When you’re looking for a stud dog, it’s important to find one that will compliment your bitch and produce healthy, sound puppies. There are many factors to consider when choosing a stud dog. In this article, we’ll discuss the process of finding and choosing the perfect stud dog for your breeding programme. When you’re looking for a stud dog, it’s important to find one that will compliment your bitch and produce healthy, sound puppies. There are many factors to consider when choosing a stud dog. In this article, we’ll discuss the process of finding and choosing the perfect stud dog for your breeding programme.
Finding the right stud dog can – and should - take time, so forward planning is essential.
You should consider what your breeding goals are. Do you plan to breed future champions? If so, then the quality of pedigree is high on the list.
If however, you want to breed pets, then temperament will be more important than lines of champion ancestors.
Crucially, and no matter what your breeding goals are, health must be the top priority for the dogs you use.
You only have a small window of opportunity in a bitch’s fertility cycle to achieve successful mating at the right time. Therefore, you also have to consider and plan for variables and unforeseen circumstances that might not seem important right now, but could derail everything! A few examples are:
- Inclement weather preventing you from travelling to the stud dog
- The stud being unavailable when you need him
- The stud being ill or being retired from breeding
- The stud owner becoming ill or unavailable
- Chilled or frozen semen samples being delayed or mishandled and rendered unusable if doing artificial insemination.
A backup plan is never a bad thing, when searching for a suitable mate for your bitch, always have a plan B, and even plan C so if your first-choice stud is unavailable you have other options already in place. So then, let's begin to delve deeper into finding and choosing these perfect boys.
What makes a good stud dog?
We’ll go into more detail on all of these points below, but the key considerations of any breeding dog include:
Health - every dog should be tested for Brucellosis, a common sexually transmitted disease in dogs — and should have written evidence of a negative test result.
Age - current KC guidelines stipulate not under 12 months and not over 12 years.
Breed - specific health testing certification must be current
Physiological development - a good example of the breed kept in excellent condition and with proven fertility
Psychological development - relaxed and friendly with no aggression or nervousness etc.
Physical quality (phenotype) - free of defects such as overshot jaw or cryptorchidism etc.
Pedigree (genotype) - proven in the show ring, working trials or agility if this is a consideration for you. If KC registered there are no endorsements preventing registration of any progeny (Endorsement R)
Location - the physical location of the stud should also be considered.
Evaluating your bitch
First and foremost, you should know your bitch. Take a look at her objectively and consider her strong and weak points. Are there traits you hope she will produce in her pups? Does she have any ‘faults’ that you don’t want in her pups?
As a simple example, she may have a longer nose than is ideal for her breed, so finding a stud dog with a shorter nose may balance out the nose length in her pups. But it’s not as simple and straight forward as that as we will explore further in this article.
The male dog has an incredible capacity for reproduction. He can potentially be used every other day without a decline in fertility. Sperm can be chilled and frozen and sent to all corners of the globe for use to inseminate bitches.
When thinking about the male, evaluation for breeding ‘soundness’ involves consideration of his ‘type’ is he a good example of the breed? or carry some desirable trait? Is his temperament sound and his body healthy? Is he free from genetic disorders? In essence, everything that the bitch should have and more. He can be tested for the same infectious diseases and the same breed-specific recommendations and requirements apply.
Just as the bitch can be examined and tested for the optimum breeding time in her cycle, a male can also be tested for fertility by examining a sample of his semen.
This is collected and evaluated against ‘normal’ parameters, volume being breed specific. You cannot expect a sample from a chihuahua to be 20ml for example.
This is a time-consuming process, requiring special equipment, and is only valuable on the day the sample was taken, however, it is generally a good indicator of how fertile the male is on the whole.
This would be the responsibility of the stud dog owner as it helps them prove the quality of their dog. Therefore it’s worth the stud’s owner having the semen evaluated every few months to ensure he remains fertile.
How old should a stud dog be?
Males are usually physically capable of siring a litter by 8-9 months, sometimes as early as 6 months. However, you should always wait until they are over 12 months as a minimum when they are calmer and more mature or at the very least until he has had all of his health screenings. Most breeders will wait until the stud is at least 18 months of age.
A General Guide for Maturity
A younger (or older inexperienced) male can sometimes present a challenge to breed because their over-enthusiasm combined with a lack of concentration can make natural breeding almost impossible. The bitch also tends to lose patience with an over-eager male who doesn’t know what he is doing.
Like many aspects of breeding, health testing is breed specific. Before breeding from any dog, you should thoroughly research your breed and know if there are any inherited conditions that may affect that breed.
We’ve gone into more detail on health testing earlier in this series, but below we’ve outlined the key aspects of health testing relating to stud dogs.
In his stud career, a dog can produce many hundreds of puppies so it's vitally important to reduce the risk of passing on any inheritable health issues to future generations.
Each breed recognised by the UK Kennel Club has a listing.
For cross breeds you need to take into consideration the requirements and recommendations for both, or all, of the breeds involved in the mix.
As an example, I will use a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel stud.
