The Female

The female or bitch, as we stated in Chapter 11, comes into heat twice a year. Like the young male pup, the female will show sexual interest at an early age. She will indulge in juvenile sex play, perhaps even mounting her litter mates or examining the genitals of both males and females. Later, as she matures, she will grow out of this juvenile sexual behavior and settle down to a rhythmic pattern of coming into heat twice a year. She will restrict her sexual interest to the heat periods.

You will recall that the bitch's heat period is divided into phases. During the first phase, you will notice that her vulva or external genitals are swollen. The bitch will pay attention to this swelling by constantly licking the parts. She may also be slightly nervous or uneasy. Her appetite will vary from day to day; in fact, as her heat cycle increases, she may skip a meal or two. Males will be interested in the bitch during the first phase, but she will not encourage them. Most likely she'll do the opposite; discourage them by snapping or growling at them.

There is no need to be concerned that the bitch might be hurt by males when she acts like this. No matter how fiercely she resists the advances of eager males, they will not retaliate. No male will ever attack or bite a female—in or out of heat— unless he is berserk or rabid. This is the law of the pack and no male in his right mind ever violates it.

At the end of the first week after the vulva have become swollen, the second phase starts. This is characterized by a discharge. The discharge is bright red at first, later changing to a pinkish fluid (or colorless fluid) five to nine days after the discharge starts. With rare exceptions, the bitch will attend to the matter of cleaning herself and her bed. But there is always the possibility that she will stain rugs, carpets and furniture. It's best to keep her in a place that is easily cleaned during her heat period, especially during the discharge phase. There are special sanibelts for bitchs, available in pet stores, but these irk the dog and are more bother than worth.

Toward the end of the second phase, the bitch becomes very coy and playful. She will be very solicitous to all males. But she is still not ready to stand and be mated. Then; is some risk though; some overzealous and impatient male may corner and mount her. And since conception may take place, keep her confined if you don't want her mated or are planning to mate her with a particular dog.

The discharge ceases at the beginning of the third phase.

The bitch is now ready for mating, usually between the 9th and 14th days from the onset of the heat period. Conception has its best chance between the 11th and 14th days, with the 12th and 13 th days considered as the optimum. During the third phase, the bitch will encourage all males and will stand to be mated, thrusting her tail aside. Here, again, you will have to keep a close watch on her if you don't want to mate or wish to avoid a mismating. The urge to mate will be very strong at this time and the bitch will make every effort to get out.

A bitch can be very troublesome when she's ready to mate. Taking her for walks on a leash can be hazardous. You'll have to be constantly on the lookout for males. They will not be far away; "word" gets around very quickly that there's a bitch in heat in the neighborhood! Despite your efforts, a male can be on top of the bitch before you know it. And 63 days later, you'll be the owner of some puppies.

Young bitches should not be mated before their second heat period; larger breeds should be allowed to reach the third heat period. Saint Bernards and Irish Wolfhounds are examples of large breeds that should be permitted to attain maximum growth before being mated. These and other very large breeds are slow to mature. The American Kennel Club will not accept puppies for registration from a bitch that is under 8 months or over 12 years of age. But even though a bitch may be capable of breeding up to her 12th year, it's best to stop breeding her when she's 7 or 8 years old.

Spaying

If you decide you do not want to mate your bitch, you can have her spayed. Spaying is an operation in which the bitch's ovaries are removed. This eliminates the heat periods and the possibility of conception. In the hands of a competent veterinarian, the operation is a simple one.

Spaying is a form of birth control among dogs. When you consider the large number of stray and unwanted dogs in this country, you'll agree that some form of control is necessary. There have been some arguments advanced against spaying; some of them on moral principles, some on physical grounds. They range from the argument that spaying interferes with Nature to the argument that spaying makes a dog fat and lazy.

Concerning the argument that spaying interferes with Nature, we'll leave that to the philosophers and moralists. As for spaying making a dog fat and lazy, there just isn't enough evidence to support this argument. Overfeeding and lack of exercise will make both spayed and unspayed bitchs fat and lazy.

Spaying has some decided advantages. If the operation is performed correctly, there will be no more heat periods, no more males hanging around the yard and no litters of unwanted puppies. In most communities, a license for a spayed bitch costs less than that for an unspayed bitch. Also, in the case of those breeds or individuals that tend to be nervous or snappy, spaying a bitch when she is six months old often has the effect of curbing these tendencies. Finally, it is believed that spayed bitches have fewer breast tumors than unspayed bitches.

There are some disadvantages to spaying. The main one is that you can't breed your bitch if you should change your mind. This is something to think about before you rush your bitch to the veterinarian and ask him to spay her. Since a dog's life is comparatively short—10 to 12 years— you might possibly want to have a puppy from your bitch to raise after she goes.

Another disadvantage to spaying is that some bitches develop a urinary incontinence. It doesn't happen to every bitch. As some spayed bitches grow older, they lose control of their bladder and urinate frequently. Many of these cases, however, have been helped by hormones.

Postponement of heat period by injection of drug

Veterinary science has recently developed a practical, easy and relatively inexpensive alternative to spaying. It is a single injection of a safe and reliable drug to control the heat cycle of dogs. The drug is very closely related to the natural hormone found in dogs. In the normal dog, a hormone is produced to prevent heat periods most of the year. However, twice a year, the dog's body cuts down on the production of this hormone and the result is a heat period.

A single injection of this drug builds up the decreased supply of the natural hormone and delays the heat period for six months or longer. One injection can bring the dog out of an existing heat period within one to seven days. But you will have to watch your female during this period; keep her away from males until all signs of heat have disappeared. She can be bred during the build-up period. For best results, you should take your bitch to the veterinarian at least 3 weeks before her regular heat period is due. This means that you will have to keep a record of her heat periods.

The injection method of controlling heat periods has been thoroughly tested and proved reliable. No untoward side effects have been reported in dogs receiving this treatment. There are no adverse effects on the normal breeding capabilities from using this drug. Dogs being treated with this single injection method may be bred at a later time. Upon cessation of the treatment, the dog will return to normal heat and usually comes into heat again after a variable time lag. Litter sizes and puppies are usually normal.

Spaying costs from $25 to $40, depending on your location. The injection method costs vary, but usually start at $7.50 per injection for dogs 25 pounds and under and $10 for dogs over 25 pounds. And you'll have to figure on 2 injections each year for possibly 8 to 10 years. The, big advantage of the injection method is that you can take the dog off the treatment and breed her; spaying is permanent and the dog cannot conceive.

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