How to Get Dogs to Mate

Three Parts:Making Sure Your Dog is a Good Choice for BreedingMaking Sure the Female Is in the Right Stage of the Reproductive CycleMating the Dogs

Mating dogs isn't as simple as throwing them together and letting them breed. In fact, breeding your dog is a time consuming and costly undertaking. You should only mate your dog if you feel you are improving the breed, and are able to keep all the puppies should suitable homes not be available.[1] Before mating your dog, make sure you have all the information necessary to make these responsible decisions.

Part 1
Making Sure Your Dog is a Good Choice for Breeding

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    Wait until your dog is old enough. Just like human beings, dogs need to reach biological sexual maturity before it's medically safe for them to breed. This is especially important for the bitch (female dog), as her health might be put at risk by a pregnancy her body is not prepared to carry.
    • A male dog should be at least 1.5 years of age before breeding. A female dog should be on her second or third heat cycle.
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    Do not breed older female dogs. Mating a bitch whose body is too old for pregnancy can be as dangerous, both to mother and litter, as early breeding. There's some disagreement among breeders about what should be considered too old. In general, you shouldn't breed a bitch older than 4 — especially for large breeds that have shorter lifespans to begin with. If you have a medium or small breed, you should still think hard about breeding an older dog. However, proceed with extreme caution if your bitch is between 4 - 6 years old. 7 is definitely too old, even for small dogs.
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    Research the genetic conditions that affect your dog's breed. Before mating your dog, you must be aware of the inherited conditions prominent in your breed. For example, Border Collies, Briards, Shetland Sheepdogs, and Rough Collies are all at increased risk of hereditary eye problems.[2] In the US, the American College of Veterinary Ophthalmologists can screen your pet before breeding.[3] If they certify the dog as clear, it can be listed with the Canine Eye Registration Foundation.
    • Regardless of how energetic and healthy your dog seems, every breed has genetic health risks. For example, Lhasa Apsos are vulnerable to inguinal hernias and kidney disease, while German Shepherds a prone to hereditary hip dysplasia.[4]
    • You should also research the specific dog's bloodline. If your pet has specific problems that can be pinpointed in his bloodline's medical history, you should not breed the dog.[5]
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    Pay close attention to hip dysplasia in medium-to-large breeds. Though it affects them at a higher rater, smaller breeds like Cocker Spaniels can also be affected. Some dogs may not display any symptoms of this condition, but they still should not be bred if they have this issue.[6]
    • Hip dysplasia is the deterioration of the hip joint, so the hip socket sits too shallow in the end of the femur bone. This condition can cause arthritis, destroying cartilage and causing severe pain. Breeders should not pass this trait
    • A radiologist will x-ray your dog's hips. This can only be done once the dog has achieved skeletal maturity, after 2 years of age.
    • They will have to put your dog under general anesthetic so he won't move during the x-ray.
    • The x-rays are then sent off to an independent panel of experts who "score" features on the hips. The lower the score, the healthier the joint health. Only animals with low scores should be bred.
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    Check small breeds for patellar luxation. This condition affects the knees, and causes your dog’s kneecap to slide out of place and lock the leg straight. Smaller dogs are more prone to this issue than larger ones.
    • Diagnosis for this condition is straightforward, and surgery can correct this condition. Still, no dog with patellar luxation should be bred, as this is a hereditary condition.
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    Neuter any dog that fails a BAER test. It can be hard to tell whether an animal can't hear you or if it's choosing to ignore you. The BAER (brainstem auditory evoked response) test actually measures the electrical activity in the ear, though.[7] If a dog fails the BAER test, you know with 100% certainty that the dog would pass down genes for deafness. These animals should never be bred.
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    Have your dog checked for heart conditions. Many breeds suffer from breed-related heart conditions. For example, Boxers are at risk of subaortic stenosis, and Cavalier King Charles Spaniels of mitral valve disease.[8] The veterinarian will likely perform an ultrasound scan on your dog to screen for potential concerns. Any red flags should eliminate your dog from potential breeding.
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    Confirm that your dog has the right temperament for its breed. Many common breeds have specific temperament tests, such as a Working Aptitude Evaluation for Dobermans.[9] You can also take a Canine Good Citizen test, which is open to all dogs and will assess your dog’s temperament and level of training.[10] Therapy Dogs International and other therapy dog clubs have temperament testing that separate actual temperament from training.[11]
    • If your dog has any temperament problems, such as being untrustworthy around people, overly aggressive, excitable, or a biter due to fear, you should not breed it. Even if your dog is shy or submissive, don’t breed it.
    • You should breed a dog who is happy, confident, and obedient around both animals and humans.
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    Test your dog for brucellosis. Brucellosis is a bacterial infection that eventually leads to sterility in both sexes. It can also cause a litter of puppies to be aborted or die shortly after birth.[12]
    • Brucellosis is often passed through sexual intercourse. However, an entire kennel can be infected through contact with secretions.
    • Brucellosis can occasionally be transmitted to humans via the dog's urine or feces.
    • Stud dogs should be tested every 6 months. If they test positive they should either be neutered, or treated and only used for breeding after 3 consecutive negative tests.
    • However, bear in mind that a male dog who has suffered from brucellosis may well be infertile in the future, so the chances of a successful mating are reduced.
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    Have a vet do a general physical examination.[13] Make sure that both your dog and its potential mate are in good health before breeding them, and don’t be shy about asking for medical records from the other dog's owner. A responsible breeder will try to improve the breed, not pass on genetic flaws that will pose health concerns in the next generation. The dam (female) must be in good health to withstand the stresses and rigors of a pregnancy. Indications of good health include:
    • The dam being in ideal body condition and weight for her breed. You should be able to feel her ribs but not see them, and she should have an evident waistline. Being overweight poses a risk of birthing complications, and being underweight will make her struggle to provide nutrition for the puppies.
    • General indicators of good health include a glossy coat, bright eyes, lack of body odor, and eyes, nose and ears that are free from discharge. She should be able to exercise without coughing, and be free from vomiting or diarrhea.
    • Both dogs should be up to date on their vaccinations.
    • Keep in mind that typically, the sire (male)'s owner does not incur any costs and receives the pick of the litter as a form of payment. The owner of the dam pockets income from the sale of the remaining puppies, but pays all vet and boarding costs.[14]

