Know Your Pooch
The writer is former director, GSI, and an avid animal lover. His understanding of man's best friend comes from over six decades of dedicated association with it.
Breeding puppies is fun, but if you ask me, it is a highly responsible job. Majority of people think that if you have a dog and a bitch you can or you must mate them. Incidentally, dogs have no emotional problems if not mated. However, in case you decide to breed from your bitch, then you must know something about the genetics. Secondly, you must know how to take care of the brood bitch, how to help her at the time of whelping and also how to wean the puppies and care for them, till they go to their new homes.
I must also add a few more things here. If you are under the impression that dog breeding is lucrative and highly paying business; you are mistaken. Firstly, it is a livestock and there are chances of the bitch not conceiving, miscarriages, deformed puppies being born or if everything goes well then just before they are picked up by the respective buyers, the entire litter becomes sick. It is highly embarrassing at that time, because the advance money you have taken has to be refunded. For professional breeding one has to use a dog with high quality and value. The stud fee to be paid is accordingly high. Plus, in order to maintain the quality of the litter you have to spend a lot on the Vet’s fee plus medicines plus the quality of food. All to all it is a gamble. If all goes well you gain something, else every penny goes down the drain. I am writing this based on my personal experience of decades of breeding Labrador Retrievers and Alsatians.
If you have adopted a bitch from an adoption home or from the street, then please for God’s sake do not breed from her. Because like begets like. There is no point in adding to the huge numbers of pariah dogs choking our streets. If you have a good quality bitch of robust health and even temperament, then yes you can think of breeding from her. But before jumping in to the fray please go through the following to get some insight of the task you wish to undertake.
Once it is decided to breed from a bitch, the prospective breeder should try to learn the art of genetics. The science of genetics is a complex subject and not easy everyone to follow. But the art of genetics or in other words common sense like mating the progenies of same parentage, or taking puppies from a bad or shy tempered bitch etc. produce poor quality dogs. It is unfortunate that most people consider a bitch as a puppy and money-producing machine. Net result is the poor-quality dogs, a common scene these days. Once you have chosen the right dog, it is better to negotiate with the owner about the terms of mating. It can be either a puppy of his choice from the prospective litter or a fee. The approximate date should be communicated to him at least one month in advance. The bitch must be de-wormed at least 15 days prior to mating. She should again be de-wormed 21 days after mating.
Till about 35 days the routine of the bitch should remain the same. She should not be fed extra and she can continue her walks and exercise. One should never attempt to feel or prod the bitch to satisfy the curiosity whether she has conceived or not. In case she has conceived she will be telling her secrets in many ways. Her girth may appear enlarged, her gait may change, she may avoid running down the stairs are some of the signs. After 35 days, irrespective of the fact whether she has conceived or not her feeding and exercise need to be rescheduled. As the puppies in her grow, they exert a pressure on her stomach. Sometime the bitches go off food due to this reason. However, one need not be alarmed. They make up for the loss with a voracious appetite soon. It is better to increase the number of feeds now to three. There should be more emphasis on protein now instead of carbohydrate and starch rich diet. As the time progresses her number of feeds should be increased to four and towards the end that is around 55th day onwards she should be fed five feed a day.
Exercise during the pregnancy is essential. Being heavy the bitch cannot undertake vigorous exercise. Left to herself, she will prefer to laze around. It is useful to take her out on short walks a number of times daily. Some bitches continue to run up or down the stairs. This could be risky. Therefore, if possible, carry her up or down. In case of large or very heavy bitch, walk her on the stairs slowly on a leash. In case you have other dogs too, it is safer to keep her away from them in the advance stage of pregnancy. The impact of other dog during a bout of play can even kill the fetus. A brood bitch needs plenty of calcium. The quantity and quality to be given should be discussed beforehand with the Vet. A deficiency of calcium is many times fatal for the bitch.
Like all animals the bitch is concerned about the safety of her pups. Therefore, her instinct drives her to prepare a nest for the expected young ones. She may decide that your bed is the best nest for her purpose. A number of people tell me that their bitch delivered puppies on their quilt at night. This is bad for her as well as you. A whelping box of suitable size should be prepared in advance and placed in a less frequented room or any other place where children and guests will not bother her. The bitch should be conditioned to stay in the whelping box at least 15 days before her time is due. Forcing her to new box or place can be traumatic for her. In order to protect her puppies from the new situation she may even ingest her puppies. Normally, nature takes care of everything, but often the combination of a novice bitch and a novice owner is detrimental for the pups.
She begins to whimper, pant, dig, may go off food and may seek dark corners. At the final moment she exerts and at that time she needs you. Many owners say that she should be left alone at that time, as she may attack, due to a feeling of insecurity. However, I completely disagree. A bitch whelping for the first time feels more insecure if let alone. It is best to sit on a comfortable chair with something to keep you busy, say for example carry a book to read or now a days your cellphone. But please don’t talk on the phone, just use Wats App or any other social media platform. Don’t show your nervousness. Keep a thermos flask with hot coffee.
Unlike humans a bitch may carry more than one puppy. Sometimes even 11 or 12 puppies are there. After much strain the first puppy comes out, wrapped in a Caul or a fluid filled bag. She would normally tear it herself and vigorously clean the pup, may ingest the bag in the process. No harm in that. The next thing she does is to cut the cord. In case she is not able to do these things, you may have to assist her. Keep some dry towels, Dettol, water in a basin ready. Wash your hands well before attempting to help. The moment puppy is cleaned he begins to sniff, cry and crawls to locate a teat and has the first taste of mother’s milk. Thereafter one after another the puppies arrive.
More about the care of the bitch and her litter and how to wean them in the next issue. Watch out.
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