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How to breed a winning greyhound

The track career of your successful racing bitch is drawing to a close. So what next? Breeding offspring from her may seem like a natural step, in the hope that her talent will be passed on to future generations. More generally, you might be considering purchasing a brood bitch as a way of getting more closely involved in greyhound racing and perhaps ultimately of having the satisfaction of having raised a winner right from the beginning.

Either way, prospective breeders need to get to grips with what’s involved in successfully producing and rearing a litter before they take the next step. Here are some points to consider before you commit.

Get expert guidance

There’s much more to breeding than taking a winning bitch, pairing her with an equally illustrious sire and letting nature take its course.

Breeding programmes can take time to develop, as does building up the level of knowledge necessary to make wise breeding decisions. For instance, on first glance, the past form of a particular dog may look impressive, but are there any warning signs in the pedigree record that you need to be aware of? It’s also important to be able to identify the specific weaknesses in your bitch in order to select a stud with characteristics that complement and hopefully compensate for those weaknesses.

You can build up your understanding by getting hints and tips from people who are already involved in breeding. The British Greyhound Breeders Forum exists to promote best standards in British breeding and is a useful starting point for anyone who wants to find out more about what it takes to be successful.

Get to grips with Kennel Club best practice and GBGB rules

The Kennel Club provides an information hub aimed at informing novice breeders about the practical side of successfully breeding a new litter. One of the things you’ll need to think about is how many of the pups from the litter you intend to keep and the Kennel Club Find a Puppy Service may be a useful option here - especially if your dam produces a large litter. You should also be familiar with the rules for registering your greyhound with the Greyhound Board of Great Britain, including ensuring that your puppies receive their vaccinations. Refer to GBGB registration requirements for further information.

Select the right bitch

If you are purchasing a brood bitch who has bred previously, the starting point will be to look at the form of her previous offspring. If her earlier litters have failed to produce promising dogs, it’s probably unlikely that there’s going to be a turnaround in this trend.

Litter size is based mostly on the female (i.e. the number of eggs produced). Smaller litters can give rise to problems such as the need for a caesarean section, so look for indicators that point towards this particular bitch’s capacity to produce strong, healthy litters, such as the fact that the bitch herself came from a large litter.

Select the right stud

Generally, the starting point should be the strengths and weaknesses of the bitch. Considering these, your selection approach should be to try and identify a stud whose characteristics best complement them.

Stud services appear regularly in the classified adverts of greyhound racing magazines, and the British Greyhound Breeders Association also has a directory of UK stud dogs. Rather than relying solely on promotional material, be careful to scrutinise the record of the dog before committing, including checking the progeny record of dogs sired previously by your proposed stud to ensure the characteristics you are looking for have been passed on.

A combination of progesterone testing, along with understanding of your bitch’s cycle should help you identify the optimum time for mating. But even with this, it isn’t a foregone conclusion that your bitch will get in whelp. As such, check what is and isn’t included in the conditions of stud service - including possible provision of a free return the following season if your bitch fails to get in whelp.

Experience in breeding coupled with thorough research can increase your chances of a successful outcome but it can’t guarantee it: the actual combination of genes puppies receive from each parent is a random process. After birth, the task of the breeder switches to giving the dog the opportunity to reach its full genetic potential with proper care, nutrition, exercise and handling.

There isn’t a ‘magic formula’, but doing your homework, giving careful consideration to breeding decisions and following best practice on pre and post-birth care can help maximise your chances of breeding a winner.