Most owners meet their new puppy for the first time when the puppy is 8 weeks old. It is easy to forget just how much thought, planning, and time has gone into producing the puppy long before it is ready to go home. In fact, the process starts months and even years before the puppy is born. Hunters Point Kennel would like to break down the process of producing puppies into a series of five articles to give you a better understanding of what we are doing every day to ensure that we produce quality Pointing Lab puppies to become part of your family.
Picking the Sire and Dam: Our first article is going to focus on the first and arguably the most important step of the puppy making process. A lot of thought goes into picking a breeding pair and it takes experience and knowledge about each and every one of our dogs to decide which dogs will produce the highest quality puppies.
What type of puppy do we desire? — Knowing what type of puppies that we desire is one of the very first steps to picking a sire and dam pair for breeding. Although there are no guarantees, by looking at the characteristics of the mother and father we will have a pretty good idea of what their offspring will be like. With pointing labs, the color of puppies that desired is something important to consider. This page explains the basics about coat color genetics. By knowing the genetics of our dogs, we are able to accurately predict what color of puppies the match will produce. Beyond coat color, size and build are also something to think about. In general if you breed a bigger, stocky dog to a bigger, stocky dog, the pups in general will be big and stocky. If you breed a more petite dog with a more petite dog, you can expect more petite dogs. If you breed dogs of two difference sizes, most of the puppies will fall somewhere in between. The full-grown size of each puppy cannot be predicted 100% based on the parents, but we can get a very good idea.
In addition to physical traits, and more important to many, are going to be personality traits. At HPK we only breed dogs that have proven their train-ability and competence in the field. We also look for other factors such as temperament and overall behavior. Our goal is to not only produce outstanding working dogs, but also a dog that fits perfectly at home with a family. We are very selective in our breeding matches to ensure that we get puppies that are not too aggressive, yet not too timid. We love a dog with a lot of spunk, but also appreciate a dog that has the ability to relax.
Health of the sire and dam — We know that there certain genetic diseases that Pointing Labs are predisposed to. At Hunters Point Kennel we do our best to select our breeding dogs so that those diseases will not be passed to offspring, or have the least chance of being passed on. An example of this that most people are familiar with is hip dysplasia. Before one of our females or males can be used as a breeding dog, he or she must have their hips certified with the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA). This involves taking an x-ray of the dog’s hips and assigning them a rating. By only breeding animals with an OFA rating of ‘good’ or ‘excellent’ we significantly reduce the risk of hip dysplasia occurring in their offspring. There are other genetic diseases such as exercise induced collapse (EIC) that we need to be aware of as well. When selecting a sire and dam, we need to ensure that by breeding them together we do not run the risk of producing puppies affected with EIC or other genetic diseases.
Aside from any genetic diseases that the dogs may be carriers for, we need to assess the current health status of all dogs used for breeding. For the female this means making sure that she is in good physical condition to carry and care for a litter of puppies, this includes being up to date on all vaccinations. Pregnancy and lactation are the two most demanding time periods in a dog’s life. With males, we do want to make sure he is in good physical condition, but this is not as critical as for the females. What is more important for the males is to make sure that he is producing quality semen that will be able to fertilize the female’s eggs. The best way to do this is to collect a semen sample and have it analyzed. Something that both the sire and dam should be tested for before they are breed is a disease called Brucellosis. It is a reproductive disease that can be spread from male to female or vice verse during mating. This disease is should not be taken lightly because it is not treatable and may prevent the female from conceiving or cause abortions or stillbirths.
Past history of the sire and dam — If either the sire or dam has produced previous litters, we can learn a lot by looking at those pups. We find a lot of value in seeing the product of certain breedings and keep those in mind for future pairings. Sometimes we find a combination that is perfect and we will do repeat breedings with the same sire and dam.
Selecting a sire and dam pairing is not an easy process but through experience we have confidence in our decisions on which dogs to breed. Once we have determined what traits we desire in our puppies we can proceed with genetic and health screenings with the male and female that best fit our criteria. As long as both dogs are deemed suitable for breeding we will continue on to the next step. Check back soon for our next article in the Makings of a Pointing Lab series that will focus on female reproductive cycles and methods of breeding we use at Hunters Point Kennel.