So, you want to breed your dog.
Here are some things to think about...

by JILL SWEDLOW

There are several different methods of planned breeding used by knowl­edgeable breeders.  All have their good points and their drawbacks.  Sometimes one must simply experiment with the different methods to establish which will work best under any given circumstances.  This, then, brings us to a discussion of inbreeding, linebreeding, and outcrossing.

Inbreeding
Inbreeding is generally considered to be the closest type of breeding possible.  Full brother to full sister, mother to son and father to daughter.  Ironically, an occasional sister/brother mating may not be genetically close at all since the possibility exists for each sibling to have received entirely different sets of genes from each parent.  This is, however, seldom the case and we can assume it to be inbreeding for our purposes.

Those who do not understand genetic principles often condemn in­breeding, claiming that it weakens the animal which it produces.  In many cases this can be true, but inbreeding itself is not the culprit.

By its very nature inbreeding gives the greatest probability that recessive genes will be expressed.  This is because closely related animals are more likely to carry the same recessives in their geno­type than unrelated animals.  By breeding these close relatives to each other the chances are high that two recessive genes, or groups of recessive genes, will meet and produce the trait they control in the animal's phenotype.  Inbreeding's poor reputation is due to the fact that traits which are controlled by recessive genes are often undesirable, such as light eyes or incorrect mouths.  If the trait they control is desirable, then inbreed­ing is considered to be successful, but you usually get some of each.

Inbreeding can be a very useful tool for pinpointing an animal's genotype.  When inbreeding is employed, it is safest after linebreeding has set a type and you have related dogs that consistently produce the qualities you have been striving to "set" in your breeding line.  You should have a very clear idea of what your gene pool is capable of producing and then use only animals whose phenotype is as nearly perfect as possible.  Even then it can be risky, but if successful, you have a real prize.  Inbreeding should be a tool held only in the hands of a knowledgeable breeder, it is definitely not for the novice.

Linebreeding
This practice usually includes pairings such as, niece to uncle, grand child to grand parent, half sister to half brother or a pairing which includes one animal's name somewhere within the first three gen­erations on both sides of the pedigree. Linebreeding is probably the safest approach when establishing a breeding line.  Although recessives can certainly be expressed when using this method, the frequency is not as high as with inbreeding.  There is a wider margin for error here because progress is more gradual.

As with inbreeding, you must be sure to use only superior quality individuals when linebreeding.  You must also be certain that the ancestor being linebred on is himself or herself a superior specimen of the breed, and has the traits you are trying to set in your line.  If you linebreed on faulty animals, you're more than likely going to get faulty pups.  You must also be sure not to breed two animals together that have faults in common.  In other words, if the dog is a bit cow-hocked, make sure that the bitch is perfect in her rear legs.

(another article on linebreeding)

Outcrossing
This is the mating of unrelated animals who do not have any ancestors in common within the first 4 or 5 generations. Unlike inbreeding and line-breeding, this method will do nothing to make the resulting pup more homozygous genetically. It is very difficult to predict with any accuracy what results might be obtained from such a mating unless the outcross mate is, himself, line bred.  The continued use of this breeding method will never produce a group of animals which breed true for any characteristic.

One advantage of this method is that you are less likely to encounter any recessive genetic problems unless the parents each carry these genes.

Outcrossing can best be used when, after several generations of line­breeding you have established a gene pool which breeds true most of the time for the traits you desire, but you find that your gene pool does not contain genes for producing, for example, a beautiful head.  You will try to locate a stud dog, who is from a linebred family with beautiful heads, and who has himself consistently produced pups with beautiful heads.  Even though this animal himself is the result of linebreeding he is unrelated to your own animals and the resultant breeding is considered an outcross.  Then you take the good headed results of this mating and breed it back to your own linebred bitches.  You have now obtained the genes you need to work with in order to put beautiful heads on your future puppies.

