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. Some breeders decide
who to breed together simply for color/pattern results:
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
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
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.
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.
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
One advantage of
this method is that you are less likely to encounter any recessive genetic
problems unless the parents each carry these genes.
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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.
‘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
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.
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
5. Garbage Can &
Lots Of Garbage Bags
6. At Least 2
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
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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!)
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
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
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
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.
trying to roll the puppies around and play with them while Kiwi was
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
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
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
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,
hypertrophic osteodystrophy (HOD)
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
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.