Thankfully Ben Holt of HighHolt Labradors, Pugs & French Bulldogs and owner of Highlands Kennels Ltd (Horam) agreed for me to interview him as part of gaining HomeScan Master Breeder status. The interview took much longer than I had imagined in this bustling reception of the boarding kennel that he owns and managed for the last eight years and a reason why his breeding programme evolved so quickly. Ben shared some great information that any breeder would benefit from!
Ben was bought up with dogs, working Labradors and farm Collies. He had always bred animals including rabbits, guinea pigs and at one point had over 400 birds! Showing Parrot-like birds, Lovebirds, budgies, cockatiels all over the country.
He owned his first dog, a Collie cross New Zealand Hunterway when he was 11 years old, but decided intentionally to breed a family Dalmatian with his parents’ consent at just 13 years old, this was Ben first experience of being responsible for rearing a litter. His first independent litter was in his mid-twenties, a Black Labrador called Jess. She whelped 8 of which Ben hoped to keep a puppy, but due to work commitments he was unable too. Ben had a second litter from Jess and he as hoping to keep a black bitch puppy, so true to form she produced three bitches, all chocolate! Ben decided to have a final litter from Jess and that’s where his steps to considering himself a breeder began.
“That's where the breeding took off from. It was never meant for us to become breeders. We were only breeding for ourselves, and it's just taken off.”
Ben felt that his success in Labradors had exceeded his expectations, having exported puppies to south of France, South Africa and Austria plus having a two year waiting list with inquiries from America, Germany, Northern France, and New Zealand.
“People see our dogs. They know they're capable of doing a day’s work in the field or other activities like flyball, if people want them to. Recently two of our puppies went to be assistance dogs. The lady from the assistance dog charity said they were ‘the Best puppies we've ever had’ and booked a whole litter for next year.”
Ben felt he had achieved this success because he had found a niche of breeding the traditional type of Labrador (not as heavy as ‘Show Labs’ or light as ‘Working Labs’ with good heads, tails, nice ear sets) with excellent temperament making them the ideal family pet, due to these pups having a versatile mind set. Ben expressed picking key studs had been the success producing puppies that fit this type. He only uses dogs that are fully health tested with fantastic temperaments. He has a preference to using other people studs then keep his own, giving him the flexibility of choice and more variety by researching and finding better bloodlines, or lines to compliment his own.
“We always hip and elbow score our breeding dogs. I would never breed a dog with a high hip score and they have to completely clear elbows and they would have to have a current eye certificate. We use very good stud dogs, and the people's dogs that we use, they wouldn't let you use their dogs anyway unless your bitches are health tested. That's to the minimum, because we always use DNA tested dogs that are clear for all the diseases so we don't need to DNA test our bitches.”
Ben elaborated on why he felt health testing was so important, over the year the Breed Hip Scores have fallen, as a Kennel owner Ben has seen this reduction have a direct collation with the health issues he has seen reflected in his client’s dogs. Their health conditions are decreasing and the dogs are living longer up to 16 years old.
I asked Ben how he gained his breeding knowledge:
“I think one of the worst things you can do is go on Google. Absolute worst. You've been amazing (Sara). I think the best thing to do is talk to someone like you. I don't hold many vets in high regard in respect to breeding, because a lot of the young vets we see nowadays have never even owned a dog, let alone had a litter. I don't feel that anyone can give someone advice that they've learned from a textbook.”
I strongly agree with Ben on this and will soon be writing a Breeder Blog on why I don’t think you shouldn’t consider your vet an expert when it comes to breeding, it’s great to see other experienced breeders agreeing with me on this issue. Going to your local vet about breeding is like asking your GP to do a c-section it’s not comparable to a specialised midwife or medical consultants in a maternity ward. No wonder there can be confusion and blunders.
Anyway back to Ben, I asked him how he best prepared his females for breeding. He put a large emphasis on them being fit and healthy all year round not just the season of breeding and he had even suspended breeding a Pug bitch who had gained just under 1kg of weight during his 2 week holiday aboard. Ben felt this was too much for a dog that only weighed 6kg, and that she needed to lose them pounds before being bred. Ben keeps up-to-date with annual vaccinations, worming every 3 months but doesn’t use any flea treatment unless fleas are observed.
I asked Ben, what advice would you give to somebody breeding for the first time?
