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What to expect when you're expecting Puppies! - Part 1 - Mating season

Maisy - Mum to be

This series of blog posts will guide you honestly and (I hope) with humour through the key stages of planning for and expecting puppies, from mating to pregnancy, whelping to rearing and homing. When I went through this wonderful (stressful, exhausting, hilarious, messy…) experience myself at the end of 2013 I spent a lot of time reading books and researching every stage of the process on the internet, but failed to come across a comprehensive and helpful guide that was geared towards ‘amateur’ breeders. People like me who live in towns and intended to try breeding just once, for the primary purpose of creating a blueprint of their beloved pooch.

This series of blogs won’t replace a professional guide by any means, but intends to cover all the bits and bobs I wished I had known from the start, plus things I worked out along the way that were well worth knowing.

Disclaimer bit: I am not a vet and all advice given here is purely based on my personal experience. I can thoroughly recommend The Book of The Bitch as a professional guide for all stages of the process.

Are you ready?

Before I get into the nitty gritty of mating, let’s talk about whether you should be considering having puppies at all. With the experience still fresh in my mind and an eleven-week old puppy joyfully padding around my feet as I type, these are the questions I would ask any friend considering jumping on the puppy bandwagon:

  • Do you work from home or have otherwise flexible working conditions that will allow you (or your partner) to be at home 24/7 for a week prior to whelping and six weeks after the puppies arrive?
  • Do you have money / access to money to pay for all sundries* associated with doggie pregnancy, whelping and rearing puppies, plus a guaranteed spare £1000 in case a caesarean section is needed?
  • Do you have a quiet place at home for a whelping box to be set up?
  • Are you a little bit mad?

If the answer to all questions is a strong ‘yes’, please proceed…

Arranging the mating

We always knew we’d like a litter from our Working Cocker Spaniel, Maisie. Purely because she’s a wonderful dog and we’d like to carry on her line and keep one of her puppies as a companion for her. So last year my husband and I agreed that when she had her next season, we would look into getting her mated. Her seasons had always been somewhat few and far between, so we knew it would be a case of seizing the day – "make puppies while the sun shines" and all that.

Maisy and her new toy

So early in October 2013 Maisie came into season, and we agreed that this was a good a time as any to start. I had recently left my job as a teacher and was working from home, so it all made sense logistically. We had a few eligible bachelors in mind for our girl, but ended up taking her to a local Gundog trainer whose stud dog had fathered most of the Cockers on our local shoot.

Things worth knowing

  • A bitch tends to be most fertile from roughly the twelfth to the sixteenth day of bleeding. The first day you see blood is day one.
  • A bitch will only “stand” (put her tail to one side and allow the stud access) when she is at peak fertility. Clever thing.
  • Most breeders will recommend two or three matings during her fertile window, and the success rate is generally very high according to everyone I’ve spoken to.
  • The going rate for a stud fee is £375 in the south of England, which we though was a better deal than allowing the stud dog owner pick of the litter. If your breed is likely to fetch more than the stud fee per puppy, try to pay a stud fee rather than offer a puppy as payment.
  • A stud fee should allow repeat visits until pregnancy is achieved. So you won’t get a refund if the mating is unsuccessful, but you should be allowed to try again next time for no extra cost.

The next installment Part 2 - Pregnancy is now available to read.

*I estimate that the entire puppy-making process from stud fee to pregnancy scans to vaccinations and registrations and food came to £1500. 

Alice West

Alice West lives in Buckinghamshire and is the proud owner of two gorgeous black Working Cocker Spaniels called Maisie and Dotty, and a one-year-old human called Matilda. Dotty came from Maisie's first litter of puppies - all girls - born in December 2013.

Running a copywriting business from home means Alice can enjoy lovely dog walks on her lunch break, and is distracted frequently by Spaniels chewing her shoes, begging for food and fighting over toys. She works Maisie and Dotty on a very sympathetic local shoot in the winter months. 

View Alice's Google Plus profile here

Alice West

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