Who's Your Daddy? Can Dog Litters Have More Than one Dad?

Like any episode of Maury or Jerry Springer, it's not always clear who the father is when it comes to puppies.

By | Posted: December 16, 2014, 9 a.m. PST

"We have two daddies.” That’s what some puppies, or at least litters, can say these days. Some can even claim three daddies.


In cases where females have been spotted being less than selective with their lovers, it’s long been suspected that puppies in the same litter could have more than one sire. It used t be that the entire litter was ineligible for AKC registration, prompting some breeders to just pretend they never saw any infidelity and instead just make their best guess of one sire for the entire brood.  Not only has DNA testing made it possible to registered the puppies from such litters, but it’s also made it possible to purposefully mate a female to more than one stud, DNA-test the puppies, and register them with different parents. Why would anyone want to do that? In breeds where homes are hard to find, especially when they have large litters, it’s one way to maintain genetic diversity without the breed risking overpopulation.

Some people object on moral grounds, but even though her doggy friends may call her slutty, most she-dogs don’t seem to object to mating with more than one stud. But if that’s a dilemma, you can always use artificial insemination to impregnate her. But a word of caution: Recent findings have suggested that whichever male’s sperm gets there first tends to sire most of the puppies. So before you call "come and get it!” be sure you’ve decided who gets to go first. Or better yet, mix the sperm together and do it artificially. And be forewarned that a multiple-sired litter is going to cost you a lot more for DNA testing and American Kennel Club (AKC) registration.

So how do they decide who's the baby-daddy? Just like on the Jerry Springer show, it comes down to cheek swabs and DNA. 

Here’s how it works: The DNA profile is a collection of genetic markers (segments of DNA that have many different forms in the dog population, and that are reliably passed from parent to offspring). Each parent has a pair of possible markers at each marker location, and each parent randomly contributes a copy of one of those markers to each offspring. This means that each puppy also has a pair of markers, one inherited from the sire and one from the dam, at each location. One marker can easily be traced to the dam; either the remaining marker must match one of the proposed sires, or that male is unlikely to be the sire. Say the dam’s markers at one location are AB, and the sire’s are BC. Puppy #1 is AB, puppy #2 is BB, and puppy #3 is BD. Puppies 1 and 2 could have been sired by that sire, but puppy #3 could not have been because the sire had no D marker to contribute. At least two non-matching markers must be present of the fourteen routinely tested in order for the AKC to exclude a dog as a possible sire. Paternity testing is now fairly routinely performed in dogs to see which one is the sire of an accidental or a multiple-sired litter. But even when they’re fingered, getting them to pay pup support is still next to impossible.

DNA parentage testing makes matters dicey not only for studs that may wish to shirk their fatherly responsibilities, but for the less than scrupulous breeders out there: AKC can randomly inspect large-scale breeding operations to determine whether their pedigrees are accurate, by comparing what pedigrees claim and DNA disclaims. DNA testing also allows the AKC to respond to complaints of suspicions that parents or sires are not as alleged. Does that puppy you paid big money for resemble the breeder’s pet bitch more than their top-winning bitch? Did your bitch whelp a litter that looks more like the stud owner’s oversexed youngster than his older dog? Now you can demand to know the truth. But it will cost you if you’re wrong: To discourage frivolous allegations, a written complaint and $500 deposit (returned if the charges are validated) must be submitted by the complainant.

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Eileen - 249708   Port Perry, ON

12/17/2014 7:13:02 AM

Interesting Article!

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