Dog aficionados often seem to have their own language, tossing around terms like “dam,” “sire” and “whelp” with ease. Quite simply, a sire is a dog’s father, dam refers to a dog’s mother and a whelp is a puppy. People also use sire as a verb, meaning the act of fathering puppies. Some sires produce so many puppies that their genes begin to flood the gene pool, which sometimes causes problems.
Terminology and Common Use
The first use of the term sire with respect to dogs, according to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, dates to 1611. The most common way pet lovers encounter the phrase is when they are choosing a new puppy. Many prospective dog owners want to know the sire and dam so they can see what the puppies may grow up to look like. Accordingly, breeders often list the sire and dam of a litter when advertising puppies. Some organizations have compiled extensive DNA catalogs, containing samples from popular sires, which may help to verify a dog’s ancestry.
Boy Puppy Biology
Of course, male dogs are not capable of siring puppies at birth; they must grow and mature before they begin producing sperm. Many male dogs begin mounting other dogs at 3 to 4 weeks of age. After a brief period, this behavior stops until the dog enters puberty. Most male dogs become fertile and capable of siring puppies around 5 months of age; however, as with people, individuals mature at slightly different rates.
Mixed Breeds and Rescues
Technically, all dogs are sired -- they all have a mother and father, or dam and sire. However, it's often impossible to determine the parents of mixed breed and rescued dogs. Because the American Kennel Club requires the dam, sire and litter to be registered in order for a puppy from the litter to be eligible for registration, rescue and mixed breed dogs are not bred often.
Popular Sire Syndrome
Some breeders and pet owners worry about Popular Sire Syndrome, which can cause problems in the gene pool of different breeds. Popular Sire Syndrome refers to the practice of breeding one male to many different females. When this occurs, the sire’s genes saturate the gene pool, which prevents many other capable males from siring puppies and increasing the diversification of the gene pool. However, the real danger is that the male will pass along negative traits, which may become overly common in the breed if he sires too many puppies.