Thinking of Breeding Your Dog?

For many people the prospect of producing puppies is ever so tempting. There are all kinds of reasons for wanting to bring new dogs into the world ranging from replicating that ideal dam or sire to the desire to earn money through the sale of puppies. The process appears straightforward. Get two dogs together at the just the right time and voila- a couple of months later a litter is born. The pups are adorably entertaining, and eight weeks later these little income generators go off to their new homes to live happily ever after. Who wouldn’t want to breed their dog?

Time for a reality check! Before you begin propagating puppies, please consider the following:

What are the potential complications? Only rarely do the processes of breeding, pregnancy, whelping (giving birth), and raising pups take place without at least one significant medical hitch. It is important for you to realize that all aspects of creating, growing, and raising pups pose significant health risks for the female you are tempted to breed (that girl who is likely a beloved family member). Medical complications are often serious and most of them require veterinary care. Additionally, unspayed female dogs are particularly predisposed to breast cancer and pyometra (development of pus within the uterus), both of which can be life threatening. Prior to breeding your dog, have a frank conversation with your veterinarian regarding potential medical risks and what would be involved should they arise.

Is your dog a suitable candidate? Just because you have a purebred dog does not mean he or she should be bringing puppies into the world. Breeding should be reserved only for those dogs with ideal temperament and conformation. Additionally, breed related health issues should be investigated and health clearances provided before an individual dog is bred. For example, Labrador Retrievers are predisposed to hip dysplasia. The prospective breeding dog’s hip joints should be assessed via X-rays taken after two years of age and assessed by a radiologist either at Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) or PennHIP  . Labradors with inferior quality hips should not be bred. Visit the national breed association website for your breed of interest to learn more. I also encourage you to work with a reputable breeder or two to help you determine if your dog’s temperament, conformation, and health clearances make him or her a suitable candidate for breeding.

How much money will you make? The expenses associated with breeding a dog and raising pups are often greater than the income produced. The need for a Cesarean section (C-section), one sick puppy, or a case of mastitis (infection within the dam’s mammary gland) can negate any potential profit. Don’t forget to factor in the stud fee that should be fairly pricey if the male has been cleared for health issues and represents his breed well. Lastly, as the old adage counsels, “Don’t count your chickens before they hatch!” There’s never a guarantee of how many pups will arrive, much less survive the birthing process. You may end up selling two pups when the financial expectation was for eight or ten.

Do you have time? Raising pups is a whole lot of work! Done correctly, a huge amount of round-the-clock cleaning and monitoring is required, not to mention at least a couple of trips to the veterinary hospital for “herd health” visits. If you are raising a litter, plan to recruit lots of help or give up your day job for a minimum of six weeks.

Is it the right thing to do? The pet overpopulation issue is not exclusive to mixed breed dogs. Before breeding your own dog I encourage you to visit your local shelter or humane organization where you will find plenty of homeless purebred dogs. Contact the local rescue organization for the breed you fancy and find out how many dogs they have in foster care waiting for placement. Abstaining from breeding your dog may be the truly socially conscious thing to do.

Still have the desire to breed your dog? If so, please consult with your veterinarian and spend time with some reputable breeders before getting started. This way you will be able to proceed in a manner that is responsible to your dog, the people who will be adopting your puppies, and the breed you are promoting.

If you have ever purposefully bred your dog, I invite you to share your experiential wisdom.

Best wishes,

Nancy Kay, DVM

Diplomate, American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine
Author of Speaking for Spot: Be the Advocate Your Dog Needs to Live a Happy, Healthy, Longer Life
Author of Your Dog’s Best Health: A Dozen Reasonable Things to Expect From Your Vet
Recipient, Leo K. Bustad Companion Animal Veterinarian of the Year Award
Recipient, American Animal Hospital Association Animal Welfare and Humane Ethics Award
Recipient, Dog Writers Association of America Award for Best Blog
Recipient, Eukanuba Canine Health Award
Recipient, AKC Club Publication Excellence Award
Become a Fan of Speaking for Spot on Facebook

Please visit http://www.speakingforspot.com to read excerpts from Speaking for Spot and Your Dog’s Best Health.   There you will also find “Advocacy Aids”- helpful health forms you can download and use for your own dog, and a collection of published articles on advocating for your pet’s health. Speaking for Spot and Your Dog’s Best Health are available at www.speakingforspot.com, Amazon.com, local bookstores, and your favorite online book seller.

 

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21 Comments on “Thinking of Breeding Your Dog?

