Jeremy Hunt says: Bitches usually come into season every six months – that’s not a hard and fast rule so if you are thinking of mating your bitch at some stage in her lifetime it’s important to note each of her precise season dates so you can plan ahead for the litter and know when her forthcoming season is expected. This information helps you ensure the bitch is in good physical condition by the time she is mated – so not too fat or too thin. Bitches kept in very hard condition are just as likely to have a small litter or not hold to the mating as those that are too fat.

Working back in terms of time from the anticipated start of the season, introduce a higher protein food (24-26 per cent) about five weeks before you think she is due so she’s on a rising plane of nutrition to improve levels of ovulation. Wheat germ capsules can also be introduced at the same time.

Request a progesterone test at your vets to help pin-point the optimum ovulation and mating date – usually around 12 days but it can be both earlier or later. Most stud gun dog owners prefer the bitch to be held rather than allow a “free” mating, which is where the gun dog and bitch are allowed to mate unaided.

If you aren’t confident about dealing with the bitch during the mating, get someone with experience to help you. Always try and get two matings a day apart if the stud gun dog owner is agreeable.

I like to tip a bitch up by the hind legs after a mating – probably just a routine, but I think it helps the bitch retain all that should be retained! Don’t let the bitch pass water after the mating; pop her back into the car and keep her calm and maintain the quiet regime for a few days after the mating. Do not bring her home and let her tear around with the family or with other bitches – and definitely not male gun dogs. Bitches can be scanned at four weeks – the best time to identify embryos with ultrasound.

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