Breeding gun dogs: This would be my first litter, so I’m not sure of the next move forward.

What signs should I look for that tell me that my bitches are in season?

At what stage do I take her to a stud dog, and how do I compare the pedigree to get the right match?

Mark Whitehouse says: Do your homework with the pedigrees first before breeding gun dogs.

Do not leave this until the last minute because if you contact the owner of a stud dog, especially a field trial champion, it could already be booked out and you will miss out.

Oestrus is the mating period of female animals prior to ovulation, and when oestrus occurs animals are said to be in ‘heat’ or in ‘season’.

Dogs generally have their first oestrus at six to 12 months of age and then in six monthly cycles thereafter.

The most common sign of this cycle beginning is the appearance of vaginal bleeding.

This will last for seven to 10 days, followed by increased swelling of the vulva.

At this time your bitch will be at her peak time for mating, between 11 and 13 days from the first signs of bleeding, and this will be the best time to take her to be mated.

When taking a litter of puppies for the first time, do all your homework and make all the necessary preparations up front.

Comparing pedigrees can be confusing, so ask for some advice from a registered breeder if you are unsure.

Ensure the whelping area is properly prepared with a whelping box and if necessary a heat lamp for cold evenings to take the chill away from the newborn puppies.

Working spaniel puppies should be booked in with the vet for their tails to be docked at two days old.

If you have a large litter make sure all the puppies are getting plenty of feed time.

If you cannot, you should try supplementing them – this will help their progress in the first few weeks and take some of the stress away from the


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