There are many terms used when discussing dogs and breeding so I thought I would start a list here. I am amazed just how many of the terms are used in human anatomy and pregnancy, particularly the ones about genes, chromosomes, eclampsia, A.I. etc. Last year I read the book/home study program for dog breeders:

“ABC’s of Dog Breeding” by Claudia Waller Orlandi, Ph.D.

I also took the test at the end of the book and submitted it to the AKC to get a completion certificate, after all that reading and studying I figured I deserved that piece of paper Open-mouthed smile 

I knew a great deal of time and research went into breeding dogs but this book was a real eye opener on the fine detail of it all and I commend all the long time breeders out there who have produced phenomenal dogs over the years through their dedication to their breed. I am very honored to call some of them friends and mentors!               

Glossary of Breeding Terms

Artificial Insemination – a breeding where the sperm is collected from the male and manually inserted in to a female.

Breed Standard – is the set of breed descriptions originally laid down by the various parent breed clubs and accepted officially by international bodies.

Breech birth – A posterior or rear facing delivery where the hind end of the puppy is birthed first leaving the head inside the birth canal and not the opposite way. This position can occasionally present a problem with a puppy getting stuck.

Brood bitch – a female dog used for breeding purposes.

Brucellosis Test – may be required prior to breeding to determine that neither the female nor the male has this venereal disease.

Canine Brucellosis – a highly contagious canine venereal disease which can also be transmitted non-sexually. Both male and female should be checked for this incurable disease before breeding.

Chromosomes – the rod like structures of DNA which come in 39 pairs in dogs on which the genes are located and determine the genetic features of the dog.

Cleft Palate – a congenital abnormality where there is a hole in the palate.

Congenital – a condition which exists from birth and is generally inherited.

C section (cesarean) – surgical removal of the puppies.

Culling – generally refers to the putting to sleep of puppies who may be malformed or unhealthy.

Dam – mother of puppies.

Dog breeding – the practice of mating selected specimens with the intent to maintain or produce specific qualities and characteristics. Breeding relies on the science of genetics, so the breeder with a knowledge of canine genetics, health, and the intended use for the dogs attempts to breed suitable dogs.

Dominant – an inherited trait that will express itself in an offspring.

Dystocia – difficult birth or the inability to expel the fetus through the birth canal without assistance.

Eclampsia – a condition that may occur in pregnant or lactating females due to a metabolic upset where the body’s calcium becomes depleted. Signs may include nervousness, panting, vomiting, problems navigating, temperature rise and convulsions. Extremely serious requiring immediate veterinary assistance.

Fading Puppy Syndrome – a condition where a previously healthy puppy suddenly stops nursing, becomes limp and dies fairly quickly. Generally thought to be caused by the herpes virus.

False Pregnancy – a condition where the bitch may show many of the signs of pregnancy, including milk production but actually produce puppies.

Free Whelp – when a mother is able to give birth to the puppies naturally, without surgical assistance.

Genes – the sequence of material located along the chromosomes which are the carriers of genetic information.

Genetic – traits that are inherited by a combination of genes from the dog’s parents.

Genotype – the makeup of a dog’s genes, the blueprint of every trait that it has inherited and may pass on to subsequent generations.

Gestation – the period of time from conception to birth, on average lasts 63-65 days.

Heat – a female dog’s estrus cycle usually lasting around 21 days during which time she may be bred. Usually re-occurs approximately every 6 months.

Herpes virus – a disease which may affect puppies, often picked up from an infected dam during birth. Signs are puppies that suddenly become limp, ceasing to nurse, crying continuous and die within 24 hours. Quite often the whole litter will be infected, so veterinary assistance should be immediate to save the puppies.

Heterozygous – means two different genes in a pair and is a hybrid and will not breed pure for a characteristic. In a pair of heterozygous genes one will be dominant and the other recessive.

Homozygous – means an identical pair of genes. If a dog has a set of homozygous genes then it will breed pure for a certain characteristic. A pair of homozygous genes may be either dominant or recessive.

Horns of the uterus – a dog’s uterus is divided into a Y shape of two separate sections in which the puppies can form. Puppies can occasionally “traffic jam” if they meet coming into the vagina at the same time.

Hydrocephalus – a congenital abnormality where there is water on the brain of the puppy. All affected puppies should be culled.

Inbreeding – the breeding of two closely related individuals within one generation of a pedigree, i.e.. brother to sister, father to daughter, etc.