“If they've never bred before, would be to find someone like you. Or me. Or a very good, experienced breeder, but preferably in their breed. There's no point asking a Labrador breeder what to do delivering a litter of pugs, they’re a different kettle of fish. Once you've delivered a litter of pugs, you can deliver anything. Or bulldogs as well. You can deliver anything.”
Ben expressed his dislike to Google, because all it seems to do is induce panic. We all want the best of our dogs and you don’t want to think they are suffering or need medical attention. You can overthink these situations, the best thing to do when they go into labour is to try and remain as calm as possible and have someone at the end of the phone who’s done it before.
“Don't put too much out on the internet, on Facebook forums and stuff like that, asking for advice. Go to one person who's done it for years, who's experienced, who knows what they're talking about and will give you sensible advice.“
So I asked Ben what he’s future breeding plans where and he voiced he’s concerns about the future of some breeds:
“Nearly every litter we've ever produced is to keep a puppy ourselves. I don't think we'll really be breeding much more of the Pugs. Just because there's too many people out there breeding them now. They've saturated the market, so many are unhealthy that they've given all Pugs, Bulldogs, French Bulldogs etc a bad reputation. We know people that have struggled to sell them and they've all been tarred with the same brush. I think that kind of needs to die down, which I think it has. It's waning now.”
And my final question to Ben, What do you feel is your biggest achievement or success when breeding?
“People coming to us saying, "I've seen one of your dogs. I want one", the fact that they've gone abroad with no advertising. One of our puppies is going to be trained as a bomb detection dog for the U.N, another that's going to start his career as a stud dog in South Africa (health results dependant) for a top trialling owner over there, as a working chocolate Labrador. Same with another one in this country with Di Stevens. Plus the autistic charity had two puppies off us this year, and then come back to book a whole litter for next year. So I class them all as an achievement.
It's quite an achievement when we're not in the show ring, we're not in the working world, we’re not winning medals and trophies and accolades all over the place yet we are highly regarded and recommended by word of mouth.”
An extended interview with more essential information on pregnancy supplements, utilising Facebook groups and group chats for puppy owners and ways to improve your puppy vetting process will be published in the Home Breeders Herald.
I’m a sucker for chips with onion vinegar, plenty of salt and ketchup, but this blog is about a different type of chip!
Since April 2016, it has been your responsibility as a breeder to ensure that the puppies you breed are microchipped before they leave for their new homes. This is a common misunderstanding that that a puppy must be chipped by eight weeks old. This is not correct. However, the pup must be microchipped before ownership has changed, from you to the new owners. And this is why puppies are chipped at eight weeks old, but it could be earlier or later. There is no minimum age for microchipping, however, most microchip implanters are trained generally to chip around six weeks of age, because this is when the puppy is of a suitable size to be chipped.
Since the legislation enforced a compulsory microchipping, there has been a boom in the microchip providers who supply the chips and also the database or registration system. Currently, the biggest database is Pet Log, this is only because it’s affiliated with the Kennel Club and had been running the longest, not necessarily a reflection on quality of service or value. The size of the database doesn't really matter nor the size of the provider because all information of all chips is found through all databases.
So what are your options as a breeder?
You have the choice of having the puppy microchipped at the vet's, having a mobile implanter or microchipper, or chipping your own puppies. Depending on the frequency of breeding and your fear or not of needles and inflicting minor pain, you may decide to train to microchip your own puppies. To receive the best price chip will require a large bulk purchase along with the mandatory correct disposal of the needles plus the training itself. So for many breeders, this generally isn't a cost effective option.
The other option is to have the puppy microchipped at the vet's. This is sometimes favourable if the vet is offering a puppy package where it includes a vet check or health check, along with first vaccinations and microchip. Some breeders do not get their puppies vaccinated before leaving, and there's a good argument for this because firstly, vaccinating puppies from a too young age when they already have immunity from their mother is viewed as counterproductive.
“The World Small Animal Veterinary Association (WSAVA) states that the last puppy vaccine against the core diseases should be given at 14-16 weeks of age. This is because, before this time, the mother passes immunity to her puppies, and this ‘maternal immunity’ can prevent the vaccine from working”
So vaccinating puppies at six, seven weeks and even to a degree, some would argue eight weeks, is generally too early. However, from a socialization point of view, it's deemed the eight weeks is a suitable age so the puppy can be well socialized from twelve weeks old once they’ve had their second jabs. However, dog trainers would advise you to socialise your puppy much earlier than twelve weeks old, but that's another conversation to be had!