Besides the above outlined breeding techniques, there are several others.  I will not go into them here, but many breeding books can fully explain them to you.  Much can be learned from books concerned with breeding other types of animals such as horses, cattle and chickens.  The principles are identical.

Cultures

I routinely have my bitches cultured a couple days after they come into season if they are to be bred.  I request a culture and sensitivity be run.  This way, if there’s an unusual growth of anything, we know immediately which antibiotic it’s sensitive to.  Vaginal flora are a normal occurrence in the vagina.  However, if one of these organisms produce a large growth, it’s a good idea to control it.

If you should be unlucky enough to have a growth of mycoplasma show up, it would be a good idea to forget breeding on this season.  Mycoplasma almost always results in either no pregnancy or dead/dying puppies.  Best to treat the infection and try for the next season.

Rather than using a systemic antibiotic, I prefer to use an antibiotic douche.  Most often these organisms are sensitive to Gentocin which your vet can make into a douche solution for you.

Douching your bitch is easy.  A 500 cc dose syringe and a stallion catheter is all you need.  The bitch, being in season, usually is quite receptive to having the catheter inserted.  It will usually go up into the vagina about 8 inches.  You then depress the plunger and you’re done.  I douche my bitches for 2 days, AM and PM, prior to breeding.  DO NOT  douche within 48 hours of the breeding as you may kill the sperm.

Stud owners would be wise to occasionally culture their studs sheath and treat any problems accordingly.

Progesterone Testing

Depending on the breeding method you use, progesterone testing may become necessary.  I progesterone test even for a natural breeding, especially if the bitch or stud are virgins.  If you’re doing an artificial insemination or shipping chilled fresh or frozen semen, you must do progesterone testing.  All progesterone testing is not equally accurate so talk to other breeders and stud owners who have used these methods, and go to the vets and laboratories who have had the highest rate of success.

The Bitch’s Estrus Cycle

Most bitches will come into season every 6 months beginning from the age of 9 months or so.  Mine tend to have their first season after the age of 10 or 11 months.  For some bitches it is normal to cycle every 4 months.  For others, every 5 months or even only once a year can be the norm. 

The first thing you’re likely to notice when your bitch comes into heat is the discharge of blood from the vulva.  If you have a really bad case of ‘puppy fever’ and you’ve been watching your girl like a hawk, you’ll notice that the vulva will swell prior to seeing the first discharge.  Every book I’ve ever read on this subject tells us that the discharge will change to a ‘straw color’ as the bitch approaches the time she’s fertile.  I’ve NEVER seen this in my bitches.  They continue to bleed right through the breeding dates.  The only change I’ve ever seen is that the blood becomes a little more dilute as the days progress.

If you’re planning a natural breeding, you may wish to skip progesterone testing and go by what the dogs ‘say’.  If this be the case, you might want to present the bitch to the dog on her 10th day for a first ‘check’.  The most common breeding dates are day 11 & 13 if you’re going to do only 2 breedings.  These are the most common ‘fertile’ days for the bitch, but remember bitches can fluctuate.  If you’ve followed this rule on a virgin bitch and she came up empty, I’d strongly suggest progesterone testing prior to breeding on the next season.  Some bitches are fertile on day 8 and some not until day 18!  (Days are counted from the first time you see blood discharged from the vulva).

Natural Breeding

When I take my bitches to be bred, I ask the stud owner about their procedure.  I much prefer to begin with both dog and bitch on lead and the bitch unmuzzled.  I like them to be able to say ‘hi’ first and play a little, which is what nature intended.  Even if a bitch isn’t ready, and snaps, it’s highly unlikely she’s going to harm the male.  She’s just warning him to ‘stay away’ and he’ll understand this and comply.  Sometimes he can talk her into standing while he mounts, and other times, it’s just not quite the right time.