  1. If we had many more responsible breeders producing many more puppies responsibly we would see less dogs in shelters. People always wonder why many European countries have so little problems with dogs being turned into shelters. It’s because most people if they are looking for a new dog, they go to a breeder, they have a breeder help them make the choice on a breed that fits their lifestyle, they can turn to their breeder if there is a problem with their dog.
    If I turn my passion for chickens into a lucrative egg selling business and I spend my days checking the fields of happy chickens, most everybody would think I am doing a good thing to provide people with eggs that are produced responsibly. However if I would do the same thing with dogs, I would be treated like a criminal who is doing something terribly wrong, even if those puppies and their families would live a perfect life on the farm, with lots of human interaction, training, exercise, good food, vet care etc. (This would create jobs in the area, would increase the need for veterinary services etc.). The idea that a “responsible or good” breeder spends more money on producing a puppy than what they can sell it for is really counter-productive if we want to maintain genetic diversity of our purebred dogs and if we want pet buyers to get their puppies from responsible breeders. Most people when they think of buying a puppy from a responsible breeder have this idea that the breeder should be there just about 24/7 to raise a litter, yet they shouldn’t make any money on that litter because they should do it for the love of the breed. So a responsible breeder must be either independently rich or they should just live without an income until the litter is sold and then what? Work 2 jobs to pay off their debt and leave their dogs to themselves and not have another litter until they are caught up with their finances and can repeat this cycle? This just doesn’t add up.
    So what would be so wrong if somebody turns their love for their breed into a family business? Wouldn’t it still be for the love of the breed and the dogs even if they manage to make a living with it? Their dogs would be happy, the puppies would be raised in an ideal environment with lots of socialization if there are puppies of different ages and there is a regular flow of visitors to come and see the dogs, families could learn about proper care and would see how their puppies are raised, there would be enough space and resources to take back dogs that don’t work out. Why would this be a bad thing?

  2. There is a wise old bible quote that we should all keep in mind. “Judge not, lest ye be judged”. There is one judge that I answer to and when I die I hope he finds me fit to care for heaven’s critters…..
    Jackie

  3. Jane Eagle:
    While I respect your rescue experience, I do not appreciate your put downs of well bred dogs or the people who want them.

    Just because a dog is a “pure bred” does not make it “well bred”. There IS a difference and you would be well advised to learn what it is before you go spouting off more insults about dogs that lack horror stories.

    As anyone can tell you, you get what you pay for. A cheap “pure bred” is not a well bred dog.

    Responsible breeders will take back a puppy. Responsible owners won’t ask a breeder to take back the puppy unless it can’t meet its intended purpose. Genetics happen, and not all puppies grow up to be perfect. Likewise, not all solutions involve dumping the dog.

    Finally: My dogs are NOT status symbols, and I resent that you would say that. I don’t appreciate your assumptions about what I need when you don’t know anything about me. I don’t owe you or anyone else a justification of why a shelter dog is not right for me. I will say that there is a lot more to the world of dogs than breed ring and pets and to dismiss my interests because you have a “champion” in a shelter is simply ignorant. So, frankly, I doubt we are on the “same side” at all.

    For the record, I have had multiple shelter dogs and I help my breed rescue.

    There is no need for you to demean anyone else because of your personal passions.

  4. Years ago, I bred a few litters of sheltie pups. I was not interested in showing, I used my dogs for therapy animals at our local nursing homes. I raised puppies while I was raising my children. I had the best socialized pups around! I would take my children, their pet rabbit and my dogs to the nursing homes where we would listen to stories of pets that the residents had or had to leave behind, play fetch and be silly (laughter is the best medicine, and cuddle when needed. I would help residents pet those soft coats and a sheltie’s long nose would always push up under any hand that wanted to pet them. I only bred a litter when I had like minded folks as myself to utilize the dogs for a purpose. IF any of my pups had a problem..usually because of owner ignorance, I would take the dog and fix the issue and educate the owner…for a very minimal fee. Most of my dogs stayed local and I watched them live a long and rewarding life in their loving homes. I have worked in animal control for about 17 years now and do see the ugly side of an unwanted animal’s life. Would I breed again?…probably not….but the money that I did recieve from the sale of my pups went to pay for the care of my dogs. I know that there a plenty of reputable breeders that do it right and I see the value of keeping up with pure bred dogs. Most of them have a specific purpose (working career). I specialize in obedience training of all breeds and training labs for their job in life….retrieving. This is such a touchy subject and I see the merits of each side of the debate….which will go on for a long time…..
    Jackie

