When people start breeding, they often think it is as easy as putting a male dog and a female dog together, however, that isn't always the case. In fact, getting a female dog pregnant can be a challenge and some breeds have fertility problems that are inherent with the breed.
Having low fertility in your male dog can be one of these hurdles. However, knowing how to increase your male dog's fertility is one way to eliminate some of the hurdles that you can go through when you are breeding.
In this article, we are going to discuss all the different ways that you can increase your male dog's fertility.
The Rule of Three Months for Your Male Dog's Fertility
Okay, before we start looking at ways to increase your dog's fertility, I want to start with a piece of advice that my vet gave me when first working with my own stud dog. That was think in terms of three months.
In other words, your dog's sperm today is a reflection of what happened to him three months ago.
That may be a little confusing as sperm is constantly replenishing but making sperm is quite the process. In fact, the process of sperm production takes 45 to 60 days.
To break it down a bit more, sperm is made constantly. Once it is made, it is stored in the epididymis, which is found at the base of the testicle, until it matures and then is ejaculated. This maturation takes the 45 to 60 days that was mentioned.
With that in mind, if your dog has any health problems, trauma, etc, the sperm that is being stored in the epididymis can die. And once that happens, your dog's ejaculate will only contain dead sperm...and can continue to do so for the next 60 days or more after the health problem.
On the other side, if you are trying to increase fertility, you should look at increasing it at least 60 days before you actually plan on breeding your male dog. If you wait until right before breeding, it will have zero effect on the actual sperm for that breeding.
So as a reminder, no matter what, always plan your dog's fertility about 3 months before you intend to use him for breeding...at the very minimum, make those fertility changes 60 days before the intended breeding.
Age and Your Male Dog's Fertility
One thing that we should mention before you look at your dog's fertility is the fact that fertility is often affected by your dog's age. Under the age of 1, your dog will have low fertility; at least until maturity. Generally, this is not an issue as male dogs are not usually bred before testing...most of which is done around 2 years of age.
However, the ideal window when a dog is at his peak fertility is during 1 and 2 years of age. At 3 years of age, fertility can begin to go down. The older your dog, the lower his fertility levels are.
Against, it is important to note that fertility doesn't bottom out quickly. There are many dogs that have healthy fertility levels right into their senior years.
Your Male Dog Fertility is More Than Just Its Sperm
One more thing that I want to mention that fertility has a lot of variables and when you are looking at it, you aren't just looking at the sperm count. Instead, there are a few important factors that need to be accounted for. These can be assessed when a collection is done and include:
- Sperm Count: Obviously, this is the first thing you think of with male dog fertility as it should be. With sperm count, you want a concentration of spermatozoa of 300 million or more. However, the size of your dog may reduce that number so most vets expect 10 million spermatozoa (or sperm) for every pound of body weight. A 20 pound dog should have at least 200 million spermatozoa in a collection.
- pH: While we don't always think of pH levels, unhealthy levels can indicate fertility problems and even health problems. A healthy fertility should be in the range of 6.4 to 6.8.
- Motility: Motility is also seen as the speed of the sperm or how well it moves in the actual ejaculate. When gauging motility, you want to see 70% or higher. Below 70%, you can start to see lower fertility and below 40% you can see fertility problems.
- Morphology: This is looking at the shape of the sperm. Sperm can be deformed, small and have bent tails, etc. When looking for increased fertility, you want to see at least 70% of the sperm looking normal. If there is more abnormal sperm in the collection, the fertility rate falls. If you aren't aware, sperm contains three parts. These are:
- Head: This contains the DNA.
- Midpiece: Contains the portion that propels the sperm.
- Tail: The propulsion system that moves the sperm forward.
Knowing the different parts of sperm is important in increasing fertility. Some of our tips help sperm count, others help motility and others help all aspects of your male dog's fertility.
Learn more about sperm evaluation here. Here is a video on sperm assessment.
Boosting Fertility # 1: It's All About the Supplements
The very first thing that I always recommend looking at when you are boosting fertility levels is the supplements that have been proven to work. As mentioned already, if you want supplements to work, start using them about 3 months before you plan on breeding your male. Supplements that you should use are:
- Vitamin E: This is a big one. Vitamin E has been linked to an increase in sperm quality and is one of the major supplements to use. If you are only going to use one supplement, it should be vitamin E.
- Vitamin D: Another great supplement, vitamin D has been linked to improved sperm motility.
- Selenium: This supplement is a great antioxidant and one I'd recommend for an older male as it is used to repair damage caused by aging.
- Vitamin C: Again, vitamin C works similar to selenium and is an antioxidant that helps turn back the damage of time.
