I have arranged to take my bitch to be mated during her next heat. Can you tell me anything I ought to know?
Having chosen your male sire for the future litter by pedigree, by seeing his offspring, and by noting the qualities you wish impressed on the offspring—above all his masculinity and temperament—you will have the job of seeing if your bitch likes the chosen mate. Some bitches are distinctly shy breeders and absolutely refuse to have anything to do with the dog chosen for them. This can be extremely annoying. Nowadays artificial insemination is used in rare cases and no doubt it will be used more and more in the future, but unless such facilities are available, natural mating is still essential. If the bitch is determined to have nothing to do with the dog of the owner’s choice, she may have to be allowed the last word in the matter of choosing a sire. One can sometimes hold the bitch in position for the dog if she is really to be mated—which one can test by taking her near the dog, when she will stand provocatively with her tail flat on her side—but I feel this is a bad thing and might cause injury to the bitch. Always let her play with the dog first, if possible somewhere where they can be alone but watched. She may be coy at first and then suddenly decide to acquiesce.
Sometimes difference of height makes mating difficult. Breeders use raised ground to counteract this or even a box for a small dog to stand on. This mating of difficult cases should really be left to experienced breeders; the average owner need only take the bitch along to the stud dog and call back for it. Some novices have been frightened at the length of time the dog and the bitch are joined together, but this is a perfectly normal thing and calls for no interference.
Some people prefer to mate a bitch twice, and of course if the bitch were left with the dog, they would mate many times, but this is not a good thing. For one thing you do not want too big a litter, especially for a young maiden bitch.
Occasionally a terrible-looking puppy is born and the owner of the bitch runs cursing to the owner of the stud dog, but it may simply be a throwback, or atavism as it is called, and nobody can tell which side has this hereditary tendency. In such cases it is of course wiser not to use the same stud dog again. If the same thing happens again with a litter fathered by another sire, it is obviously the bitch’s fault, and she is not one to be used for breeding purposes. In cases where a mating does not induce pregnancy, the usual thing is for the bitch to be entitled to one free re-mating.
The bitch stays in heat anything up to twenty-one days, but for the first seven days she is passing a bloodstained discharge and will not allow male dogs near her. After the discharge ceases, she will usually be ready to mate on about the ninth to the fifteenth day, but there are variations on either side of these dates.
Sterility can be due to a number of things. Lack of estrus, or heat as it is called, is a common cause. Bitches usually come in heat for the first time between six and nine months, and most commonly in spring and autumn, but nowadays under artificial conditions bitches show estrus at any time of the year. Then again twice annually is the usual thing, but some of the small breeds come in heat only once a year.
Sterility can be cause by the absence of ova, or by stunted growth that affects the genital organs. It may also be due to nymphomania, which causes the bitch to be almost continually in heat and which is in most cases due to chronic inflammation of the ovary; sometimes it is even caused by cysts. Only an examination by a vet can help in these cases. The lack of vitamin E has been found to cause sterility, as has excessive fat. Too much inbreeding causes weakness of the strain and is a contributory factor to sterility.
A lot of sterility is caused by the male dog; in the absence of sperm, a deficiency of semen and excess fat are all causes, and examination of the semen under a microscope will determine if lack of live spermatozoa is the cause. Naturally any disease in either male may also result in temporary, if not permanent, sterility.
Nowadays the judicious use of hormone products helps to reduce sterility. While we are on this subject, should a bitch in heat escape and be accidentally mated, heat can be brought on again by Stilboestrol given by the vet and the pregnancy terminated. This however must be done quickly.
Finally there are some general remarks for owners of bitches. Never breed a bitch at her first heat, but wait for the second. Never breed unless you want to do so for pleasure or profit. There still goes around the old wives’ tale that if you don’t breed a bitch, she will get ill and her uterus will get diseased. This is nonsense: pyometra (pus in the womb) happens just as often in bitches that have had puppies as with those that have not, probably more. The other fallacy is that to breed a bitch stops her having false pregnancies or pseudo pregnancies as they are called. This is not so.