Requirements are those tests that are required by the Kennel Club before you can register a litter with their Assured Breeder Scheme. The results are already recorded by Kennel Club systems and published online in their Health Test Results Finder
Recommendations can include anything that impacts the health or welfare of the breeding dogs or subsequent puppies and do not need to be conducted in order to be part of a Kennel Club scheme.
When researching a stud, you should always search on the Health Test Results Finder at the KC website to confirm the results.
Hand in hand with health testing requirements, recommendations and results, the Kennel Club also produce Estimated Breeding Values and Coefficients of Inbreeding to help breeders plan mating with suitable stud dogs. It should be acknowledged here that the stud owner also has a responsibility to check EBV and COI before agreeing to their stud being used with a particular bitch.
What do I do after I have done my homework and found a stud I like?
You should always visit a potential stud well before any mating takes place. Some stud dog adverts can make the dogs look amazing, but you can’t rely on photographs and descriptions. Meeting the stud owner and the dog will allow you to ask lots of questions and get to actually see the male.
You can assess his size, temperament and condition. You can take the opportunity to ask about breeding terms, the contract, health test results, pedigree, litters already sired by him, and any other questions you may have. This can be done quite informally without the hurry to get the mating done at the same time. Once breeding has taken place, it's too late to be asking questions of the stud owner.
How much does a stud dog cost?
An arranged mating between dogs is called a ‘service’. It is this service that you are expected to pay a fee for. This varies widely and on many factors such as:
- The rarity of the breed
- The rarity of colours
- Health test results
- Show results or other qualifications
- The number of champions in his pedigree
- Is it a new stud or well used proven boy?
Generally speaking, it can be anything from £50 for a novice / unproven boy of a less in-demand breed to tens of thousands of pounds for a popular but rare breed of rare colour.
Looking at online advertisements can give you a general idea of cost of a stud service, but this won’t include things like travel costs, or boarding fees if the bitch is to stay with the stud owner for a period of time.
An average stud fee pre-Covid rule of thumb was about half the price of a puppy. On average prices seem to be rising toward the full asking price of a puppy for some breeds.
You can also contact breed clubs who should be able to give you an indication of a reasonable stud fee for a particular breed. Ultimately it is the stud owner who dictates the price for the service.
Do I need a stud dog contract?
Absolutely. Before the mating occurs, it is important that a detailed written stud dog contract is agreed upon and signed to prevent any future confusion, allowing either party to refer back to it at later date.
This document should include any breeding terms or stud fees and should be arranged by mutual agreement in writing between the owner of the dog and the owner of the bitch before the mating takes place.
The Kennel Club Stud Contract Guide can be found here guide-to-stud-dog-contract.pdf (thekennelclub.org.uk)
Here is an overview of items that are standard in stud contracts:
- The exact stud to be used as well as his particulars such as registration number, microchip number, date of birth, pedigree certificate and copies of health test certification
- The dam’s details, similar to the above.
- A set fee is paid to the stud owner by the dam’s owner. This fee is paid in consideration for the service and does not in itself guarantee a bitch will conceive. The amount of this fee is determined by the stud owner
- In return for the fee the bitch will be served (mated) by the stud an agreed number of times. The usual number is two services during the current heat cycle. The contract may even specify whether the breeding will be natural or conducted via artificial insemination.
- Dates of service should also be recorded in the contract so that the bitch owner can calculate the possible due dates for any resulting litter.
Optional terms such as the following may be included:
- Some stud owners are willing to guarantee one or two live puppies at the time of birth, if so, they offer one repeat service at no extra charge on the bitch’s next heat cycle if the original breeding does not take.
- If the stud has never been used before some stud owners will waive or reduce the fee in order to get the stud ‘proven’. Another variation of this is that the stud fee is paid only after it has been determined that the dam is pregnant
- In some cases, the stud owner may agree to take a puppy from the litter in lieu of a stud fee. Sometimes this will be the ‘first pick’ from the litter. Alternatively, this could be ‘second pick’ allowing the owner of the dam to take the first pick so they can continue the breeding line. If the stud owner’s terms are to take a puppy, then you should know at what age the puppy will be chosen.
Where can I find a stud dog?
So now we know what to look for in a stud dog, where can we look to find this perfect partner?
The internet makes this process super easy, but we need to be careful about where we are looking and the necessity to visit the stud(s) even before your bitch is in season cannot be stressed highly enough.
As with puppies, there are many false advertisements and scammers out there so be vigilant and never give any information to anyone that may be used for their gain. Never be afraid to ask for references as legitimate stud dog owners will be more than happy to provide them.
Stud dog owners should never ask for a deposit to hold provisional dates or for any other reason. The usual process is that the female visits the male for serving and fees are generally paid at the stud owners’ premises once terms are agreed and contracts are signed.
Some places to find a stud dog include:
- Local Facebook groups
- Visit dog shows and speak to exhibitors and judges
- Contact breed clubs
- Online breed forums
In conclusion finding the perfect stud for your girl is very time-consuming but incredibly rewarding. As well as (hopefully) producing the perfect litter you will find life-long friends and mentors in the dog breeding community that will be with you for your whole journey.