BREEDING YOUR IRISH RED SETTER, IRISH RED AND WHITE SETTER OR WELSH SPRINGER SPANIEL PUPPY
If you own a bitch then think very carefully before you embark on breeding from her. The old wives tale of “a bitch needing a litter” is exactly that – an old wives’ tale with no factual evidence to support this. Please consider the expense and the time that you will need to devote to the litter before you make your decision. Breeding pedigree dogs can be a very rewarding and enjoyable experience but it can also be fraught with anxiety, large costs both in the cost of stud fee, keeping the bitch and litter and the veterinary costs involved if the bitch has to have a caesarean section, and absolute exhaustion in looking after Mum and her pups. Also it is not an absolute that you will sell all of the pups at 8 weeks old and the cost and time constraints of suddenly having a number of puppies to look after can be enormous.
If you are considering mating your bitch then I firstly suggest you talk to other breeders to get a clear picture of what is involved. The Kennel Club has an Accredited Breeders Scheme, of which I am a member, which gives you a list of breeders in your area for the breed of dog involved. This is a good place to start and any reputable breeder will only be too happy to talk to you frankly about the costs, processes etc. Also ask the breeder of your bitch for advice as this is usually a good source of information. The Internet is now a haven of information for the first time breeder but nothing beats talking to an established breeder!
No setter or spaniel should be mated before 2 years of age or after 8 years of age. I always worked on the basis that if my bitch was mated then she had at least a year off before I considered mating her again. My Irish Red and White Setter bitch Breeze had three litters at 2, 4 and 6 years of age which I feel is sufficient for any bitch. Also you must be sure that your bitch is sound and well-bred, of good quality, strong and healthy and with no serious faults. Even the smallest fault is usually carried on to the offspring, so be careful. Also make sure that if there are health checks to be done that your bitch and the stud dog you choose have both been through them successfully. If you want more information on the specific health checks for each of these three breeds then please contact me.
Anyone who embarks on a breeding programme for their bitch as a means of making some money is likely to be disappointed. If all the items are costed correctly, the ‘amateur’ breeder is not likely to be in funds at the end of it all and in many cases the breeder is out of pocket. Ask yourself why you are doing this because you should not be breeding without a good reason! There are enough dogs in this world which are abandoned and not looked after already without adding to this problem.
Having decided that you wish to breed from your bitch then the next question is when? as the bitch will probably only come into season twice a year and these are the only times the bitch can be mated. Plan which stud dog you will use, go and visit him in his normal surroundings and talk to his owner about his temperament, his training, his characteristics, check his papers, negotiate the stud fee etc. to give yourself a fuller picture and way up whether this dog’s characteristics and temperament will be akin to your bitch’s. Usually a stud dog owner will ask for the fee at the time of mating; at the time of birth of the puppies or if they like your bitch they might ask for a puppy in exchange for a stud fee. These things should all be sorted out beforehand.
The bitch’s season lasts for approximately 21 days and all bitches are different. You will need to keep a record of your bitch’s seasons and when she is standing throughout her season to give you an indication of the ‘right day’. If you are lucky your bitch will have a number of days when she is happy to stand for the stud dog but it is easy to miss the day even for the experienced breeder. Also make sure that you have noted down Day One correctly. Bitches are meticulous for keeping themselves clean thereby making it very difficult for the novice breeder to know exactly when she has come into season. No two seasons are exactly the same. A bitch can ovulate and be ready for mating on the eighth day on one season and the fourteenth on another season. I always pre warn the stud dog owner when my bitch comes into season so that they can also plan and I keep them fully informed all the way through until I have established ‘the day’ for mating.
If you have never seen a dog mating before then I strongly recommend that you ask a breeder to help you as there are many ways to help the process along which is both advantageous to the bitch and dog and ensures that the mating process is a pleasant event for all of you. Be sure to have on some warm clothes as if the dogs decide to mate in the garden and the tie lasts for a long time then you can get very cold. I clearly remember a mating with my stud dog Damien where we decided to have the mating in the garden as it was such a lovely sunny day. The dogs played together in the garden and then ‘tied’ and about 10 minutes later the heavens opened and we all got soaked. (British weather!)
The pregnancy lasts for about 63 days (9 weeks) but puppies can arrive several days earlier or several days later. If the bitch is over 2 days late then I would contact the vet to find out what is going on. Today you can go to the vet to get a scan to find out how many puppies she is going to have and after 50 days you can get an x-ray which will not hurt her or the pups.
At the time of writing this my Welsh Springer Spaniel bitch Megan is due to produce her first litter next week and her pregnancy has been documented on her Blog – please look here to find out information about what happens during the bitch’s pregnancy.