  5. I love this topic. Because I am not a breeder nor do I ever want to be I find it very interesting why some people do elect to breed. I will pass along a blog website..it’s open to all…of one of the best breeders I know. If you will read her blog she is in the midst of raising a litter of Bernese Mt. Dog puppies. The work that goes into this is mind numbing, before, during and after puppies. Her blog is worth a read for all those even thinking about breeding. Go back and read her past blogs and hopefully it will educate those who thought breeding was a snap. Blog is….www.kaibabbmd.org

  6. People think dogs are in shelters because they have issues when in all reality dogs are in shelters because people have issues. One I just saw posted is perfectly trained and dumped because her owners were getting new carpet… Purebred GSD. A couple of years ago, I pulled a dog from my local shelter, turned in because his people were having a baby. He came with a stack of paperwork, which is unusual; and his astonishing looks, training, conformation and temperment inspired me to investigate his origins. Turns out, his father was a WORLD CHAMPION.
    SO…why is it that a “shelter dog” Sis not right for everyone?

  7. KT: As I pointed out, 25+% of dogs killed in “shelters” are purebred. As a volunteer with a breed rescue, we take in an average of 3-4 pregnant girls every year; at least 2-3 of those litters are purebred. So: one could get an 8 week old purebred puppy for $600.
    Please respect the many people who really love dogs, and don’t need to pay for a status symbol. On the other hand, someone who wants a show dog will need to get one from a (hopefully) responsible breeder.
    We are not really on opposite sides here.

  8. Responsible breeding is one thing – breeds have aright to exist and good breeders are a joy.

    What we need to avoid is the casual breeder who is in it to make a quick buck, or – even worse (Way worse) is the person who doesn’t spay or neuter and then ends up with a dog having problems giving birth.

    My take on the point here is not ‘don’t ever do it”, just know what you are up against if you do. Sadly, many of the people who need this information would not read an informative blog like this.

  9. Jane Eagle:

    There is nothing wrong with wanting a well-bred puppy. Please respect the many types of people who love dogs. Shelter dogs are not right for everyone.

  10. And to add another reason why you will want to follow your pups for their entire lives: I rescued a one year old dog who was dumped at the pound after I begged her owners not to, because the rescue was full. SO I saw her in her original home, where she was well socialized, loved the toddlers who lived with her, and allowed them to climb on her. I couldn’t let her die, so I pulled her and fostered her. She was adopted by a lovely family with well behaved children; I got photos and updates…for a while. 6 months later, she came back to the rescue from another owner(!) and was so psychotic, the rescue wanted to euthanize her. I don’t know what was done to her, but I’d like to have a “chat” with those folks. She stayed with my dogs and I for rehab, and when she was recovered, she was adopted again (if you count my fostering, that’s now her 5th home in 2 years of life. The new owner had some behavioral problems which we worked through, but it took lots of commitment and work. The original breeder? When the puppy buyer called to return the dog, they never answered the phone…Bad things happen to so many dogs. Only people who will make a commitment for life have any business breeding.

  11. One more thing to consider: a good breeder will ALWAYS take back any dog they have bred. This means that if the owner is going into a nursing home and has an elderly dog, it will be coming back to YOU! How many of us could ever possibly take back every dog bred? Not many – certainly not the very small breeder who only breeds a couple of litters each year and keeps a limited number of dogs.

    Breeding dogs is a very expensive hobby. Dr Kay doesn’t even mention the conformation showing that should be done in order to find out if your dog even is a good example of the breed.

    As for the family who says they want their children to experience “the miracle of birth” – well a dear dog friend used to then say, “Are you prepared for them to experience the death of a puppy or of the bitch herself?” Harsh, but oh too true…

  12. I would add a few things that potential “breeders” should consider:

    at least 25% of dogs killed in “shelters” are purebed dogs.

    Only 1/10 of American dogs spend their entire life with 1 “owner”; most get passed around, if they are lucky enough to stay out of the “shelters”.

    For every puppy you produce, someone bought your pup instead of saving a “shelter” dog; have 5 puppies? Five other dogs died because of you.

    What will you do if you don’t sell all the puppies? Keep them all? Dump them at a “shelter”? Give them away on craigslist? Free dogs often end up sold to laboratories, used as reptile food, become “bait” dogs to teach other dogs to fight, or or used as target practice, or torture practice for learning psychopaths.

    Will you take responsibility for all the puppies for their entire lives? What if you sell a puppy, and a year later the person decides they don’t want them anymore? Will you take the dog back? Tell them to dump your precious progeny at the pound? Give the dog away (see above)?

