The Male Half of Dog Breeding Starts with a Healthy Stud Dog
Oftentimes when a dog breeding fails, people tend to overlook the male half of the reproduction equation. In reality, it is best to look ﬁrst for problems with the male dog, advises Margaret V. “Peggy” Root Kustritz, DVM, PhD, DACT, a board-certiﬁed canine reproduction specialist.
“There are several reasons to ﬁrst evaluate the male and exclude problems with him,” says Dr.Root Kustritz, professor of small animal theriogenology and assistant dean of education at the University of Minnesota College of Veterinary Medicine.
“For one thing, males are much easier to evaluate than females, partly because their sexual anatomy is readily accessible. Also, a male breeding sound-ness evaluation (BSE) is relatively inexpensive. In about one hour, a knowledgeable veterinarian can work through the male half of a breeding pair.”
Owners of stud dogs should consider a BSE every year, especially after the age of 5, to ensure the male is fertile. Puberty occurs between 6 to 12 months, with dogs usually reaching sexual maturity within three months of attaining their mature body weight. Sexual maturity has been known to last until age 12 or longer.
“One might expect a decline in fertility with advancing age, and this decline may occur at an earlier age in larger breeds than in smaller breeds. However, there is great individual variation, and a breeding soundness evaluation should always be done,” says Dr. Root Kustritz.
Breeders should not be misled by past reproductive success. “Past litters are not a guarantee of present fertility,” says Dr. Root Kustritz. “I’ve seen a number of ‘proven’ males suddenly become infertile. One of the ways we discover male infertility is when a bitch is bred to a particular stud a number of times with no success.
“The single greatest mistake people make regarding a male dog is to assume he is fertile. Puppies are the ultimate proof of fertility, and beyond that, a breeding soundness evaluation is the only way to know about the stud dog’s fertility.”
A BSE begins with a veterinarian taking a dog’s complete medical history, including vaccination and veterinary records and the dates of illnesses and injuries. A complete sexual history and thorough physical examination are important, too.
“A dog’s sexual history should include information about his sexual behavior, results of a brucellosis test, which can cause infertility in dogs, and past sperm evaluations,” says Dr. Root Kustritz. “The number of females a dog has successfully bred, the frequency of ejaculation and the dates of previous brucellosis tests are helpful. A thorough physical examination helps to determine overall health and how it may aﬀect breeding performance. In addition, semen is collected for evaluation.”
A dog’s ejaculate comes in three distinct fractions:
- The ﬁrst fraction, which is usually clear and virtually sperm free, is released before full erection.
- The second fraction, the richest in sperm, comes during thrusting.
- The third fraction, which is clear with some sperm present, is ejaculated while the dogs are tied, or joined.
“Sometimes a well-meaning breeder will collect the ﬁrst part of the ejaculate that is released during the thrusting and examine it,” Dr. Root Kustritz says. “There isn’t much, if any, sperm in that fraction, so the dog may mistakenly be determined sterile. The third fraction is prostatic ﬂuid. If it contains blood, especially in older dogs, that may indicate a prostate problem.”
Once semen is collected, a laboratory analysis provides information on color, volume, debris, bacteria, and sperm motility, count and morphology. On some occasions, a semen chemistry is ordered to ensure that the ejaculate was complete or that obstructions near the testicles are not present.
Ideally, a stud dog should produce semen in which 80 percent is normally shaped and actively moving. Decreased sperm counts can occur temporarily in instances such as when a dog is exposed to extreme heat for a number of days.
“We have seen a temporarily decreased sperm count some 70 days after a long bout of hot weather,” Dr. Root Kustritz says. “It takes that long for sperm cells to mature, so dogs exposed to extreme heat may become temporarily less fertile 70 days later.”
As for treating male reproductive disorders, Dr. Root Kustritz says owners may want to reconsider a dog’s purpose. “In many instances of reproductive disorders with stud dogs, one may want to take that dog out of service and enjoy an otherwise healthy male,” she says. “If you want to own a stud dog, it may be best to consider looking for another dog.”
Stud Dog Tips
A male dog can be bred on average from 1 to 12 years of age. The more frequently a dog is used at stud, the more proﬁcient he becomes.
Be a responsible breeder and supervise dogs during mating. You don’t want to risk injury to either dog.
Make sure any female that you breed with your dog has been tested for brucellosis and genetically inherited and sexually transmitted diseases. Also, make sure your male dog is tested.
Use a seasoned bitch when breaking in a stud dog. She will be more cooperative and less likely to growl or snap at him than a female being bred for the ﬁrst time.
If possible, use the same location for each breeding. This helps a dog associate that place with breeding. It also helps to choose a quiet place where other dogs are not present to prevent distraction.
Proper conditioning is key to raising a healthy stud dog. Feeding a complete and balanced food such as Purina Pro Plan that provides optimum nutrition for health and vitality is important as well.