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Responsible Dog Breeding
by Dr. Chantal Moreton
This article is not meant as a guide to breeding. It is designed as an eye opener to what is actually required when breeding dogs, so that it is not entered into lightly.
Should I breed from my dog?
I am always amazed at how many people that indicate they want their female dog to have a litter of puppies or that they don’t want their male dog neutered because he should be allowed to have a go at reproducing.
Quite apart from the huge amount of time and commitment required in the weeks that you have puppies in your home, the breeding of any animals in the domesticated environment, no matter what species or breed, is something that should never be taken lightly.
Not only is responsible breeding a costly process, but there is an ethical obligation to breed responsibly too.
Before deciding to let your dog have a litter of pups, there are several things you need to consider.
Image source wikimedia commons
Your bitch needs to be fed a high quality diet (often puppy food). When it comes time to deliver the pups, sometimes she will need help from the vet – if a caesarean is needed this can cost around $1000. The pups then need to be cared for, for the first 6-8weeks of their lives - fed good quality food, wormed, treated for fleas and often before going to a new home they need their first vaccinations. If your bitch has 10 pups or more, which can happen, then costs can become quite significant. Even if you sell the pups for a good price, this sometimes doesn't cover the cost of raising them.
The time involved in looking after the pups if the litter is large – the bitch will not have enough nipples to feed each pup so a rotation between bottle feeding and letting them suckle off Mum is needed – up to every 4 hours in the early stages.
Age of your bitch
Do not let them mate before their third heat – this will vary in age between dogs but is generally around the 2yo stage. Mating any earlier than this will be detrimental to your dog's health (equivalent of mating a young teenage girl). Pregnancy can take quite a heavy toll on your dog's health whatever age they are.
Health of your bitch
She must be in good health to be able to come through the pregnancy without any problems. Also if she has any congenital deformity that can pass on to the puppies it is not advised to breed from her e.g. bad knees, hips, heart defects.
Finding a suitable male
The male must be the same size or smaller than the bitch – any bigger and the pups will be too large for her to pass. Knowing the health status of the dog is important – don't breed from him if there are any congenital deformities that can pass on to the puppies.
Certain conditions can also be tested for in the potential parents. For example, hip dysplasia, elbow dysplasia and progressive retinal atrophy (PRA). Over the next few years and in decades to come, there will be an increasing number of tests available to test for the presence of certain genes in dogs which show a predisposition for certain diseases. In many breeds, because of the limited gene pool the sire needs to be sourced from overseas, which entails importation of semen. Your veterinarian can advise on currently available and recommended testing for the breed in question.
Knowing his personality and behavioural traits is also important. There are several places you can find a male dog – a friend's dog, through internet sites e.g. Trademe, through the New Zealand Kennel Club. Find out what the male's owner expects as well – do they want part of the profit from the pups or sometimes they take one of the puppies – how much do they want to be involved?
Ability to find homes for all the puppies
If you cannot re-home the puppies, you may be left with them for some time – decide if you can afford or if you even want more dogs in the household.
If after considering all of the above, you still want to breed your bitch then there are also many benefits. It is nice for children to observe and be part of the process, some people claim that their bitch's personality becomes better after having a litter of pups – this is a subject open for debate but it can happen. Also there is nothing cuter or more adorable than a litter of puppies!
Leave breeding to the experts
Breeding is not something that should be taken lightly. It should be left to professional breeders. You can further ensure the quality of puppies being bred by doing your own homework before purchasing a puppy, to ensure you only purchase off reputable breeders that do all the right checks and ensure the best genetics. Breeders will do what the purchasers demand.
If you still plan on breeding your dog, or wish to become a professional breeder consult your veterinarian in the first instance to discuss the process and how to achieve a responsible outcome. Also, you can never do enough research. Talk to a breeder of your preferred breed to find out what is involved. The New Zealand Kennel Club have a very active membership and website and will also be able to provide assistance and advice.