    Let’s say you WILL take the dog back. Now you have a possibly untrained and unsocialized one year old to deal with. What happens if 3 of your buyers decide to give back their grown up former puppies? Will you take them all back?

    If you are breeding because you love your dog(s), you will want to stay in touch with every puppy buyer for the entire life of the pup, to make sure they are having good lives. I bought my first purebred from an outstanding breeder. Even though my incredible dog died of old age, the breeder and I are still in touch.

    If you are only in it for the immediate money, do everyone a favor and do not breed. And if you want to do it for love, expect to own many dogs, since only 1/10 remain with one person for their entire lives.

    I have a dear friend who occasionally breeds one of her champions. She never makes any money on it, because she does it right. I have helped her recover puppies from far away because they were not being treated right…another expense.

    Also, when you call local breed rescues to find out how many dogs they are trying to rehome, try to get an answer on how many they had to leave behind to be killed at the “shelters” because the rescue was full.

    We beg people: ” Do not breed or buy while shelter dogs die”.

  13. Done right breeding is very expensive. Last year I spent about $1000 EACH testing my bitch and the stud. Spent another $500 on the breeding itself (testing for progesterone, etc.). Then I lost the entire litter of 5 puppies due to anesthesia during a c-section (cost about $1500). A few months later the bitch developed an infection in her uterus due to the scarring after the c-section. Nearly lost my bitch and spent another $1700 for emergency surgery to save and to spay her. That’s $5700 total, which does not include all the heartache. No puppies and my wonderfully healthy bitch ended up spayed. Of course, I am not even thinking about what it cost me to raise and to show the sire and dam of the litter that never lived to go to all the families waiting for their puppies.

  14. PS:
    if you are making money selling puppies, you are doing it wrong.

    Breeding, well done, is a labor of love and you do it because you love your dog and love your breed. That means health clearances: getting them AND understanding them and the implications of the results, as well as the genetics that lead to those results.

  15. I am glad to see some thought provoking questions and frank conversation about breeding, although I disagree with the assertion that “only rarely” does breeding get accomplished without medical necessity. Unless a breed has weird structure (ie, english bulldogs) or something else is going on with a specific breed, MOST DOGS DO FINE. Dogs that are not reproductively successful are dogs that should not be continued.
    Speaking as one who should know!

    My bitch was intentionally bred and I spent a ton of money on health clearances and again on the perfect stud. I had trouble with all 3 litters. My hope behind litter 2 and 3 was to keep a continuation of my amazing bitch. I thought the first litter was an anomaly and there were valid reasons for thinking it was something other than repro and my bitch was attended to by a premier repro specialist. We did not realize what was going on until litter 3. Trying to keep litter 3 going was an all-consuming effort that took the last half of her pregnancy and the first 3 weeks of the puppies’ lives. Once I determined the source of the issue, I opted to have my bitch puppy and the dam spayed rather than go through this nightmare again with a new generation.
    My point is that any dog this difficult to bring along puppies is a dog that is not reproductively sound enough to continue breeding a line from. Unless, of course, you like tears, no sleep, and spending a couple grand at the repro vet every breeding. This is not normal reproductive behavior for my breed, and when there are so many dogs that conceive naturally and have puppies without this kind of trouble, continuing what is almost certainly a genetic problem is outright foolish.
    Nobody should be breeding without an understanding of their breed’s health issues and the history behind their own line, and that includes repro history.
    It breaks my heart to say good bye to my line but dogs should breed normally, and conceive normally, and care for their puppies normally, and if they don’t? They should not be bred.
    On the upside, I now know a lot more about repro problem solving. LOL

  16. I agree that breeding should be undertaken carefully. I breed and show Standard Poodles, and only breed when I am going to keep a puppy to show myself. I’ve had two litters– the first was a C-section for uterine inertia that produced a genetic issue in a puppy. The dam is now spayed and living with friends who do agility with her. I test for everything I can, but there are no genetic tests for most of the issues in our breed, and parents who are free of the condition (sebaceous adenitis, hereditary thyroid disease, PRA, etc.) don’t guarantee that the puppies will never develop the condition. Overall, I’ve “broken even” on the two litters– if you don’t account for the significant time that I have spent raising them! As I work, I pay a breeder friend who lives close by to have the whelping in her home. She raises them for the first month, and I visit everyday after work. Then, at 4 wks, they move to my home. I largely work from home that month (luckily, my job allows this) and hire a friend to come in the afternoons when I need to be away. Works out well, and I stand behind my puppies — I check on their health throughout their lives, as I do on the puppies my stud dog has sired. I believe that because I breed, I have a responsibility to support rescue (and I will take back any puppy I produced at any time in its life). I contribute financially to the rescues trying to pull dogs from the NYC shelters (though I live in Maine) and donate to Poodle Rescue. I’ve fostered poodles in my home. I believe that people have the right to own purebreds, and to produce them–responsibly. That’s what I try to do.

