Most people know I am active in dog sports. Some know I also breed an occasional litter. Two days ago, my Labrador Fancy went into labor with her second litter. Last year she had a litter of 6 that resulted in a Cesarean section at delivery, with one dead puppy. This year, expecting a litter of four, after much thought, I allowed her to try a natural delivery. As they say, hindsight is 20/20. She ended up in an emergency C -section, losing the stuck puppy . I wish I could do it over again. I would have planned the C-section and all puppies would have been fine and I would have spared my dog a nonproductive labor.
It’s been a tiring forty-eight hours. You see, after a litter is born, whether naturally or by C-section, it is the responsibility of the pet owner to watch the litter carefully. At about 3 am on the first night, Fancy laid on two of her puppies; if I hadn’t been observant, those puppies would have perished. Not all moms are accepting of their puppies. Sometimes litters must have constant chaperoning for days or weeks to prevent bitches from injuring or even killing the puppies. Some mothers completely reject the puppies. In these cases, owners must step in with round the clock feedings along with stimulating the pups to urinate and defecate. Either way, owners are responsible for time consuming care that includes cleaning, feeding properly, socializing, and initial training of living beings.
How and why did I make the decision to breed this litter? I started with a great dog. Not just an easy pet to live with, or just a titled show dog. Fancy is a healthy dog with no history of allergies or other illness. She has a temperament that is suitable for the breed. To add icing on the cake, she is a grand champion with Rally obedience titles. What does this mean? It means she is an outstanding example of the breed in the way she looks. It means her structure is sound. Good structure means fewer problems as dogs get older. Compare this to bow legged people…….they are sure to have arthritis in their knees as they get older. A dog that is put together properly will more likely stay injury and pain free. In addition, the stability of the temperament required to be on the road to become a champion is awe inspiring. Not every dog can do it. I did not have an appreciation for this until I showed dogs. The other titles ( RN and RA) prove she is trainable and can perform under pressure, again, her temperament excelling.
So, what did I do to be sure she was worthy of producing puppies? Fancy was tested for diseases common to the breed. Some of the tests are DNA tests, others are screening tests to rule out the presence of the disease in her. Fancy had radiographs of her hips and elbows submitted to the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals for evaluation for hip and elbow disease. She had an ultrasound done of her heart to be sure that organ is clear of disease. She has her eyes checked every year by a specialist to be sure there are no problems cropping up. These results are registered with the Canine Eye Registry Foundation. Fancy has also been genetically tested for Exercised Induced Collapse, Central Nuclear Myopathy, and Progressive Retinal Atrophy. I am determined to do the best I can to minimize the possibility of disease in these puppies.
The champion male I picked to breed Fancy with has an excellent health record, all appropriate testing done, and has a history of producing quality, healthy puppies in the past. It’s a gamble no matter what; there are no guarantees. As these puppies are entering their 12-14 year life span, I want to give them the best chance possible. The first 16 days of life the puppies have daily neurologic stimulation developed by the army to increase adaptability, trainability and intelligence in military dogs. Carefully planned socialization at appropriate stages are in store for them. Exposure to various surfaces, sounds, and intellectual challenges are an important part of their early development. My puppies will have tunnels, mazes, toys, a teeter totter, and more to help their minds and bodies develop.
The day will come when two of these puppies will go to families that have been carefully screened and prepared for him/her. My hope is that each puppy will bring a lifetime of joy to that family. In return, that family will be responsible pet owners, feeding, exercising, training, providing medical care, and, most of all, love, to the one pound ball of chocolate fur that I hold now. One of these puppies will stay here with me, a part of the future of Canterbury Tails Labradors.