The first step is a careful selection of your breeding stud and the dam. You will want to choose a breeding pair with qualities that you want them to pass on to their offspring – whether it be coat color, coat type, intelligence, or even temperament. But the most important thing is to choose a breeding pair that have been checked out by a veterinarian and who have undergone all the necessary health screenings. The Poodle Club of America (PCA), in fact, recommends that Toy Poodles undergo screenings for the following prior to breeding:
- Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA) DNA test (with an OFA approved laboratory)
- Eye Exam by a boarded ACVO Ophthalmologist (with the results to be registered with the OFA or CERF)
- Patellar Luxation (OFA Evaluation)
It is just as important, too, to stay updated with the latest medical and veterinary news regarding canine health – scientists are working hard to isolate carriers and develop screening tests for other possible illnesses to which Toy Poodles may be prone to.
The AKC also recommends a good grounding in genetics – including a careful study of both of the lines of your breeding pair. For instance, why does the dam look more like its father than its mother, or why do certain desirable traits skip a generation? Always be careful to make informed choices regarding which breeding pair to use, and why. Once you have made your selection and finalized a stud contract, bring each of the dogs to a vet for a thorough pre-breeding examination by a vet. Her vaccinations should be current, she should be in good health and condition, of the proper age, and she should be clear of parasites.
For Toy Poodles, one other thing to keep in mind as you select your breeding pair is their height. There are three types of recognized Poodles: Standard, Miniature, and Toy. Nobody really knows how Toy Poodles came about, but the theory is that they were simply a “bred down” version of the Standard Poodle – presumably, a result of breeding smaller Poodles with each other. Keep in mind, however, that the only real distinction of a Toy Poodle is its height – and must be 10 inches or under. For most kennel clubs, a Poodle taller than 6 inches is no longer considered a Toy Poodle. By contrast, a Miniature Poodle has a height of 15 inches or under at the highest point of the shoulders, while a Standard Poodle stands at a height of over 15 inches. Other than these height differences, all three types are still recognized as one breed.
Now that you have these preliminaries down, let’s take a closer look at what it actually means to breed Toy Poodles. It all starts with the female heat cycle – which in Toy Poodles can begin as early as 6 months, though the typical range can be anywhere from 4 to 7 months. Your Poodle’s heat cycle is central to dog breeding because it is during this time that she becomes fertile and able to become pregnant. It must be stated, however, that breeding during the dam’s first heat is never done. She needs enough time to grow mentally and physically to prepare for the rigors of pregnancy and motherhood – which is why most breeders wait until the Toy Poodle is at least two years old before breeding. In the meantime, care should be taken that no unplanned pregnancies occur. Needless to say, if you are not planning to breed your dog – especially if your dog has been diagnosed with a congenital disease of some sort, then spaying is highly recommended. Doing so may actually prevent some serious health conditions from developing in the first place, such as ovarian and mammary cancer and other infections.
While all dogs are different, most will go through two heat cycles each year, or every six months, each one lasting anywhere from two to four weeks. During this time, there are four stages that a female dog will go through. The four stages of heat generally include:
- Proestrus – The beginning of the heat cycle and is characterized by noticeable signs such as a swollen vulva and a bloody vaginal discharge. During this time, she will not yet be ready to mate. This stage can last anywhere from 4 to 15 days.
- Estrus – The second stage, which can last from 5-8 days. You will know she has entered estrus when she is finally be receptive to a male. This is the time when she is fertile and the chances of pregnancy are good.
- Diestrus – This stage can last from 60-90 days, and will happen whether or not the pregnancy was successful. If not, cases of “false pregnancy” may occur, when her body mimics the symptoms of pregnancy, but will not actually be pregnant.
- Anestrus – The last and final stage, this is really just the time when the heat cycle is ending and her body is returning to normal. This can last from 3-4 months, during which no sexual activity takes place.
You will, of course, have to bring the dam and the stud together during her estrus period – which you can anticipate by watching out for the signs of heat during Proestrus. While they may not mate during Proestrus, some breeders allow time for brief socialization between them, in order to make them more comfortable with each other.
Some breeders recommend the first mating to take place between the 10th and 14th day after the onset of Proestrus. Mating again every other day after that may help ensure a successful pregnancy – as long as she still accepts the male. Some two or three matings will therefore take place.
The process itself is pretty straightforward – the male will mount the female from the back, and after some rapid pelvic thrusts, there will be penetration and ejaculation. Afterwards, the male may move around so that they are positioned rear to rear, during which they will be connected for some 10 to 30 minutes. This is known as a “tie,” and is the result of the swelling of the bulbus glandis of the penis. Leave them be when this happens – they will separate naturally after some time, while forcing them to separate may actually injure one or both of them.