On another note, if a bitch will not stand and tries to savage the dog, she should not be bred at all.  One of the most important traits for which one should select is fertility, and dogs who breed readily.  It’s interesting to note here that the dam of the litter mentioned above that had the temperament and health problems, was a very reluctant breeder.  I had to muzzle her and hold her up in order for the stud to breed her.  Guess she knew more than I did!  I remember too, that her sire GROWLED during the tie!  The resultant litter was full of problems, both temperament and health.

Natural breeding is the most common and most successful method of breeding.  Even with all the scientific advancements I still believe that the dog and the bitch know best when the moment is right!

I like to allow the dogs to meet each other while held on a 6 foot lead.  Some dogs will greet the bitch and invite her to play with him.  If the bitch seems so inclined, it’s to everyone’s benefit to let them both off lead in a small enclosure and let them play.  The dog will usually try to mount right away.  If the bitch is receptive, she’ll brace her hind legs apart, and ‘flag’ her tail to the side.  Often you can allow the tie to occur before steadying the bitches head and helping the male to turn.

The ‘tie’ occurs when the bitch’s vaginal muscles contract and hold the ‘ball’ that forms at the base of the penis.  The natural impulse of the male is to dismount with both forelegs on one side of the bitch.  He will then lift a hind leg and try to turn so that the dogs are tail to tail with only the tie holding them together.  It is during the tie that the bulk of the sperm is ejaculated.  The first fluid is usually clear seminal fluid.  When the fluid becomes milky, it’s full of sperm.

Be sure and have a good hold on the bitch’s head when the tie occurs.  This is often painful for her and she may try to turn and bite.

If the dog is interested and trying to breed, and the bitch is standing well but they’re just not connecting, don’t panic.  The chances are that you’re a day or two early.  Commonly, when you try on the following day, it’s a case of instant tie!

Often the handlers want to constantly interfere with the dogs in an attempt to facilitate the breeding.  It’s been my experience that the dogs are far more adept than we are and if left alone, will accomplish the breeding when the time is right.

The first time I ever attended a breeding was a real education!  I was rooming with Penny Twaits whose mother Kathleen Twaits, together with Jackie White, shared the Tallbrook Farm’s prefix.  (It’s all Penny’s fault that I’m involved with this hobby!)  It happened that Penny and I were at Kathleen’s house when a young, virgin bitch was brought over to be bred to Tallbrook’s Darby Dan, also a virgin.  The dogs were introduced and all seemed to be proceeding normally.  The bitch was interested, Darby was doing his thing, but they were having trouble.  The bitch was not very tall and Darby was having trouble lining up with the target.

This went on for hours it seemed!  They’d try, fail, get too tired, or Darby would get an outside tie, and we’d put him away to rest for awhile.  Then someone got the bright idea of propping the bitch’s rear up a little higher.  Out comes Darby again and it looks like its working!  He’s certainly closer to the target than before.  But still he’s getting outside ties.

After about 3 hours of this, Darby returns from still another rest period and is happy to keep on trying.  I’m standing behind him just as he begins to penetrate the bitch.  Without thinking, I put my arms around Darby from the rear, grabbed onto the bitch’s stifles, and held Darby against her with my pelvis.  Everyone starts laughing at me and it suddenly occurred to me the picture we must present.  Here’s the bitch standing with her butt in the air, Darby is mounted on her, and I’m mounted on him and he and I are thrusting away at this poor bitch!  (Yes, there was a litter.  At least they didn’t put my name on the pedigree!)

What to Expect During Gestation

Obviously you’ll expect your bitch to become much larger as her pregnancy progresses.  Depending on the number of puppies she’s carrying, this is a reasonable expectation.  Trouble is, it doesn’t always happen!  Great Danes are BIG dogs and there’s a lot of room in there for puppies to hide!  A bitch carrying a litter of 1 or 2 puppies may not show at all!  While a bitch carrying 9 might only look to be having 2 or 3!  My little Narcissus was a good example of the latter!  She was a little girl to begin with, standing only about 30½ inches tall.  At only a few days before whelping, I thought she’d maybe have 4 at the most.  No one was more surprised than me when she had 9 puppies!