Part 2
Making Sure the Female Is in the Right Stage of the Reproductive Cycle

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    Wait for the dam to go into heat or estrus. When bitches reach sexual maturity, they begin going into heat when they are receptive to mating. Bitches come into heat about every 6 months. This is called her "season," and it last for around 21 to 35 days. The signs of being in heat include:[15]
    • Curving her tail to the side when you scratch her backside (revealing her vaginal opening)
    • Twitching or swelling of her vulva
    • Bloody discharge from her vagina. Note that a bloody discharge in a bitch that is not due in heat should trigger an urgent vet appointment, because it can be a sign of womb infection and can be serious.
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    Watch for signs of ovulation.[16] Just because a dog is in heat does not mean that she is hormonally or psychologically ready to mate. She's best prepared to accept intercourse and get pregnant is when she ovulates. Ovulation is most likely to happen 7 - 10 days after the start of her season, but there is some variation between individual dogs. Some bitches ovulate as early as day 3 or 4, while others ovulate at day 27. Mother Nature is clever, though, and the hormones that cause ovulation also increase sexual interest in male dogs. Thus, the best way to tell when a bitch is ovulating is to see how she interacts with her potential mate.
    • If the two dogs live close to one another, have the female visit every 2-3 days. Be alert to behavior that suggests she's open to his attention.
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    Have vaginal cytology performed.[17] If your bitch's mate lives far away, it's unreasonable to travel every 2-3 days to assess her behavior around him. In that case, you can have a veterinarian do a vaginal cytology on her. First, he will roll a cotton tip over the mucous membrane of the dog's vagina. Then, he'll roll the swab over a microscope slide, air dry it, and stain it for inspection under the microscope.
    • The cells sloughed from the lining of the vagina vary depending at what stage in her cycle the bitch is.
    • The cells associated with estrus or heat are large, rectangular cells without a nucleus, as well as cell debris. When the number of red blood cells decrease, but these large anuclear cells are present, the bitch is most likely to be receptive.
    • When the "moment has passed," an increase in white cells start to appear, as well as nucleated cells, and red blood cells.
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    Ask the vet to run a blood test. A blood test for ovulation is an alternative to vaginal cytology, and is likely the preferred option for many breeders. The blood test measures progesterone levels in the bitch's blood stream and looks for a significant rise that suggests she is about to ovulate.
    • Before ovulation, blood progesterone levels are generally below 2 ng (nanograms). They rise to 5ng acts as a trigger to ovulation, and after ovulation they continue to rise and can reach 60 ng.
    • To detect ovulation, it can be necessary to repeat the blood tests every couple of days. To catch that critical 5ng red flag for ovulation, you should start testing before the expected ovulation date.[18]

