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Article

The View of the French Dog Breeders in Relation to Female Reproduction, Maternal Care and Stress during the Peripartum Period

1
Unité de Médecine de l’Elevage et du Sport (UMES), Ecole Nationale Vétérinaire d’Alfort, 94700 Maisons-Alfort, Paris, France
2
Ceva Santé Animale, 33500 Libourne, France
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Animals 2020, 10(1), 159; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani10010159
Received: 16 December 2019 / Accepted: 10 January 2020 / Published: 17 January 2020
(This article belongs to the Section Companion Animals)
Recent research has shown that the quality of maternal care in dogs has both direct and indirect effects on the health, welfare and social development of puppies. The importance of these findings, however, is not yet being fully acknowledged by dog breeders. To evaluate French dog breeders’ current understanding and management practices as related to maternal behavior and stress during the peripartum period (time just prior to, during and after birth), an online survey was developed. Four major components of kennel activity were surveyed, including breeder demographics, pre- and post-birth management of females, and changes in maternal behavior that were observed during this time period. Overall, the survey indicated that, in France, dog breeding enterprises are usually family-based and contact between animals and breeders is fairly common. Breeders did feel that the peripartum period was stressful for females. The most common technique used to reduce anxiety during this critical time was to reassure the bitches by increasing human presence and contact.
In France, as in many other western countries, dogs are an important part of the society as pets or working animals. The exact demand for puppies in France is unknown, as is the proportion of dogs coming from different breeding sources. Nevertheless, the origin of puppies is important since young dogs from puppy mills and pet stores appear to be more likely to develop behavioral disorders. Puppies coming from responsible breeders, on the other hand, tend to be better adapted. In well-managed kennels, an explanation for these behavioral differences may be associated with greater contact of litters with the dam and humans. Another factor that might influence a dog’s temperament and character is maternal behavior. Although recent studies have shown that the quality of maternal care in dogs is important, direct effects on the development of behavioral problems such as fearfulness or noise sensitivity are still controversial. To better understand the view of breeders, due to an increased interest in maternal care of dogs, an online questionnaire was developed to assess the dog breeders’ profiles and to explore their perception of normal maternal and stress-related behaviors during the peripartum period. In addition, the management of the female during this critical time was queried. Three-hundred and forty-five French dog breeders, representing 91 breeds, completed the online survey. Considering the demographics of the responders, breeding activity in France is mostly family-based with 76% raising two breeds of dogs that produce, on average, five litters/year. Around 60% of the breeders use progesterone levels to determine breeding date. The whelping date is estimated using multiple criteria and most labors and deliveries happen under human supervision. The majority of behaviors associated to good maternal care are defined by the vast majority as being related to more attention of the bitch towards the puppies with the frequency of nursing and licking being important clues. Globally, the peripartum is perceived as a stressful period and to minimize stress and reassure the bitch the favored method used is increasing human presence. Problems related to maternal behavior were described, notably with primiparous bitches. View Full-Text
Keywords: survey; maternal care; behavior; peripartum; stress; breeding; purebred survey; maternal care; behavior; peripartum; stress; breeding; purebred
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MDPI and ACS Style

Santos, N.R.d.; Beck, A.; Fontbonne, A. The View of the French Dog Breeders in Relation to Female Reproduction, Maternal Care and Stress during the Peripartum Period. Animals 2020, 10, 159. https://doi.org/10.3390/ani10010159

AMA Style

Santos NRd, Beck A, Fontbonne A. The View of the French Dog Breeders in Relation to Female Reproduction, Maternal Care and Stress during the Peripartum Period. Animals. 2020; 10(1):159. https://doi.org/10.3390/ani10010159

Chicago/Turabian Style

Santos, Natalia R. dos, Alexandra Beck, and Alain Fontbonne. 2020. "The View of the French Dog Breeders in Relation to Female Reproduction, Maternal Care and Stress during the Peripartum Period" Animals 10, no. 1: 159. https://doi.org/10.3390/ani10010159

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