Be prepared for the possibility of a personality change.  Until Skylark, all my bitches became quieter and more loving and snuggley than normal during their pregnancies.  This is, of course, a nice change.  Then I bred Skylark and I got an education in the power of female hormones!  Lark, who was the baby in the family and had always been the omega bitch (bottom of the heap) suddenly became SUPER BITCH!  She personified the word ‘bitchy’ as applied to temperament.  Every time I turned around Lark was attacking one of the other bitches.  Never her mother Poppy, but poor Jonquilla and Narcissus were fair game!  She’d strut around the house as if it had been built for her and her alone!  She’d pull herself to her full height (in her case that’s TALL) and give the two old ladies the evil eye.  It got so bad that I would kennel her when I had to leave the house, even if for 15 minutes to go feed the horses.  On the advice of a handler friend, I kept a large cooking spoon upstairs and downstairs.  She told me that if a fight started, to shove the spoon into the mouth of the dog biting and it would let go immediately.  I also kept some pepper spray on hand.

I was really devastated because I thought my sweet and silly Lark-a-Loonie, had changed into some terrible devil.  Once she’d whelped and the puppies were 4 and 5 weeks of age, she began to return to the old Lark we all knew and loved.

While on this subject, I should mention a couple other things that happened to Skylark during her pregnancy.  One morning about a week prior to her due date, I awoke to find Lark standing by my bed with her back kind of hunched up and her neck stretched out ahead of her.  When she’d move her neck side to side she’d cry out.  All I could think of was that she’d slipped a disk or something.  She’d move around and ate, but you could see that certain positions were painful.

My vet examined her and asked me if I believed in chiropractors.  (Now I’ve always thought they were quacks, but I believed in and trusted my vet).  After expressing my opinion, I agreed to take Lark to the recommended chiropractor.  Dr. Eaton said that Lark’s neck felt like it was ‘out’.  When we arrived at the chiropractor’s office, she examined Lark thoroughly and had me place my hands on a place in her neck where there was an obvious ‘hole’.  After adjusting Lark (very gently I might add) she warned me that she may be worse the next day but should improve by day 3.  She had me feel her neck where the ‘hole’ had been and it was gone!  Sure enough, day 2 found her really gimpy but day 3 she was almost back to her old self!

I had been instructed to return with Lark for one more adjustment prior to her whelping date.  I had been so impressed with Lark’s improvement, that I had her adjust me too!  (I’ve had low back pain for years).  I improved along with Skylark.

What caused Lark’s problem?  Dr. Eaton explained to me that when the pregnancy hormones begin to circulate, they cause the ligaments and soft tissues to relax to facilitate the whelping process.  This affects the tissues throughout the body.  In Lark’s case, she is a boinger’, she’ll stand in one place and leap straight into the air about 3 or 4 feet.  She’s also extremely active.  This, combined with the hormones, caused her spine more flexion than it should have and it moved out of alignment.

Items You’ll Need for Your Bitch and Her Litter

1. Whelping Box

This is an enclosure where your bitch will give birth to the litter and where they’ll remain until about the age of 3-4 weeks or until they start piling out onto the floor!  You can purchase one of these already made from dog supply catalogs or make your own.  I know one breeder who swears by those plastic wading pools that appear in stores in the summer.  Being round they’re a more natural shape for a whelping area.  I might try one on my next litter.  The biggest drawback I can see to them is having an easily changed and cleaned pad in the bottom.

My dad and I made my first whelping box.  I think it would have held a litter of elephants, he made it so strong!  It was on a base made of 2 x 4’s and a heavy plywood floor.  It had sides that came up about 9 inches and then a ‘shelf’ had been run along each long side to keep the bitch from smashing a puppy against the side.  (This, by the way, did not work as I extracted a couple puppies from between the wall and mom).  [Some of the box shaped whelping boxes utilize ‘pig rails’.  This is a heavy dowel (about the size of the pole you would find in a clothes closet) that runs the length of the box about 6 inches up from the floor and about 4 inches out from the wall.  Frankly I don’t see what real good they’d do as a puppy could still become stuck between the rail and mom].

