Breeding dogs, the right way; some home truths
So you are thinking about breeding a litter of dogs, whether it be purebred or a cross, because of a myriad of reasons. It takes much more than monetary expense to breed, whelp and raise a litter the right way, and it can be downright heartbreaking at the best of times! A group of purebred dog breeders who put many years of experience and commitment to breeding healthy, sound of mind and temperament puppies have come together to write this piece to inform people of just what REALLY goes into producing puppies properly.
This is not aimed at people who intend on backyard breeding/commercial breeding/puppy farming, because I know they won’t bother to read it. It’s aimed at people who want to do it the right way, are toying with the “because I think she should have one litter” idea or people looking at getting their first dog as a guide on what to look for and what really goes into producing that gorgeous puppy.
Some of the misconstrued reasons:
- "To make a lot of money."
Do you realize the expense involved in such items as advertising, vet bills, stud fee, food, etc., to name a few? At the end of this article is a breakdown of the MINIMUM required to breed a healthy litter.
- "Because it would be good for the children to watch the birth and play with the puppies as they grow up."
Actually, the "gory" parts of the whelping repulse most kids, who are all too anxious to just skip the viewing of the miracle of birth you have planned for them to see. The dog also might not cope with too many people in the room and stress. And a litter growing up is often too rowdy for most kids who are usually totally disinterested or absolutely terrified of the leaping creatures with the sharp nails and teeth. If you want the kids to see a puppy grow up, it's usually better to buy one.
- "Because we love Fido and we want one just like her."
The chances of getting one "just like her" are slim indeed. By breeding on with her, you are reducing her genetic impact by 50% by adding the unknown combined effect of another dog’s genes. This is where researching your lines is extremely important, even putting the same two dogs together for repeated litters can produce different results.
- "Because everyone who comes to the house and sees Fido wants a puppy when she has a litter."
Just wait until your litter of 12 is ready to go to their homes and watch all those people back out with excuses like...."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 and on! Most councils only allow 2 dogs over 12 weeks of age on any property, so how will you combat this?
- "Because we really love little puppies."
You'd better be sure you love them. You can't fully imagine how much is involved, such as the mess a litter makes. Can you put up with the cleaning that is constantly needed in caring for the litter? There is no way to explain how tired you get of scrubbing up after the puppies, their whelping box, the yard, kennel, or wherever they are kept. They dump their food and water the minute you put it down, step in it, and drag it through whatever else may be in the puppy area, and with 6 or 8 or 12 puppies, there's always something else to be cleaned up too!
Do you understand the RESPONSIBILITY you will have with a litter?
It's not just Fido having the litter and caring for it until they are ready to go. Most of it is up to you and you're tied to the litter like any new mother, only you can't take the litter with you to your in-laws for the weekend, or anyplace else for that matter, so you'd better be content to spend all too long stuck at home because you have to be there to feed the puppies four times a day.
Now that you have some idea of what is involved other than playing with those cute, cuddly puppies and are still determined to breed, here's something else that should be considered.
Is your bitch of QUALITY to breed? Do you know her faults as well as her virtues? Does she meet with the standard of the breed? Is she in good health? Has she been tested free of the genetic defects associated with the breed?
Is she on the mains register with the ANKC (Australian National Kennel Council)? Have you joined your ANKC state affiliate? Have you sat your breeder’s exam and have a kennel prefix ready to go?
If you can answer "yes" to the above and haven't lost the determination to try your hand at raising a litter, then read on...
Get an opinion of your bitch from a few reputable breeders. Find out what they think are her faults and her virtues. Be prepared for some home truths. Just because she is the apple of your eye, doesn’t mean everyone else educated in the breed thinks so too.
Study the breed standard yourself so that you are familiar with it when looking at and evaluating possible stud dogs. Get several reputable breeder's opinions of a stud dog who will enhance your bitch. Research your pedigrees. Have a fair idea of what the dogs in the family tree will contribute to your bitch in bettering the breed. Go to see as many of the stud dogs and their offspring as you can.
Learn about any problems that exist in your breed such as hip dysplasia, eye disorders, etc.
After you have decided on a stud dog, take your bitch to the vet and have a general health check-up. Don't forget, all this is going to cost money, but it's a necessary part of planning for a healthy litter.
