Teaching a Puppy to be a Stud Dog
Although this may sound frivolous, you really do need to “teach” a male how to be a stud dog. Start when they are about 12-16 weeks by letting the baby run with older intact bitches. The bitches will almost always put the baby in his place. The baby needs to learn to take social signals from the bitch. When it comes time for breeding, the bitch will usually signal her readiness. If she is not ready, she may become aggressive and possibly hurt the male if he continues to try to force himself on her. By running them together when the male is young, he will be taught by the bitches what is acceptable behavior, and what is not. Second of all, NEVER correct a young male for mounting a bitch. Either separate the two, or allow the bitch to correct the boy herself. Given the opportunity a bitch will almost always take care of herself. If she has been corrected for being aggressive (such as when she is on lead), encourage her to take action, but do not yell at the boy.
First Time Breedings
The age of first breeding for males varies from owner to owner. Males are usually physically capable of producing puppies by 8-9 months. Many owners like to wait until the male is older, more mature, and has had all his health screenings. A younger male can sometimes present a challenge to breed because their ridiculous enthusiasm combined with a lack of concentration can make a natural breeding almost impossible. The bitches also tend to lose patience with an over-eager male who doesn’t know what he is doing. In these cases, an artificial breeding might be needed to get the job done and keep the young male safe. If you intend to have your male perform natural breedings, you will have to spend time with him in the beginning helping him perform. If natural breedings aren’t important, or you wish to do only artificial breedings for health or safety reasons, you also need to work with the male to teach him how to be collected. First time breedings are best with experienced bitches. Try to avoid maiden bitches (although sometimes this just isn’t possible), aggressive bitches or bitches who have had past reproductive problems. If you are going to attempt a natural breeding, make sure the bitch has stood for a natural breeding before, or is at least even-tempered enough to allow misbehavior from an inexperienced stud dog. If this will be an artificial breeding, make sure the bitch is properly restrained and is no danger to the stud dog.
Care of the Bitch
One of the most challenging parts of keeping a stud dog is having to take responsibility for someone else’s bitch – keeping them safe, healthy, happy, and ultimately sending them home pregnant. Most of these bitches will be kept in conditions different from yours, which can cause stress and make a successful breeding more difficult. The key is to make the bitch feel at home, providing her with a happy and relaxed atmosphere and keeping stress to a minimum. Try to move her to your house as early in her season as possible.
Questions for the bitch owner
- How is the bitch kept at your house? Crated, housedog, kenneled, or a combination.
- How many times a day does she eat and what does she eat?
- How many times a day is she exercised? Is she walked on leash?
- Is she used to children? Other dogs? Other household animals? Common household noises?
- How often does she come in season?
- How many times has she been bred?
- How many litters has she produced?
- Was she bred naturally or artificially?
- Has she ever been ovulation timed? Is so, please provide details.
A natural breeding performed at a time when both the bitch and dog are ready is your best chance of a successful conception. However, at least with most Cardigans, this doesn’t happen often.
Artificial Insemination Breedings
Artificial breedings are relatively easy and can be done at home. Most stud dogs are easy to collect, and after learning proper insemination techniques, it is comfortable for the bitch.
If a natural breeding cannot be achieved or isn’t desired, try to determine the best time to breed the bitch by the behavior indicators mentioned above or by ovulation timing. Get all your equipment together before putting the dogs together. I use a latex sheath with a test tube attached for the collection part of the breeding. Other acceptable equipment is a plastic baggie, Dixie cup or 60cc syringe cover.
Put the dog and bitch together and encourage the dog to mount the bitch and attempt to breed her. Have someone restrain the bitch. When the dog is ready a bulb will form at the base of his penis close to his body. Reach underneath and push his prepuce (sheath) back to expose his penis and hold him behind the bulb. Allow him to thrust like he would for a natural breeding. Place the semen receptacle at the bottom of his penis, or place the latex sheath over his entire penis. The ejaculation produces three fractions of fluid – the clear pre-seminal fluid, the semen, and the prostate, or post-seminal fluid. Production of semen occurs during the long thrusts towards the beginning of the collection. If using a clear receptacle you can see that the semen fraction of the ejaculation is milky-colored. It is only necessary to collect the first two fluid fractions, although it doesn’t hurt to allow the third fraction to be collected and inseminated. When the collection is complete, make sure the dog’s penis is totally retracted and that the prepuce isn’t rolled or pinched before putting the dog away.
The insemination of the bitch is best performed with a rigid plastic pipette or a flexible plastic tube. I prefer the pipette because it doesn’t bend back on itself when placed in the bitch. Use a syringe attached to the pipette or tube and draw the semen GENTLY into the syringe. Make sure you do not draw any air through the semen as this may damage the collection. After the collection is in the syringe, turn the syringe upright and draw another 5 cc’s of air into the syringe. The air helps move the semen further into the bitch when performing the insemination. You may want to lubricate the pipette or tube with a small amount of KY jelly or other non-spermicidal product.
The bitch’s vulva is lower than her vagina. For this reason you will want to straighten the path of the pipette or tube by placing a finger into the bitch’s vagina and pulling the vulva up and into line with the vagina. Run the pipette or tube along one side of your finger and as far into the bitch as you can go. Do not force the pipette or tube to go any further than it will as you can puncture the vagina. Raise the bitch’s rear end so it is above the level of her head and slowly push the ejaculate then air into her vagina. Slowly pull the pipette or tube out and lower the bitch back into a standing position. Place a lubricated finger into her vulva and gently stroke the top or side wall of the vagina until you feel her abdomen contract. This is called feathering and it helps move the semen up and towards her cervix and simulates a natural breeding. 90 percent of forward movement of the semen is caused by the bitch. Continue feathering for about 5-7 minutes. After an artificial breeding I like to place the bitch in a quiet place and not let her outside to urinate or exercise for at least two hours.
Important Note: Most veterinarians suggest elevating the bitch during the feathering stage of the insemination. For Cardigans I do not like to place the bitch in a position that will cause her spine to be vertical for any length of time. This is for her back health, and I have personally not seen any difference in the conception rate using the standing position.
Collection for Fresh-Chilled or Frozen Semen
The collection method for fresh-chilled or frozen semen is identical to a live artificial (with both dog and bitch present) with just a couple of exceptions. First of all, a bitch may not be present and the stud may not want to perform without her. Teaching a dog to perform without a bitch is difficult and some just won’t ever do it. Being able to secure a teaser bitch, or the use of an artificial pheromone is often helpful. As a last resort, the stud dog can be injected with a safe, short-acting hormone to achieve a collection.
My old stud dog began having trouble with his prostrate when he was 7 years old. This caused him to have bladder infections. In the beginning, we believed it was just chronic urinary infections, possibly from his food. But when a vet found his prostate gland enlarged and dipping down into his abdomen, we began a different treatment meant to preserve his fertility. (This was after arguing with one vet for twenty minutes about my conviction that unless his life was in danger, he was not going to be neutered.) These treatments included rounds of antibiotics combined with herbal supplements. They were successful and helped give him a couple extra years of reproductive health.
Everyone has their favorite aspects of breeding and showing dogs. I find stud dog management to be my least favorite. The responsibility of keeping outside bitches, timing breedings, and then performing them can sometimes be inconvenient, and often overwhelming.