The ins and outs of the mating ‘tie’
One of the unique features of the canine mating process is the ‘tie’. It has almost a revered, mystical status, being regarded as a satisfying sign of an effective mating by experienced breeders and yet often coming as a complete shock for the novice who is unaware it is normal. So it is worth considering this feature of the canine mating ritual.
The ‘tie’ is achieved by a constriction of the female vagina around the shaft of the dog’s penis, thus firmly holding the mating pair together for a period of around five to 20 minutes. At least this is my theory, but others will tell you it is to do with the male organ enlarging in the vagina. It’s academic anyway, for we know mating dogs ‘tie’ during a successful mating, so all we need to know are the practical facts.
The male dog ejaculates sperm relatively early on during mating but goes on to produce for some time afterwards, the secretory fluids considered helpful for fertility (but not necessarily essential). The first secretion is clear fluid thought to have the function of flushing the pipework (known technically as the urethra). The male may ejaculate this a fraction before he enters the bitch leading some to fear he has ‘missed his mark’.
The sperm are presented toward the end of the thrusting phase and the ‘tie’ is formed about the same time. Thus, in an ideal mating the dog enters the bitch and by the time he has finished his most energetic phase of thrusting he dismounts only to find he is firmly held in place. At the time the male dismounts he will turn so that dog and bitch end up facing in opposite directions but implacably held together by the ‘tie’.
This state persists for five to 20 minutes when the ‘tie’ is suddenly relinquished and the mating pair part. If all works correctly, the process is safe for male and female and, despite the astonishment it can sometimes engender in the human observer, the dog and bitch are entirely adapted to both this process and the final posture they adopt. Nevertheless, as with birth, few humans believe the mating of dogs can proceed without their intervention and with some justification it would seem.
Achieving a fertile mating requires a degree of timing to ensure sperm and egg meet at the opportune moment. Part of this process requires the female to be willing to mate and this will vary considerably between individuals, in both the degree of enthusiasm and the length of the period of co-operation. The major influencing factor is a hormonally induced behaviour in the bitch and to a much lesser extent in the dog too. Basically the male dog will generally mate if the bitch’s scent and behaviour is favourable.
If the female is really unwilling there is little an unaided dog can do to force her to mate. When trying to breed dogs therefore, the challenge is detection of the right time to bring dog and bitch together. The methods used to help us do this are a topic for another column, but suffice to say many bitch owners get the timing wrong. Surprisingly, therefore, the pressure to perform tends to reside with the stud dog.
A good stud owner will give advice if their experience tells them a bitch is not ready and some of this can be discussed by phone, but even so, with the distances often travelled and the time and effort it takes to bring dog and bitch together, there are occasions where nature needs a helping hand. Thus bitches are frequently held for a dog to mount and often because bitches are not always entirely co-operative where the timing is slightly awry.
There are risks to consider, not the least being a failure to fertilise the eggs produced. Others are the potential for injury to the stud and, on occasions, the human helpers. Such damage may be limited to a level of frustration or a decrease in reputational prowess for the stud, but can easily escalate to physical damage either as a result of aggression or other injury that may affect the future ability of the stud to mate a bitch.
Perhaps the slip mating is the most irritating outcome. The male mounts and performs to order, but when he dismounts no effective ‘tie’ is achieved or, due to the bitch struggling, they come apart prematurely. This leaves everyone uncertain whether the ‘job has been done’. Such a mating may be unsatisfactory, but at least it leaves everyone unscathed.
The larger risk is where the tie is achieved, but the dog’s shaft is held part way along its length. Another interesting feature of the canine penis is the bone (os penis) it contains. This is a gutter-shaped bone lying in the main body of the shaft within which the urethra runs. This is the anatomical pipework that carries urine and sperm to the outside world. Should this be seriously damaged, it is very likely the dog will have great difficulty mating another bitch.
The ‘tie’ itself can also produce some odd effects. For example, whereas the normal length for a tie is five to 20 minutes, on occasions it may last for a much longer time. Such lengthy ties should be considered abnormal and if they persist beyond an hour consider seeking some help or advice. There are some veterinary treatments that are helpful.
Always take note of the time a ‘tie’ begins so you can accurately time it. In addition, always take notice of which side the dog dismounts and turns. If a ‘tie’ persists for a long time, then gently return the dog to his original position by reversing his direction of turn. On occasions this seems to release the tie after a few minutes.
Finally, if you own the stud dog, it is always worth checking your dog a few minutes after mating a bitch. It is not unusual on occasions for small blood vessels to bleed on the surface of the penis, so do not be too shocked by a few drops of blood post mating.
The commonest fault is a failure of the sheath to return to fully covering the penis. It is worth checking to see if normality has fully returned and if not helping a dog to regain his composure will be well received. A little lubricant may be useful in achieving this and vaseline or KY jelly are both helpful.
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