Now while you wait for her to come into season, read all you can on your particular breed, breeding, whelping, and rearing puppies.
When the bitch comes in season, contact the stud dog owner with whom you have previously made arrangements regarding the breeding. You will be advised on when to bring your bitch. This can also be determined with progesterone tests. Plan to pay the stud fee at the time of breeding. There may also be a boarding charge if your bitch is to stay with the stud dog's owner. And air fares if interstate, or insemination fees if doing an artificial insemination with frozen semen, or a live dog if the bitch is not too keen on being mated.. Be sure you understand in advance what the payment of the stud fee is guaranteeing, different stud owners have different ideas of what constitutes a viable litter. The suitable stud for your bitch may be some distance away involving additional traveling expense, possible accommodation (for multiple matings) and time off work. Getting your bitch bred isn't always as easy as you might imagine and may require repeated trips to the stud dog.
After your bitch is bred you have about 63 more days to do more reading and thinking, and laced with the good thoughts about the precious darlings will be some horrible thoughts about what can go wrong and how much it will cost you, both financially and emotionally.
Start saving all your newspapers and have your friends do the same (remember what we told you about clean-up?) You'll need all the newspaper you can get your hands on. As well as garbage bags! I went through so many garden sized bags with my last litter of 9, then there is the removal of said bags to the tip.
Have a whelping box built, buy one yourself or, if you are handy, build one yourself. Do you have somewhere that is warm and draught free to put it?
We hate to keep dwelling on this but things DO go wrong occasionally and you should be prepared in case it happens to you.
(1) What if your bitch has problems and requires a Caesarean section or other extensive vet services? Things like Pre-eclampsia, Mastitis, Pyometra, and that’s just the mother!
(2) What if the puppies die?
(3) What if she is not in whelp or has a miscarriage?
(4) What are you going to do with 10 six month old puppies that you can't sell, give away, or have the heart to put to sleep? Do you have adequate facilities and a forgiving local council?
(5) What if your bitch can't, or won't, nurse the puppies? Are you prepared to feed and toilet them every two hours for the next three weeks?
(6) Do you have 8 weeks annual leave up your sleeve to take off to raise and socialise the puppies with the love and attention they require?
(7) Are you prepared for the mental and emotional turmoil that may happen should you have a pup/s that are failing and you try everything you can to keep them alive to no avail? What if a pup gets injured either in the box with mum, or once outside of it? Are you able to have someone at home to sit with mum and the pups while you whisk little one off to a vet to try and save it/fix what is wrong?
(8) And worst of all, what if Fido dies while whelping or afterwards? Will it have been worth it?
Now for the gory details of whelping and raising!
Your bitch goes off their food, and no matter what you give her, she stays off it. You spend a ton of money trying to find WHAT she will eat and many, many hours worrying she isn’t getting the right nutrients for herself, let alone her puppies.
Are you prepared for the late (wait, no, scratch that, what’s night? You have had no sleep) waiting for the big day? Taking her temperature every day, then every 12 hours, then 6 hours, then hourly, lubing up the thermometer and trying to hold her while you stick it where the sun don’t shine. Then she starts digging up under the water tank, in your wardrobe, on your bed! You wrestle her into the prepared whelping area and sit there for hours on end while she has contractions.
You are trying to keep all your other pets and children out of the room to dull down the chaos happening. Good luck with that! (My own dogs thought they would all make excellent midwives, lucky my girl didn’t mind all that much, but some are not so forgiving!)
First pup comes out, she screams, there is gunk and blood. You grab the bitch, trying to stop her from chewing the umbilical cord too far down. You tie it off with dental floss or cotton, rubbing the pup while the mum is looking at whatever that is in your hands with horror. You weigh the pup, record the weight and put an identifying collar on it.
You then battle to get her to lay down, and to get the puppy to suckle. This in itself can be hard, one hand controlling the nipple, the other trying to open the puppy's mouth, and they don’t always get it straight away. Its essential to get the puppy suckling to release oxytocins to the bitch that allow the pregnancy to progress.
Many, many hours later, the pups are all born and now is the struggle to get the bitch to leave them to go to the toilet- she doesn’t want to leave the pups. Whilst she is “going potty” you hurriedly try to change the newspaper and bedding to make it clean and warm. You then have about a minute to then count heads and check the sexes.