After the first litter was born and I tried to find a place to store this 300 pound thing, I decided that there must be a better way.  I removed the sides of the box and fastened each short end to the long side with hinges.  This allowed the short sides to fold in against the long one, and the whole thing weighted about 20 pounds!  The hinges that fastened the other long side to the two short sides used hinges with removable pins.  All I have to do is pull the pins and it is all collapsed and easily stored.

This four-sided ‘box’ sits directly on the floor and I have a three-inch foam pad covered in naugahyde that completely covers the foam.  From old blankets and sheets I made covers for the pad.  The blanket is one side and the sheet the other.  It fits onto the pad like a pillowcase.  There’s enough left over at the open end to tuck securely underneath the pad.  The beauty of this cover is that it’s easily removed and washed and the puppies can’t become hidden under folds of a wrinkled blanket and stepped on or squashed by mom.

Put the whelping box in an area that is private.  You want to keep other dogs, cats and people away from mom and her new family in the early days.

2. Tons of Newspaper!

You’ll go through a lot of this during the actual whelping.  I use the whelping pad and cover and then spread a very thick layer of newspapers down.  After each puppy is born, I get the bitch up, remove the soiled papers and replace with fresh.  I also use newspapers for the floor once the pups are out of the box and at the end of the box at about 2½ weeks when they start to look for a place outside the nest to relieve themselves.

3. Baby Scale

Each puppy is weighed at birth.  Then they are weighed daily until about the age of 10 days.  Although a small loss of weight isn’t unusual during the first 24 hours, you want to see a steady gain from day to day after that.

4. Lots Of Little Terry Cloth Towels/Rags

Use these for helping to ‘pull’ a puppy from the vagina and/or for drying off newborns.  A vigorous rubdown helps get the puppy crying which bring air into it’s lungs, and helps stimulate it to move around.

5. Garbage Can & Lots Of Garbage Bags

Self explanatory!

6. At Least 2 Mosquito Clamps

Use one to clamp the umbilical cord about 1” from the belly, the other to clamp about 1” past the first against the placenta and then cut the cord with dull scissors in between the 2.  You can leave the one on the pup for a few seconds while you dry it and then remove.

7. Dull Children’s Scissors

When the bitch bites the cord off, it isn’t a clean cut, which means it bleeds very little.  The dull craft scissors used by kids imitate this type of cut.

8. Heating Pad

I use this in conjunction with the box below.  I place the heating pad over only ½ of the box bottom, under a towel.  This way the puppies can move off it if it’s too hot.  As each puppy is born, it’s given to mom to nurse.  The nursing helps stimulate contractions.  As another puppy is about to be born, I put all the previous puppies in the box to keep them from getting in the way.  Once the puppy is safely delivered, he and all his siblings are returned to mom until the next pup comes along.  This is also used in the box when transporting the puppies to the vet for their post whelping exam and for dewclaw removal at 2 days of age.

9. Card Board Box For Pups

A sturdy box about 18 by 24 inches with sides about 18 inches high, is about right.  It makes a handy puppy carrier and a place to corral them while changing their bed.

10. Rectal Thermometer

Use this to monitor your bitch’s temperature beginning about 3 days prior to the expected whelping date.  When the temperature drops to below 99 (sometimes as low as 97 degrees F) you can be pretty sure that she’ll go into labor within 24 hours.  Also monitor her temperature for a couple weeks post whelping to head off trouble.

11. Clock

Note the time (in writing, you’ll be too nervous to remember!) when each puppy is born.  If the bitch goes much more than 3 hours between puppies, you should give your vet a call.  It might be fine, but let’s not take chances.