The second consideration to be made when selling your puppies microchipped and already vaccinated is that if the new owner's vet does not store the same batch and brand of vaccination, they will be forced to restart the inoculations. This will result in the puppy being over-inoculated and obviously that's a lot of chemicals to be injected into a puppy that's rapidly developing and growing.
The third is that generally breeders like and want the new owners to have made the effort to find a vet, ensuring they have their own independent health check soon after collection. During consultation they are also advised on other things such a flea, worming, neutering, insurance etc.
If you decide not to opt for selling a pre-vaccinated puppy, then another choice or alternative would be to use a mobile chip implanter. This service saves you the inconvenience of moving puppies, particularly large puppies or large litters, from your home to a veterinary practice where obviously their immune system is still in development. Veterinary practices by their nature accommodates unwell, sick, and injured animals which it's not an ideal place to be taking young puppies. Having your puppies microchipped at home means that they don't have or reduces the chances of them having a negative initial first experience at the vet. You'll find that puppies microchipped at home generally are very underwhelmed by the situation, they don't find it stressful because they're in their home natural environment. Even after the short, sharp needle prick, they generally recover pretty quickly and get back to play and all with their siblings or resting as they were before.
I've already mentioned about the suppliers, but there are some things that you need to know, to make the right choices but asking the implanter in advance. Microchips come in numerous sizes the standard which is 12 mm in length, a mini which is 8mm and the nanochip which is 7mm. The shorter the chip means they are also fractionally narrower. A standard chip is generally good for any medium to giant sized dog, when an adult. You may opt for a mini chip for any small or toy breeds or generally dogs that don't really have much scruff around the neck. But as puppies, generally they've got that extra skin where it's not an issue when it comes to microchipping the implanter will advise you if the chip of your choice is not suitable.
The audit trail of a microchip must legally go from implanter to breeder and breeder to new owner. No implanter will be able to transfer the chip from them direct to the new owners. There has to be a clear audit trail. It's worth asking when you're enquiring about cost of microchipping, whether there are additional charges to transfer the animal from breeder to new owner. There are a small number of chip suppliers that offer this service, but the majority do not. Generally, if the microchip is cheaper, it's most probably because there's going to be additional transfer fees. Better value in the long run is to pay a little bit more upfront to ensure there are no transfer fees from you to the new owner. Personally, I advise breeders not to rush microchip transfer of ownership from breeder to owner until the puppy has been taken for their own vet for an independent health check and have passed with satisfaction. I suggest the transfer should be made at this point because if the transfer is made before and for whatever reason the puppy's returned to the breeder, the most likely is the breeder's going to have to pay for the transfer of the puppy from the new owner back to the breeder and then to the next new owner.
The process of transferring ownership is typically via an online portal that the implanter will have organised access for you. This is where you're able to log in and self-serve with the transfer of ownership at your convenience, providing the database with the new owner's details along with being prompted with the dog's details such as sex, colour, breed, markings. Also, if in any doubt, you have every right to ask for a copy of the implanter's insurance details, so you know they are covered for such activities and services along with their training qualification certificate.
If you have a breed that look similar, such as Labradors, Rottweiler etc, then when it comes to microchipping, you really need to be able to identify between the puppies. Many breeders use coloured collars or markings on their body with nail varnish or Tipp-Ex, and even shaving small parts of the coat! If this is difficult for you, the puppies keep taking the collars off or the marking isn't staying on, then I strongly recommend that you buy your own microchip scanner. These are typically on eBay for around £45.00 but there is a new company PetScanner that are now selling scanners that plug in to your mobile phone, so you no longer need batteries or USB charging. It plug straight into your phone for just over £10.00 delivered, I believe there's a Bluetooth version coming for just £20.00. If you're going to be a frequent breeder and you do have a breed that look fairly similar, then I recommend that you purchase a device like this, or similar.
Should you acquire an older dog where you have no microchip paperwork, then there is a website called Check A Chip where you can find the microchip provider. You’ll need to find out the animal's microchip number, whether that's buying a scanner yourself or taking the dog to your local vet's where the vet nurse will be able to scan and give you the number. If you plug that number into Check A Chip website, they will let you know who the chip provider is so you can contact them direct to update the ownership. Standard practice is for them to contact the previous owner, notifying them that the microchip is going to be transferred to a new owner. If there are no issues with the update and its legitimacy then the transfer to you will be completed.
