Breeding a Dog
I am planning to breed my two-year-old Golden Retriever during her next heat. We’ve found a male just two hours away. I know dogs are in heat about three weeks and that the female usually is taken to the male’s house. Does she have to go for the full time?
Before answering your questions, let’s discuss the selection of an animal to be bred. Not all animals are suitable. AKC registration doesn’t imply any degree of quality nor do champions in the pedigree. The most important factors in deciding to breed your dog are the health and temperament of your dog, and its appearance compared to the breed standard. The main reason for breeding a dog should be the improvement of the breed, not for money, getting a puppy, showing kids the miracle of birth or quieting the dog.
You must be prepared to spend a fair amount caring for the puppies and their mom (can you afford a C-section if needed?), not to mention the time and effort to care for the puppies until at least eight weeks of age. Good breeders provide a contract that will reimburse the buyer should problems develop and even take the dog back if buyers are unable to keep her.
Many people want to breed their pet because they think she is “just as pretty as any show dog”. But temperament is genetically as important as appearance. You want a friendly, outgoing pet, not one that is fearful, timid or aggressive. Also important are genetic health traits that can be passed on. Many problems are not apparent, but when hidden (recessive) genes match up in the puppies, major health problems can arise. There are a variety of pre-breeding tests -- for hip or elbow dysplasia, brucellosis, as well as for eye, thyroid, heart, kidney, and liver disorders.
Only after your pet and its mate have passed all of these tests should you consider breeding. If results are negative or if you cannot make a sufficient commitment, you should have your dog spayed or neutered—a step that provides health and behavior benefits.
If breeding is in order, you need to wait for the first signs of heat -- swelling of the vulva and bloody discharge. In a typical heat cycle, the female most likely will be receptive to the male at about the tenth day of the cycle. But there is so much variation, tests are recommended to determine the exact timing. The extent of testing depends on prior breeding difficulties, if the male is near by, if the stud fee is high or if semen is being shipped (frozen or fresh chilled).
For example, if you can take a chance on missing your dog’s fertile period and the male is close by, try taking her to him after about day seven, then breeding her every other day until they no longer mate. If this is difficult, take her to the veterinarian for vaginal cytology. He or she will take a swab of her vaginal lining and look for cell changes. When the cell shape changes from round to square, she probably is fertile again and should be bred every other day for 2-3 breedings.
If you can’t take a chance on missing her ovulation or if the breeding is being done by artificial insemination, your veterinarian can perform hormonal testing as well as vaginal cytology. Blood tests, taken daily or every other day, determine when hormones first begin to rise in the blood stream. This indicates that the dog has just ovulated. Eggs then need to mature 2-3 days to become fertile. Then breeding usually takes place twice, two days apart. Gestation usually is measured as 65 days after hormones begin to rise or 58 days after cells change from round to square shapes.