Skip to main page content
Access keys NCBI Homepage MyNCBI Homepage Main Content Main Navigation
. 2019 Nov 6;15(1):395.
doi: 10.1186/s12917-019-2146-8.

Heritabilities for the Puppy Weight at Birth in Labrador Retrievers

Free PMC article

Heritabilities for the Puppy Weight at Birth in Labrador Retrievers

Claude Schelling et al. BMC Vet Res. .
Free PMC article


Background: Weight at birth is an important predictor of neonatal mortality and morbidity in dogs. In addition, the birthweight of the puppies in a litter influences the decision to perform a cesarean section. The goal of the present study was to estimate heritabilities for the puppy birth weight in Labrador retrievers.

Results: Of the 1138 Labrador retriever litters whelped at the Guiding Eye for the Blind between September 2001 and February 2018, 1013 were included in the analyses after data editing. Puppy weight at birth was the target trait, measured on a continuous scale in pounds, and converted to grams. Linear mixed models were used to identify factors influencing puppy weight at birth. The analyses showed that the sex of the puppy, litter size, length of gestation, adult weight of the dam, parity, year of birth and inbreeding coefficient of the puppies and dams contributed to the variance of the puppy birth weight. Dam and litter effects were included as random effects. A multiple trait derivative free restricted maximum likelihood approach was used to estimate variance components and genetic parameters with two animal models, one without covariates (Model 1) and one with covariates (Model 2). Sex of the puppy and litter size had moderate effects, whereas gestation length, adult weight of the dam, parity, year of birth and inbreeding coefficients of the dam and the puppies had minor effects. Estimates for Model 1 and Model 2 were 0.21 and 0.17 for the direct heritabilities, 0.22 and 0.22 for the maternal additive genetic heritabilities, 0.07 and 0.07 for the maternal permanent environmental proportions, and 0.14 and 0.08 for the environmental proportion of the litter.

Conclusions: In order to estimate reliable breeding values for puppy weight at birth, sex of puppy, litter size, length of gestation and the adult weight of the dam should be included. Estimates could benefit from weighing the dams prior to each mating.

Keywords: Heritabilities; Labrador retriever; Maternal effects; Predictors; Puppy weight at birth.

Conflict of interest statement

The authors declare that they have no competing interests.

Similar articles

See all similar articles


    1. Wilsman NJ, Van Sickle DE. Weight change patterns as a basis for predicting survival of newborn pointer pups. J Am Vet Med Ass. 1973;163:971–975. - PubMed
    1. Gaines FP, Van Vleck LD. The influence of beagle sires on gestation length, litter size, birth weight and livability. Carnivore Genet Newsl. 1976;3:75–79.
    1. Groppetti D, Pecile A, Palestrini C, Marelli SP, Boracchi P. A national census of birth weight in purebred dogs in Italy. Animals. 2017;7:43. doi: 10.3390/ani7060043. - DOI - PMC - PubMed
    1. Bigliardi Enrico, Ianni Francesco Di, Parmigiani Enrico, Morini Giorgio, Bresciani Carla. Physiological Weight Loss in Newborn Puppies of Boxer Breed. Italian Journal of Animal Science. 2013;12(4):e77. doi: 10.4081/ijas.2013.e77. - DOI
    1. Casal M. Management and critical care of the neonate. In: GCW E, von Heimendahl A, editors. BSAVA manual of canine and feline reproduction and neonatology. Gloucester: BSAVA; 2010. p. 146.