You know what? There are Gordon Setter breeders everywhere and I’ve found that you love to find ways to share experience and information with each other! At least, that’s what our surveys told me about you, our readers. A while back I put a couple of short questionnaires out on Gordon Setter Expert to see what readers were experiencing on the breeding front, you know, to get some idea of what you folks might want to hear about based on your experience.
The surveys gathered information from 146 matings, and geographically the majority, about 95% were from the United States, 3 were from Canada and 3 from Australia, while 2 other responders were from European countries. Other than that, our survey tool does not disclose any other information about the people who answered the survey. I am not drawing any conclusions from the information that was collected here, I am simply sharing that information with you so you can gain insight into how frequently, or maybe not so frequently, other breeders may be encountering a similar issue. This is by no means a scientific survey, it is information gathering and sharing only.
Several of the comments that readers posted on the survey concerned the use of Artificial Insemination (AI):
“Seems there are fewer and fewer breeders who breed naturally, even when both dogs are present, or can be present. When faced with a breeder who wants to do a natural breeding, some breeders can’t read dogs or don’t have a clue how to accomplish a natural breeding. How do we gauge natural breeding ability if we don’t allow our dogs to breed naturally? What has happened to survival of the fittest? Seems to me there were issues when we were all doing natural breeding!
“I’m concerned with breeding “vigor” for lack of another term, and the loss of desire and ability for natural breeding by our dogs. I have witnessed a lack of desire in bitches who are testing out on progesterone. I have witnessed related bitches who would flirt and play, but at standing, would do anything to avoid being bred. No medical reasons were found. These bitches are successfully bred via AI, then carry and whelp healthy puppies. Some breeders say that is enough. But what about the survival of the fittest, should breeding vigor not be included? I am concerned that breeders use AI far to frequently and have lost an interest in knowing how to manage a natural breeding stud dog and brood bitch. I realize natural breeding requires a great deal of planning and expense and some consider flying their dogs to be putting them in danger.”
“When I am breeding a bitch here, I always do an “insurance” AI just prior to the bitch being “ready”. I get a litter on the ground that is nice sized and with a good split.”
So what did the Gordon Setter survey responders tell us about the frequency of Artificial Insemination (AI) and other similar topics?
76% said their preference is to do natural matings assuming both the dog and bitch were ready, willing and able while 24% said that their preference is to do the mating by AI. (So while for some the preference is to do an AI some of those same breeders will agree to do a natural breeding if the other owner insists.) There were 12% of the responders who said they would not do a natural mating, they will only perform an AI using their dog or bitch. On the whole 88% of the Gordon Setter breeders who responded are willing to do natural matings even if that is not their personal preference.
When we look at the results then, as to the number of matings that were actually completed by AI as compared to the number that were completed by a natural breeding we find that the poll seems to be split almost 50/50 with just over half of the actual matings that were reported having been done by natural means. From the answers given, when all was said and done and the mating was complete, 58% of the matings were reported to have been accomplished by natural means which allows that the other 42% of the matings taking place were completed by AI. Now, assuming that more of us are taking advantage of the opportunity to use stud dogs from different geographic regions by use of fresh chilled and frozen semen I do not find that number surprising, do you?
We asked those who only perform matings by AI to share their reasons as to why this is their preference. To prevent the spread of infectious agents between dog and bitch was the reason 16% of those breeders gave. Another 37% told us that it is more convenient than a natural breeding and the other 47% did not specify their reason for using AI only.
On the question of Gordon Setter Health Clearances
Stud Dog Owners – the percentage of Gordon Setter stud dog owners who require proof or documentation from the bitch owner on each particular test or clearance before agreeing to or completing a breeding:
90% – require bitch is clear of Hip Dysplasia
78% – require bitch DNA tested rcd4 (clear or carrier)
78% – bitche tested clear of Brucellosis
53% – bitch x-rayed elbows normal
50% – progesterone tested for ovulation timing
48% – CERF – current exam
38% – physical exam including proof of vaccinations and clear of parasites
30% – bitch tested CA clear
25% – bitch tested thyroid normal
18% – vaginal culture
13% – vaginal smear to determine timing of ovulation
Brood Bitch Owners – the percentage of Gordon Setter brood bitch owners who require proof or documentation from the stud dog owner on each particular test or clearance before the breeding occurs.
93% – dog must be clear of Hip Dysplasia
76% – dog DNA tested rcd4 (clear or carrier)
70% – dog tested clear of Brucellosis
54% – dog x-rayed elbows normal
52% – dog is CERF – current exam
33% – dog tested CA clear
33% – thyroid test
Comments that were posted by Gordon Setter breeders who participated regarding additional exams or clearances that are in use by them, along with some other miscellaneous items that you wrote to us about.
