By Craig Doherty
Alright, I’ll admit it. For approximately 20 years, I’ve been a fan of a dog I never saw. It was the dogs that he produced and those from his second and third generations that impressed me. It always seemed like when I saw a derby I really liked and asked the handler how the dog was bred, the answer would be Guard Rail. I was a setter guy at the time, but those young Guard Rail-bred dogs always impressed me. They were well built, not too big, had big motors that never quit, and strong attractive heads. Best of all they seemed as a group to be bird dogs first and foremost. After I got an Elhew pointer (Elhew Liebotschaner: Elhew Fibber McGee X Elhew Gypsy Rose) from Bob Wehle, who wrote in 1991 that “Guard Rail has to be one of the great sires of the breed,” and thought about breeding her; I looked around for a dog that had those Guard Rail traits and blood.
At the time Andy Cook had just started in field trialing with long-tailed dogs (he had many years of experience with continental breeds and NAVHDA) and he and Al Robbins were working together on a breeding program. They acquired a bitch from Pat Labree that was by Railway Willie out of a Rail Dancer bitch and bred her to Elhew No Trump (Elhew Fibber McGee X Elhew Miss America) which produced the litter that included Wynot Ace. When I was planning to breed my first litter, Ace was a derby and had just won both the National Amateur Grouse Championship and the International Woodcock Championship. Although Guard Rail was not that close in his pedigree, Ace definitely reminded me of all those Guard Rail-bred dogs I had been admiring long after Guard Rail had tragically died in a highway accident.
The results speak for themselves: that litter produced two Grand National Grouse Champions who now have three wild bird championships each. So, needless to say when it came time to look for a bitch to add to our breeding program, I jumped at the chance to buy a 15 month old female who was a frozen semen daughter of Guard Rail. Indian Creek Triple Rail (Trip) has an impressive pedigree with Guard Rail as a sire and as a grandsire on the bottom. In addition to Guard Rail, there are five other Hall of Fame dogs in her four generation pedigree. I got her in November 2009 and took her to Texas that winter. She had what I was looking for and has also become one of the house dogs here in New Hampshire. When she came into heat last May I did the math and expected her to come back into heat in late November or December which would give us pups in January or February. Perfect.
However, as the days began to shorten in September, she came into heat again which left me with a dilemma. I could breed her then, although bitches whose heat cycles are that close together are often infertile on the second cycle, and also I would be faced with puppies late in November for a litter of off-age puppies. It would also have meant giving up a planned five week trip to Texas to stay home and take care of the puppies. I decided to skip the September cycle, which meant that Trip would next be in heat in March or April, but there were no guarantees, especially since she had already shown a propensity towards irregular cycles. When I got back from Texas I started to look into maybe helping nature along.
In the Spring 2009 issue of the magazine we ran an article on cabergoline which is used to induce the heat cycle and there have been reports of successful breedings after using the drug. However, there seems to be a growing body of evidence both scientific and anecdotal that the Ovuplant implants are being used with a high success rate and less uncertainty about timing. Ovuplant is, according to its manufacturer, “a sustained release implant of deslorelin” which is a gonadotropin-releasing hormone agonist. For those of us without degrees in organic chemistry, medicine, or veterinary science, Ovuplant is basically a hormone that comes as a pellet preloaded in a syringe with a rather large needle. The pellet is inserted into the vestibular mucosa — right under the skin just inside the vulva. If the implant is effective, the bitch will come into heat within five to seven days of insertion and should be standing within five to seven days after the onset of the heat cycle. She then can be bred either naturally or using artificial insemination. It is important to note that once the breeding has taken place, the implant needs to be removed. Failure to do this may cause the female’s system to reject and then absorb the puppies.
There are some other caveats that need to be brought up as well. First off, Ovuplant is not sold in the United States and needs to be imported from Canada. Furthermore, it was developed to be used in horses, and its use in dogs, although studied and proven effective, is off-label. Two other factors should be considered before rushing out to make arrangements to bring all your bitches into heat — cost and timing. It needs to be at least four months after the conclusion of the female’s last heat cycle before you do the implant. This allows for the development of eggs and increases the chance for success. The other aspect of this is cost.
I decided to go ahead with the Ovuplant implant for Trip and contacted the nearest vet who is a canine reproduction specialist. She explained that the implants had to be imported from Canada which is legal but you need to buy them in lots of 25. She only uses about a half dozen of these a year, so, she gets them through a well known vet in Ohio who imports them in quantity and resells them at what I assume is a substantial mark up. I paid the Ohio clinic $125 plus overnight shipping for the Ovuplant. In addition, my vet charged me just over $150 to do the implant which involved a mild sedative and a shot of lidocane. We were in and out of the examining room within 20 minutes and that included the vet tech trimming Trip’s nails while we were waiting for her to wake up. Removal of the implant after breeding will be about the same or a little less.
Cost will vary depending on location. The vet I am using for this is located in northern Vermont and I’m sure her rates are more reasonable than a vet in a less rural setting. I’ll be into this for between $450 and $500 which isn’t too bad when you consider that I’m breeding her to my own male (Wild Apple Jack) and don’t have to worry about stud fees or shipping expenses to get her bred.
Before proceeding with this I spoke to a number of people who have successfully used Ovuplant to bring a bitch into heat and only received positive feedback. Ohioan Pete Casgrain’s comments were typical of the responses I got. His bitch Star’s Misty Willow’s cycle had been irregular and they used Ovuplant late last fall and ended up with a litter born in late January. One vet in Pennsylvania who has dogs with a noted professional trainer has used Ovuplant on numerous occasions with great success. Trip received her implant on Thursday, February 17th and was already starting to swell by the following Sunday and was in heat by Tuesday. She stood the first time on Monday, February 28th and again on March 2nd and 4th. If all goes well we should have puppies the first week of May. (You can view the puppies that resulted in a previous post of this blog.)
Field Trial Magazine provides articles like this four times a year. For more information go to: