“Dog breeding is like any creative art and combination of science. But most of all its about hard work and learning all the time. It’s about trying, making mistakes and learning from them.” Juha Kares 2016.
Benjamin franklin supposedly said “if you fail to plan, you plan to fail” and as I’ve just continued to read in a blog by William Bouffard from 2013 Thomas Edison once said “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10000 ways that won’t work”.
I agree with the blog author in that this Edison comment isn’t quite the mind set we should be in when learning from the past when it comes to breeding a living being. We don’t get many opportunities to “fail” as usually failing puts us in life and death situations with our pets or their progeny.
It still amazes me how many people think it’s “easy” to breed. Don’t get me wrong, fundamentally it is. Dog meets bitch, bitch flags her tail a little, dog follows for a walk round the grassed common and ….. well…. You know where I’m going with this. We’ve all watched THAT scene in Lady and the Tramp. He definitely woo’s her with the spaghetti.
That part, for the most part IS easy. But is it? Are the star crossed lovers made for each other? are their breeds compatible (this isn’t an anti cross breed post at all but a great dane and a chihuahua?? Commmmeee onnnn aint a nice image is it?).
Are they healthy ideally health tested specimens of their breed? Has she reached her peak ovulation or is the duck pond walk foreplay for a main event a few days later. Is “Tramp” firing on all cylinders so to speak? Are his swimmers up to the free style relay flowing towards him?
Does he have form and know what he’s doing (living up to his name of course) or is a little human intervention required? Maybe “Lady” ain’t a lady at all and snarls a serious “back off buddy” warning as soon as he comes within a country mile?
All joking apart these and many many more issues can rise when breeding and this is just the tip of the ice berg. There’s the pregnancy, whelping and rearing of pups. Suitable diets, delving into vet support and vetting of new homes before you even start on problem pups and potentially life threatening issues to watch for in mum.
I received a call this morning from someone with an 8 month old pup just out of season and she’s considering mating her next time. The lady caller wanted to learn about “breeding.” Just about to run out of the door on the school run before starting my days appointments and trying to take in the mammoth task that was being asked of me, my response was that she may be needed to buy numerous books, read up on the wealth of info on social media and the internet, chat to numerous breeders within her chosen breed about health testing etc and maybe enjoy her puppy for at least another year and come back to me and we’d chat again.
Ok, so I am rubbish at my job in that light. I know for a fact others in my position would have taken the opportunity to offer stud services immediately and cash in on the poor girls naivety for their own gains but I couldn’t sleep at night. Hopefully, she’ll take my response in the means it was meant and come back to me in a year with food for thought.
And then to the lovely lady I met this afternoon with her bitch in pup with an estimated 6 babies due just next week give or take to the resident stud muffin. We chatted about the accidental mating’s and she, as many clients do, told me “she’s not a breeder”. My response now to this almost daily phrase is, ‘you are now my love!”
It is our responsibility not just as breeders but as dog owners with entire opposite sexes at home to educate ourselves on the beautiful art of breeding.
From the spaghetti dates to the cute little fluffies with red bows at the end of the hopefully happy, if not a little traumatic in the middle, movie.
I am in the final stages of completing my “Need to Know….” Packs which previously have been electronic form for some clients, and now will be in printed copy in handy folders to help ease your research into the world of breeding a little more gently.
To add to that I am almost through reading Sara Lamonts new book “not born yesterday” which I highly recommend already! An easy read for the experienced and new breeders out there looking for that extra bit of reassurance that if and when your babies make babies you’re fully prepared for what’s to come!! Being a bestie of the author I’ll have a special offer available next month to purchase both my pack and Sara’s book for a limited time at a discount fee;)
while you’re taking five minutes to read this post, you’re naturally thinking over your own breeding experiences past or present… maybe you could impart in the comments your biggest mistake or your best advice to a newbie? Maybe we can help each other from making the same 10000 mistakes Edison did ?
I’ve got chills !!!!
I’m a professional so I can’t loosssee controllll…
I just can’t understand some breeders and their understanding of what it means to own a stud dog.
For me, a stud dog owner should be;
*Fully prepared for what owning a stud can and often does entail, including the constant scent marking, potential aggression towards other males and naughty behaviour in general to name a few.
*Be experienced in their breed of choice, enough to be able to support anyone that may potentially use their dog anyway and preferably have a number of litters of that breed under their belt so they can lead by example.
*Hopefully be knowledgeable about health testing within their chosen breed.
*And most of all BE AVAILABLE !! For advice and support and actually for the stud service itself, its kind of vital that bit :)
Just this last week alone, we’ve had more than a handful of clients that have progesterone tested with us and then at the last minute had to change their chosen stud to someone available when the bitch was ready to be bred or had to breed their bitch much later than we had advised. This risks the bitch missing or worse a singleton litter because the stud dog owner wouldn’t / couldn’t be available on the days they were needed despite being given notice throughout the testing process, if not prior, as it was in most of the cases this week.
It really surprised me some of the reason we’ve heard have been given to our clients …
“We only allow our stud to be used on Tuesday afternoons and Sunday mornings”
What If the bitch is ready to be mated on a Thursday? She has to wait till Sunday and her breeder pay their stud fee ( as of course all of these breeders charge upfront!!??) for her to have a high chance statistically of not getting in pup at all so late after ovulation.
“Only one mating allowed.” Don’t get me wrong, we can pinpoint through progesterone testing when the optimum time would be for that one mating. But what about the thousands of breeders out there that choose not to test or don’t know about testing yet? This breeder offered no advice what’s so ever just stated, you get one mating and that’s it and of course the mating had to be at their convenience.
The best one was stud fee’s that altered depending on what day the dog was mated… really apparently we should all be on double time on a Sunday.
We’ve done studs in our PJ’s at 6 am and 11pm when a client has had to come for a mating right away or on their way from work. We’ve been mid meal sooooo many times and had to rush back from Crufts one year with a stud client waiting on the wall outside on our return at 9pm for a mating with Winstone and we have never quibbled our availability and we work round our clients as much as we can. I’m on the phone regularly and recently even advised the stud owners puppy buyers as that’s what I personally feel my responsibility should extend to for the best of my breed. Although, I do know sometimes I go much further than would be expected of me!
Contrary to some clients expectations of us, we don’t have a stud of every breed in our office, we can recommend studs in the area in some breeds if we’re asked though.
However, that doesn’t help for example one breed we are working with that only has a handful of studs available to her in the whole of the UK. The difficulty tying in with the stud dog owner is making this experience awfully stressful for a fairly new breeder and a breed that really does need to be preserved or risk falling into the almost extinct category.
Please Please research your studs before you decide to mate, have some correspondence with the stud owners prior to your girl coming into season if you can so you can each share your intentions and manage each other’s expectations. If you own a stud, please try to be empathetic to your clients. It’s not ideal doing a mating during Sunday dinner but if that’s the bitch’s optimum time it really should be done. At the end of the day, you’re being paid handsomely in most cases for the slight inconvenience of cold roast tattys.
Maybe the Dodo had really awkward breeders who just didn't want to get out of their cave too early back in the day and that’s why they really failed to survive ?
The Value of Poo.....
On the way to school the other morning, my eldest (5 years) and her little friend who has a lift to school in the morning with us, were having a conversation about poo.
My daughter I’m sure started the topic with some comment or other about her poo being particularly difficult to squeeze out into the toilet bowl that morning. Her friend, full of sympathy and concern for her asked, “why was that then?”
The response that came back made me laugh out loud.
she said to her friend in a very serious tone, “because I think my body just needed all the extra energy from my food this morning, I did have a busy night dancing in the kitchen with my sister last night while mummy made our supper so I think It was probably that…”
She went on to say, “you get out what you put in don’t you mummy?”
My poor child is really picking up on the things I say it would seem as in our house, it's not just the children obsessed with Poo. As much as I hate to admit it.
Steve can de poop the back garden, which we have to do on a bi daily basis with the number of dogs we have at home, and he can come in and tell me that “chilli’s off colour” or “junior must have eaten something that’s disagreed with him”
We can determine poodle poop from chihuahua poop at 50 paces and for some reason every dirty bugger wants to eat Snowy’s poops (Christ knows why they bloody stink!) so hers have to be picked up first!