Though rare it has been known for microchips to migrate, nowadays they are generally coated to stop the migration. It is worth annually checking where they are on the dog's body if not found it may have become faulty or been rejected by the body.
My argument would be no. To me, there are many online platforms available where you are able to advertise your impending litter and find potential new owners for your puppies. These vary in all shapes and formats, if you have a Kennel Club (KC) registered breed, you can advertise through the KC via their online Find a Puppy facility.
You can also use other platforms such as Champdogs, Pets4Homes, Gumtree, Facebook groups or free papers like the Friday-Ad. You're not allowed to advertise live animals on Facebook Marketplace, but there are many Puppy for Sale groups. There is some snobbery around whether you should be using some of these platforms but personally, for me, you should use all that's available because you never know how you might find the perfect future puppy owner!
The more important thing is that, once you have the enquiries, that you do your best to vet these people correctly. You may need a more robust vetting procedure using sites that have high traffic but equally a high amount of unsuitable potentials, but sprinkled with the odd ideal person or family.
My recommendation to you is to start advertising as early as possible once pups are born. If friends and family have expressed an interest, then they shouldn’t be treated any different in your vetting process. The main focus of your time and energy should be in correctly vetting people and potential puppy owners so that puppies aren’t returned back to you with acquired problems or issues as an older dog. Typically because it hasn't been correctly trained or reared whilst in their ownership due to them being unaware or lacked the inclination to deal with pressing behavioural issues and initial causes.
By correctly vetting people, you hope to reduce if not eradicate this type of scenario. As a breeder it’s your responsibility to correctly dealt with puppies you’ve bred in this situation, and therefore also keep these dogs out of rescue. There's always big pushback and strong opinion on people breeding dogs because so many dogs end up in charities or breed rescues. As a home breeder, whether this mating was intended or not, you should do the utmost to find the best owners for your puppies and for them to be vetted comprehensively so the puppy has the minimal chance of ending up in any of these establishments.
What forms of vetting are there?
I personally really enjoy the simple solution of using a vetting form. If you have advertised on any particular online platform you're bound to get enquiries, whether that be through the phone, by email, or by text. Personally, any text messages and in fact any telephone calls received I always direct them to my online vetting form. This form is so I can gauge and gather some of their basic information, such as where they live, what their working hours are, what their experience of dog ownership is, what their experience is of this particular breed. Do they have any other animals? How many children do they have, if any?
I try to gather as much information as possible. What efforts have they made to find a puppy? What understanding do they have of the effort they need to put into this puppy going forward? What are their understanding of the grooming regime? This is a pretty easy way to be able to decline somebody if what they comment is not to your liking. Your preference may differ to another fellow breeder. For example some breeders that will not sell to people that work full time, where others will do given that they have arrangements with dog walkers or pet sitters and others may even be happy to do this as long as they already have another dog for companionship that shows no behavioural issues.
So the vetting really does come down to your own personal criteria. From this stage, I then have a telephone call with them having a frank and honest conversation, I definitely agree that you should always go with your gut feeling. At this point, if it doesn't feel right, then decline your offer for them to view the puppy.
If you are happy at this point then proceed to the next stage, I would always advise that there is a puppy visit prior to the puppy being sold/collected. Some breeders insist on at least two or three visits before the puppy leaves for their new home. Some see this is a good opportunity to be able to meet all of the family, partners and children along with any existing dogs as well. The benefits of seeing their existing pets (even in photographs if not in the flesh) enables you to gauge the owner's capability to be able to look after an animal. Are they in good condition? Are they the correct weight? How well behaved and trained are they?
I would also recommend that you take a deposit on first puppy viewing to prevent time wasters otherwise known as photo collectors or tire kickers! This deposit should be fairly substantial to the price of the puppy and should be clearly documented. The new owners should receive a receipt confirming the amount of deposit that's been left on which particular puppy, and this puppy preferably should be identifiable by microchip so there's no confusion, especially for the breeds that look the same. Also in this documentation, to save you any future inconvenience, that there is a collection date listed on this document so that the owners collect the puppy as agreed and you're plans are not disrupted from unexpected lack of availability due to holidays or other events.
