, but more distantly related than in inbreeding. This is the tool responsible for the creation of the variety of dog breeds we know today. Many successful breeders opt to linebreed, such as a breeding to grandparents or a half-brother to a half-sister, which helps them to keep their bloodline strong and consistent.
  • Outcrossing is a mating between distantly related dogs. Many breeders consider outcrossing to be an efficient tool to ensure health, strength and longevity. Breeders who want to introduce diversity in choosing breeding partners would use outcross breeding to find specific strengths in another dog that complements one of their own.

Keep in mind each breeding is different. For example, breeders may use inbreeding for one litter and linebreeding the next time. Regardless of which type of breeding you choose, it’s important to thoroughly research pedigrees. It also is a good idea to seek the opinions of and advice from experienced breeders.

Published August 2013

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Whelping Healthy Puppies

A temperature drop in the dam is one of the first signs of labor and whelping. The process continues with the dam having contractions and ends with the birth of the puppies.

It is important to be present during whelping, especially with a young bitch having her first litter or an older bitch that may show disinterest in her puppies. Attending whelping may prevent mortality that could occur from inattention by the dam, trauma or cannibalism. Another important reason to be present is that if neonates are born small in size, you can rub them to dry them, stimulate respiration and help keep them warm. Low birth weight frequently is associated with immature lungs, and puppies with low birth weight can become hypothermic very quickly.

One of the most common causes of puppy mortality during whelping is hypoxia, or lack of oxygen. A green or greenish-black discharge from the dam indicates placental separation. If this discharge appears and the puppies aren’t yet whelped, they may not be getting enough oxygen.

A common error some breeders make is giving medications such as oxytocin or ergonovine to help induce labor in cases when the bitch’s contractions aren’t strong. If you do this without consulting your veterinarian, it could be dangerous because these medications facilitate premature placental separation, which causes hypoxia.

Lastly, in whelping healthy puppies, the whelping area should have adequate heat, but not be hot, and should be a clean, quiet area without extraneous noise and stress. 

Published May 2014

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