12. Writing Pen

Obvious!

13. Different Colored Rickrack

I tie this around the necks of each puppy for identification.  If you have a litter of all fawns, it really helps.  Be sure and check how tight the collars are daily.  These babies grow FAST!

13. Puppy Charts

I make a chart that contains the following information to be filled out as each puppy is born.

  1. ID collar (I put a collar of colored rickrack around the neck of each puppy as it’s born.  In a litter of 10 fawns, this will help you keep track of who is who!)
  2. Time Whelped
  3. Sex
  4. Color of puppy
  5. Weight
  6. I make a drawing of a puppy on its back and then fill in all white markings (other markings in the case of harls of course!)  Helps with ID if the collar comes off.

14. Lots of Sleep Prior To Whelping!

I sleep within ear shot of my new litters so I can hear if someone is getting squashed or is lost or something.  Some people sleep right next to the whelping box.

When Birth is Imminent

As mentioned above, once the bitches temperature has dropped, whelping will commence usually within 24 hours.  She’ll probably do a lot of panting.  She might even strain or appear to be having contractions.  She might then decide to go back to sleep now that she’s got you all nervous and upset!

I’ve probably missed my bitch’s first whelps as often as not!  Jonquilla did the above ‘gee, guess I’ll go back to sleep now’ act and then proceeded to have her first puppy in her crate next to my bed!  Daffodil gave no indication at all.  We just went to bed and the next morning I awoke just as Daffi was getting off the bed crying, while a puppy was dropping out of her!  (Poor little Kiwi was rudely awakened from fetal peace and comfort as she hit the bricks of the fireplace with her head!) (Hmmmm, maybe that’s why she was so silly!)  And still another first puppy (Jonquilla again!) was born in one of my shoes in the closet!  Jonquilla was the easiest whelper I’ve ever had!  She didn’t even strain.  Suddenly a puppy was coming out and by the time I could grab it, Quillie had it all cleaned, placenta eaten and was pushing it onto a nipple to have its first meal!

Digging is very popular with most bitches, sometimes beginning soon after they’re bred!  But once contractions begin, digging begins in earnest.  If you have a safe place outdoors (by safe I mean where they can’t sneak off in the dark and have the puppies under a bush somewhere) it’s helpful to allow them to go outside and dig, under supervision of course.  This seems to help the contractions along.  Otherwise, they’ll be content to just dig up the newspapers you’ve so neatly spread in the whelping box.

As a puppy enters the birth canal, most bitches have several strong contractions, often accompanied by grunts.  You’ll see the vulva enlarge as the sac is presented and then out will come a puppy.  If the bitch shows interest, allow her to clean off the sack and lick the puppy.  If she doesn’t do this right away, you need to clear the sack away from the puppies face immediately.  If the placenta is present, clamp the cord about 1 inch from the puppy’s body with one mosquito clamp and again next to the placenta.  Then take the scissors and cut between the clamps.  Leave both in place.  The one on the placenta until you can dump it.  If you don’t, it will leak blood all over.  The one on the puppy can stay until you’ve dried the puppy with the towels.  Then remove the clamp.  Be careful not to pull on the clamp and cause a hernia.  (My own belief about umbilical hernias is that they’re inherited).

If the puppy’s breathing sounds very wet, hold the puppy upside down and support its head.  Then extend your arms straight out from your body and quickly swing the puppy downward between your legs.  The centrifugal force will help to clear fluid from the puppy’s airways.

Next weigh the puppy and record all the information on the chart.  Don’t forget its rickrack.  Puppy can now go on to mom and nurse until the next one starts to come.  This will continue until the entire litter is born.

You can usually assume that the bitch is finished when she contentedly (and tiredly!) stretches out on her side and sleeps.  Regardless of how certain you are that she’s finished, you should still take her and the litter into the vet to be checked.  Giving a pituitrin shot to the bitch is always a good idea as it helps to clean out the uterine debris.  Please don’t do as some breeders do and keep pituitrin on hand to give at home.  If there’s a malpositioned puppy still in there, the bitch could rupture her uterus with the help of the pit shot.  Making sure she’s finished is very important.

