Preparing a Bitch for Pregnancy
Advice from the Keeper's Cottage

The formal shooting season is over, your dog has once again given you its best in the field and you decide you really would like to breed from her.  Apart from the obvious biological fact of your bitch needing to be in season and receptive (usually the optimum time is between days 10 & 12 of her season), she also needs to be in good health, have been recently wormed, checked for signs of any lice or fleas - & treated if required and her vaccinations should be up to date.   

These factors all have their own values.  Obviously if your bitch is in prime health her chances of delivering you a nice sized litter and strong healthy pups is increased.  If your bitch is worm free, all her feed will be doing her good – there will also be less of a worm burden in the pups and they will grow on strongly, making good use of the dam’s milk.  If your bitch is fully vaccinated she will pass on this immunity, to protect her pups in the crucial first weeks until they too are old enough to be vaccinated. 

If you are unsure of if your bitch is at the right stage of oestrus to be mated, especially if you are planning on taking her to a stud dog that is many miles away from you – it may be very useful to have her swabbed by your vet, to predict when she will be at peak mating time.  The procedure is very simple, quick and totally painless.  Your vet will insert something resembling a cotton bud, into the bitch’s vulva and collect a fluid sample, which will then be smeared on a glass plate and tested. They can then advise you on when the best time to mate your bitch is and you can make your arrangements accordingly.  Another tip is if you scratch just above the base of her tail, she will ‘flag’ – ie: pull her tail over to one side and stand as she would for a stud dog.  

A bitch that is receptive may still take a little persuading & courting by the dog, particularly if she is a maiden bitch!  I always like to let them socialise and get used to each other first until the dog is ready to mount her, then to prevent damage to either the dog or bitch, I put a slip lead on her.  Maiden bitches in particular can sometimes try and pull away from the dog prematurely – which can result in serious injury to both, which is why I prefer to do this.   

After penetration the dogs usually tie – this stage usually lasts anything between 15 and 45 minutes, during this phase the dogs will normally change position and stand facing away from each other.  A tie isn’t essential to a successful mating but it is generally preferable as there is then no doubt that ejaculation has taken place and her chances of conception are greatly increased.  When the dogs separate you should discourage the bitch from relieving herself immediately afterwards and keep her quiet for an hour or so.   

Keep an eye on the bitch for a week or so after mating, checking that there is no offensive discharge and that she is generally well in her self.  Then its fingers crossed and on to the next stage – Care and exercise of a ‘hopefully’ pregnant bitch. 

NB. The Kennel Club states that bitches can only be bred from between 12 months old (minimum age which must have been reached before the date of mating) and under 8 years of age (at the time of whelping).  If you have exceptional circumstances for wishing to mate your bitch beyond this age you must apply in writing to the Kennel Club stating your reasons and requesting their permission, prior to mating the bitch – who must have whelped at least one litter previously, in order for any progeny to be KC registered.  You will also need supporting evidence from your vet that in their opinion this mating should be permitted by the KC and of the bitches suitability to whelp at this age, submitted on the eight year form available from the KC.  It is also only permitted to breed a maximum of 6 litters, with at least a 12 month gap between each litter being born, from any bitch. 


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