The day passes, and Fido has whelped her puppies without any problems, but you still have to take her to the vet to be checked over within 24 hours of delivery. She will probably get injections to prevent infections. Lucky for you, Fido whelped 10 healthy puppies. Dew claws to be removed, vet checks for cleft palates etc means another 10x a vet bill.
Some babies aren’t suckling, they start losing weight over the coming days, you now have to feed them every two-four hours! (more sleep deprivation) Some mothers won’t even take to mothering straight away, if at all, so now you aren’t only feeding them, but having to manually stimulate the pups to pee and poop too!
At 3 weeks the surfing through the food begins. Some pups refuse to leave the nipple and you worry as they fall behind. The mother usually will stop cleaning up for them at this stage, so lots more newspaper is required. Lots more hours of played in poop mixed with wet sloppy puppy food, they play in their water bowl and WALA! You now have the puppy’s version of a stinking slip n slide. On average, in this 5 weeks until they leave, you could go through 20kg of puppy food EASILY!
Your power bills are now soaring as you are trying to dry floors, keep puppies warm/cool, cleaning up poopy bedding 3 times a day, running the dryer because if you don’t, there won’t be any clean bedding.
They’ve decided to break out of the puppy paradise and have started invading the rest of the house- your cane coffee and side tables are now in tatters and your couch and chairs now smell like the puppy slip and slide.
At 5-6 weeks, you may have interested parties visiting to register their interest in a pup. Are you sure your buyers haven’t been anywhere prior to coming to visit your puppies, and as such, not had contact with any other unvaccinated dogs that could bring parvovirus into your environment (that you have been using 20,000 cans of Glen 20, scrubbing with disinfectant 3 times a day and scrubbing your hands with anti-bac every time you touch something to avoid?)
They are almost 6 weeks old now and in two weeks it will be time to sell them. First they will all have to make a trip to the vet. Their check-up will include shots and microchipping. This ride and getting in the door to the vets is a great (NOT!) challenge with 10 squirming babies and their first adventure to the great beyond of home!
Now that you know they are healthy and ready to go, you'll want a breeder to see just how gorgeous they are and how great you did on your first try. Of course, you think they are all show quality and worth show prices. But again be prepared because you might be told the following:
(1) The best male has only one testicle.
(2) The next best male toes out badly (but has both testicles.)
(3) The really pretty bitch has a bad bite.
(4) The smaller bitch has a proper bite but her top line is bad.
(5) The bitch with the prettiest head is cow hocked.
(6) There are four who are average, nothing really wrong but nothing outstanding either.
So now these must all go on limited register to try and deter future backyard breeders from breeding on and contributing to all the beautiful dogs in rescue.
There is one who is show quality according to your assessment team. The "show quality" one is the one you were going to keep just as a pet because the kids liked it best, and you're feeling down at the breeder's opinion of your litter. But you're told to cheer up, one outstanding puppy is better than a lot of people get out of a litter and you should consider this a successful breeding, some consolation when you were going to sell them all as show puppies!
Now you have your litter graded and you are ready to sell them.
By this time, are you knowledgeable enough about your breed to be the expert every buyer assumes you are? Are you prepared to answer questions on training, housebreaking, feeding, grooming, etc.? Are you prepared to answer these questions not only at the time of purchase, but months later or when someone calls at midnight because the dog isn't eating right? Can you direct buyers to obedience classes, breed handling classes, help them get into showing, recommend a vet, etc.? Remember, you are now the breeder and the responsibility doesn't end when a puppy is carried out the door. Do you have a pedigree ready to go with each puppy, as well as the registration forms? Are you prepared to advertise extensively if needed?
You’ve asked your puppy buyers all the questions you can, you believe everyone on face value, you have to think the best in people, right? WRONG! As their breeder, it is you who champions for these puppies and it's solely on you to make sure they are safe. You believe the homes you have chosen are perfect. (People will sometimes say anything to get a pup) Use Google Map to see the vicinity of the prospective house to off lead parks, vets and even the size of the buyers yard. Some breeders will also put you through a lengthy questionnaire and then ask you to sign a sales agreement. This ISN'T intrusive, controlling or nosey, but it’s all to do with the ongoing safety and welfare of something they have put many years into creating.