To summarise, are there good and places to advertise? In my experience, no. Should you start advertising early? Yes. The earlier the better because, hopefully, that means you'll get more enquiries, which means you can be more selective with who you vet on to the next stage. Ultimately, your vetting procedure is what makes the difference into that puppy’s quality of life going forward and ultimately for the rest of its life.
I highly recommend an online vetting form (Google online form builder), then a telephone stage, and then finally a face-to-face visit. Some people will not use the online form and use a telephone call to do the vetting, which has its advantages because people won’t have the time to lie about possible answers but if you wish to decline a potential owner, having the online stage is a lot easier!
Ensure the paperwork is correct, that a sales receipt/contract and a deposit receipt is provided. Carrying out some of these simple stages will not only make your vetting procedure slicker and easier as a breeder but also that all parties are fully informed at each stage and have a clear understanding of the process. If it doesn't feel right, just don't sell them a puppy, don’t be bullied in to allowing them to have a puppy.
A.I stands for artificial insemination, this is the method of collecting semen from a dog and artificially inseminating it into a female. There are three different types of A.I. The first is intra vaginal which can be conducted by somebody that has experience and is competent, but is not necessarily a vet. Surgical A.I is another technique which requires a procedure and should only be conducted by a vet. This is typically used when frozen semen is being used so it’s deposited directly into the ovaries for the best success rate. Finally, there is trans cervical insemination, again this should only be conducted by a vet who would use an endoscope (a flexible tube with a light and camera attached to it so deep into the body) generally is used for frozen semen to be deposited through the cervix and females having a history of difficult conception.
The practice itself of collecting the semen from the male is not comparable to humans! It requires a competent person to re-enact the male dog being locked onto a bitch, which typically happens through mating and causes the tie. This will cause natural response within the dog to be able to collection of semen.
The ejaculation actually comes in three parts. The first fraction, which I always say is the way of cleaning out the pipes and in most instances normally ends up on the floor. The second fraction is the actual semen rich fraction and is the section that needs to be collected. It's typically between 0.5 - 2ml, then finally the third fraction is “the wash” this is prostatic fluids that pushes the semen up the pipes, so to speak. If the dog was to naturally mate, generally it's the third fraction that you would see when they separate from each other.
When it comes to A.I the whole purpose is to collect the second fraction and a small amount of the third fraction to create a good environment for the semen and a suitable amount of fluid for it to be flushed through the A.I tube (and/or catheter) into the female. All the following information is specific to intravaginal A.I.
So why do people A.I intra-vaginally?
There's lots of reasons as a breeder (female owner) or as the stud dog owner, that A.I might be the most suitable option, which you may also see advertised as “assisted matings”. Reasons include if the mating pair are young, the stud has never been used before, lacking in confidence or naive. A.I can be a good way to introduce matings for a less confident male for them to understand the principle of what's happening and then for them later to be able to mate naturally with confidence.
You may also have an injured stud dog having damaged their back or shoulder which means they're finding mounting difficult. Dominant bitches who are just unwilling for a male to be on their back or mismatched sizes because one of the pair is too tall or short so alignment isn't correct for a natural mating. A.I can also be the perfect solution for inexperienced owners who aren’t confident with assisting a natural mating correctly, no dogs should ever be left unattended during a mating.
One of many benefits of A.I is that you can assess the semen before inseminating the female, at a macro level assessing the amount and colour, but also at a micro level, under a microscope. A trained eye can look at the concentration, movement (motility) and development/shape (morphology) of the semen advising on the overall quality and impact on the success rate. If the sample is substandard additional enhancers can be added to aid the quality, but it should only be used if the semen requires it generally for older or a younger males.
How successful is intravaginal A.I?
This really does depend not on the mating itself or the A.I, but on the timing of the female. She has to be at the most fertile time, which means she should have ovulated and the eggs be mature for fertilisation. Conducting the A.I technically will not make any difference on the success of the mating, it's actually down to whether the female eggs are ready and the semen is a good quality that's going in.
Do I need less matings with intravaginal A.I?
If you've ovulation tested the female and the optimal time for mating has been identified then you only need one mating to occur, whether that be naturally or by A.I. If you have made no attempts to identify her fertile period, then it's always recommended regardless of the method to mate, miss a day and then a second mating. This method gives the larges window of conception up to 3 days after the last mating and 5 days after the first.