Linebreeding – the breeding of two individuals which are closely related through a common ancestor.

Normal presentation – Head first birth.

Mastitis – inflammation of the milk glands. Signs and symptoms are lethargy, listlessness refusal to let the pups nurse, red swollen breast tissue, fever, loss of appetite.

Metritis – an inflammation of the uterus, usually caused by a retained placenta or fetus, or introduction of bacteria in the genital tract during birth by unsanitary practices. Signs are lethargy, fever, loss of appetite, very smelly vaginal discharge which may be bloody looking or yellow. Requires immediate veterinary attention.

Mate – to breed a dog and bitch.

Outcrossing – the breeding of two individuals with no common ancestors within a five generation pedigree Pedigree – written family tree of a dog.

Oxytocin – a hormone produced in the bitch naturally that induces uterine contractions. As a drug it may be administered to the bitch as a treatment to help with whelping. Its use may be ineffective or harmful in some complicated cases.

Phenotype – it is how the genes that a dog possess come together to present the outward appearance of the dog.

Pick of litter – generally the best puppy in the litter as determined by the breeder.

Placenta – tissue which is attached to the mother’s uterus during pregnancy allowing the puppy to receive blood and nutrients while developing. The placenta detaches from the uterus prior to birth.

Polygenic – traits which are caused by the interaction of more than one gene.

Re-absorption – a process where the pregnant bitch may absorb fetuses back into her body, possibly due to deformity of the fetus, disease or stress.

Recessive – an inherited trait that may remain hidden or suppressed.

Season – a female dog’s estrus cycle usually lasting around 21 days during which time she may be bred. Usually re-occurs approximately every 6 months.

Standard – written blueprint or guidelines depicting the important points which will distinguish a certain breed.

Structure – the construction of a dog. May vary from breed to breed.

Stud – male dog used for breeding purposes.

Stud Service – the use of a male for breeding purposes.

Temperature – a dog’s regular temperature ranges between 101 degrees F to 102 degrees F. 24 to 48 hours prior to whelping a pregnant bitch will usually have a drop in temperature down to 98-99 degrees.

Testing – various tests that may be carried out on a dog to check the health of dog with respect to genetic defects for which a breed is predisposed. Tests may range for auscultation of the heart to x-rays, ultrasound, blood tests, cheek swab, etc. depending upon the nature of the disease being tested for.

Tie – the phenomenon in dog breeding when the male’s penis swells inside the bitch’s vagina and becomes trapped by the involuntary contraction of the vaginal ring. This “lock” may last from a few minutes to 30 minutes.

Toxic Milk Syndrome – a condition when the mother’s milk has become toxic to the puppies due to an infection developed by the dam. Signs are the puppies become bloated, cry, have greenish diarrhea and a red, sore rectum. Puppies should be removed from the dam and hand fed. The dam will require veterinary assistance.

Tube feeding – the feeding of a puppy by placing a small tube directly into the puppy’s stomach. Usually required in newborn puppies if the mother is unable to feed due to death or disease. Should never be attempted without experienced help as there is a real possibility that the tube can be placed in the lungs in error.

Umbilical cord – the cord which attaches the puppy to the placenta allowing nutrients and blood to reach the puppy.

Umbilical Hernia – an opening in the wall of the stomach where the umbilical cord had been. Occasionally a little fat may push through, though there is a small danger that organs could come through. Quite often heals over as the puppy grows older.

Uterine Inertia – a condition in which contractions become less frequent in occurrence or stop altogether but there are more puppies to be delivered. Oxytocin may be administered or C-section may be required. This may be caused due to whelp obstruction or a bitch resisting delivery.

Water Bag – sac filled with fluid which surrounds the puppy while in the uterus. Provides lubrication in the birth canal.

Weaning – the gradual process where the puppies are changed over from mother’s milk to solid foods.

Webbed – means connected by a membrane.

Webbed Toes – are connected by a skin membrane; important for water-retrieving dogs like Chesapeake Bay Retrievers, providing help in swimming.

Whelp – To give birth to a litter of puppies. A pregnant bitch is considered to be “in whelp.” When she is giving birth, she is said to be “whelping.”

Whelping – the procedure during which a female dog gives birth to puppies.

This is not a complete list but it has a lot of the most common terms you may hear. I may add to it in the future but for now I will leave you with these.

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