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Breeding You Boxer Bitch

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This is intended as a guide only. Although we are experienced breeders, we do not profess to know everything about the subject and professional advice should always be taken. There are many good books available on the subject some of which we list later on. The owner of the stud dog, dependant on their experience, should also be able to advise you

THE BITCH

Your bitch should be in good health with her vaccinations up to date, she should be the correct weight, which is around 25 – 27kg (55-60lb), she should be wormed and ideally heart tested by a veterinary cardiologist.

It is unwise to breed from your Boxer bitch at too early an age, so ideally she should be at least over eighteen months old, of sound temperament, and should have had at least one normal season. The bitch usually cycles twice a year, though it is not uncommon for them to have one season in ten to twelve months. As a season approaches, the bitches vulva will swell, this can occur up to a month or so before she shows any signs of blood loss or ‘colour’, so it is important to keep a close eye on her to pinpoint the onset of her heat.

THE STUD DOG

The stud dog should also be in good health. He should be heart tested clear, (by an approved veterinary cardiologist) and copies of his cardiac grading certificate should be available to you. Well used stud dogs are usually given the once over by the vet from time to time, and swabs should be taken to ensure they are free from infection - this has always been the case with our boys. He will be friendly and biddable, and a very good example of the breed, he may well be a show dog and hopefully, of such quality that he is KC studbook qualified, he may even be a champion. It should be possible to see examples of the pups he has sired to give you some idea of the depth of quality of his progeny, if he is the sire of quality pups then you will probably see some of his children winning in the show ring. They should also have sound temperaments, and health. You should also be able to visit the stud dog and his owners to help you be sure you are making the right choice, this will also give you the opportunity for an in depth discussion with the stud dog owners regarding the mating, eventual whelping and rearing of the pups.

Usually the stud dog owner will also be able to help you find suitable, permanent loving homes for the ensuing puppies.

It is customary for the bitch owner to travel to the stud dog for the mating, if you are travelling any great distance then it might be wise to have your bitch blood tested, or swabbed by your vet to ensure that the mating will take place on the right day, with optimum effect! Bitches do vary; some will be ready to be mated around day 10-11 while others might be as late as day 19! You will probably be asked by the stud dog owner to provide a copy of your bitches pedigree, and registration documents.

Stud arrangements will be made before the mating takes place, and it is important to know what they will be, if a stud fee is waived in lieu of a puppy you will need to know what would happen in the eventuality of only one pup being born, or if there was only one coloured pup (God forbid!!) these things must be taken into consideration.

Mating can be a stressful time for a bitch who has lived as a pet with you in your home all her life, so it is not particularly advisable to leave her with the stud dog owner, if you do have to leave your bitch then make sure that the owner of the stud dog has the necessary insurance to cover accident, injury, loss, or theft of her, and a license allowing the boarding of dogs.


   THE MATING

You should be made fully aware of the details and any conditions relative to the mating in writing, this should include things like free mating should she miss, or any specific arrangements regarding the size of the litter etc. The size of the litter is down to the bitch, the dog produces millions of sperm at each ejaculation, so if the bitch does not have many eggs waiting to be fertilized, or she is mated at the wrong time, then the litter will be small, or she will ‘miss’ (have no pups).

When you arrive at the studs home, your girl should have the opportunity to empty her bladder and familiarise herself with her new surroundings before the mating takes place. The stud dog owner usually handles the dog and you will be asked to handle your bitch. It is usual for mating’s to be supervised in order to avoid injury to either of the dogs, a maiden bitch may be a little nervous and her behaviour could be unpredictable.