It’s a good idea to continue to monitor the bitch’s temperature for a week or to post whelping.  Any rise above normal is a signal to get her to your vet.  She could be getting an infection or going into eclampsia (milk fever), either of which could kill both her and the puppies.

Keep a close eye on the litter also.  A quiet litter is a content litter.  Constant fussing and the inability to settle down, can indicate a problem.  It isn’t uncommon for the puppies to go through a period of yellowish diarrhea sometime in the first week.  A little is nothing to worry about and will usually clear up on it’s own as their systems become used to digesting milk.  But if the diarrhea is green or very smelly, call the vet.

Raising the Litter

The first 2 weeks of life are a breeze for you and constant work for the bitch!  She cleans the puppies, feeds them and keeps them warm.  [INSERT PHOTO #12-14] Her licking stimulates them and is even necessary for the first week or so in order for them to eliminate.  Once they’ve had a day or two with their puppies, most Great Dane bitches are fantastic mothers, careful and loving of their puppies.  They can also be very protective.  Don’t be surprised if your formally easy going girl becomes a tiger where her babies are concerned.  [INSERT PHOTO #12-27] Certainly she must allow you to handle them, but if she refuses other family members early on, don’t push it.  Once the puppies are two to three weeks old, most bitches will become more relaxed about leaving them and allowing other people to touch them.  Strangers are still a no-no.  If people come over to see the litter, either remove the bitch to a place where she’s contained and cannot see what’s going on, or only allow them to stand outside the room and look in. 

Be careful about allowing other dogs in with her and the litter.  Some bitches might really resent this.  However, I've had some really cute mother/daughter teams raise the litter together!  Daffodil did this when her daughter, Kiwi, had her litter.  I’d find the two of them in the whelping box together.  Daffi trying to roll the puppies around and play with them while Kiwi was nursing them.

I base my decision to begin supplementing the puppies based on their body condition and the mothers milk supply.  Cricket had milk 10 days prior to whelping.  So MUCH milk, that when she’d lay down, little milk fountains would spurt from her breasts!  Her babies were rolling fat balls!  At 4½  weeks old I decided to start them on solid food more so I could get some weight off of them!

Then there was Skylark’s litter.  Besides all the other problems Lark had that I mentioned above, she also had 2 others.  Her uterine cramping continued for so long, and so severely, that she was seldom comfortable enough to lie still and let her puppies nurse.  Even when they did nurse, she had very little milk.  This resulted in very thin babies whom I began supplementing at the age of 2 weeks!  (Oh, what a mess trying to get eight 2 week olds, who have barely begun to wobble around on their legs, to drink from a bowl!)  But drink they did, and they are now fine!  Needless to say, Larkie has been spayed!  I refuse to put her through all that again.

In normal litters, supplementation usually begins around 3 weeks.  I’ll start them on a bitches milk replacer mixed with some baby rice cereal.  It’s mixed to the consistency of uncongealed pudding at first.  Little by little I add ground up (in the food processor) kibble and canned Eagle Brand Beef, Liver or Chicken and Rice.  I start them right out on what I feed the adults, which is Innova kibble and Eagle Brand canned.

By the time they’re about 4 weeks, they’re eating whole, soaked kibble, and by 6 weeks, the kibble is no longer soaked before feeding.  Since I feed the litter together out of several bowls, it’s difficult to tell exactly how much each puppy is eating.  A six week old Dane puppy will likely be eating 1½ to 2 cups three times a day.  By the age of 7 weeks, most of my litters were only picking at their lunch meal.  When that occurs, they’re shifted over to 2 meals a day.  [INSERT PHOTO # 12-18]

The best way to judge if your puppy is eating enough (or too much!) is by his body condition.  Dane puppies should be kept lean on a top quality food.  You want to be able to barely see their ribs, but feel them easily.  I know that most of us are anxious for our Danes to become huge.  But please don’t get hung up on the weight/height issue as your puppy grows.  Early size and weight are NOT indicative of adult size and weight.  Some of my smallest puppies have ended up as the biggest adults.  And size isn’t everything.  Overall quality is far more important for a show dog.

