So, you think you want to breed your dog?
Some people want to do it because they love their dog so much and they want another just like it. Some think it’s an easy way to make some money. Others think they will create a “new breed”. Some think it would be a lovely, educational experience for their children.
I have been showing and breeding for over 25 years. I like to tell people that breeding dogs, like marriage, is not to be entered into lightly.
First, I’d like to address keeping intact (not spayed or neutered) animals. It’s a well known statistic that most dog bites to humans are from an un-neutered male dog. An intact male dog is like a bull in a pasture. Handy to have if you need him for breeding but can be a real pain in the butt to live with. Intact males mark their territory. It doesn’t matter if they are house broken. They don’t see marking and going potty as the same event at all. Even when going potty, they always save some for marking. It’s why, when walking a male, he can pee on so many interesting verticle things, fire hydrants, trees, posts, etc. Then there is the fact that a male dog can smell a bitch in season from over a mile away, literally. A common complaint of people with young male dogs :
“I don’t understand, he was doing so well with housebreaking and training! Now, at 10 months, he’s peeing in the house, chewing things up, digging out of the yard!” etc. It’s because he can smell a bitch in season somewhere and all that testosterone coursing through his veins makes getting to her “job ONE”. If he can’t get to her, he’ll take out his frustration on you or other pets or your house. Neutered males are much more calm and happy to just be your companion as “job one”.
Intact (not spayed) bitches are an even bigger challenge. First of all, it’s critical that she not be allowed to get pregnant until reaching maturity which is at two years of age. Yes, they can come in season at 6 months, but just like young girls starting to cycle at 12 or 13, their body is just starting to get ready. Their body is not yet mature enough to handle a pregnancy and nursing. The other problem with intact bitches, besides having to handle the bleeding and mood swings every six months, is that every time a bitch goes into season her cervix dilates and she is at risk of getting pyometra. This is a uterine infection that can have very few symptoms but can be very deadly, very quickly. It’s why experienced breeders spay their bitches just as soon as they are done with their last litter.
Is your dog WORTHY of being bred?
Just because they have papers or are AKC registered, that has absolutely NO bearing on the quality of or the health of the individual dog or what genetic health defects they could potentially pass to their offspring. AKC is to dogs, as the DMV is to cars. They simply keep records. An AKC registered dog simply means the parents were registered. This is not to cast any blame on AKC. It is simply not their job.
Responsible breeding is in the hands of each breeder. We that show dogs do so to prove their merit as the breed they represent. It’s easy to think the dog in your home, that you love, is gorgeous. That, however, is frequently what professional or responsible breeders refer to as ” kennel blindness”. We go to dog shows to see how our dogs stack up compared to others in the breed and whether they can win against others of quality. We do this enough times under knowledgeable judges to earn that coveted championship. Even then, the “right” to breed isn’t guaranteed.
What health concerns does your breed have and are you certain that this individual dog neither has them, nor is carrying the genes for them? ALL dogs, both purebred and mutt, have defective genes. As do humans. It’s up to the responsible breeder to do the health clearances for what needs to be prevented in their breed, as well as doing careful pedigree research when choosing potential mates, so as not to produce puppies with hereditary health defects. Sometimes, this means getting OFA certification on hips, so as not to produce pups with hip dysplasia. Just because your dog isn’t lame, doesn’t mean they don’t have or aren’t carrying the gene for hip dysplasia. Sometimes, it means getting their heart certified. You have to know what hereditary problems are a concern in your chosen breed.
Remember, most states now have puppy “lemon laws” and they can come back to you not only for a refund of the full purchase price but also for vet bills incurred. Before even considering breeding, you should have your dog looked at by someone in your breed that shows dogs and have them evaluated. Many inexperienced people don’t realize that their dog has slightly crooked legs, an off-bite, luxating patellas, or a host of other things that could make them a fine pet but an unsuitable breeding specimen.
If you aren’t willing to put in the time and spend the money to breed a quality, healthy purebred dog, you shouldn’t do it at all. There are plenty of mutts and even purebreds at the pound that need rescuing. Even if they ARE a good representative of the breed and have health clearances, breeding to get a clone of what you have now is a truly unrealistic expectation. Even in breeding purebreds, all the puppies in every litter are different. Look at your own children, if you have them. They have the same two parents, but they sure are different, aren’t they? Breeding your dog to another dog would bring in even more genetic diversity than siblings have, which often isn’t a good thing. If you want a dog much like what you have, go back to the breeder and see if you can get a pup from a repeat breeding or similar line.
You think it would be a wonderful experience for your children?
Really? What happens when pups are born malformed or die shortly after birth? What happens when the bitch needs an emergency c-section at 3am? Breeding is not for the faint of heart and should not be done for the entertainment or education of children. There are plenty books and videos for that. Puppies are a huge investment of time, money and energy, especially if you breed a large breed.
Before you enter into breeding, here are a few questions to ask yourself.
Is your dog in excellent health?
Do you have the time and room to care for 6-12 large puppies?
Do you have the proper kennel facilities to care for them and keep them for however long it takes to find proper homes?
Are you prepared to interview prospective buyers to find out if they are the right kind of person and if they have a suitable lifestyle and living arrangements for your puppies?
Will you refuse to sell your pups to someone who doesn’t pass your screening?
Are you in a position to take them back if their owners can’t keep them, even 5-10 years from now?
Do you plan to get all the puppies their first series of puppy shots and a health exam before they are sold as is the law in many states?
If the mom or puppies get sick, do you have the financial capabilities to have them treated by a vet?
Can you keep the pups indefinitely if you have a problem finding a good home for all of them?
If you answered no to any of the above questions, breeding is not right for your family. The last thing any responsible breeder wants to do is add to the shelter population.
Do you think you’ll create a new and wonderful breed? Think again! It takes many, many generations of careful selective breeding to actually “create” a breed. Slapping two dogs together doesn’t create a breed, it creates a mutt. One fallacy is that you will be avoiding the hereditary problems in each of those breeds. Not so!! You will be adding the problems from BOTH breeds to the mix.
The man that started goldendoodles said on his death bed it was the greatest regret of his life. What people don’t realize is that unless you spend many, many generations, breeding in what you want and out what you don’t, all you have is a mishmosh of traits. Some goldendoodle pups will have golden hair, some will have poodle hair, some will have BOTH! Poodles don’t have as much of a problem with hip dysplasia but the lab could give that to the pups. Labs don’t have sebaceous adenitis but the poodle could give that to the pups. Some may require on-going professional grooming, some not.
I am not against doing cross-breeding. I just think you need to be educated and still do the pertinent health testing on the prospective parents. More importantly, you need to be honest with your puppy buyers about what a crap shoot it is with regard to what traits they can expect those puppies to have. If you’re just doing a cross because they are cute and there is a demand, like cockapoos or whatever, while you still have to do your health clearances, I can see the desire to do that. If you are looking for a hypoallergenic dog that doesn’t shed, anything crossed with something that DOES shed is not a good plan. Just choose a non-shedding purebred, like poodles, airedales or kerry blues.
The other thing to consider when doing crosses is size. If you cross a large male to a small female, you can wind up with a bitch in real trouble with fetuses too large for her to carry.
All in all, breeding should never be entered into lightly. Be prepared to invest a great deal of time, energy and money to do it right or do everyone, especially the unwanted dogs at the pound a favor ……don’t do it.