|Training sires for semen
collection off a "phantom" or "dummy" is one of the more common
procedures we are asked to perform. This is most commonly done with
equines, as such training allows a sire owner to collect and ship semen
upon demand without the need for a 'jump' or 'tease' mare in estrus, and
it also makes the procedure significantly safer for all involved.
However, most any male animal can be trained in similar fashion, and
both bulls and boars can be so trained to simplify semen collection for
commercial use. We can also train many animals to provide semen 'on the
ground', i.e. standing on all fours, which eliminates the need for a
phantom mount and even, in some cases, a handler. We have done this with
stallions, jacks, bulls, and dogs.
Such training is generally not very difficult, particularly if the sire is young. Older sires, particularly those not used to human handlers while breeding, may take significantly more work, but we have yet to find a sire we were unable to eventually train, given enough time. Sometimes allowing the "trainee" to watch a more experienced individual (from an appropriate distance) helps give them the right idea. In general, each training session is not over 20 minutes in length, consists of constant interpretation of and reaction to the individual's behavior and responses, and requires patience. Appropriate responses are encouraged, often just verbally, and inappropriate ones reprimanded just enough to teach, but not so much that the patient loses interest.
Owners wishing to not only train their sire but wanting to learn more about proper collection and handling procedures in the laboratory often find it most productive to accomplish both as a private 'training course' (see Courses Offered), wherein we not only train the sire, but also the owner at the same time, with their own animal.
Most of the reproductive behavioral problems we work with are with equines, and are related to improper handling or inexperienced human handlers not attuned to what the animal is telling them. We have worked with stallions whose ejaculatory failure problems were related solely to the owner's lack of knowledge regarding preparation details of the artificial vagina; with sires whose enthusiasm for the phantom was not controlled by capable handlers, thus allowing the sire to develop dangerous habits; and with stallions whose early show careers inhibited normal sexual behavior to the point where the owners could not get them to breed mares. All of these problems are correctable with astute observation, experienced handling, and the development of enough "trust" with the patient so that they respect both encouragement and discipline.