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Older studs and single pup litters

1332 Views 5 Replies 6 Participants Last post by  3GSD4IPO
I am wondering about breeding age for studs. Eskie boy sired his first litter at 10 years old with our eskie girl(Dam was 3) and produced 4 very healthy, strapping pups (one with a single, blue eye-not related to sire age). Recently, at age 11, he sired a litter of one with same dam. Growing up with breeders, I don’t recall ever seeing a singlet even in small dogs-do I assume this is related to sperm viability? I am wondering how common a single pup litter is and if it could be related to paternal age? By the time our girl is ready to breed again, he will be closer to 13. Is there any reason not to allow him a final hurrah? (Other than AKC?). I think our girl much preferred having an only child, and the puppy really thrived!
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I'm not a breeder, just a dog nerd, so this isn't a professional perspective.

I do believe it's quite common for sperm viability to decline in age. Some breeders collect and store semen from especially nice males when they're young for this reason - I've known a couple litters that were even 'sired' by a male who had passed on some years before. Obviously this is expensive so most of the time when it's done it's because the male is truly exceptional in some way. You can get a sperm evaluation at a vet to confirm whether your male is experiencing reduced virality or this past litter was just a fluke.

Singleton puppies are more common in very small-toy breed dogs - not sure which size of Eskie you're breeding - but not exactly desirable. While they sometimes do fine, singleton pups do lack that important social learning most puppies get from their littermates. Play and interaction with littermates are building blocks to important lifelong behaviors like good bite inhibition, learning impulse control and frustration tolerance, and overall resilience in stressful situations. Some breeders who work with breeds known for very small litter sizes (1-3) try to always breed two females close together, so there's a higher chance of having more than one puppy between the two so the babies can get those important 'littermate' interactions, even if they're not technically related to each other. So that's all something to keep in mind.

For me the big reasons not to breed an older male would be:

  • He's sired a lot of litters and is overrepresented in his breed's gene pool ('popular sire syndrome').
  • He has developed signs of a serious health, structural, or behavioral problem in his old age that may be genetic and shouldn't be passed down to potential future puppies
  • He has a physical issue that would make the act of mating dangerous to him (like certain back injuries)
  • Risk of low fertility/small litters (as I addressed above)

Obviously this is excluding all the criteria a stud dog of any age should meet, like genetic health screening, passing a veterinary pre-breeding health exam, being free of structural deformities etc.
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Yes, older males typically have a lower sperm count, and lower motility. However, lots of things play into litter size. Was the breeding a live cover or an AI? If it was an AI, what procedure was used? Did you do progesterone testing to ensure the bitch was ovulating when the breeding occurred? Do the bitch's lines have a history of small litters? Was Mother Nature just in a bad mood?

As mentioned, small litters or even singletons are more common in small and toy breeds, but not unheard of in larger breeds. I have a friend who's Dobe bitch had a singleton, and another friend who's Rottie has never had more than four in her two litters.

Regarding AKC, any litter registration for a stud older than 12 years at the time of breeding requires and affidavit or other proof of the sire on the application is the actual sire of the litter.
I wouldn't say singletons are rare in Rotties. I know of a couple local to me. In one case there was no question but that the problem was with the bitch. That one puppy was the only one of three attempts that produced a puppy. She'd reabsorbed in the past. The sire was young, healthy, and produced other litters of usual numbers.

That said, yes, I've also heard of stud dogs whose breeding careers ended when their fertility fell off, and I know of breeders reluctant to waste a breeding cycle trying with an older dog so they go to a son.
My friend's rottie/norwegian ridgeback had a single pup in an accidental encounter with a lab/husky. I think she was about 4 years old. They got her checked at the vet to make sure there were no more pups, but it was just the one. I don't think my friend was even aware her dog was pregnant! Just to add another to the list.
Before using a male to breed the vet should check the sperm for numbers and viability. This is common practice. As a dog ages, the quality of the sperm can decrease (this is why you have it checked).

When any dog is bred the dog should be x rayed a few days before due date to ascertain numbers of puppies. One or two puppies usually mean a C Section for the safety of the bitch and the viability of the puppies. The puppies determine when whelping will occur and single or two puppies can simply not help to induce sufficient hormones for the bitch to have contractions and whelp. When that happens the bitch may not go into labor and the puppy or puppies will die.

Singletons are not always the stud's fault. The bitch can have something to do with litter size as well.
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