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While most dog owners still use natural breeding as a way to impregnate female dogs, there are options such as artificial insemination that provide the same end results. Both options for breeding have both positive and negative aspects and dog owners need to carefully consider their options before electing either option.
Natural breeding is by far the most common for most breeders, however there are some evident drawbacks to the process. The most obvious issue is that natural breeding requires that both the male and female be in the same location during the specific nine or so days that the female is in estrus and will stand to breed. Since not all females are predictable as to this time frame there are progesterone assay tests and vaginal swab tests that can help breeders determine just when the best time to mate the two dogs will be. Unfortunately this is highly dependent on the female and transporting her, stressing her or even changing environments with some females can throw off the cycle significantly.
Natural breeding is not always guaranteed and most breeders recommend placing the male and female together every other day for the entire estrus cycle or until the female will no longer stand for the male. This is the most effective way to ensure she catches, more formally known as a successful breeding. During this time she needs to be confined when not exposed to the male and he too should be confined so he does not breed with any other females. High sperm counts are essential for successful breeding so controlling how often he is allowed to breed is very important. It is also important to avoid breeding the male to the female every day or whenever they decide to as this will also lead to lower sperm counts.
Breeding needs to be completed with the supervision of the owners as either the female or the male can become aggressive during this period. Injury to either the male or female is possible at any time in the breeding process through intercourse problems or through aggression. During breeding the male and female will be locked together, with their rumps touching, for approximately 10 to 60 minutes. During this time it is very important that neither dog become startled or try to pull away as this can be a critical time for injury to both the male and female.
There is always the risk that a female or male could possible contract a sexually transmitted disease (STD) during mating with an infected dog. Brucellosis is the most common dog STD and is very serious and life threatening. Always have both the female and the male tested for any STD, genetic or contagious condition prior to breeding to prevent any possible problems.
There are obvious advantageous to natural breeding, after all it has been highly successful for literally millions of years. There is a relatively high rate of success to natural breeding, but it does vary between specific breeds as well as between individual male and female dogs. Natural breeding is low cost, provides an opportunity for multiple breeding times during the estrus cycle and is a good way to be able to see both dogs before actually breeding them together.
Artificial insemination (AI) of dogs has become more popular in the last twenty years or so as technology and the affordability of the process has advanced and become more reasonable. Artificial insemination requires that the semen is collected from the male dog, stored appropriately, then deposited into the female dog using artificial means, not requiring a physical male to female breeding. It can also be used in situations where the male or female will not naturally breed or there is some physical problem with natural breeding. Typically if either the female or male has aggression issues during the natural breeding process, AI offers a very safe and effective alternative.
The obvious benefits to AI is that semen from male dogs all around the world can be collected and used to breed females anywhere else in the world. Grand champions in England can be bred to Grand Champions in America without ever having to leave their home kennel let alone travel. There are few if any complications in this process as there is no physical interaction between the two dogs and no concerns of injury during the process. The other obvious benefit is that male semen can be collected as often as viable, allowing the genetic makeup of the dog to enhance the breed more than if the dog had to be mated using traditional natural breeding. Some owners of the male dogs collect semen that can be stored in a frozen form for use even years after the male has retired or has passed away.
The semen is collected from the male through the use of an artificial vagina. A female in heat is brought to the male, who then attempts to mount her as he would in a natural breeding situation. The AI technician or trained breeder simply substitutes the artificial vagina and the dog is none the wiser. The collected semen is then evaluated and the actual sperm count determined. The semen is then either chilled and inseminated into the female within 24 hours or it is frozen using liquid nitrogen for fast freezing.
When the female is in estrus, which can be confirmed through a vaginal swab and examination as well as testing the level of progesterone, the semen is thawed and brought to the proper temperature, checked for motility, and then inserted into the female in estrus at least at the depth of the cervix. The semen is inserted using a thin glass or plastic tube that places the semen at the ideal location for movement of the sperm into the uterus and subsequent fertilization of the eggs. Artificial insemination has approximately the same to a slightly lower success rate as natural breeding. Generally this is because of incorrect handling of the semen that leads to possible decreased sperm motility or viability. Depending on the semen purchased and the distance that the dog or dogs would have to be transported to breed naturally it can be cost saving for both breeders.
It is important to recognize that both dogs still need to have genetic and health testing completed prior to artificial insemination. It is also important to keep in mind that there is still a risk of disease being passed from the male to the female in this breeding process, however the male does not have any exposure to the female so is at no risk for this time of transfer.
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