Things to Consider
For most dogs, mating is a natural process. Occasionally, inexperienced dogs need a little help. Timing, health and environmental considerations are all important to a successful breeding. With today’s remarkable advances in the tools and techniques for veterinary reproduction, breeders have a number of different ways to accomplish a breeding. The oldest of these is a natural mating. However, for health and safety reasons, and also to diversify the gene pool, many breeders are turning to artificial insemination.
For health and behavioral reasons, most authorities recommend that male dogs not be bred until they are at least 1 ½ years of age, and that female dogs not mate until they are on their second or third heat cycle. Certain health tests, including hip and elbow dysplasia screening by the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals, can’t be completed until a dog turns two.
Natural matings are usually conducted at the male dog’s residence, because taking a male outside of his normal environment can cause insecurity and make his attention wander. The dogs should be given a private enclosed area with good footing, preferably outside with weather permitting, where they can breed without distraction. Normally, only two handlers should be present, preferably the owners of each dog. The mating process cannot be rushed. The dogs may need hours or days to become comfortable with each other; this can vary widely based on their experience, disposition and the timing of breeding attempts. Females should be showing obvious signs of estrus, including flirtation, flagging of her tail and twitching of her vulva. Males should be highly interested in the female, licking her vulva and attempting to mount her if she is ready and willing. The dogs should be supervised at all times to ensure their safety, usually on leash and with the female gently muzzled, especially if she is a virgin. Talking to the dogs in a soft, encouraging voice can help them feel secure and comfortable. They should never be hollered at out of the owner’s frustration.
If a male is having difficulty with penetration, the female dog can be gently moved into place in front of him. A small dab of lubrication, such as K-Y Jelly, on the female’s vulva may help, but physical manipulation of the male’s genitalia normally does not. When an inside tie happens, the male will slide his front legs off one side of the female and usually lift one hind leg over her back, so that the two are standing rear-to-rear. At this time, they are attached, or “tied,” by the male’s penis swelling up inside and being held by the muscles in the female’s vagina. They can stay tied for a long time, with the average being 15 to 45 minutes in most breeds. Virgin females usually vocalize during the first part of the tie and may need extra comforting and restraint. It is extremely dangerous if the dogs try to separate during a tie before they are physically capable of doing so. Afterwards, the female should not be allowed to urinate for 15 minutes. The male should be walked until he no longer has an erection and his penis is no longer visible.