Breeder's Notebook: Thinking Big
Breeding giant dogs comes with a unique set of challenges.
D. Caroline Coile, Ph.D.
Giant dogs make for giant dreams – dreams of romping future winners, hefty sales prices and a life of leisure as Mom does all the work. It’s time for a reality check.
First, be prepared to wait. Giant dogs, which weigh more than 80 pounds (such as Saint Bernards and Newfoundlands), tend to reach sexual maturity at a later age than smaller dogs, so don’t bank on breeding your giant dog until it’s at least 2 or, more likely, 3 years old.
Giant breeds also tend to age fast, so you probably shouldn’t plan on breeding them past the age of 6 years. Because of this time constraint, many serious breeders never get more than two litters from their giant bitches, despite attempts at more.
Once your female is ready to breed, the work’s only just begun, starting with the actual mating. In any breed, if the dogs are strangers or if the female is leery of accepting the male, what should be a romantic evening can turn into an aggressive encounter. In giant breeds, aggression can result in a trip to the veterinary – or human – emergency room. Because of the dogs’ size it can be impossible to break up a fight. Additionally, their sheer size makes intervening potentially dangerous, if only from an accidental bite.
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