We are no more obsessed than when we have a litter though. Those first few weeks of poo can tell us so much about how a pup is feeding and developing. The first few days of poo, much like a human baby, can be all sorts of colours from green to black dependant on the birth experience or diet mum is fed on pre birth. I love to see the “chicken korma bird seed” type poo’s that come through once a pups digestive system changes and they start to digest the fats with the sugars from mums milk. Mum fed pups tend to have firmer stools, these can be so much fun when you have a breed that needs to be manually toileted such as ours rather than mum doing all the work to clean and toilet her pups. You can stimulate the bowel to move using a cotton pad soaked in warm water and as the poo starts to evacuate the pups body, you can literally guide it out with the pad. My challenge to myself with these isn’t dissimilar to that of a child with a play dough spaghetti maker… how long can I get it to come out whole without breaking! If it wasn’t such a taboo subject I would be happy to photograph this poop for public viewing! Unfortunately it’s my close breeder friends who tend to get those what’s app’d over and the return pings of “yey” and “look at that ! amazing” keep me on a high that my pups are doing well.
If the pups have loose poops or maybe have a spot of blood in their poops we have a freak out moment while we figure out what could be the cause of such a messy outcome. Sometimes it can be that the pup is formula fed, therefore much more likely to over feed as the milk hits their tummy faster than if they’d had to work it from mum themselves or it could simply be bacteria passing through.
Mum fed pups can have issues if mums diet changes. Again, quite common with a feeding mum that has become food fussy during her pregnancy and now expects changes to her daily diet to entice her.
My eldest was right though, you really do get out what you put in, so its important to research your dog’s food rather than just feeding what’s convenient. Take the time to test them for any allergens and read into what diet is good for their breed/exercise level.
Particularly if you plan to breed your dog, it’s so important to have them at optimum health and keep the diet of the expecting mum consistent, ensuring the pups keep to the same diet to aid their digestive system throughout the weaning process.
And obviously bare in mind that dancing in the kitchen at night pre supper leaves a risk of morning constipation, you really do get out what you put in…..
How ironic that I actually wrote this post a few days ago and in the last 48 hours I have had 7 conversations regarding poo of different forms and had 4 images of poo sent to me. I even had one lovely person “save” a poo to show me on my visit so I could comment on its consistency!!!!
That IS a question !!
It may or may not surprise you to hear that I am fairly regularly asked whether a human pregnancy testing stick will work on a dog.
Many breeders are too excited to find out whether their prized pet is “up the duff” and look for quicker or cheaper method to confirm their suspicions before the recommended 28 days for a definitive ultra sound scan.
Now, while I could probably make a fortune sharing the videos of various clients chasing their potentially pregnant pooch round the garden with a cup in a vain attempt at collecting even a drop of urine to then sit for 3 minutes waiting to see if that little blue line appears …
The simple and honest answer is No. A human pregnancy test will not work on a dog.
Canine and human hormones are completely different and the human hormone HCG (human chorionic gonadotropin) (clue is in the human part) which is used to determine a marker level in the pregnancy test stick to confirm or decline a pregnancy just isn’t produced by a dog and therefore the sticks can’t determine whether your girl will hear the patter of tiny feet.
So what’s the best way to confirm pregnancy for your dog ?
To wait until she’s a minimum of 28 days to her last mating and to have an experienced mobile technician ultra sound scan for you,
preferably meeeeeeee !!!!!!
Anyone who knows us will know, Winstone (AKA multi Champion Pride of Bully Winstone to give him his Sunday name..) is Steve’s pride and joy. He’ll be 10 in a few weeks and when the dog gods made a bulldog they made them with Winstone in mind. He is literally the template bulldog with his thick boned legs, snuggly chops and wrinkly face. A bum that wiggles when he’s happy and as lazy as the day is long.