Once the preliminary introductions are over, the mating will get under way. Stud dogs vary; some are like the proverbial bull at a gate, while others engage in a bit of foreplay to win the bitch over somewhat. He will sniff and lick at the bitches rear; this is thought to assist in arousal. The bitch will flag her tail over to one side, and lift her vulva, signalling her readiness to be mated. The dog will mount the bitch and clasp her with his forelegs. This process may be repeated several times, the dog will then penetrate the bitch, make a few more thrusting movements then rest his weight on her back. It is not uncommon for your bitch to become vocal at this point, though not always, the stud dog owner usually takes some of the weight off the bitch until he is ready to turn. The dog will shift his weight from her back and turn so both animals are back to back, this is called the tie and although it is not necessary for a fertile mating most breeders like to see this take place. They can remain ‘tied’ for varying lengths of time, though twenty minutes seems to be about average. Both animals will be settled and relaxed, it is not uncommon for the bitch to fall asleep at this time!! Eventually the tie will break, the bitch will release the dog and they will separate. The bitch should be taken away from the dog so he has time to ‘tidy himself up’. The bitch can then retire away from her ‘husband’, and the dog will probably have a drink after all his efforts.

The paperwork will be attended to, Kennel Club documentation for registering the litter, copies of health certificates, pedigree information and a signed receipt with any stud agreement listed. Most stud owners offer a repeat mating forty-eight hours later. It is important not to allow your girl to come into contact with other males, as it is possible for her to be impregnated by more than one dog at each season.

PREGNANCY

Pregnancy in the bitch lasts between fifty-seven to sixty five days, though the average is sixty-three days or nine weeks. Your girl should carry on with her usual exercise regime, and she should continue being fed on a good quality feed. She will dictate to you when she needs to slow down. Often one of the first signs of pregnancy is a change in her temperament, she might become clingy and ‘precious’. Though don’t be fooled as they can do this if they are having a phantom too!!


A vet can make pregnancy diagnosis at about four weeks, an experienced vet will be able to palpate the bitches’ abdomen and feel the small foetal units. Alternatively and ultrasound scan can be performed to diagnose pregnancy. It is a frustrating time waiting and wondering, is she isn’t she, but all will be revealed eventually!!

At around 32 days she may well develop a vaginal discharge, this is a fairly reliable indicator, though it should be clear/white with no smell at all, if she develops a coloured or offensive smelling discharge then this is a cause for concern and a veterinary opinion should be sought as soon as possible. Her teats will redden and lengthen possibly from as early as 28 days, but this is not reliable, she should develop breast tissue at around 35 days, but again this can be due to a phantom pregnancy too!! At about six weeks, you should see a definite change in her outline, she will look fuller and altogether heavier. She will be hungrier and will need some extra food, divided up into several small meals a day. She will also begin to slow down somewhat at this time, and generally begin to take care of herself.


Have the chosen whelping area ready well in advance, with a good sized whelping box lined with newspapers. As your girl approaches her due date she will visit the area and dig the papers up, this is thought to be as practice for the big day – a kind of limbering up. She may want more peace and quiet at this time too, let her do her own thing and be guided by her. She will need peace and quiet and warmth, she does not want an audience when she is having her puppies, so an area of the house that is quiet and away from the general house traffic and hubbub is ideal.

WHELPING

Positive signs of labour are turning her nose up at her breakfast, digging in the whelping box, frequent visits outside to relieve her self, a general uneasiness, and panting.

As she progresses she may start to shiver as a result of the pain she is beginning to feel. Clinically her temperature will drop to around 98 degrees, though this can be transient and easy to miss – we don’t bother taking a bitch’s temperature as we feel she has enough to contend with at this time. Once we are sure labour has started we inform our vet so they are aware - and can leave the surgery prepared should any problems arise during the night. She will settle down quickly in her whelping box as labour progresses.

She will have periods of restlessness, and intermittent deep sleep. Keep a quiet, calm watchful eye on the proceedings keeping a written record of events in case you need to contact the vet. Eventually a water filled bag will appear, though this might break inside her in which case there will simply be a gush of fluid, allow her to lick this up as it has hormonal properties that will help with her contractions. Her contractions should become progressively stronger, (if we find there is no progress after an hour then we contact the vet)if all is going well and progressing normally, then she will begin to push or bear down, sometimes you can see this happening in the form of a ripple along her flanks, other times it becomes apparent through the change in her breathing pattern.


