Offering your Bernese dog at stud, or promoting a stud `service` may seem a simple and straight-forward enough activity, but it can be laced with problems and pitfalls. Many times things DO go according to plan – nature has a way of ensuring the future of the species and most dogs are (not surprisingly!) capable of procreating without human interference (although breeders will undoubtedly describe their involvement as help!)

Most breeders would describe a “good“ mating as one which achieves a “tie”. The male dog has a gland at the base of his penis – the bulbus glandis - and when the aroused male penetrates the bitch during copulation and achieves a full erection, the gland enlarges to the size of a golf ball (in a Labrador sized dog). The muscular walls of the bitch’s vagina grip the swollen bulb, so preventing the dog from withdrawing and maintaining the tie. The tie can last for just a few minutes up to an hour or so

The ejaculate of a dog is passed in three fractions. The first fraction of clear fluid is virtually sperm free. The second fraction is richest in sperm, and is released immediately after thrusting. The third fraction is a larger quantity of prostatic fluid containing some sperm, and this is delivered as an intermittent ‘drip feed` which helps transport the sperm to the oviduct.

Whilst most Bernese breeders would feel happiest if their bitch and chosen stud achieve a tie, a tie is not essential for conception. Many litters are born from slip matings and some stud dogs never, ever, achieve a tie yet consistently sire litters.

There are many reasons why a tie does not occur. Sometimes it is sheer inexperience on the part of the male dog, the bitch, or even the owners/handlers who are present to oversee or help with the proceedings! Occasionally a bitch may be found to have a stricture – a narrowing within the vagina which prevents deep penetration by a male. Most commonly a failure to tie is because the bulb at the base of the dogs penis swells outside of the bitch so preventing deep penetration, or the bitch fails to stand still long enough to allow the ‘mechanics’ of the tie to take place.

Some bitch owner’s are disappointed when one or more slip matings are all that is achieved after numerous mating attempts. As ovulation in the bitch occurs for just a few days there is a time element involved in obtaining a mating during that most fertile time. This has led some owners to embark upon a course of action which is, at best, sheer recklessness and at worse a confirmation that they are prepared to resort to desperate measures to try to ensure a litter, any litter!

Despite the slip matings achieved between their bitch and the chosen stud, some Bernese owners have taken their bitch off to ‘liaison’ with a second stud dog in the hope that the dog chosen from the “substitute’s bench” will achieve a tie before ovulation ceases.

Some owners of bitches may believe that a slip mating cannot be classified as a mating at all.

That is untrue.

Any interaction between the male dog and the bitch which involves his penis penetrating her vagina, is a mating.

Some owners of bitches may believe that a slip mating, even a momentary slip mating, does not involve the “delivery” of any sperm.

That is untrue.

Even unsuccessful attempts at mating usually involve partial ejaculation by the male and so any subsequent attempts which achieve penetration ARE likely to introduce sperm into the bitch.

Any penetration of the bitch, by a male dog, MUST be counted as a mating and therefore it must be viewed as unethical to mate the bitch to a different male during the same season. Quite apart from the question of paternity, there is a very real risk of passing on infection.

The Kennel Club Form 1 Application for Litter Registration by the Breeder clause 16 states: “If a bitch has been served by more than one dog in the same heat the name of all dogs must be given when the litter is being registered unless there is scientific evidence identifying a single sire”.

Although the provision to name two possible sires is available, it is impossible to comprehend that any conscientious, ethical Bernese breeder would want to risk the validity of their pedigrees nor damage their “breeder credibility” by organising the canine “three partner liaison” let alone putting two names down as sire(s) of a litter. Canine DNA tests are now available to determine parentage, and although some breeders have used this test to unravel a dual partner mating conundrum, it does NOTHING to enhance the reputation of the bitch owner nor the owner of the second choice, second service stud. Most of us would want to believe that it is highly unlikely that any true Bernese enthusiast would knowingly participate in such a complicated and highly criticised action, yet, undoubtedly, some long established (and less experienced) breeders and stud owners have engaged and seemingly condoned this unusual and frowned upon practice. It is, indeed, viewed by the vast majority of people as an act of desperation

When numerous attempts for a mating between the bitch and chosen stud fail, all sorts of advice and “old wives tales” emerge. Many ideas are not practical, some are downright ridiculous, and quite a few are hilarious (but that’s another "can of worms" for a whole new article!). One piece of advice I heard recently is, however, potentially fatal, and therefore must be mentioned. The inexperienced owner of an inexperienced stud dog was becoming increasingly embarrassed when her male managed to achieve a few slip matings but not a tie, despite numerous attempts made over 2 days to mate a maiden bitch. After another session of unsuccessful attempts, advice was sought. The stud owner was told to feed her large breed male dog a pound of raw steak, wait 20 minutes and then encourage him to mount the bitch and try yet again.

Anyone who owns a breed known to be at risk from Bloat (sometimes known as Gastric Dilatation, Volvulus or Torsion), and Bernese are certainly a breed at risk should be aware that allowing their dog to exercise with a full stomach MUST ALWAYS be prevented. Any exertion and excitement should be avoided for a few hours before and after the dog is fed. This, of course, includes mating. A Bernese stud dog with a stomach full of food, or even half full of food is not likely to be at his best and the likelihood of gastric torsion being brought on by the sexual activity, sometimes called “the mating dance”, is a very real, very high risk, DANGER. No mating is so important that a Bernese should be put at risk of losing its life.

Jude Simonds © 2002







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