Breeding Dogs: Common Problems and How to Avoid Them

Breeding dogs is a complicated and costly affair. There are a great number of risks to the health of the dam, to the lives of the pups and to the breeder's pocketbook. If you are interested in breeding your dog, you can minimize these risks by being aware of some of the common problems that breeders face in advance.

The Risks of Inbreeding

Inbreeding, the mating of closely related dogs, has been used to maintain purity of breed and line for centuries. However, inbreeding dramatically increases the risk of genetic defects and hereditary disorders in the offspring. Research particular breeds for possible susceptibility to specific health problems.

Know Your Dog and Canine Fertility

Before you breed a female, you will need to have her tested for temperament, conformation, and overall genetic health. Finding a compatible male is crucial to successful dog mating.

Once you have determined that the dogs are compatible for breeding, you will need to chart and be aware of the female's heat cycle. Knowing when your dog is in heat will allow you to breed her successfully with minimal time and effort. Most dogs come into season every 6 months, beginning anywhere from 4 months to one year of age, although they should not be bred until their third season. The following signs indicate that the female is in heat:

  • Swelling of the vulvaIncreased tendency to mount other dogs or furniture
  • Yellow vaginal discharge, as opposed to red

Studs typically develop sperm by 10 months of age, although they will not produce quality sperm until about 18 months. Studs reach their breeding peak between 2 and 5 years of age.

Understand the Breeding Tie

The breeding tie is the act of intercourse, and it may last up to 30 minutes. During this time, the male's penis will swell inside of the female's vagina and the dogs may squirm, cry out or become afraid. It is possible for the stud to become injured if the female squirms free during the tie, so the breeder should stay near the animals and calm them during intercourse. An injured stud may have difficulty breeding again, so check that his penis has fully retracted after the tie. In the case of artificial insemination, dogs do not run the risk of injury during a tie.

Pregnant Dog Care

Note the dates of all attempts at breeding and prepare for the 9-week gestation period. Do not supplement the female's diet with extra calcium during the pregnancy, but prepare to do so following birth. Beginning at about 4 weeks, gradually reduce activity while increasing meal size slightly.

Dogs need a comfortable and secure whelping box. Pregnant dams should sleep in the whelping box to prepare them for the birthing process. Ensure that the box has a wall to prevent the dam from leaping onto or suffocating the pups.

Prepare for Whelping

Normal whelping may occur within a few days of the typical 9-week gestation period. Some of the typical problems that may develop before or during whelping include:

  • Bloody discharge following presentation of the water sac
  • No contractions
  • Blocking of birth canal

In any of these cases, consult a veterinarian immediately. Human assistance, medication or surgery may be necessary.

If you are considering breeding for the first time, it is important to speak with an expert at all stages of the process to ensure that your dogs are healthy and happy. If in doubt, a veterinarian or experienced breeder will be able to tell you how to breed dogs safely and successfully.