We allow our girls to push for an hour – if there is no sign of a puppy at the end of an hours pushing then we give our vet a call to let them know there may be difficulties ahead, it is also nice to have a reassuring professional voice at the end of the telephone too! As the first pup descends down the birth canal her vulva will become fuller, a few more pushes and the pup can be glimpsed with each push, until it enters the world. It is usually still encased in a fluid filled bag (though not always), break the bag with your thumb and forefinger, and begin to rub the pup with a clean towel, the afterbirth will probably slide out very quickly after the pup - still attached by the umbilical cord, pinch the cord for a few seconds then it can be cut about an inch and a half away from the pups abdomen with a sterile pair of scissors. We encourage our girls to eat the afterbirth if they want to as it contains valuable hormones, which will help stimulate labour.

After much licking and fussing from the new mum, the pup should be encouraged to suckle and feed on the all important first milk or colostrum. Make a note of the time the pup was born and what sex it is, also any differentiating markings, this will help later on with identification of the pups. Each pup should arrive with an afterbirth or placenta, if not then it is important to make a note of the fact – any retained products can lead to infection and real complications for your girl and litter. There may be a lull between pups, or they may be born in quite quick succession, the key is to keep a close eye on her and her brood, and keep a note of her contractions. We offer our girls a drink of milk and glucose periodically to help keep her strength up, she may settle down and rest for a while in the middle of delivering a large litter as though she is gathering her strength up, the suckling pups will stimulate her contractions and help her labour along. Once all the pups have been safely delivered she will settle down with them, they will be warm, quiet and glossy, and suckle happily and contentedly, mum will also be contented and relaxed after her efforts. When you are sure whelping is over, it is important to get mum to go and relieve herself to make her comfy, at the same time clean, fresh paper and vet bed can be put into the box for her return.

We get our vet to make a house call as soon as is reasonably possible to check mum and the babies out and give her a shot of Oxytocin if necessary.

AFTERCARE OF MUM AND THE NEWBORN PUPPIES


Newborn pups cannot maintain their body temperature so it is a good idea to have a thermometer on one of the sides of the whelping box to help you keep an eye on things, a steady temperature of around seventy degrees is recommended. It is suggested that the majority of postnatal puppy deaths are caused by factors of which low temperature is probably the most important, which is entirely within the control of the breeder.

The average birth weight of a Boxer pup is a pound though this can vary of course. In the early days a careful eye must be kept on the pups and mum to make sure that each one is thriving, and that the umbilical cords are healing properly, the bitches teats need checking over daily too, it is important to also check any vaginal discharge.

The healthy pup should double his birth weight in the first nine days of life, and by three weeks old his weight should have quadrupled.


Weaning can begin at around nineteen to twenty one days, depending upon the pups and the dam, some pups are reluctant to wean at this time so be patient. We wean our babies very gradually onto a good quality puppy food suitable for their adult size and weight. Weaning is usually completed by about six weeks, though a good mum will still allow the pups to suckle long after this time. By the time the litter is seven weeks old there should be no real size discrepancy, all the pups should be around the same size, though the males might be slightly bigger than the females in the litter.

On the whole, the Boxer is an easy breed providing they have the quality of care they deserve, of course there can be problems associated with mating whelping and weaning but the conscientious stud dog owner will be on hand to advise you through out the process and answer your questions as they arise, as well as your veterinary surgeon.

We have purposefully not gone into too much detail as this is designed to be a guide only, however we are happy to discuss mating whelping and weaning issues, and answer any questions if we can.


Some very good books are available on the subject, we would recommend:


The Book of The Bitch, by Kay White

Dog Breeding, The Theory and the Practice, by Frank Jackson

Boxers An Owners Companion, by Ivor Ward Davies (this one might be out of print now)


© Shakatan Boxers 2010