AKC Record Requirements

The American Kennel Club has several requirements for those who breed dogs.  It requires that you provide the new owner of a puppy bred by yourself with the Application for Registration (blue slip), and a contract that contains the following information: a)Name and registration number of the sire and dam; b)Name (if applicable) and registration number of the puppy/adult; c)any permanent ID information such as a tattoo or a microchip; d)date of birth; e)color; f)sex; breeder(s).  It’s a good idea to request information about AKC requirements.  AKC also will not accept records on computer disk.  You must have hard copies available in your files.

Although the AKC requires that the blue slip accompany the puppy, it is common practice for breeders to withhold this until a puppy has been paid for in full.

There is an option for registration called ‘Limited Registration’.  This is a great tool for the breeder.  Any offspring from a dog sold on Limited Registration can not be registered with AKC, nor can said dog compete in conformation shows.  However the breeder, and only the breeder, may remove this stipulation should the dog turn out to be a breeding/show specimen in the future.                                                 

 

FEEDING YOUR PUPPY

Great Danes are classified as a giant breed.  They reach their ultimate height usually by the age of two years, but are very close to it at a year.  Because of this extremely fast growth rate, they are prone to many skeletal growth problems.  Recent studies have found that if you can slow the rate of growth, especially through the age where it is fastest (2-8 months), you can help prevent problems such as hip dysplasia, wobblers syndrome, hypertrophic osteodystrophy (HOD) etcetera.

To slow the growth on my dogs, I feed a dog food of 24% protein or less.  Although you want to keep the protein levels around 24%, you must feed a premium food.  Premium dog foods use meat as their protein source, lamb, chicken or beef.  It is good to be aware of the terms used by dog food companies on their labels.  Whole (chicken, lamb etc.) meal means that the entire animal is used.  By-product meal is the least desirable as it usually means beaks, feathers and feet (in the case of chickens), which are entirely unusable protein sources for dogs.  The first product listed on the ingredient label makes up the highest percentage of the food.  The methods used in processing, packaging and storing foods are also very important.  One preservative to avoid is ethoxyquin as it has been proven to cause cancer.  Avoid artificial colorings and tomato pomace.  Tomato pomace is the end product (mostly skin) after all the best parts of a tomato is used.  This also contains the highest levels of pesticides of almost any dog food ingredient.  For Danes, it's also nice to have a food that contains probiotics.  These are natural digestive enzymes that may help prevent bloat, one of the common killers of Great Danes.  I feed my Danes Innova dry and Eagle Brand canned foods.  After doing a lot of research, Innova is the only food I recommend because all it’s ingredients are human grade, the first 2 being chicken and turkey.  I’m sure there are probably a couple other good products around, but Innova is so good I have no reason to change products.

DO NOT FEED SUPPLEMENTS SUCH AS CALCIUM, COTTAGE CHEESE, HIGH PROTEIN MEAT or any additive that will throw off the balance of the food you're offering.  Next to lower protein, a calcium/phosphorus/vitamin D balance is essential.  Throw the balance off (already contained in the food), and your puppy is on its way to bone problems.  You can add canned foods that are also complete and balanced.  You can safely add just about anything as long as it's no more than 15% of the dry food.

Vitamin C is one supplement that you should definitely give.  It is one of the few supplements that can do no harm and it is thought to be beneficial to growing dogs.  Give 500 milligrams in the morning and evening meals for a total of 1000 mg per day.  Your Dane should eat its food in two meals per day rather than one large one.  Water should always be available.
 


 




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