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Tournament Hunter Magazine Article - Breeding Considerations  by Terry Holzinger

Tournament Hunter Magazine Article - Breeding Considerations  by Terry HolzingerI’m often approached by people who are interested in breeding their dogs. Some are breeders who are seeking to get various qualities into their lines. Many others are just regular folks who have a good hunting dog with qualities they would like to see passed on. These people often have a lot of questions on the do’s and don’ts of the process. It is important for them to consider their responsibilities as a breeder and be properly prepared before breeding their dog.


Some of the main things to consider include the personality of the dog, the physical characteristics, natural abilities that were bred into the dog and the proven performance and titles of the breeding dogs and their bloodlines.

Looking at the personality we focus on temperament, the part of the personality that is genetically based; outgoing, tractable nature, eager to please, non aggressive towards man or dogs, intelligence and very adaptable. Most people want a dog that is easy to live with but will hunt hard and love it. Some dogs are a bit lazy and don't hunt very hard, they only retrieve a few times then get bored. Other dogs are too excitable and obnoxious and never settle down. Consider the characteristics you want in a dog and breed for a good balance in those traits.

Keep in mind while pursuing your breeding program, the physical characteristics of the breed. Some people have a different idea of how they would like a dog built. That is why there are breed standards, to remind us what distinguishing characteristics each breed should have.

When breeding a hunting dog, the natural abilities that have been bred into them are very important. These qualities need to be developed through training and experience. Here are some key genetic qualities to look for in your breeding dogs.

  • Trainability - quick to learn, always eager to please and wants to work; good focus
  • Strong retrieving drive - natural soft mouth with a good hold, quick pickup, not dropping and loves to carry things
  • Hunting - quartering or thoroughly systematically and aggressively hunting an area
  • Athletic ability - good muscle tone and agility for endurance hunting
  • Scenting ability is critical — ground or air scenting, tracking and quickly locating a bird
  • Boldness - busting cover and hitting the water hard
  • Perseverance - not giving up the hunt in tough hunting conditions
  • Marking ability - dog see's and remembers where one or more birds have fallen in a hunting situation and thoroughly hunts the area where birds have come down
  • Pointing - a strong point comes from ancestry, holding point as soon as the location of the bird has been established


Titles are a way of proving that a dog has satisfactorily demonstrated he/she can do the task to the level awarded. Generally it is better to have more proven titles, especially higher degree titles closer in the pedigree to your dog. When breeding hunting dogs you want to look for titles in hunting or field trial programs.(Some dog bloodlines reproduce their great abilities better than others).

Pre-breeding process

Breeding dogs need to have their hips and elbows X-rayed and be certified by the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA). Elbows should rate as “normal” and hips preferred “good” to “excellent” for breeding dogs. In addition eyes should be checked and certified annually by an animal ophthalmologist and paper work sent to Canine Eye Registration Foundation (CERF). All responsible breeders' goals are to help minimize the incidence of genetically caused problems through the screening of breeding stock within reason. A wise dog buyer should insist on eye CERF and OFA certifications of both the sire and dam.

As you do an honest assessment of your dog’s characteristics you will find some areas that are weaker. Here you come to the question: Will breeding this dog help maintain a high quality standard for the breed in the future? If you can see that the good points far outweigh the bad and the health clearances are good, then you want to seek out a stud dog that is especially strong in the areas where your female is weaker. Work with reputable breeders whose dogs have a proven history in the types of performance you are most interested in and consider their recommendations.

Breeding time

Once the decision is made and the breeding day approaches, the female should have a Brucellosis test (canine venereal disease), ideally when she first comes into heat. It can take a couple of days to get the results back from the vet, so don’t delay. If you’ve had the hips and elbows OFA'd and eye certifications done, you should be ready to go. Also some breeders require a progesterone (P4) test to determine the ultimate time to breed. Be aware that some breeders require other tests, such as Centronuclear Myopathy (CNM), Exercise Induced Collapse - a syndrome of Exercise Intolerance and Collapse (EIC) and Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA), etc. Make certain that you have a complete understanding of their requirements before your female comes into heat.

Once the female comes into heat, she is typically ready to breed around the twelfth day of her heat cycle, but some are ready as early as the seventh day. Careful, some people don't catch the heat cycle right a way. Your veterinarian can do smears and progesterone (P4) testing to determine when she will be ready to breed. The progesterone (P4) test is the most accurate. This testing will help ensure that the breeding is successful. Most vets need to send this out to a laboratory for an accurate reading and it may take a day or two to get results back. The closer the breeding time the more accurate the progesterone test will be. Depending on timing, only (1) breeding may be necessary. Usually (2) breedings at least 36 hours apart will cover the entire ovulation period. For a long distance breeding another option may be to send chilled or frozen semen Fed Ex to the bitch's veterinarian for artificial insemination.


It is a good idea to have half the puppies sold before breeding commences. This will help you gauge whether there is a real demand for them before you’ve committed to the responsibility and the expenses involved. The price you can expect is determined by the cost of the stud dog (which is determined by his lineage, titles, performance and the performance of his offspring) and the lineage, titles, and performance of the female. Good old supply and demand comes into play here. Dogs with good bloodlines, proven performance and a good reputation will bring buyers from afar, increasing the demand and value of the pups.

I also recommend interviewing the people before making a sale. Try to make certain that your puppy is going to a good home and that they really want the kind of dog that you are selling.

When selling quality puppies it’s important to have a written guarantee that is fair to both buyer and seller. Once you have written your guarantee, it is a good idea to show it to someone with a good reputation in the breeding business. They can look it over for things you may have missed or areas that need to be better covered.


Keep checking your female, when her temperature drops from a normal 102 degrees down to 99 degrees and holds fairly steady, she will usually start whelping puppies within 24 hours. The puppies are usually born around 62-63 days after the first breeding, although there is some variability. Once the pups are born, you should consider having their dewclaws removed at 2-5 days old. Puppies should be done with the weaning process by around (5) weeks old so they are on a regular diet when it’s time to send them off to their new homes.

Tournament Hunter Magazine Article - Breeding Considerations  by Terry HolzingerRaising

Spend a lot of time with the puppies, especially in the last few weeks. Take them for short walks and let them explore and learn about the world around them. The puppies should be familiar with people and associate humans with having lots of fun. Find toys they like to pick up and carry around, encourage them to retrieve. Remember their attention span is very short. While spending time with the pups you get to enjoy watching their individual personalities develop. Maintain a good cleaning program for the puppies. This will make housebreaking easier for the new owners because the puppies will be used to keeping themselves clean. Raise these pups the way that you would want someone to raise a pup for you.

Sending Home

I like to send them off around 7 weeks (49 days). Seeing people getting excited over their new puppy is always a special time. You should be thrilled knowing the great potential that was bred into the pup. Things to send home with the puppies include: Health certificates, a guarantee, pedigrees of both parents, worming and type of vaccination information and a little bit of the food they’ve been eating to avoid a drastic change in diet. It’s also nice to send some puppy tips home as well. You can go to our web site at http://holzingerkennels.com/puppies.html and look for the “Puppy Tips” link at the bottom of the page. There is a printable file available there that will give the new owners a good start.

New Home

I like to maintain contact with the people to follow the progress of our puppies. This feedback helps you get a good understanding of the kind of dogs you are actually breeding. Hopefully most of the feedback will be very positive. Who knows - you might even develop a new hunting buddy or two from the people who you meet this way.

I hope this answers most of your concerns, but don’t be afraid to ask the breeder a lot of questions. It’s a great way to learn from the pros.


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