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The following article was written as a guide for breeders, and was kindly written by Marjorie Booth, who has had many years experience, expertise & knowledge in the breeding of labradors.

We will soon be adding the breeders directory to Labforums, where more useful information is obtainable as well as this article.


A Guide For Breeders By Marjorie Booth



First question is do you really want a litter and why, it is not necessary for the bitch to have a litter for health reasons.



So you have decided to have a litter now you should make arrangements with your Vet to x-ray the hips on your bitch which he will then send to the British Veterinary Association to score. The highest score is 52-52 this is per hip this being the worst score, ideally you want a low hip score. Up to 8-8 per hip is good, as the average is approx 16 total. If the hips are bad your vet will advise you not breed from her but if the score is low then you should have her eyes tested. This is done by a specialist vet and when she has passed this test then look for a Stud Dog. The cost of the hip x-ray is approx £150 and the cost for the eyes approx £35.



Now when looking for a Stud dog ask if he is Kennel Club registered, what his hip score is and the date of his eye test. Make sure he is Kennel Club registered otherwise you will not be able to register your puppies. Stud fees range from £250 to £400.



Don't just use the dog down the road because you like the look of him or you can use him for nothing it is always best to go and look at the Stud Dog or look at more than one. Ask to see the pedigree and let the owner see your bitches pedigree. A bitch is usually mated on the 12-14 day but some may be earlier or later. A good test is to rub her above her tail or down the back of her leg, when she will curl her tail over her back this is when she is ready. Some Stud dogs will not mate the bitch unless she is ready so two visits are required, most don't mind you visiting twice.



When the bitch is mated, the owner of the dog will give you a form to register the puppies when they are born, plus a copy of the dogs pedigree & a date when the puppies are due. After about a month you will notice the nipples by her front leg can be seen more, but don't feed your bitch more food. Treat her a normal until she has the puppies then increase her food and water.



If she does not have puppies the usual agreement with the owner of the Stud dog is a free mating next season, this is why you should never use a dog that is not proved on a bitch that has not had puppies as you don't know which is infertile.







Problems When Whelping



The bitch should have her puppies in approx 63 days, it might be a day earlier or a day late but she should start to scratch up her bedding 2 days before she is due. She will also pant alot and seem unsettled, I suggest you sit with her as she will feel better with someone with her.



After 8 weeks your bitch should look heavy and find it more difficult to move about. If you look carefully when she lays down you should see the puppies moving about, this means they are getting ready to be born. Make sure your bitch is somewhere quiet and warm. She will start to scratch up her bedding and start to pant quite alot so she will appreciate your company to encourage her.



I would suggest you have obtained the following prior to the birth of the puppies:



- Plenty of towels and newspapers



- A small feeding bottle and special milk which can be obtained from your vet



- A cardboard box



- A hot water bottle



- Clean towels







Your bitch will strain at intervals which will become more often - this means the puppy is in the birth canal. Puppies should be born head first. You must then open the sack they are born in to allow the puppy to breathe. If the puppy is born tail first you can assist by gently holding the puppy between finger and thumb and gently pull under the bitch. Do not pull straight out, let the bitch chew the cord then let her eat the first after birth which should follow the puppy. I do not let her eat every after birth as this is very rich and can upset her.



When the mother has licked the puppy, gently pick it up and dry it with a warm towel. Clean the puppies mouth. It should then cry which is a good sign. Put the puppy to the teats and let it suckle - this may take some time but it is essential the puppy gets the milk as soon as possible.



If you cut the cord, cut as far away from the puppy and tie off with cotton. Use sterilised scissors. The cord will shrivel in 2-3 days and drop off. If your bitch is having a large litter, put the puppies in the cardboard box on the hot water bottle (cover the bottle with a towel so not to burn the puppies) then place the box where the bitch can see her puppies.



Your bitch usually refuses food before whelping so now she will be ready for her meal. Make this a light meal and give her plenty of water to drink as this helps to make milk. I would suggest you weigh the puppies within 24 hours of being born and again in about 3 days time. You can then tell if the puppies are putting on weight. If not there is something wrong. They usually double their weight in the first week.



Each puppy will be born in a sack followed by an after birth. Break the sack as soon as the puppy is born, this means the puppy can breath. Let the bitch chew the cord then dry the puppy with a clean towel until it cries then put the puppy to the bitch and let it drink. Continue until all the puppies are born and the bitch settles down, but remember if in doubt contact your vet straight away If she has a large litter she will need calcium tablets as the puppies drain the calcium from the bitch and it is important you replace it straight away otherwise you can lose your bitch.