He plods outside for the toilet in the morning and then instead of exploring the garden like everyone else does on their first jaunt outside, Win sits back down on the door step, looks to the sky, sighs and watches the world go by him until the door reopens and he practically runs back inside as this means his bedroom is clean and his breakfast is ready!!
He’s more than happy to have a lead on and go for a walk but he’s slowed down significantly in the last 12 months and after years of pounding the show ring and travelling Europe for shows without ever so much as a limp in his movement, he has the odd day now where he is clearly ginger while moving and he has started with little arthritic callouses on his joints.
While on a social visit to my vet nurse bestie, I mentioned the changes I’d noticed with Win and she suggested the complimentary therapy Lasering that was available weekly there at the surgery.
She filled me with success stories and said Winstone would be a perfect candidate. I took the leaflet home and said I’d have a think over Christmas.
Amongst other new year’s resolutions I decided I needed to get my corner in order this Christmas so being in a proactive mood I booked Win’s initial treatment for this Thursday just gone. The first session is free so Winstone and I had nothing to lose.
On arriving Win decided to take a massive poo right in front of the tills and then another once we were in the consult room!! The dog who rarely poo’s away from home, often going for a day or two while we were away showing has now decided he has no inhibitions and can drop a bomb anytime and anywhere. On fumigating the room Lianne our technician got to work on discussing Winstones ailments and working out a programme to ensure maximum benefit for us. The laser itself is a painless laser energy absorbed in water which increases local circulation and therefore draws oxygen and nutrients to the damaged area. It creates optimum healing and reduces inflammation, swelling and stiffness.
Winstone was comfortable through out the 10 or so minute treatment and promptly flopped to the floor once Lianne had completed the session for a snooze while we continued to chat about the potential benefits of K Lasor.
The treatment, at just £30 a time, is shown to help with all sorts of ailments from joint pain to chronic wounds, mastitis to hot spots and isn’t just reported to help our furry friends there is a human laser too. Check out www.northernlasertherapy.com
I’ve re booked for next week so I’ll report back on our findings as we go through our planned 6 weeks of treatment but a friend has just commented on seeing Win tonight how well he looks and how he doesn’t seem as stiff as usual, I hadn’t mentioned prior to her comments where we had been so that’s a positive already!
Food for thought from a bad day in the life of a Dog Wnkr!
I had an appointment with a client recently who’s bitch I scanned 4 weeks previously. With an estimated 7 pups, I was asked to re scan her a few weeks later on the basis that the bitch wasn’t gaining weight as expected and wasn’t far off being due. On meeting the dog for the second time, I noticed how much weight she’d lost as soon as I walked through the door. Roughly 3 kg lost the poor girl hadn’t kept any food down and was being sick constantly after she ate, drinking lots and was generally under the weather the client quickly brought me up to speed. I noticed how dreadful the poor dogs breath was as soon as I was down at her level, literally so pungent I’ve never smelt anything like it. My first thoughts were that I was going to find an awful case of pyometra infection as soon as I put the scanner to the abdomen.
On scanning I found no sign of pregnancy, which was to be expected with the symptoms but what I did find baffled me. The right horn looked to be consistent with an absorbed litter the left horn had a mass that was inconsistent with anything I’ve scanned previously. I called a fellow technician for her opinion and on looking at the scan images again we both agreed the bitch required attention from the vet as soon as possible.
With permission of the client I rang ahead to a vet practice we use and recommend and to cut a story short, the vet wanted to see the dog immediately and with the client having no vehicle accessible I took the client and her dog to the vets for attention.
The vets agreed with me that the mass detected was strange and not something she or I had seen in the uterus before so after discussion with the client the vet took the dog in for exploratory care and agreed to call with the outcome of bloods and various other tests.
The call I received from a distraught owner wasn’t what I was expecting at all, we were informed that the dog was in fact in kidney failure. The vet explained that it was a chicken and egg situation that she didn’t know whether the absorbing pregnancy had basically poisoned the system or the kidney failure had prevented the pregnancy from progressing. We are still none the wiser as to the mass as the poor girl was too poorly to be operated on to confirm what it was and despite the best efforts of the vets she was kindly PTS two days later to prevent any further suffering.