“I don’t believe in vaginal cultures but I do put my own bitches on Baytril as soon as they come in season and stop the day of the first breeding. I discuss this with any potential bitch owners as well. I do sperm analysis on my boys prior to any breeding.”
“Vaginal culture for my bitch and of course Progesterone testing.”
“Superchem CBC Urinalysis”
“You listed thyroid for the stud, but thyroid normal for the dam, there is a difference. I want to see that the testing is done but don’t rule out breeding to dogs with abnormal results. Same thing with CA carriers” (Note: that is right and a good catch thank you. I did list the questions this way and it was done in error as I meant to use thyroid normal for both.)
“My bitch gets an exam to make sure she can have a natural breeding. It was determined through this exam that she could not and we did the AI.”
“Using frozen semen and a surgical implant presents its own set of possible complications.”
“If the stud dog has passed away and have only frozen semen I will not breed to a maiden bitch. I will not be told by their vet how many straws are needed, will go by history of prior breeding of the stud dog and by what the company says who has the frozen semen storage (from now on).”
“Using chilled and frozen semen more (often) because there is a wider gene pool available for breeding.”
“I am assuming you are referring to AI as fresh/chilled only. Don’t have the same option when located in remote places or with tight quarantine rules – frozen may be the only option…” (Note: the intent of the survey was to try to determine how often matings are being done by AI no matter what the reason (fresh, chilled or frozen) and then to find out how many times breeders are making an actual choice to do an AI when it would have been possible to do a natural breeding with both the dog and bitch available. I expected to find that the number of AI matings would be higher than they were, say 20 years ago, because of the use of fresh chilled and frozen semen to accomplish long distance matings.)
Gordon Setter breeding complications, how often, what are they? How did breeders respond?
Breeders responded to the survey regarding 80 Gordon Setter matings where it was known that the breeding included only properly deposited and viable sperm and it was indicated that 61% of those matings resulted in conception. That means in 39% of the matings the Gordon Setter bitch failed to conceive. Breeders weren’t always able to identify why their bitch failed to conceive, when they did we were told that 25% failed for various hormonal reasons, 17% identified a bacterial or viral infection, 8% found thyroid abnormalities, 8% had structural problems and the remaining 42% fell under “other” or unknown causes.
Of the live litters that were born breeders told us that 79% of the time there were at least 3 or more live puppies in those litters. When asked the question regarding the frequency of stillbirths in litters breeders reported that about 14% of the time the number of stillbirths was higher than they would have expected. In another 10% of the litters that were born breeders reported that there were an abnormal number of puppy deaths in the first 3 weeks of life.
Some breeders did share information regarding the causes puppy deaths during those first 3 weeks. Their comments follow along with other questions and observations:
“C-Section, dam’s incision dehised, 6 out of 9 puppies died after being removed from the dam and bottle feeding started. (note – “incision dehised” sounds like a wound dehiscence which is a surgical complication where the wound ruptures along the surgical suture).
“mother laid on pup 2 days after birth”
“one puppy #12 came out without a sack and could not revive him, #13 came out with no problems and this was the last puppy of the litter”
“one to respiratory infection (aspiration of fluid) passed at about 10 days, another from extremely low birth weight passed away at 12 days”
“Previously (before the last 5 years) I had a bitch that reabsorbed part and all of her litters. This was due to low progesterone after conceiving. I was able to maintain a litter with progesterone injections. I kept and bred a puppy from this litter and eventually bred her. She also had the same problem, when I kept one of her pups, it too carried the same problem. All were spayed and I started over with an unrelated female. The other problem with the injections is that the bitch will not go into labor, therefore a C-section is a must. A friend had the same problems with one of her Standard Poodle bitches, and the same results with breeding offspring. She had bred Standards for 40 years, her bitch was from her own line, she had never had this problem before, but once it appeared, it seems it is passed on to the female offspring. Neither of us tried breeding a male from one of these bitches, so don’t know if there was any effect on them.”
“No bitch or stud dog failed here, I give vaccinations or medications like Drontal or others to pregnant bitches. Only before mating she’s on the top of health…when the bitch starting her season she received worm cure, vaginal culture and is not allowed to swim in natural rivers…”
“I did have a bitch who conceived but then reabsorbed her litter. She was confirmed pregnant via ultrasound at 28 days”
“Hearing more Gordon bitches with cystic ovaries that fail to conceive”
So my friends, now it’s time for you to chime in, offering advice and further comments using the comment section. This can be a great place to start conversations, ask questions, provide advice and all those other great things we like to do for each other. Looking forward to your participation!
Many thanks to Bob Segal for the adorable puppy photos!
Sally Gift, Mesa AZ