The puppies should be quite happy and drink and sleep all day. Their eyes should open at about 7-10 days old & the mother will at this stage come out of the whelping box and leave them for short intervals.



When the puppies are about 4 weeks old start to feed them rice pudding, scrambled egg, porridge or milk. The milk should be special milk for puppies not ordinary milk. You can obtain a special puppy starter pack from well known food companies through your vet, then feed them the complete puppy foods together with mince beef or the special puppy meats They should be fully weaned at five to five and half weeks old. When you start to wean the puppies keep the mother away from the puppies and cut down her food and water.



You can now start taking the mother away from the puppies for a short while and the more they feed the longer the time away until at about 5 weeks she no longer needs to feed them.



Don't let the bitch and her puppies have constant visitors as this will upset her and therefore could upset her milk Don't let people handle the puppies due to infection. Even people who want to buy, do not let them handle the puppies until they collect their puppy. Keep her quiet and warm . If she has a large litter it is advisable to give her calcium tablets these can be obtained from your vet otherwise the puppies will drain the calcium from the bitch this will cause eclampsia and could loose your bitch within 12 hours.If you are at all worried. call your vet immediately.



Remember, the bitch may not have any milk and in which case you need to feed the puppies. These needs to be done approx every 2 hours. You will need a small baby feeding bottle and special puppy milk. This can be obtained from you vet and it is always a good idea to have these in before your bitch whelps.



You can KC register your puppies on the form provided by the Stud Dog owner, select names and send the form with the fee to the KC address on the form.



The puppies can go to the new owners at 7 or 8 weeks of age so you should worm the puppies at about 5 weeks and then 6 weeks of age. You can get the worm dose from the vet. When the puppy leaves you it should have been fed on a complete food and make sure the new owner knows what you are feeding the puppy. Also, send some food home with the puppy and instructions on how it has been fed. Along with the puppy, give the new owner the registration document signed and dated by you, also the pedigree and Insurance.



Colours



Black, Yellow and Chocolate



Never mate Chocolate and Yellow together as you will end up with a very light chocolate and yellow eyes. Preferably mate chocolate to either another chocolate or to black carrying chocolate.



Please remember, having a litter is not a good way of making money. Here is a guideline on some prices before you begin.



Hip score approx £150



Eye testing £35



Stud fee £250-£450



Caesarian approx £250-£350 (plus any other veterinary charges)



We would like to thank Marjorie for all her help, knowledge and expertise in this subject.
 

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Ok, here I am again with what will probably be a silly question to many of you but...

What is involved in hip scoring and eye testing? What do the hip scores relate to? Do the dogs have to be a certain age before hip scoring is carried out?

Thanks for your patience!

Tracey xxx :lol:
 

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Hi Tracey
Hopefully John will see this, in addition to his huge knowledge, he also organises eye testing clinics, so will be able to fill you in on what is done.

With regards to hips scoring, the best online explanation I've found is
here

regards
Jenny
 

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Thank you so much Jenny and Maddie! That information was really useful!

On the BVA website they have a PDF file which shows the breed average for all breeds - labradors being a mean of 15. They suggest that for breeding purposes breeders choose a sire and dam with scores well below that.

For my little fella his sire had scores of 3/5 (total 8) and his dam had scores of 3/6 (total 9) Would these scores be regarded as well below the breed average of 15 thereby giving him a good chance of good scores once he is old enough to be tested or are they just good scores but not regarded as well below the mean?

Sorry if I'm rambling a bit!

Thanks again for your help!

Tracey xxx
 

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I always thought it was the total for each parent not the addition of the two scores together. I.e. you would not breed with a dog or bitch whose individual scores amounted to 15 or more.

I have had all the necessary scoring done for Coco (she's 3/4 and 0/0 and clear eyes) but I know she has a slight and very common breed fault which is incorrect angulation at the front (best way I can describe it as told to me by a show judge). I did not realise this and now would only consider breeding from her if I could get a lot of help and advice in selecting a stud who could correct this fault in future offspring. She would produce perfectly good pups (paired with the right stud, of course) which would conform to breed standard but, in all likelihood, would not do well in the the show ring.

After a fair amount of research, I've found that there is a lot more involved than just putting two pure breed dogs together with low hip/elbow scores and clear eyes just for the sake of producing pups, lovely though they may be. I think it's vitally important for our favourite breed that breeding is left to the experts or those who have a mentor or expert on hand to give sound and rational advice.