On the journey home feeling completely deflated I had a call from a client I’d scanned for again, approx. 4 weeks prior. As this client explained his situation, and bearing in mind the morning I’d just had, I was concerned and agreed to go and see the bulldog bitch on my way home.
On arrival I was met by a happy bouncy bully and the client filled me in on the morning they’d had which seemed equally as traumatic as mine! The bitch had started to lose discharge the evening prior and early into the morning I was told. Now, this client only has the one dog and this is their first litter so on speaking to the stud dog owner and being filled with dread they flew down to their vet and took the dog in for help.
The first vets basically turned the client away as they don’t have an ultra sound scanner and sent them to another practice, not before charging a full consult fee of course!
At the 2nd practice, the dog was scanned and the client told the discharge meant the bitch was losing her pups and only one heart beat was found and one dead pup with no heartbeat. Not the 4/5 pups that had been estimated a few weeks before by me. The client called me as a last ditch attempt to get some clarity as to what was going on as he was shocked at being sent away with a hefty bill from the vets with no advice or further action.
On scanning I found my estimated 4 puppies, all of which were alive and well as far as I could see and all measured appropriately for the stage of gestation. The bitch also obliged my desire to see the discharge she’d shed the evening before by depositing some up my arm as I scanned! It was a thick, creamy, snotty jelly like mucus which I know to be an end term discharge lost by dogs and humans alike before a labour commences. It’s the bodies way of naturally lubricating the path the puppies will take on their bid for life during labour.
How can one vets practice be so different to another and on the same day?
As I drove home once again my thoughts drifted to the what if’s of my day.
What if the first client hadn’t rung me for a second scan? Would they have just come downstairs one morning to their girl dead in her bed or gravely ill more so than she was today? They were being informed by others who hadn’t seen the girl that her symptoms were those of pregnancy and the owner was begged not to overly worry….. it was the worst possible outcome for the owners.
What if a scanner with less knowledge than me had attended this clients scans or without the confidence to admit they weren’t sure of what they were seeing the way I did and would simply scan, say “sorry no babies now” and be on their way with cash in their pocket?
As it was, this client didn’t drive so there was no way I could walk away, I put the client and her dog in my car and took them the 10 miles to the vets, waiting in the practice to be able to explain on their behalf to the vet my findings and share the images of the scan. The client commented during our wait that no one else would go to those lengths. To be fair I know colleagues across the UK that maybe wouldn’t have either but there is no way I could have just left her like that when I knew I could help.
With the second case, the four pups I predicted were born alive and well just over a week later and mummy dog is a truly doting mummy!
I can’t tell you how many horror stories I hear about vets who maybe haven’t ever bred a dog or maybe don’t know the ins and outs of what dog breeding entails. Vets who frown on breeders and speak to them with disdain like the vet that filled one clients head with comments such as “now you’ve bred this bitch her uterus will fill with pus” I’m all for being honest with a new breeder on the risks of rearing a litter and I am also well aware that there are breeders out there who really shouldn’t be breeding for one reason or another but shouldn’t we be educating these people properly rather than vilifying them as most will go ahead and breed anyway which then puts the bitch at further risk.
But then to be fair, the horror stories I hear from the vets we work with on the expectations of breeders who don’t research and understand the biology and potential risks behind breeding their bitch. The ridiculous expectations they have of their vets, such as the client who asked a vet “at what point do you come out to do the C section then mate” gave visions of kitchen table butchering with steak knives crashing into mind. I guess it’s equally as frustrating both ways.
All I can ask, no beg, is that prior to breeding or at least once your girl is confirmed to be expecting that pitter patter of tiny paws that you research your breed and breeding in general. know the potential risks and what if’s with regards to breeding your chosen breed.
Look into and ask for recommendations of vets in your area, where is your nearest out of hours and do other breeders recommend their practices? Social media makes this sort of thing really easy and maybe make an appointment to go and chat with your vet prior to any dramatic situation occurring. Find a vet your confident knows repro and can handle the unexpected for you without you needing a small mortgage for their care.