Part 3
Mating the Dogs

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    Consider artificial insemination for far-away mates. Artificial insemination (AI) is often used to encourage desirable qualities in breeds and eliminate undesirable ones. It's often used to preserve rare breeds, and is a good alternative when your best mating option lives at a great distance. Sperm is collected from the sire, checked by a vet for activity and quantity of sperm, then stored. It may be chilled if insemination will happen within a few hours, or frozen in liquid nitrogen, in which case it can keep for years. The bitch is then impregnated, ideally around the time she ovulates. The sperm is transferred into her reproductive tract using a long soft rubber tube. Ideally the sperm is placed close to her cervix, which is where natural mating would deposit it.
    • You can purchase artificial insemination kits online or in pet stores.[19]
    • Keep in mind that artificial insemination still has not reached the same success level as natural breeding. Expect a 65% to 85% success rate, with better results for smaller litters.[20]
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    Shave the hair under the female’s tail. If your female is a long-haired breed, there's a chance her fur might interfere with the mating process. To guard against that and prevent wasted time during your ovulation window, consider shaving the hair under her tail to improve your chances.
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    Bring the dam to the sire. Taking a male outside of his normal environment can cause insecurity and distraction for him. This, in turn, might make it difficult for him to successfully impregnate the bitch. To avoid this problem, set up a breeding area somewhere he's comfortable. This should be a private, enclosed space at the sire’s home, ideally outside, where they can breed without distraction.
    • Normally, only two handlers should be present — preferably you and the owner of the other dog.[21] Don’t bring in any strangers who might distract the dogs.
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    Introduce the dogs. The mating process should not be rushed — let them get to know one another. The dogs may need several hours or days to get comfortable in each other's company. The time length can vary based on a dog's previous breeding experience, disposition, and the timing of the breeding attempts.[22] You may find that the dogs get along just fine, but "as friends." In this case, it's likely the bitch is either not ovulating and not ready to mate, or is not psychologically ready to mate.
    • The latter can happen with dogs that are particularly bonded to their owners and see themselves more as a person than another dog. If this is the case, do not force the mating — this is akin to canine rape.
    • Accept that your bitch is not psychologically suited to mating. If, despite her liking the male dog, nothing happens, then that's how it's going to be.
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    Provide constant supervision. The dogs should never be left alone, even if the process takes a long time. The most important thing when mating dogs is to ensure their safety at all times. Keep them on leashes and place a gentle nuzzle on the female, especially if she is a virgin. She may lash out at the male if she's not feeling receptive.
    • Talk to the dogs in a soft, encouraging voice to help them feel secure or comfortable.
    • Never yell at them if you are frustrated or annoyed by any failed mating attempts.
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    Note signs of interest from both dogs. An interested sire will sniff the dam's backside, and an interested dam will lift her tail to give him access. The male may also lick the female's vulva and attempt to mount her if she appears willing and ready.[23]
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    Adjust the dam's position if she doesn’t stand still. She may get overly excited or distracted when the male shows his interest. To keep her still, put her head in the crook of your arm and hold her in the standing position with your hands. You can then shift her position until she's in front of the sire.
    • The other handler can hold her tail out of the way.
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    Allow the male to enter the female from behind. Once inserted, a part of the sire's penis called the "bulbous glandis" will swell.[24] This increased size will cause it to lodge inside the female's vagina. Bitches have strong sphincter muscles at the opening to the vagina. These muscles contract around the swollen penis, further securing it inside the vagina.
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    Don’t be alarmed if the dogs take a "tie" position.[25] This is when they turn and face away from each other as they mate. The male will slide his front legs off to one side of the female and usually lift one hind leg over her back, so they are both standing rear-to-rear. They are now “tied” by the holding of the sire’s penis in the dam’s vagina.
    • This behavior is perfectly natural during mating. The dogs can stay tied for a long time — the average being 15 to 45 minutes for most breeds.
    • The mating process takes at least 20 minutes. One theory behind the tie is that it protects the dogs from attack during this vulnerable period. In the original mounted position, the male's back is unwatched and his genitals are exposed. When both dogs' faces and jaws face outwards, they present a formidable defense against would-be predators or other dogs looking to mate with the female.
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    Comfort the dam if she gets vocal when the dogs are tied. She may express distress during the first part of the tie and need extra comforting and restraint. Always restrain a female when they are tied; she could pull and hurt the male or herself. It's very dangerous if the dogs try to separate the tie before they are physically capable of doing so, so hold and comfort the female to ensure they do not separate.
    • After the sire ejaculates, the swelling will subside and the dam’s vagina muscles will relax. The dogs will then be able to release safely.
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    Tend to the dogs immediately after mating. Once the male's penile swelling has reduced and the female's sphincter muscles have loosened, they will separate. It's best not to allow the female to urinate for about 15 minutes after mating. The male's owner should walk him around until his erection goes down and his penis is no longer visible.
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    Re-mate the dogs.[26] Two days after the initial mating, you should try to mate the dogs again. This will raise the likelihood of the sire successfully impregnating the dam. Re-mating the dogs is especially important if you're not sure when the bitch is ovulating.

Sources and Citations

  2. Breed predispositions of the dog and cat. Gough. Publisher: Wiley-Blackwell
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Article Info

Categories: Breeding Dogs