Sorry for whittering on but, as you can probably guess, I feel quite strongly about it. :oops:

I reckon your boy stands a half decent chance of having lowish scores too. Coco's scores are lower than both of her parents! :D
 

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Hi Maddie!

Sorry, I mustn't have made myself clear as I was explaining Charlies parentage - not helped by the fact that it seemed to insert a smiley in my post where a number should have been!

I was saying that the scores for his sire were 3/5 giving his sire a total of 8 and that his dam were 3/6 giving her a total of 9. I was asking if their individual scores were good, not the combined scores. Sorry if I caused you some confusion!

Anyhow, thanks again for your advice and experience. I am only now learning about this lovely breed and a bit like a sponge when I get my teeth into something - I want to know everything about everything!

Nevertheless - all formal stuff aside - I still have the cutest wee fella who fills everyday with laughter and exhaustion and puppy fluff! I wouldn't have it any other way!

Tracey xxx
 

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Hopefully you ill have read the links which Nicola posted to the KC/BVA site. I’ll just post a little to endeavour to explain it in layman’s terms

Eye testing.
Obviously we cannot sit our dog in front of an eye chart and say, “Read from the top please.” What the test is, is a check of the abilities of the eye to perform it's function. When presenting your dog for testing, firstly we put eye drops in the eyes to dilate the pupils. This makes it easier for the ophthalmologist to see all parts of the workings of the eye. About the only condition which we would not put eye drops in for is the test for Glaucoma. (Not a condition normally found in Labradors). The eye drops take between 10 and 20 minutes to take effect, after which time the owner takes the dog in to the Ophthalmologist for checking. The room is normally darkened to further dilate the pupil and to eliminate “Shadows” from confusing things, and the ophthalmologist uses a small torch to shine into the eye to illuminate the pupil. With this in mind It is useful to get your dog use to being in a dark room with a torch! This test is organised as a service to the breeders to enable them to screen their breeding stock for hereditary defects. They are also useful to all dog owner who are then forewarned of possible future troubles.

Labradors have a total of 5 conditions which are tested for, plus another which at this time in under investigation. Of these 5 one, although at this time still on the list, Central Progressive Retinal Atrophy, I am assured is no longer regarded as a hereditary problem, more a dietary condition! Of the remaining four, Generalised Progressive Retinal Atrophy has almost been eradicated in UK dogs. The bulk left is in one professional organisation who I’m assured is now getting a handle on the problem. Unfortunately the same cannot be said in America, who have quite bad problems with PRA. I must say though, the DNA test is helping no end with a 99.8% detection rate. (I’m assured by people who really know that this figure is genuine!) Anyone who has a dog suffering from PRA will know just how serious this condition is. It normally starts to show it’s self at about 2 years old. The dog starts to suffer from “Night Blindness” a reduced vision in poor light. Unfortunately this is only the start and after a few years of creeping blindness the dog will be totally blind.

Total Retinal dysplasia is just that. Total blindness! Normally with this one there is no previous reduced vision, it happens and the dog is blind.

Multifocal Retinal Dysplasia (Commonly known as Retinal Folds) is where sections of the retina become detached. The degree of impairment depends on the amount of retina affected but in the UK has never yet resulted in total blindness.

Hereditary cataracts are a big problem! There are two types, one early forming but the other, the problem one, is late forming. Although Labradors CAN get the early kind, most do not show until late in life, often as late a 8 years old. The problem there is that the poor breeder can test every single year without fail, breed from the dog, and not until the dog is past the end of it’s breeding life find that it has Hereditary Cataracts which it is quite likely that the puppies have inherited! These cataracts are not like the usual milky cataract most people think of. The dog will not go blind but it’s vision will be impaired. In appearance it looks like a three bladed propeller or a Mercedes car badge. This type of cataract should not be confused with a cataract formed as the result of a scratch on the eye or a sugar cataract seen in a diabetic dog. It is totally different and no ophthalmologist could possibly confuse it.

I’ll do another post on hips later.

Regards, John
 

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Hip scores.

Very simply, hips are x-rayed then compared against the optimum. The present system was introduced in 1984. It replaced the old “Three category” system which gave the result Pass, Fail, or Breeders Letter (which basically meant “Not brilliant but all things being equal acceptably reasonable”) It was felt that this system did not give enough information for a breeder to form an educated decision.