Will I have a bigger litter with intra-vaginal A.I?
Technically, no. It really doesn't matter how the semen gets to the vagina, it comes down to if the timing of the mating is right. From my experience, I do find A.I litters to be slightly larger and I feel that this is probably because less fluid is lost during the mating itself and the fact that it's actually put deeper into the reproduction tract then a natural mating enabling it to work its magic more effectively.
A.I matings are quicker than a natural mating because there is no tie that happens during the method. However, the person with A.I experience should stimulate the female (if possible) after depositing the semen to imitate a natural mating for her body to react the same way. This is good for the body but also mentally, so she's aware that a mating has taken place.
Is more better with A.I?
No, the second fraction is the important part, plus a little bit of third. A.I amounts are typically between 2 and 6ml depending on the breed, the stud and how often he's used. The more deposited, the more diluted the sample will become and more risk of ‘overfill’ resulting in more chance of excess fluid being expelled.
There are some basic housekeeping when it comes to A.I and handling fragile semen. All the equipment should be single use, clean and sterile. Gloves should have no latex, nor should the syringes. The A.I tube length will depend on the breed and length of the dog. There are a variety of tubes that can be used, some are flexible others rigid. This will all depend on the person who's doing the A.I.
“Tipping” the female by raising her rear legs after A.I is not essential, but people like to follow this urban myth to improve conception rates. It’s advisable once the female has been A.I that is she he kept calm and quiet, possibly caged, for an hour. It’s advisable that she does not urine during this time, but again this is more urban myth then factual!
Is A.I (intra-vaginal) allowed for Kennel Club registered dogs?
Yes, The Kennel Club will accept any litters produced by intravaginal A.I from overseas dogs or in the UK, but they require an additional form completed. Litters produced from the mating pair will be accepted, but their offspring should be able to produce a litter naturally themselves before they are involved in A.I. If the parents produce subsequent litters naturally, then this restriction if lifted. The Kennel Club will only know any of this information should you complete their forms and notify them of such.
Many breeders nowadays offer a puppy for sale with four to five weeks free insurance. It feels a good thing to offer as a breeder as you're offering a beneficial service along with the puppy. This helps raise new owner’s awareness to the importance of ongoing pet insurance but also offers you short term coverage after initial purchase for any unforeseen illnesses or accidents at no cost to you.
If you have a Kennel Club registered dog, you'll automatically be provided the paperwork for Agria Pet Insurance Ltd. If the litter is not Kennel Club registered or are mix bred or you are seeking alternative suppliers there are companies such as Petplan and a newcomer to the market is also Buddies.
I personally would highly recommend when possible to use one of these companies to offer some peace of mind and assurance to the new owners. From my experience of the last 20 years breeding I recall having to use this interim insurance for two puppies providing peace of mind for the owner and you the breeder.
The insurance company are generous in offering this coverage in the hope the puppy owner will become a long term customer and continue the cover after the free period has ended. For this reason the insurance companies provide this coverage for free and also offer incentives to the breeder, typically in the form of shopping vouchers when Puppy Policies are activated and also if extended.
Buddies Insurance are currently offering a very, very, very good promotion. In fact, it’s no doubt the best that's on the market at this time! They are the only insurance company that will offer the breeder a cash reward, rather than the voucher system. This means you can spend the money on what you want!
Buddies are currently offering HomeScan customers a promotion of £50 Breeder registration for joining the scheme, then an additional £50 when you register your first litter for the ‘one month free (OMF)’ insurance. An additional £25 will be paid should the owners continue the insurance after the initial 4 weeks. This is super value compared to Petplan that will offer a £10 voucher for 10, yes ten puppy polices being activated and only £18 for 3 owners taking out the extended annual policies, whereas with Buddies you could easily have £100 in your pocket!
So how do you get in on this great promo?
If you are planning a litter this year you should call Buddies on the free number 0800 035 4775 and register with reference IB592, this reference is specific to HomeScan customers ensuring you get the full entitlement to this great offer!
All the documents regarding the legalisation and guidance can be found at www.cfsg.org.uk specifically “d. Dog Breeding Guidance Revised 30.11”.