- Vitamin A: Another antioxidant, it does reduce and repair damage from age. While you can use one or the other of these three vitamins, I recommend using all of them.
- Vitamins B6, B12 and Foliate: These vitamins are essential for improving sperm count, motility and morphology.
- Zinc: Like the B vitamins, zinc is important for improving sperm morphology. In addition, zinc does improve motility and can boost testosterone in dogs that may be lacking in the testosterone levels.
- L-Carnitine: This supplement helps with the maturation of sperm and improves the overall quality of it.
- Vitamin D: Overall important and while dogs that get a lot of outside time get a ton of vitamin D, dogs that are inside the majority of the time do not. A vitamin D supplement improves sperm motility.
You can choose to only give one or two of these supplements, but if you are trying to improve the overall quality of the sperm, which will increase fertility, you should use all of them.
Boosting Fertility #2: Keep Those Temperatures Even
I once knew a breeder who ended up having severe fertility issues with her price champion male one year. They couldn't figure out the reason for it and then the vet mentioned how hot it had been that summer. Record breaking highs, even with the dog being in a climate controlled house much of the time, had done the job of killing off his sperm. The result was months of trying to build his sperm level and quality back up.
The lesson learned was that extreme temperatures can lead to poor sperm production and quality. In fact, too hot or too cold can kill off your dog's sperm and leave him with poor sperm quality and numbers.
For that reason, really try to maintain even temperatures for your stud dog. In hot weather, limit the amount of time that his is outside. Take him out in the early mornings and evenings.
The same can be said for cold weather and snow. Don't leave your stud dog outside for long periods of time, even if it is a breed that loves winter.
By maintaining a good, healthy temp, there is less chance of the sperm dying because of it.
Boosting Fertility Number 3: Well Balanced Diets
One of the biggest factors in keeping your dog's fertility at a good level is nutrition. A well fed dog will have good fertility, as long as there aren't other underlying conditions affecting it. With this in mind, there are a few things you should remember with diet to boost those fertility numbers.
#1 Proteins are Important
Choose a dog food that has high protein levels. At least 22% or higher. Raw diet can be a lot better for getting that good proteins. Some breeders will put on protein powder for that boost in fertility but it is nowhere as good as just using a high quality, natural protein.
#2 Avoid the Carbs
While you want to have carbs in the diet, you don't want a heavy carb diet for your male dog. Carbs turn to sugar and studies have shown that high levels of sugar can decrease fertility. When looking at food, you want a higher meat level than carb level in the ingredients' list.
#3 Bring on the Fat
Fats are important but make sure that you don't have too much fat. Usually about 9 to 12% fat levels is perfect for fertility. Remember, too much fat can cause problems with both health and fertility, which you want to avoid.
By feeding a high quality dog food with excellent ratios, you'll improve your male dog's health and, subsequently, his fertility.
Boosting Fertility #4: Fatty Acids Make a World of Difference
This can be considered a supplement but I like to discuss it separately. With fatty acids, it is something you should add to all of your dogs' diets as it is a full system boost. Fatty acids have been linked to overall improved health and there have been many studies that show it helps with fertility.
Directly, omega-3 and omega-6 have been linked to improved motility and morphology. It has also been linked to an increase in sperm count. All of these means an increase in fertility. If there is one thing you should give your dog to increase his fertility, it is omega fatty acids.
Boosting Fertility #5: Take a Break Before a Breeding
Okay, you have your male that you want to use and you are just waiting for your female to go into heat. It may be tempting to use your male for multiple coverings the month or so leading up to your female's heat but I actually recommend against that.
First, offering multiple coverings can increase the risk of your dog getting an STD. Second, it can diminish your dog's fertility. In fact, several top reproductive vets recommend that for the best fertility in your male dog, you should wait 2 months before the breeding or the collection.
The reason for this is because it takes those 60 days for sperm to mature. If you breed too many females in a short window, that sperm won't have time to mature before the next breeding and your dog's fertility will be down for a short time.
This rule of thumb is very important if you are trying to breed after unsuccessful breeding with the male or if you are trying to breed an older male. Longer the break, the higher his fertility.
Boosting Fertility #6: Breed to Replenish
Finally, when your female is in heat, you should always breed with replenishing in mind. A dog can be bred more than once per day, however, when you do so, you increase the chances of tiring your dog out, lowering his sperm count and can decrease his fertility.
To prevent this, you should always breed every other day when your female is in heat. This gives him time to rest, and will help replenish his sperm stores.
As you can see, there are lots of ways that you can increase your male dog's fertility. When you plan for it, and focus on the 60 to 90 day rule, you can increase fertility and will soon be enjoying the sound of your next litter.