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Brood Bitches: An Interview with Donna Dale
Originally printed in the Summer, 1994 issue of the Skye Terrier Club of America Bulletin

1) How do you train your brood bitch specifically with regard to crate training, comfort with travel and strange situations? Do you do progesterone testing?

All our bitches are crate trained as youngsters so that, for us, is a moot point. We do, however, try to avoid shipping a bitch by air for breeding, preferring to drive her to her affair. Recently, we have done progesterone testing when using frozen semen. Otherwise, we prefer to rely on the "good nose" of the stud.

2) How do you evaluate and ultimately select a stud dog?

Basically we look for a dog which exhibits and produces the qualities we either wish to obtain, strengthen, or maintain what we have. We do not believe in change for the sake of change and we are always careful to be aware of traits that we may obtain that we are not keen to bring into the line.

3) What supplies do you keep on hand to prepare for whelping? What do you use for a whelping box and how do you regulate whelping box temperature?

We keep a "puppy box" which goes along with the whelping pen. It is always stocked so that there is not panic as to where something is when it is needed. It is just a collection of things we have found to aid in parturition. It contains a couple pairs of good scissors, cotton swabs, cotton balls, iodine, oxytocin, syringes and needles of different sizes, KY jelly, Esbalic and a french catheter. For many years we used a 4 x 4 whelping pen made for us by an old friend whose hobby away from the FDIC was cabinet making. It was a wonderful box but after 25 years it became just too heavy to hoist around and we now use a new fangled plastic commercial model. Not nearly as beautiful, but easier on the back. We have for years elevated our whelping box during the actual event so that we could stand. We never allowed a bitch to whelp without out being present. For temperature regulation we normally use artificial lamb fleece on the floor and a radiant heat lamp. In this way the dam can remain comfortable and yet the whelps do not get chilled. We tried a heating pad but were not enamored with them and we do not like electrical cords in the box that might become chewed.

4) What timetable do you use in whelping? How long do you wait before seeking assistance from your vet?

First of all, you had best be on the very best terms with your vet and make sure that they are aware of the coming event. In this day many, if not most vets will refer you to some emergency clinic should the bitch decide to deliver at any time not during regular business hours. This seems particularly true in metropolitan areas. So make arrangements just in case you might need your own trusted vet. We've used the same practice for 25 years and have had no problems. This particular practice likes breeders and feels that breeders do know things about their own breed that these vets may not know. They will listen and not just dismiss you out of hand. Once a bitch begins active labor, with contractions every few minutes, we would expect the first puppy within an hour to an hour and a half. After that first puppy, if contractions do not resume in two hours, call your vet. Do not hesitate to section the bitch. This does not means that should you breed her again that she will need a section. Uterine inertia is a funny occurrence.

5) How do you recognize signs of trouble in your newborns?

Puppies that are cold, lethargic, not nursing, just not thrifty are the most common signs of trouble. Naturally, if a whelp is not breathing, that would be a sign of distress. If the bitch pushes a whelp away and does not stimulate it and/or keep it warm, there is little you will be able to do to save it.

6) Have you had a bitch who has exhibited non-maternal behavior (for example, after C-section) early on and, if so, what suggestions can you offer for dealing with this?

We have never had a section done on a bitch which has not progressed through labor and had two or three puppies naturally. We have had young bitches on their first litters when presented with that first puppy seem to ask, "What's that?" or "I'm supposed to do what?" However, they have all settled down to their maternal duties with no problems. We all have found that some bitches seem more attuned to motherhood than others. While they all do the necessary work, some will take on any and all puppies available. We have one bitch that we have to make sure doesn't get too near the box as she will adopt any litter as her own. Makes no difference to her that there is no milk in the faucets.

7) How do you select a puppy buyer and what information/items do you send puppies home with?

A candidate for ownership of one of our Skyes must first feel completely comfortable with our contract. We prefer to have known the prospective owner prior to the sale. This can come from visits to our home or perhaps even at a show. We have actually sold very few Skyes, if any, into homes that have not previously owned Skyes or other dogs. We, of course, send health records, a pedigree, and a supply of food the puppy is accustomed to eating. Therefore, if the pup's diet is to be changed, it can be done gradually by adding a little of the new food each day to the accustomed diet. We send warnings about the use of Ivermectin in any form and we are considering adding it prohibition to our sales contract for future sales.

8) What are your favorite books on breeding and genetics?

Fanny Hill, Sex and the Single Bitch, as well as the Victoria's Secrets and Fredericks of Hollywood catalogs are among the top vote getters. Ooops! That is for breeding. Muriel Lee's book, The Whelping and Rearing of Puppies is probably the most complete we have seen.

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