LITTER SIZE AND THE SINGLETON PUPPY
SMALL LITTERS CAN BE DIRECTLY RELATED TO THE SELECTIVE BREEDING PRACTICES THAT BREEDERS HAVE USED OVER THE YEARS TO FULFIL THE PHYSICAL SIZE REQUIREMENTS OF
THEIR BREED STANDARDS.
births and small litters, the canine is not generally considered to be one of them, even though there are many breeds that only produce one or two puppy litters. Small litters can be directly related to the selective breeding practices that breeders have used over the years to fulfil the physical size requirements of their breed standards. The other explanation given to explain the variations in lit- ter size has been demonstrated to be nutrition and conditioning. Since there is no body of literature on this subject, other than the works of Kelley that was mentioned previously, several breeders and vet- erinarians were contacted who had reported experiences with single puppy litters. Many of the breeders stated that a singleton pup could become a little dog aggressive, less sociable, and a little more “abnormal” than an average pup born with littermates. This would make sense because they did not have the opportunity to learn about biting and nipping from their littermates. Others report- ed that singleton puppies were not problem pups until they started to take notice of their surround- ings, post weaning. All of the breeders inter- viewed had also produced pups with large litters and, thus, had some basis for making the compar- ison. Most of these breeders assumed that a single- ton would be larger than normal, thus producing delivery problems that resulted in a “C” section.
litters will not improve the number of pups born. However, the physical condition of the dam at the time she is bred has been shown to increase or decrease litter size, depending on her body condition and muscle tone. For example, obese bitches tend to have smaller litters than those that are fit and trim. Nutrition is still another fac- tor that was suspected to affect litter size. Some thought it would vary between and within breeds. The fact that there are large breed variations in litter size attracted the attention of Russ Kelly, a noted nutritionist. He set out to better understand litter size by examining what would happen if nutrition became the variable. What he found was that the diet fed to bitches during their pregnancy did influence the size of their litters. To do this, he studied three colonies of bitches that were in whelp. One colony was fed only a dry ration of good quality dog food. The second was fed the same dry ration, but supplemented with cottage cheese. The third was fed the same dry ration with supplements of cottage cheese and meat. The important point here is that two of the three colonies were fed extra protein supplements. The colony that had the largest number of pups born alive came from mothers not fed any supplements. His findings made clear that supplementing a high quality, nearly per- fectly formulated dog food with rations of cottage cheese and other meat products would interfere with the number of pups born alive. In other words, supplements added to a good quality commercial dog food reduces the chances for larger litters. This finding is good news to many dog breeders. Many of today’s commercially prepared dry dog foods are nearly perfectly formulated foods. Adding supplements to these foods alters the formula with unintended consequences. Feeding pregnant females a puppy food during their gestation period is also not recommended. SINGLETON PUPS The singleton pup is a one-puppy litter. To better understand these pups and their development, three general questions were used. They each were designed to focus on the whelping process, behavior during and after weaning, and the effects of the dam on her pup during its development. While many species have single
98 | SHOWSIGHT MAGAZINE, MAY 2021
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