So You Want to Breed

The first question you should be asking yourself is, “WHY do I want to breed?”

There is much more to having a litter of puppies than just putting two dogs together. Everybody knows there are breeders and then there are breeders! A responsible breeder will ensure that they raise healthy, well-adjusted puppies which will eventually go to good loving homes. But if you have never bred before – where do you start?

Many people contact a breeder and ask for help in looking for a stud dog for their pet bitch. I expect many receive quite a blunt reply — “don’t!” Although this is not a very helpful reply, it is understandable when you realise these knowledgeable and experienced breeders are tired of rescuing the dogs and hearing about the problem and unhealthy dogs bred by people who breed for what they consider the “wrong” reasons.

For the money

Breeding responsibly is expensive. First you have the cost of the health tests to ensure the bitch is fit and healthy and not prone to hereditary diseases known in that breed. Then you have the stud fee, the vet’s bills, the extra food for mum and the food for the pups, the worming, the time off work (if you work) to care for the mum and pups, Kennel Club registrations, all the extra washing of bedding. Then of course there’s the equipment – the whelping box, special heating if it’s cold, play pens, etc. And that’s only if everything goes smoothly. If there are problems at whelping you are then likely to incur extremely large vet bills. Have you looked into the cost of a caesarean? Have you thought what would happen if you lost the mum and had to hand rear the puppies? Or you might go to all these expenses and lose all the puppies. Then there is the cost of advertising the puppies when they are ready to leave. Some breeds are vaccinated BEFORE they leave home which is yet more money. All pups should be health checked by the vet, some breeds require eye and heart checks in particular. And remember these days, if you sell an unhealthy puppy you can get sued by the new owner.

Our child wants to see the joys of birth

Seeing the miracle of birth isn’t always all it’s cracked up to be. It’s messy, bloody and usually happens in the middle of the night. There could be complications meaning several trips to the vets, a possible caesarean, quite often there are dead puppies and at times even the bitch can die. There are videos and books available to show children what birth is like without the responsibility and expense of raising puppies.

I want another dog just like Suzy

There’s no guarantee that there will be “another Suzy” in the litter and your puppies have a 50/50 chance of all taking after the sire! Suzy is unique and there will never be another dog exactly the same but you do have more chance of getting a dog similar to Suzy by returning to the breeder to see if she will be doing a repeat mating between Suzy’s sire and dam. It will also be a lot cheaper and far less hassle to buy one!

All our friends want one

You’ll be amazed at how these friends evaporate when the puppies are born. Just wait until your litter of ten or more puppies is ready to go to their homes and watch all those people back out with excuses such as “The kids aren’t old enough”; “The kids are too old now to be bothered with caring for a dog”; “We are going to have a baby”; “The rug is too new”; “The house is too small”; “We’ll be moving in 3 months”; “Grandma doesn’t like dogs”; “Our old dog hasn’t died yet”; “It might not get along with the cat” — and the list goes on!

Suzy will be so much better if she has just one litter

This is an old wives tale. A bitch’s health is not improved by having puppies and it could even have the opposite effect, putting her at risk of mammary cancer or pyometra and of course a complicated whelping process. Neither will it settle a hyper-active bitch down.

Other considerations are:

Are you squeamish? As mentioned whelping can be very messy with a lot of blood. Could you cope with life-threatening problems that can’t wait for a vet? Could you help with a breach birth? Or revive a puppy by a “swinging” method? Do you panic easily? What would you do if the mum refuses to clean or even feed the puppies? Have you got enough space — where will the bitch have the puppies and where will they be when they are 5+ weeks old, running around creating havoc? Do you realise just how much mess puppies of that age make?! Larger breeds will quite often have 10 or more puppies – what would you do if you can’t sell them? Or if the new owner comes back 6 months later saying “I don’t want him any more, you’ll have to take him back”?

While having a litter of puppies can bring some wonderful times, such as watching a litter of healthy, fat pups suckling from their healthy mum, or the marvellous sweet aroma of puppy breath, these are very small consolations to all the hard work and heartbreak that goes into the breeding of most puppy litters. Before breeding you must also remember that thousands of dogs end up in a rescue kennel, and many are euthanased because there are simply not enough homes for all of them.

So, after considering all the above you feel that your reasons for breeding are good enough, and that you have the time and money to do it, where do you start? Your next question should be “is my bitch really good enough?”. To find out, read our article “The Brood Bitch”.

About Jill Terry

Jill Terry together with her husband, Ian, began exhibiting and breeding dogs in 1986 under their Kennel Club affix of Babrees. Their first breed was the Dalmatian. They then went on to breed Papillons and, finally, Canaan Dogs. They are both now retired from exhibiting and breeding dogs, but retain a keen interest in dog breeds, canine genetics and health.

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