So what is the new system? We’ll come to that in a minute but first a word about procedure. You take your dog to your own vet to be ex-rayed. The dog is either sedated or given a full anaesthetic and is then placed on it’s back, stretched out with the hind legs separated. Provided the dog is well under there is no great strain on the joints. The problem comes if the dog is sedated but still knows what’s going on and tried to struggle. In that respect the full anaesthetic is the safest option and personally I would never go for sedation. The plate is then sent to the BVA for the hip scoring panel to adjudicate on.

So what can go wrong so far? Quite a bit! Remember, you are paying the bill so you have a right to see what’s being submitted on your behalf. The panel can only score what they can see. They cannot guess at what they think MIGHT be there and they will only accept ONE plate. If you protest they will only re-examine the original plate so this is the one and only chance! First off, has the plate got plenty of definition? Look at the femoral head. (The ball on the top of the long bone) Can you clearly see the section of pelvis which passes behind it? If you cannot see it clearly then the panel cannot score it! This is usually the result of a thin looking plate lacking in contrast. Look at the spine as it passes across the hole in the pelvis. Is it central? If not then the dog was leaning to one side and this will destroy any chance of a nice even score! If the plate does not measure up then don’t accept it! It’s as simple as that! They are working for you, not doing you a favour! (I always was a bolshy employer!)

So your dog has been ex-rayed and the plate has been sent off. When the result drops through the letter box at first sight it takes a little explaining. So:

The hip joint is, from the point of view of evaluating it, divided into nine features, fits clearances and angles at various places around the joint. Each of these features is allocated a “score”. The score of eight of these features are in the range of 0 and 6. The ninth feature, just to be awkward has a range of 0 to 5!! Don’t ask me why, I’ve not got a clue, but there it is!!!! To me, logic would have said all features would have been given the same range but greater brains than me decided otherwise. Either way, if you add these scores together, the maximum possible is, 53 and the minimum of course is 0 for each hip (Low score good, high bad)

So how do you interpret the results?
If you look at the results sheet you will see all nine features listed for both the right hip and the left. Against each feature will be a score and at the bottom a total score for each hip and a total for the two hips added together. It is this last figure, the total of both hips added together which is quoted when comparing with the average score of the breed. But how good is that figure? Look at it like this, a dog could have a total score of 14 which is fractionally below the average, but this score could be made up of a score of 7 for each hip or even 0 for one hip and 14 for the other. In the first instance both hips are quite reasonable but in the second case one hip is perfect but the other is quite poor and could give trouble! But even that is not the whole story. Because the hips are made up of 9 features the bad hip could consist of features which all lost just one or two marks or it could have a couple of features which were so poor as to loose 12 of those marks on just those two features alone! Again, in the first instance, because no one feature lost many marks the chances are the dog would be perfectly sound even though it had a poor score. In the case of the latter score though, I would expect that dog to be having quite bad troubles even though it had exactly the same total score!

Hopefully this will give you some idea on how to evaluate the scores, but one thing before we close.

In the case of eye testing, you have what you have. It is hereditary and can be passes on. In the case of hips there are many other things which can have a bearing on the situation. Diet, exercise, accidental damage (both before or after birth!) can all affect the final outcome. A dog cannot “catch” bad hips as you could catch a cold but hips can be a product of environment. When a puppy is born the bones are still very soft and bendable. (This is the reason why in the UK a dog must be a year old before it can be scored. In the US the age limit it in fact 2 years old!) It is only during the first couple of years that the bones harden so you can imagine how easy it is for the pelvic socket to open up. From this it’s easy to see how hips CAN be other that hereditary, in fact it has been said that more than half bad hips are NOT inherited, rather inflicted.

Regards, John
 

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Thanks John for the splendid explanation on both the hips and the eyes. It is so refreshing to read such knowledge well put.Count down the hours now and enjoy your drink. Regards Meg
 

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Hi John,

Yes Meg has hit the nail on the head, it is very refreshing to read, and i learn something everytime i read one of your posts!

You are a credit to the site.

Thank you so much for spending the time to advise us on much needed advice & excellent information.

Won't be long before your new arrival - the hours are counting down! :wink:

Enjoy your day,

Julie
 

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Wow, I can't agree more that your info was really well put as well as informative! I have learned a lot about eye and hip scoring there as well as the pitfalls to be aware of should I choose to go down that route at some stage.

Thank you for taking the time to share that with us!

Tracey xxx
 
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