After spending years as a loving gun dog owner, you may decide that you want to try your hand at gun dog breeding. The idea of looking after puppies and finding good homes for them would appeal to many gun dog owners, but this is just a small part of a large undertaking. This ArdMoor guide is here to help you decide whether breeding gun dogs is right for you and to offer some hints and tips along the way.
Selecting the breeding parents
One advantage you may have as an owner who works their gun dog is your knowledge of the breed and the qualities you expect to find in each dog. This will help you in choosing your Stud (father) and Dam (mother). The items which require thorough checking prior to selection are genetic background (to ensure the pair are not directly related and prevent the genetic defects of inbreeding), temperament and physical characteristics. N.B. Before reviewing physical characteristics, be sure to research any common problems which are associated with your chosen breed. For example, Labrador Retrievers are known to frequently suffer from hip displaysia, which can cause problems with walking and running. You should also check that the dogs are the right age for breeding and consider having a professional vet provide a second opinion on the health of your chosen Stud and Dam.
When to breed your gundog
You will know that your Dam is shortly to be in heat when her oestrus cycle starts three days before she is ready to breed. If you keep the Stud close by, he will start to react to the Dam’s odour which is an indication the cycle has started. Wait approximately one week after you start to observe the Dam showing signs of coming in heat before letting the Stud in the pen with her. Advice on how many times to let the pair mate varies, however both dogs can be in the same pen for a day or two without any danger to either of the dogs. Once you are certain the Dam and Stud have been together, remove the Stud to another pen or return him to his owner if you have arranged a stud service from another breeder.
Keeping your Dam healthy
Your responsibilities for keeping the Dam healthy and happy now start! Give her a balanced diet and any supplements which are recommended by your vet. Keep the Dam’s kennel clean and provide plenty of fresh water and clean, comfortable bedding. When the Dam’s nipples begin to turn pink and swell, you will know she is carrying puppies and the delivery time is near. The gestation period for a dog is approximately 60 days or just over. During the final three weeks of her pregnancy, provide extra nutrition. Consider changing to puppy food, which is formulated for puppies and pregnant or nursing bitches.
It is important to have a ‘whelping box’ prepared for the birth. This will be approximately six inches longer than the Dam when she is lying down and about a foot wider. It should include a rail to prevent her from lying on the pups after they are born and you should be able to access all areas of the box. N.B. Place alternating layers of plastic sheeting and newspapers in the bottom of the box, so that as the bottom becomes soiled, you can slide out a layer of paper and a sheet of plastic, leaving a clean layer in its place. Be on your toes when the time for delivery is near. Dogs can suffer from stillborn pups, breach births, and other problems. If you see any problems, like slow birthing, or partial birthing, don’t hesitate to take your Dam to the emergency vet as you will have no time to lose.
After the birth
Once the birthing is complete, keep the pups warm. Make sure they are all able to nurse. Take time to examine them for any birth defects. The Dam will clean the pups by licking off the afterbirth and helping the pup position themselves for suckling. During the first few weeks, watch the puppies carefully, making sure they stay clean, warm and that the mother is providing enough milk.
After around 4 weeks, they will become increasingly active and outgrow the whelping box, so you will now have to move them to a larger one. After about six weeks, take the gun dog puppies to the vet for the necessary injections, vaccinations, worming, and any other requirements. At this point you may wish to have the vet check for other health or hereditary problems, as well.