My day ended nicely with a beautiful standard poodle scan. 29 days gestation and a happy litter cooking away from what could be seen on the ultra sound. I couldn’t help imparting my experiences of the day and begging the client to do her home work as to local vet practices. If all that happened that day just helps her to take heed it might just have been worth my stress and upset on a day which actually started as my day off work!
The washing will get done another day I’m sure. ;) x
I walked my poodles in the pouring rain last weekend. They absolutely loved it, and thanks to my new waterproof trousers, so did I. One thing I noticed and was surprised at, is how many other crazy dog people there are in the world! I expected to be the only one walking with my daft dogs but no, I passed 5 or 6 other dog walkers, like me, wrapped up and in waterproof clothes and enjoying some time out from the rat race whatever that maybe. Avoiding a nagging spouse, cranky kids or a boss that wants more and more work from you. Maybe there’s a poorly parent to be looked after or maybe just maybe amongst these people there might have been someone not very well themselves but while we are all walking around this soggy parkland, we smiled at one another, the odd one gave a nod and two people even stopped to comment on my dogs and I theirs and pass pleasantries about the weather and time of year.
In all breeds at the minute we seem to be suffering with this overwhelming negativity in the ranks and it makes me wonder where it starts or grows from.
Is it the element of competition between breeders I wonder? it’s not even exclusive to show breeders. I know of some cross breed associations that have squabbles between them too always resulting in people having their feelings hurt, not feeling able to speak out and ask a question to better their breeding practices and everything having to be kept cloak and dagger for fear of being cast out by whichever breed association or hierarchy of old skool face breeders.
Is it because we are passionate about our respective breeds and want the best for the breed or does it boil down to money and who is selling puppies and who isn’t and who has a well-used stud dog and who doesn’t? Is it about personal reputations and who doesn’t want to be knocked from the top spot by someone else rising the ranks of the breed be it by breeding more puppies, “better” dogs or within the show world winning more classes or CC’s?
Is it purely that there are some nice people out there, those who would help anyone, chat to anyone and be warm to anyone and some maybe just not so nice people? Is it that simple that its just natures way, survival of the fittest?
When a chosen hobby or career choice, as breeding dogs is for some a job, brings a group of people with the same attraction together sparks fly as they would in any institution such as the police service or people who work together in a café for example.
Maybe it is just a sign of the times with social media being what it is that we are automatically as a race on the defensive or are willing to scrutinise the lives or practices of others without judge or jury.
We’ve all been there for the gossip …”well such and such has had a litter with 3 eyes” …. Really … !! hey, Mrs such and such did you hear mr blah blah had a litter with 3 eyes and I heard another grew a 4th!! … and so it continues.
Sometimes these stories have some element of truth, but without knowing the background behind the story, or the personal issues of the person involved how can it be used as stick to beat them publicly?
And more recently the threat of choice between camps seems to be “I’ll report them to the council” ?
Why do we never sit back and think hmmm I wonder if the person at the receiving end of the group abuse is ok, have they got private issues or reasons why the litter was born with 3 eyes?
By the way, I have no idea why I’ve used that as an example. It was the first thing that came to mind and just to be clear, no I haven’t nor do I know anyone that has produced a litter with 3 eyes!!
Why does no one pick up the phone anymore and ask “are you ok? I heard your litter has 3 eyes, do you need any help”
The call recipient might just burst into laughter and explain that in fact the litter doesn’t have 3 eyes at all, or they may well burst into tears and explain the 3 eye issue and ask the caller for help and advice. In any walk of life there’s the new starter that doesn’t know and the old timer that has the experience to share and together they can learn going forward. After all, none of us know it all now do we ?
So, while I enjoyed my walk with the poodles I the pouring rain I enjoyed the peace, both physical and metaphorical.
Not one person I met along my route commented on he said or she said …. Not one smirked and passed negative comments on my attire, my personality or my dogs. It was nice, it made me smile walking home and made me feel good. For that hour, in the park, we were comrades, the other dog walkers and I. We had a common interest, a shared reason for being there and a mutual respect for one another …. Maybe just maybe … it’s just nice to be nice ?