The notes are collated with my interpretation and understanding from a webinar Trevor Cooper hosted with PetPlan Insurance in January 2019. If you are in any doubt to whether you should not apply for license related to your dog activity then please contact your local council.
The Animal Welfare (Licensing of Animals) (England) Regulations 2018 came into force 1st October 2018, this is the same act that previously enforced compulsory microchipping and the regulation of tail docking.
Each local authority is responsible for enforcing within its council. The main two points that may have most relevance to you is:
The information in this document specifically refers to a ‘Dog Breeding’ licence as you are most likely to be a Home or Hobby breeder. You would be considered ‘in scope’ if you:
“Either or both of the following:-
(a) Breeding three or more litters of puppies in any 12 month period;
(b) Breeding dogs and advertising a business of selling dogs”
Point (a) is pretty easy to identify, if you have bred 3 litters you would need evidence that you kept all the puppies or that you gifted them all. This is pretty unlikely! Point (b) there is no simple ‘business test’ but factors to be considered as ‘advertising a business’, indicating commercial activity are:
You would be considered out of scope for a Dog Breeding Licence if:
For hobby breeders to be considered 'out of scope' for the licence should be able to clearly evidence a lack of profit (not income) resulting in less than £1,000 supporting your claim that you had no ‘intent’ to make a profit.
If you breed 3 or more litters a year, make over £1,000 profit or suggest an online presence as a business by advertising frequently and possibly having a professional website, you may need a Dog Breeding License.
Contact your local council if you are in any doubt.
To date (December 2018) I’ve confirmed a positive pregnancy in over 1,100 animals (mainly dogs), that’s nearly 72% of all my scans are confirmed pregnant. Owners are always surprised when I confirm pregnancy for just one puppy and I’m equally surprised when they comment that it’s rare. I’ve looked over my figures and there’s a 6.4% chance of a pregnancy being a solo puppy, unlike the chances of having a large litter of 10 or more puppies is only 2.3%.
Singleton puppies are not typically a reflection on the sire or dams reproductive capacity and more likely due not mating at the most fertile time, either too early or too late meaning the semen has only just managed to fertilise an egg by surviving and waiting for the egg to mature, or by racing to it super quick before the egg died. Urban myth is that a female puppy results from a mating too early and a male puppy from a mating too late.
I would highly recommend that should the female be bred from again, that a form of ovulation testing is used such a vaginal cytology swabbing or the more accurate Progesterone blood testing. I sent a quick email to all my clients who I had previously scanned with solo babies (pure and crossbred) to find out their experiences after I broke the singleton news, they provided me with 32 sets of data which I’ve attempted to constructively summarise!
Singleton puppy was birthed by...
The puppies that naturally whelped and survived were on average born around 62 days gestation, the survival rate decreased from 63 days. Owners shared that the whelping process was ‘typical’, confirming the puppy tended to be bigger rather than average in size. For some the labour stages were prolonged and difficult, 15% of the owners that whelped naturally said they would recommend other owners going through the same experience to elective section on due date.
The majority of owners mentioned no issues with milk production or the need to hand feed or supplement. 25% did visit their vet for additional physical checks and advice, 1 owner felt they were given poor advice and changed practices during this critical period.
The puppies surviving born by c-section were on average born around 61 days, the survival rate decreased from 65 days. 2 owners felt their vet had delayed the option of a c-section (66 days) which compromised the puppy’s viability. The majority of owners who decided to c-section was because their female had shown partial signs of labour then stopped. Suggesting a more complex labour, possibly due to a stuck puppy or wrong positioning.
Some puppies were born naturally when the female had been sedated and prepared for a c-section, the relaxation of the muscles means the puppy was easier to pull free (these puppies were deceased). Distressed puppies did not survive the operation or longer than 2 days after birth, some seemed weak and some dams were not attentive to their young. Of the owners that had veterinary agreement to elective section on their due date 100% of these puppies where born alive.
Singleton puppies can be whelped naturally, the statics are in their favour. If the labour is not typical (mainly due to puppy size, positioning or lack of contractions) the chances of c-section increase significantly, but the survival rate reduces significantly too. Only a pre-planned elective c-section increased the survival rate above being whelped naturally. Risk can be managed by allowing the female to whelp naturally up to her due date and should she go more than 1 day over, have an ultrasound scan to check for foetal heart beat and if confirmed, opt for an elective section.
