The Science and Art of Breeding Dogs Well

A friend of mine shared that she thought surgical inseminations were the only option with frozen — I suspect she is not alone in this thinking.

Frozen semen is compromised semen. That whole experience of being flash frozen and kept at almost 300 degrees below zero would put anyone off their game. Sad but true — frozen semen are resurrected to live only 12 - 24 hours.

This means there is no time to waste on long distance travel — semen need to arrive at the party pronto! In other words, they need a lift to the uterus — a sort of Uber for sperm.

One method to transport the semen is to surgically implant it in the uterus. This is a relatively simple procedure but yes, one should not ignore potential anesthesia and surgery risks. Further, you get one shot so the timing better be good — one would not do repeated surgical implants.

Transcervical insemination (TCI) involves using a scope to go through the cervix, depositing the semen in the uterus via a catheter. This is an easy procedure when done by an experienced veterinarian, requiring no sedation and very little risk. Unlike a surgical insemination, multiple TCIs in a cycle are possible.

I have been exploring the professional literature to compare methods and guess what? There is ZERO advantage to doing surgical implants when comparing pregnancy rate. None. In fact, the advantage goes to TCI.

Mason and Rous (2014) compared TCI and surgical implant for frozen semen; pregnancy rates were significantly higher in the TCI group.

Hollinshead and Hanlon (2017) completed an impressive study of various aspects of canine reproduction, including a comparison of pregnancy rates between TCI and surgical implant; they found no difference in pregnancy rates between the two methods.

Send me an email if you want a PDF of this article — it is a good one.

Send me an email if you want a PDF of this article — it is a good one.

TCI and surgical implant deliver semen to the same place, prompting Hollinshead and Hanlon (2017) to observe, “theoretically there should be no difference in whelping rate between the two techniques, as the site of deposition is the same i.e. intrauterine” (p. 69). Their findings confirmed this.

Therefore, one might ask: If the same results can be achieved using a non-invasive procedure with much less risk (TCI), why are surgical implants being done at all?


What does impact pregnancy rates in both methods of intrauterine deposit is semen quality. That is not really a surprise, is it?

What the professional literature does not address is the potential increase of pregnancy rates when variables such as Lucky Socks and donuts are components of the protocol. Isn’t that shocking?!

I was set for yesterday’s TCI — I had the Lucky Socks…

Thanks, Suzanne! Extra Lucky because they were a gift.

Thanks, Suzanne! Extra Lucky because they were a gift.

Lincoln had his Lucky Shirt…

Lincoln with donuts.jpg

To increase the Good Luck, I added more Donuts.

Guru donuts sign.jpg

I took this dozen to the vet — she has gone above and beyond for us (more on that tomorrow).

Aren’t they pretty?!

Aren’t they pretty?!

The timing is perfect, the semen quality is excellent, we are using the preferred method of Uber for frozen sperm, our veterinarian is a Super Star, and we have both donuts and Lucky Socks involved — oh, and Unicorns…

Berkeley has a bandage from her blood draw — the genetic tests were approved by insurance and are underway.

Berkeley has a bandage from her blood draw — the genetic tests were approved by insurance and are underway.

I think we are giving Sparklers 2.0 every advantage — but we need all the good thoughts and wishes and luck today as well. Thank you for being part of our team. #sparklers2.0

As the Progesterone Rises

Sparkle is feeling a bit like an Ill Wish Doll these days with all the needle sticks for the blood needed to track her progesterone level.

We check progesterone because it is a clue about Luteinizing Hormone (LH), which is the trigger for ovulation in mammals. LH is transient and easy to miss, even testing once each day.

When progesterone hits a certain value, the LH surge has occurred — we call that Day 0; ovulation begins on Day 2.

The eggs need to mature and so fertilization cannot occur in dogs before maybe Day 3, and Days 4 - 6 are actually the optimal breeding days.

Poor timing is a typical reason for breeding failure. Sparkle is almost six — we cannot afford to fail.

A slight complication is that experts have different ideas of the progesterone value that reflects the LH surge and therefore, ovulation.

  • Anything over 0.9.

  • 1.8 - 2.5.

  • 2.0 - 3.0

To help you understand how the variability in values might complicate things, consider Sparkle’s progesterone numbers:

  • Tuesday @ 1 pm: 0.36

  • Wednesday @ 2 pm: 0.6

  • Thursday @ 2 pm: 0.9

  • Friday @ 12 pm: 2.6

Yesterday’s value of 2.6 likely represents the LH surge. But it is possible that she had the surge late on Thursday, depending on whose progesterone values one uses to reflect the LH surge. Therefore, one could support Thursday or Friday as Day 0 for Sparkle.

We have set aside serum from each day’s progesterone test and will check for the presence of LH in the samples with progesterone values suggesting the LH rise — Friday’s sample for sure.

It is complicated, isn’t it? Personally, I think the intentional and thoughtful creation of life should be complicated.

We check progesterone again this morning. This involves driving to Missoula and having the blood drawn, and then I deliver it to the human hospital lab; results are typically available in 2 - 3 hours.

If Thursday was Day 0, breeding should begin on Monday. If Friday was Day 0, breeding should begin on Tuesday. We will see what the LH says but I am inclined to start on Monday — just to be sure.

And so we leave tomorrow — it is a bit of an unusual Destination Wedding.

Are your Lucky Socks ready for all this?

Sparkle Lucky Socks.jpg

When Your Brain is Busy

I heard commotion (“%$#@!”) from the other room and concerned wife that I am, I ignored it.

I figured Dear Husband had just hit his head on a cabinet door — again.

Nope. It was different this time — Dear Husband has a big bruise on his knee from running into a drawer.

This is only sort of my fault.

I am usually much too busy thinking about something to pay attention to the small detail of closing drawers and cabinet doors. Therefore, the kitchen usually looks ransacked and yes — it can be dangerous.

But shouldn’t he look where he is going?! This is not a new thing, after all.

There is no lack of things to think about lately — it is a wonder that any door or drawer in the house is closed. And high on the list is the small issue of finding a father for Sparklers 2.0 after the sad event of the last minute cancellation of Sparkle’s long planned wedding (and more to the point — the honeymoon).

However, while a busy brain is frequently inconvenient and dangerously distracted, it also means that I never lack for ideas. Indeed, I had a long-planned idea in my back pocket, so to speak.

And upon much reflection, I decided that the Universe had a message about that particular idea and it went like this…


However, the complicated steps necessary to translate the idea into an actionable plan — as we watch Sparkle’s progesterone on the slow march to ovulation — has meant a lot of open doors and drawers around here lately.

To be continued.