I haven’t bred a litter of puppies in years, in part because of the level of effort and stress required to raise the little buggers to 8 weeks of age, and find them suitable homes. Things *frequently* go wrong when breeding dogs, so if you are unwilling to risk your wallet, the lives of your female and her puppies, AND be faced with the prospect of raising one or more puppies into adulthood if you can’t find them quality homes, I highly recommend you start with breeding something a bit lower-risk, like maybe goldfish.
Stepping off *that* soap box, here’s an interesting piece I found online today that discusses fading puppies (these are puppies who fail to thrive after birth, and die soon afterward for often mysterious-seeming causes)–what causes it, how to predict it, and a few techniques to try to prevent it.
Ovulation Timing and Preventing Fading Puppies: A Surprising Nexus by Jane Killion
The article ends with the following: “We all have so much emotionally and financially invested in our litters, and our bitches are counting on us to look after their interests – why not take every measure possible to improve outcomes for our girls and their puppies?”
Well, why not?
Australian Shepherds, traditionally, have been a hardy breed, who are supposed to be easy to breed, easy to whelp, and good mothers. This breed had its genesis on farms and ranches of the American West. In the past, if a female was difficult to breed, had difficulty whelping, or was a poor mother, natural selection took care of things and prevented the same problem from being perpetuated into further generations. (That’s about as nice as I can say it.)
I certainly don’t pass judgement on someone who wants to go all-out on ovulation testing their female, banking plasma, and measuring their puppies’ immunoglobulins (although it all sounds kinda spendy to me), but it does leave me with some niggling concerns about the potential long-term impact to the breed’s aforementioned hardiness on a macro scale, if we begin to rely heavily on science and testing to influence what natural selection used to take care of.
As the article concluded, it can be very tempting, for a number of emotional and financial reasons, to go to heroic efforts to save fading puppies. When one fades and dies, it’s sad and even traumatic for everyone involved–human and canine alike. I think this article gives you some really good explanations and plans of actions if you’re faced with one. BUT. At the risk of sounding cold-hearted, be careful what you do next. Consider what you are perpetuating into the gene pool, if you continue to breed a female who apparently has ovulation issues. Consider what you might perpetuate, if you breed the offspring who may not have fully functioning immune systems (the article really doesn’t discuss this aspect of it, but it seems logical to me that a dog not getting ‘passive immunity’ from its mother as a neonate could very possibly have future immune issues). My take on it–save the pup if possible; but afterward, think long and hard about keeping either dam or pup in your breeding program.