Puppies born 2 or more days after their due date have significantly less chances of surviving in both whelping methods. There is a high chance that financially you’ll need to cover the costs of c-section, given that a “unscheduled” emergency c-sections result in a higher mortality rate, realistically booking an elective c-section ‘in hours’ increasing the puppies rate of survival and keeping operating cost to a minimum, along with your anxiety and any stress on the female.
It’s generally advised not to change the dam’s diet during pregnancy, neither in quality or amount. Because the puppy has ‘wombspace’ to grow and develop, changing the dam’s diet may entice the puppy to overgrow due to having no competition with littermates for nutrition or space. Being restrictive on food will hopefully prevent any excessive and unnecessary growth.
Even if the puppy is a typical size and the dam is maiden you are still unaware of her ability to deliver naturally due to her pelvis size or strength of contractions. Females that have already successfully birthed puppies will provide the owner with additional information to gauge her ability to whelp or not. Raspberry leaf supplement is said to aid birthing and should be considered along with any veterinary agreement to calcium supplements or oxytocin should contractions weaken.
The lack of contractions or weakening contractions is called inertia, with solo babies it can happen in the first stage of labour due to the puppy not stimulating or applying enough pressure on the uterine wall and cervix to trigger a natural birth. The second stage is when contractions were existing but stopped, mainly due to an oversized puppy and the muscles have become tired trying to push the puppy out.
It could be easy to miss primary inertia so I strongly recommend tracking the dam’s temperature before and up to her due date. You also have the option of ‘Reverse’ Progesterone testing, if the numbers are low this confirm the puppy is ready for birth, so you can confidently c-section. If you Progesterone tested on mating, then you would have confirmed ovulation before breeding so your due dates will be reliable to work with for possible c-section. Not all puppies will can be seen moving or even felt, especially on deep set breeds, I strongly recommend checking the puppy for a viable heart beat with ultrasound before deciding on a c-section.
Long Term Observations
Surviving singleton puppies develop like a typical puppy into adult dogs. Many commented the puppy ended up larger than the breed standard or then their Dams. Solo pups tend to be more demanding when it comes to play and stimulation due to the lack of siblings/playmates. This can mean they are more dependent on human interaction and if not handled correctly can become over demanding and dominate. One owner decided to neuter their male at 9 months old due to behavioural issues.
Credit to contributing owners
Thank you to the follow owners for replying to my plea with such detailed information on your experiences Dawn Gloster, Yvonne Kneller, Sue Jones, Ryan Hall, Katie Eyres, Lynn Clark. Catherine Fuller, Maggie Flack, Lynn Page, Michelle Ransom, Tracy Rolfe, Tracey-Ann Ryan, Alan Fisher, Karen Edwards, Sarah Roberts, Linda Gregory
Lisa Hayes, Casey Stipp, Ailsa Pocock, Kerry Maynard. Sandie Cullen, Rebecca Burr, Tracy Robinson, Lynne Underhill, Emma Beck and Lauren Mccarthy.
One of the questions I get asked frequently is, how do I know when to C-section my bitch, or how do I know if she needs a C-section?
These decisions can be made significantly easier if the breeder has carried out a few simple checks along the way and throughout the dog's pregnancy. No one can ultimately answer this question, because nobody has a crystal ball, not the breeder, not the vet, not me.
As a pet pregnancy ultrasound scanner, I get asked a lot about the signs of pregnancy and whether I can foresee or guess that a girl is pregnant before I actually scan her.
My answer is always no.
Number one, don't bother trying human pregnancy kits.
They do not work because they are based on a different hormone compared to human pregnancy kits. You can buy canine pregnancy kits, but they can give negative results up to 35 days gestation, of which by then you can use other, more accurate ways of testing. Plus this isn't a product that vets regularly have in stock in their practices, and generally you have to order by the batch, so they're probably going to work out very expensive. Also they aren't based on urine, you’ll require a blood sample, so you will have to incur the cost at the vets too.
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I'm Sara otherwise known as 'Canine Family Planner' who founded HomeScan Breeder Services a premium pet-care business in 2014. I am an experienced and educated breeder, who specialises in domestic animal reproduction. I bred my first litter 20 years ago whilst in my teens and tend to breed annually. Breeding is pretty much in my DNA – a way of my life if you will! I've started this blog to share some of my knowledge and if possible help out a few like minded animal owners!