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You may be wondering whether or not you should breed your dog. Here is some information. The summary is that if you want to do it right, and get healthy and happy puppies, it is very expensive and a lot of work. Many people have written several treatises on this subject including Ms Swedlow; this article compiles many similar points.
Remember that you are going to need a vet that is familiar with whelping dogs. This will be your best resource, as well as any long-time breeders that you know. Not all vets are knowledgeable about whelping so be sure to ask around and especially look for recommendations from local breeders that you may know.
I Want To Make Some Money!
Breeding, and doing it right, is an expensive undertaking. By the time you’ve picked out a good bitch, waited for her to grow old enough (minimum age: two years before breeding), picked out the best dog to mate her with, gone through all the health checks she needs, ensured that the dog you want to use also passes the same health checks, you’ve invested a lot of time and effort. You still have to pay a stud fee (or give a puppy back), you have potential extra expenses during pregnancy, you have the time and expense of whelping (either you take time off from work or something goes wrong and you have to take her in to the vets). You need to keep the puppies for a minimum of 8 weeks before sending them to their homes; you need to advertise and find good homes for the puppies, you need to make sure they have had their shots before going. You may have possible vet bills if the puppies require extra attention. If some of the puppies die, or you have a smaller than usual litter, you may not get as much money from the sale of the puppies as you had though. There are even potential problems later on with dissastified customers! You are better off consulting with a financial wizard about investing the money you would otherwise spend and lose on breeding!
Breeders frequently count themselves lucky if they break even.
My Kids Should See The Wonders Of Birth And Life!
What if the whelping goes wrong and dead puppies are born? What if the bitch dies? These are all very real risks that you are undertaking. Much better alternatives include videotapes that are available. If there are local 4-H clubs, those provide alternatives for children.
Or, you could contact your local shelter and see if there is a pregnant bitch about to whelp or a litter of puppies that need to be raised and socialized before being adopted out. This would allow you to find out just what this could entail, while helping the shelters rather than potentially contributing to the problem.
I Want Another Dog Just Like Mine!
If you want to breed your dog so as to get another dog like yours, think about this for a moment. No matter how special your dog is to you, a puppy out of it is not guaranteed to be just like or even similar to your dog — half its genes will be from another dog! You will have to find another dog that also has the characteristics you want in your puppy; that dog will have to be unneutered; and the owner of that dog will have to be willing to breed her/his dog to yours. It is much easier, often less expensive, and certainly less time consuming to pick out an existing dog that you like from the shelter or another breeder. Best yet, go back to the same breeder of your dog, if possible, and pick another puppy out of similar lines.
Every bitch should have a litter!
This is flat out wrong. Bitches are not improved by having puppies. They may undergo temporary temperament changes, but once the puppies are gone, she’ll be back to her old self. Nor is it somehow good for her physically. In fact, you will put her at risk of mammary cancer and pyometra. There is absolutely nothing wrong with spaying a bitch without her having a litter.
But My Dog Is Registered!
Well, yes, but that doesn’t mean a whole lot. A registered dog, be it AKC, UKC, CKC, etc., simply means that it’s parents (and their parents) are also registered with the same registry. This confers no merit in of itself, it simply means that the dog’s parentage is known.
Most registries do not make any assertions of quality in the dogs they register (except for some limited breed-only registrations, but these are uncommon). They do not restrict the breeding of their dogs and hence there is no guarantee that a registered dog is a good specimen of its breed.
The AKC has just started a “limited registration” program whereby puppies out of such dogs are ineligible for registration. It remains to be seen what the overall impact on AKC dog breeds will be. Other registries have used similar programs with good results.
So I Should Breed When…?
The only reason you should be breeding is that you honestly feel that you are improving your breed by doing so. There are far too many dogs in the country to breed without good reason. A dog in a breeding program must be one whose genetic history you or its breeder is intimately familiar with. Such a dog must represent the best efforts of its breeder at that point. Such a dog must have good points to contribute, whether that is in good conformation, good performance or whatever. Such a dog must have some evidence of external evaluation. That is, others besides the breeder or the owner must also think that the dog is a good representive of its breed. That usually translates into titles, whether for conformation, obedience, field, herding, or whatever is appropriate for that breed. Such a dog must be tested as it matures for any problems that tend to appear in its breed, whether that is hip dysplasia, patellar luxation, von Willebrand’s, cataracts, PRA, fanconi syndrome, subaortic stenosis, etc.
Potential Hereditary Problems
Every breed has a different set of potential problems for it. I have listed common ones below, but this is not to say that all dogs must be checked for everything listed. You need to do research in your breed to find out what the common problems are. You will also need to research the particular bloodlines you are using to see if they are prone to any additional problems you want to know about and screen for as well.
Most breeds require eye checks of some sort, for a variety of problems. These include, but are not limited to problems such as:
Hip And Joints
There are a variety of joint problems found in most breeds. Toy breeds can have joint problems too; just because your breed is smaller doesn’t mean you can figure you are free of hip dysplasia and be done with it. There are several problems that specifically affect smaller dogs!
This is only an overview to give you an idea of what kinds of problems are out there. Remember that joint problems, even if not hereditary, may make it problematic for a bitch to be bred. Pregnancy is hard on the joints and on the body in general and if she isn’t in the best of physical health, it is much kinder not to breed her.
Other Things To Check For
Medical Checks Before Breeding
You must make sure the bitch and the stud both are free from brucellosis before breeding them. Brucellosis causes eventual sterility in both sexes (sometimes non-obviously) and can cause a litter of puppies to be aborted or die shortly after birth. In addition, brucellosis is on occasion transmissible to humans via the urine or feces of an affected dog. Between dogs, it is most commonly passed in sexual intercourse, although an entire kennel can be infected through contact with secretions.
The sire should be in excellent general health. The dam must be in good health, to withstand the stresses and rigors of a pregnancy. They must both be up to date on their vaccinations.
Never breed any animal that has temperament problems. In particular, this has been the cause of the degeneration of many breed’s general temperament: Doberman Pinschers, Rottweilers, and so on. If your animal is untrustworthy around people, overly aggressive to people, excitable, or is a fear-biter, do not breed it. If it is shy or submissive, don’t breed it. Look for happy, confident and obedient animals, and consider carefully the particular temperament requirements for your dog’s breed.
There are a variety of tests to indicate a dog’s temperament. Many of the working breeds have a temperament test (for example, the Doberman’s WAC test) for their breed. AKC has a Canine Good Citizen test (open to all dogs) that gives some indication of the dog’s temperament (and, yes, training). Therapy Dogs International and other Therapy Dog clubs have temperament testing that does try to separate out actual temperament from training. Obedience titles can be (but are not necessarily) an indication of good temperament.
You must carefully consider each dog’s pedigree for compatibility. Try to select strengths to offset weaknesses. Do not allow your bitch to be bred to an unsuitable dog, and conversely, be picky about the bitches you allow your dog to breed. This phase alone requires considerable research to find a suitable candidate, and you should definitely work closely with a knowledgeable person, ideally the breeder of your dog. Simply because two dogs “look good” or even *are* good does not mean that they necessarily complement each other: suppose they are both carriers for the same disease? Suppose they both have a tendency to overbites or other disqualifying faults?
Be honest with yourself. If your dog is not a good representation of its breed, do not let it reproduce. It is much easier to improve a few faults than to try and get excellent pups with a mediocre dog. Check the breed standard for your dog and ask a knowledgeable person for their evaluation of your dog.
We’ll return the the importance of scrutinizing a pedigree in the genetics section below.
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