  17. Oh, goodness, what a great topic! I’ve bred 4 litters over 15 years. I never covered all the costs that went into the process, and in 3 of the litters I lost a pup at birth, which was a heartbreak.

    I have a stock answer for folks who tell me they want to breed their bitches “for the kids,” “so she can experience one litter,” “because my neighbor/friend/mother/sister wants a puppy,” etc etc:: I hope you’re planing to quit your job because you won’t have time for anything else for two months once the puppies are born. And that’s with a healthy litter! And as time consuming as it is during the first couple of weeks, it becomes more so when the pups are older and need to be weaned, socialized and crate trained. And finding good, responsible and loving homes can be a real teeth-gnasher.

    And then there are the things that happen in others’ lives that result in you needing to take an adult ‘pup’ back because the family can no longer keep her. There’s nothing that can throw a wrench into a peaceful household like the arrival of a ‘long lost’ sibling! And it’s a lot harder to place an adult dog, believe me ~

    If I hadn’t had to spay my current bitch because of behavioral issues, I would have definitely wanted to breed again. I just love raising puppies! But my life has changed and I would never be able to give it the time now that it requires.

    Want to know what it’s like to raise a litter without being ultimately responsible for it? Check with your local shelter. At the one where I teach, we get plenty of dams with litters that need to be fostered. Queens with kittens, too, BTW.

  18. Thank you for writing about breeding a dog! I’ve always had shelter and rescue dogs, as others have said, we have too many dogs and cats euthanized in shelters – how I wish owners would stop breeding. I have a standard poodle that came from the Dallas Poodle Rescue in 2008. The male and female parents were both bred at 18 months by someone who thought they were going to make money by breeding poodles. The young female could not nurse the puppies, all became sick and all were taken to a shelter. Both the adults were surrendered, and 7 puppies. All were sick. Thank you for helping to educate the public. I volunteer now at a shelter and work to find homes, and I foster. I hope someday the message will end this overpopulation of dogs and cats.

  19. Excellent blog–thank you! Having seen way too many throw-away pets–including purebred dogs–while volunteering for a pet rescue group, I’m not a fan of backyard breeding, no matter how wonderful the dog is. Most reputable breeders I’ve talked to breed dogs because they love the breed, not as a get-rich-quick scheme (which it definitely isn’t!).

  20. All good advice! Also, lots of behavioral things can be done with the pups starting practically from day one, to help them be more solid companions and perhaps thwart some unwanted behaviors. Screening potential buyers, when done right, is also very time consuming, too.

    Also, another good source for genetic health related issues and testing is Optigen.com They have been working hard and have quite a few genetic tests on various issues, some they can even tell you how they will be passed on to offspring based on your dog’s test.

  21. I bred my Gordon girl in 1989. She’d been shown extensively, had an obedience title, and was from a healthy line. So, I had her hips xrayed for OFA, had her eyes Cerf’d, had her thyroid checked, and did a brucellosis test. I might add that none of these clearances are free! She was bred to a stud dog who also had all of his clearances as well as a lovely temperament and she had 10 puppies. At 3 days, I lost one of the boys to septicemia. That was a vet visit, a fairly costly one. She was not able to nurse all of them enough, so I had to buy goat’s milk at a local farm and bottle feed them every other feeding. I had homes for the boys and one girl, but at 8 weeks I still had 2 girls waiting for a home. I’d placed an ad in the dog club newsletter. The girls were 5 months old before they were placed – so I had vet bills and extra food bills. I did not “make” any money on the litter, nor had I thought I would after talking to other breeders. I may have broken even. I did have 13 wonderful years with one of the boys and his mom lived to almost 16. Long lives worth every penny of the prime dog food, and prime healthcare they both got. Would I do it again? Nope. I bought my next Gordon from a wonderful breeder who does all the health clearances and has a long lived, healthy line. And I’ll do so again. Breeding dogs is not for the faint hearted IF YOU DO IT THE RIGHT WAY! If you just stick two dogs together and sell the off spring to unsuspecting people, you’re not doing it right.