If you have a good bitch and have bred to a stud dog owned by an interested breeder, they may send referrals to you, but don't depend on others to sell YOUR puppies. Don't expect the buyers to flock to your door the day the puppies are ready to go. It may take weeks, or even months, before they are all sold. This results in lots of food costs and more trips to the vet and battling with your council once they turn 12 weeks.
Then what happens when someone has had the puppy for 3-10 days (or more), you have already sent out the “sorry, no puppies available” emails and referred them onto other breeders, and then the puppy comes back- sometimes with weight or temperament issues that need to be rectified before you are able to list them for sale AGAIN- this time at 10-12 weeks (or older) when they aren’t so adorable anymore!
We hope that if you breed your bitch you do it the right way and only for the right reasons and put lots of time, thought, and love into your decision.
THERE ARE TOO MANY UNWANTED PUPPIES PUT TO DEATH EACH YEAR DUE TO IRRESPONSIBLE AND IGNORANT BREEDING. DON'T LET ANY OF YOUR PUPPIES END UP THIS WAY
Cost of having a litter
Buying a quality bitch to begin with on main registered papers $1500+
Feeding her top quality food for the first 18 mths (minimum breeding age for a GSP) $5500+
Joining your ANKC Affiliate $134.00 first year, $95 per year thereafter
Application for a breeder’s prefix (and exam) $190 first year, $41 (plus membership renewal thereafter)
Litter Registration $40 (per pup- main register) $28 (per pup- limited register)
Hip/Elbow Testing $500+
Eye Certification $70-$200+
Cardiac Testing $250+
Other breed specific testing not mentioned above $70-$600+
Stud fee for a quality, well researched sire $1500+
Smear to make sure no infection at time of breeding $70+
Progestrone testing $70+ per time (could require up to 10 tests)
Ultrasound to confirm pregnancy $120+
X-ray to confirm number of pups $150+
Feeding the bitch extra nutrients, higher protein/calcium diet (sardines, yoghurt, eggs, cream cheese etc. on top of their normal high quality diet) $100+
Whelping Box $95+ (dependant on quality)
Whelping Supplies (calcium, collars, dental floss, nutrigel, stypic powder (Condi’s crystals), clamps, thermometer, lubricant, alcohol swabs, antibacterial gel, betadine, bulb syringe, saline, syringes (for feeding), scissors, gloves, scales, clock, exercise book etc.) $150+
Extra bedding (blankets, kylie blankets, absorbent pads etc.) $200+ (even from the op shop!)
Electricity to run heaters, air conditioners, fans, dryer, washing machine, radio etc. $200+
Initial vet check on pups/mother $150+ (dependant on your vet)
Dew claw removal $45+ per pup
20kg+ top quality puppy food $105+ (could be more dependent on litter size)
Vaccinations and Microchipping (per pup) $150+
Puppy packs (depending on breeder) $100+
And this is if it all goes smoothly and to plan (stud dog within reach of bitch) extra costs could include:
Antibiotics if there is sign of infection prior to breeding $100
Progesterone testing and Artificial Insemination) (if stud dog is “on ice” or if the bitch refuses to allow the dog to breed with her) $800+
Caesarean in vet hours $700+
Emergency Caesarean $1500+
Middle of the night vet consult pre- birthing if something is going wrong $600-$3000+ (depending where you go, and this might also be needed up front)
Autopsy/testing/disposal of any lost pups $600+
Any ongoing issues that can be traced back to being genetic or there prior to pup leaving for new home. A proper breeder would offer to pay half (or all) of whatever treatment said pup required until the issue was resolved. $??????? (could be over and above what they actually paid for the pup.)
The sire’s owner/breeder/Fido’s breeder may all want a pup. Then you need to think about the price (if any) that they do pay and deduct that from your “profit”.
And after all this, you may not have any puppies OR the mother at the end of it.
Written by a team of breeders who care about purebred dogs and hope and pray that anyone intending on breeding dogs really thinks about it and not just the monetary side. You can see there is no money in breeding dogs BUT there is a HECK of a lot of heart.
WRITEN BY KATE RAVEN AND RE PRINTED WITH HER PERMISSION