The following article originally appeared in the Stud Dog Issue of Saber Tails and the PBGV breed column of the August 2023 AKC Gazette.
Initially I wasn’t sure that I was the right person to contribute to this issue because I’m a pretty committed girl-dog person. I decided that it makes sense to share some of my experiences and what has led me to the decision that keeping intact males doesn’t really work for my setup and goals. This isn’t to scare anyone off, because our breed definitely needs male breeding dogs, but it is important for small scale breeders to think about the realities of having intact dogs of both sexes in a home setting.
For more than 30 years, my household has always included PBGVs of both sexes. My current pack consists of two males, 11 year old Wally and his 8 year old son Gromit, as well as six PBGV bitches, 2 Australian Shepherds, and a Golden Retriever. I’ve never had a kennel, so this has always meant significant management is needed when bitches are in season. “Two degrees of separation” has been our strict rule, but even that has led to some stressful situations. This also only works if you have 100% trust in the ability of everyone in the household to follow the rules and remember who to keep separate. In my experience, PBGV boys can be very, well….male, compared to other breeds. Not eating and vocalizing are common reaction to bitches in season, but I’ve also experienced self injurious behavior (like ripping out toenails trying to tear through walls) and significant dog aggression during these times. When I realized that having girls in season meant that Wally was likely to end up at the emergency vet for some ridiculous injury to himself, it became clear that I had to make a change.
The other part of my decision came from the fact that my dogs compete in performance events at a high level. I was having to pull the boys from competition every time I had a girl in season. You can get entries fees refunded for a bitch in season in most performance events, but there’s no refund of your boy’s entries because he is sex-crazed and unable to perform. Also, it’s kind of embarrassing to explain to the gate steward that your dog will be absent because he has himself so excited that he can barely walk. (If you find yourself in this situation, I went with “my dog seems to be limping”.).
There is a lot of pressure in AKC agility to allow bitches in season to compete. I’m pretty sure it’s only a matter of time before this rule change happens. Herding dogs make up most of the entries at agility events and dogs of these breeds seem to be willing and able to perform in the presence of bitches in standing heat. Many hound, terrier, and sporting dog breeders don’t support changing the rule, but we are outnumbered. My boys are well trained and Gromit is a pretty consistent agility dog, but I have no delusions of him choosing agility over sex.
All of these factors, coupled with the fact that both of my boys are POAG carriers and unlikely to be in demand as stud dogs, led me to make the decision to freeze semen and have them neutered in 2019. Both have qualities that I feel could contribute to the my breeding program, so I wanted to have the option of using them in the future. It was also becoming clear that if I was going to keep either or both of them, I needed to do something to reduce the tension in the household. This wasn’t a total fix, but it has made life much easier. The boys still don’t like each other and we will probably always have to manage their interactions carefully. They still have to be separated from girls in season, but will eat, work, and generally behave normally during these times. In general, they both started performing better and more consistently in their sports after neutering. This wasn’t an easy choice, but I think in the end it was the right one.
Not keeping males means relying on using outside stud dogs, but honestly this is what I was doing most of the time anyway. I’ve grateful that we have people in our breed who are willing and able to maintain larger kennels with multiple stud dogs. Having males is also a great option for PBGV owners who enjoy showing but may not be interested in breeding. Raising litters isn’t something that everyone can do, but it’s something I really enjoy. Having girls and using outside dogs makes sense for me. The fact that there are no PBGV stud dogs competing at the highest levels in my preferred sports could seem like a challenge, but selecting for confidence and sociability in a stud dog (as well as structure, breed type, health, and everything else I would look for) has worked well for me.