Dog Breeding: The Act of Mating and/or Artificial Insemination

The Act of Mating

It is normal to expect a bit of playful courting behavior between the bitch and the dog before the serious business of mating gets underway.    From 5 to 15 minutes of uninterrupted play and interaction should be allowed without any interference (so long as they are not hurting each other of course).  Play between the two dogs may occupy the whole of their first time together.  This is fine.  It is best to leave them to it, and watch how matters proceed from some discreet vantage point.  Between two experienced breeding dogs, much can be gleaned about the readiness of the bitch for mating by her response to the dog’s advances and the degree of his sexual interest in her.

However, if the bitch or the dog is inexperienced, they may have trouble even if the bitch is physiologically ready to mate.   Sometimes a little help will be necessary.  If someone sits quietly and discreetly down and holds the bitch so she doesn’t move around, a keen dog will often then be able to focus enough to complete the task.   Any significant size mismatch between the two can also be compensated for by lowering or raising the back end of the bitch by standing her in a shallow depression or on a small platform.

It will greatly benefit the confidence and later performance of an inexperienced dog to be mated the first few times with an experienced and willing bitch.   Likewise, it is best initially to breed an inexperienced bitch to an experienced dog.

The penis of the dog contains a bone that allows it to penetrate the bitch’s vagina before the penis becomes erect.  Once it has penetrated, the penis then becomes engorged, including swelling at the base, which is known as the bulbus glandis, that then locks the two animals together for the duration of the mating in what is known as a tie.  This can last up to an hour, but more usually about 10 to 15 minutes.

The dog ejaculates in three fractions.  The first is basically to clean out the waterworks of the dog.  It is clear and of about 1ml.  The second is sperm-rich and milky, and produced within the first few minutes of mating.  At this point he may attempt to dismount but remains locked with the female while producing the third fraction of ejaculate which is again clear, sperm-free fluid.  All up the dog produces about 4 to 5 ml of ejaculate.  It is important to supervise the mating so that the male dog’s reproductive parts aren’t inadvertently damaged by the two coupled dogs dragging each other about.  Some bitches will struggle and need gentle but firm restraint and reassurance to keep them still and calm.

Sometimes a dog will gain penetration but will not be able to achieve a “lock” with the bitch.  Since the fertile fraction of the ejaculate is produced in the first few minutes of the mating, simply holding him into position for this time will usually be enough for the mating to be fertile.  It is advisable for two people to assist in this situation – one to hold the bitch and one to steady the dog.

Artificial Insemination

In pedigree dogs, it is not uncommon for either the bitch or the dog to be unable to mate.  There can be many reasons including lack of libido in either, large difference in size, arthritis or hip problems, aggression, or the dogs may simply not like each other!

In such circumstances, artificial insemination (AI) may be the best method of breeding.  It offers several advantages over natural breeding including:

  • If you are using an outside dog, AI will avoid the need to transport and therefore stress the bitch.  Stress can cause excessive weight loss and poor conception.
  • It may be cheaper to transport semen than to transport your bitch to the dog.
  • The semen can be tested before use to ensure it is viable.
  • AI can overcome the problem of a significant size difference in the breeding pair.
  • AI can overcome reluctance of the bitch to breed, or lack of libido in the dog.
  • AI can overcome the risk of injury if one or both dogs are aggressive.
  • The dog will not be exposed to any sexually transmitted diseases the bitch may have.

AI can be done using fresh, chilled, or frozen semen.

  • Fresh semen is transferred in to the bitch in the same form as it was collected.
  • Chilled semen is spun down to separate out its sperm-rich fraction which is immersed in a special medium containing nutrients, buffers, and antibiotics.  It is then refrigerator chilled and shipped for insemination within 24-48 hours of collection.
  • Frozen semen is prepared in a similar way except that a cryoprotectant is added to the medium.  It is then stored as either pellets or straws freezing it in liquid nitrogen.  In this environment the semen will stay viable indefinitely but once thawed, must be used within a few hours.


Semen type Period of viability                    Comments


Fresh 6 days Results close to natural mating.

AI can occur before or after ovulation.

Can simply be deposited into the vagina.

The breeder can easily learn – with the right equipment – to do this themselves.

Fresh chilled 48 hours Timing more critical (e.g use of blood progesterone assay to pinpoint ovulation).

Can be deposited into the cervix in standing bitch.

Frozen 12 hours Timing very critical (multiple and frequent progesterone assays).

Needs to be deposited into the uterus (surgically).

Potential access to valuable bloodlines of long dead dogs!

Semen easily damaged with possible loss of conception rate.

The accurate timing of ovulation (e.g. measurement of serum progesterone) is strongly recommended to minimize the number of AI procedures performed and is essential when using chilled or frozen semen.


Imagine Doing Your Own AI!

You can easily learn the techniques of Artificial Insemination and perform it in your own home.   No more worries about “Will he mate her or not?” or “Will she stand still this time?”   AI is the solution to the terrible dilemma that plagues every serious breeder sooner or later…

Learning AI can save you thousands of dollars in litters you otherwise would never have had!

You can source a great DIY Canine Artificial Insemination Kit here.  It includes an instructional DVD, full user’s manual, plus full reusable kit of the gear you need to do it safely at home.



Return from Mating and Artificial Insemination to the Reproductive Dog Breeding Cycle