How to Prevent Unplanned Puppies


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While late winter or early spring may be the perfect time to breed your dog for a perfect summertime litter, there are times when you may not want to breed your female. This may be due to several reasons. The age of the dog is one concern, as well as if the bitch has been tested or evaluated for any of the breed’s known health issues, such as hip dysplasia, primary luxating lens, progressive retinal atrophy, cardiac problems, elbow dysplasia, etc. (A list of tests for each breed can be found on the Canine Health Information Center website: http://www.offa.org/) Many owners of purebred dogs frequently finish their conformation titles or compete in dog sports before allowing their bitch to be bred. All of these decisions help to assure that the bitch that is to be bred will be a quality dog and will help keep the breed healthy and viable.

But anyone that has had a bitch in heat knows that sometimes those plans may go awry. During that time period, she may do extraordinary things to escape and find a willing mate, as well as an intact male will do the same to reach her. Here is a list of potential solutions to prevent an unplanned litter.

  • Keep accurate records of her heat cycles.
  • Be fully aware of when she is in heat and when she is most receptive.
  • Watch for signs of a silent heat or a split heat.
  • If possible, keep the bitch with you at all times during her heat cycle.
  • If you are not able to keep the bitch with you, leave her crated for short time spans, and leash her for exercise and to relieve herself. Make double sure that the crate is securely latched and the door to the room is closed and also latched.
  • If you are uncomfortable with leaving her in a crate, you may leave her in a room or house, but make double sure that all windows are tightly closed and all doors to the outside are securely latched.
  • Beware of dogs escaping through cat doors or other small areas that have access to the great outdoors. She may squeeze out, or someone may come in.
  • Do not leave a bitch unattended outside, even in a fenced yard or kennel. Male dogs have been known to scale walls and kennels to reach a female, and vice versa.
  • Do not keep intact males on your property.
  • Do NOT leave her with someone that you can not trust 200% with the responsibility of a bitch in heat. If they are inattentive at all or are not 100% familiar with females in heat, then do not leave your girl with them.
  • Board the bitch or any intact males you may have at a reliable veterinarian’s office or a highly reputable boarding kennel.
  • Do not rely on pants for bitches or wraps for males, as these can easily come off or be torn off.
  • Be aware of intact male dogs in your neighborhood and if possible, alert the owners that you have a female in heat. Remember though that a male dog can smell a female in heat for quite a distance, so do not rely on this to keep your girl safe.

In short, keep your bitch locked up tight and under your control at all times. It only takes a minute of inattention or a short distraction to have her disappear or for a male to reach her.

Learn as much as you can on the reproductive cycle of dogs so that you will be more aware of her cycle and what is taking place with her during her cycle. And, in case she is bred even though you took all the precautions you could think of, learn about how to care for her while she is pregnant and how to take care of the pups when they are whelped.

You may find Phyllis A. Holst’s book, Canine Reproduction: The Breeder’s Guide, 3rd Edition, helpful in learning more about the dog and their reproductive cycle.

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