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You look in the face of your trusty canine companion and ask, “How could I not breed you, you are the perfect dog?”
But did you know, if your dog is of mixed heritage, you most likely will never get a pup from her that is even close to her in looks and temperament. Genetically, she carries a mixed bag of unexpressed genes and can produce a wide variety of looks in her pups.
If she is a purebred, your chances of cloning her are best if you acquire a sibling from a repeat breeding of her parents. By breeding her, you will get a pup of the same breed but that could very well be the end of the similarities. What motivates you to breed? As a breeder, you are responsible for the quality of the puppies you produce. Every breeding should be done with purpose, to improve the quality of the individual animals from those of their sire and dam. If you are just producing dogs of the same quality or worse, lesser quality, you are doing a disservice to the breed you care about.
Unfortunately, today, humane shelters are full of dogs with no one to love or care for them, and purebred rescue is alive and well, working furiously to relocate and place purebred dogs that have become homeless.
If you allow your female dog, either through her resourcefulness or a planned breeding to produce a litter, you are a breeder. Congratulations, being a breeder can be very rewarding. The thrill of being part of the continuation of life and providing marvelous companions for people can be fulfilling.
But as with all silver linings, there is that proverbial cloud. Did you know that breeding could risk the life of your dog? There are things that can go wrong: difficult labor, emergency Caesarian sections, hypocalcemia due to lactation which can lead to seizures and worse, death. Now, realistically, these problems are more the exception than the rule, but they can and do occur. If it is your dog it happens to it is no longer a statistic, it is your new reality.
The cost, oh, the cost! Where to begin, let’s see, there is the cost of the female and raising her to breeding age, somewhere around two years.
But you say, “I would have had those expenses anyway, she is my pet, and this is a way to recoup some of those expenses.” Okay, don’t forget to have a pre-breeding examination by your veterinarian, screening tests for hereditary defects. These tests can include, but are not limited to: X-rays for hip dysplasia, eye exams from a boarded veterinary ophthalmologist for hereditary eye disease, blood test for low thyroid, Von Willabrands Disease, Brucellosis, etc.
Okay, she passes her tests with flying colors, now the selection of a mate. You will need to have a copy of her pedigree to know her ancestors so you can select a mate that doesn’t double up on a dog with any “undesirable genes.” You will need to review all the dogs in a 3-5 generation pedigree. This part of the procedure can take a while. Most breeders spend over a year researching to select the best possible mate for breeding. You see, that as a breeder, you are now a guardian for the breed. What you do today can affect the breed tomorrow. Don’t take this responsibility lightly.
Now you have selected the “Mr.” part of this couple. Be sure to have a written contract before the breeding. How much is the stud fee? What if there are no pups, only one pup? What if one pup is born but dies of congenital problems during the first two weeks, do you get another breeding the next heat cycle? Is the stud owner getting a pup? If so, what sex, does he or you pick out the pup? At what age can the pup go? How long are you expected to keep them so he can pick?
Boy, seems like once you get past that hurdle the “fun” part should start. Let’s say whelping goes well, no problems. She doesn’t take two days to whelp, resulting in missed work and or large veterinarian bills. Now look at those dear sweet pups. Oops, don’t gaze too long if you have a breed that needs tails cut or dew claws removed. That’s another trip to the veterinarian’s office, usually about three days of age.
The next eight weeks will fly by, especially with having to change the papers in the whelping box several times a day and feeding mom 3-4 times a day. Lactation isn’t easy. Be sure to do your deworming every two weeks. Somewhere at week four to five, start grinding up that puppy food, it’s time to start the weaning process. Oh, yes, don’t forget that trip to the veterinarian office with bundles of joy for the first vaccines, more deworming, exams etc. A responsible breeder has the pups examined by a veterinarian before they go to their new homes. Be aware you may need to keep any pups traveling across state lines until they are 10 weeks old. Indiana law requires dogs to be at least 10 weeks old to have an interstate health certificate.
Now you have studied hard, planned well and successfully bred, raised and placed your first litter. It doesn’t stop there. As a breeder, your new puppy owners will look to you for advice and help in the raising of their new family member. Be sure to give them printed material to help them get off to a good start.
Don’t forget you brought these new lives into the world, so you hold some responsibility for them through their entire lives. If for any reason the new family can’t keep the pup, be prepared to help relocate the pup into a proper home or take the pup back.
Congratulations, you are now a breeder. It is a lot of work, money, time, effort, anguish and exhilaration, not to mention a huge responsibility not only to your dog, but the new lives you bring into this world and the breed in general.
Dr. Nancy Schenck, D.V.M., of Four Loving Paws Veterinary Services, Inc., can be reached at 812-448-1415. If you have a question or pet-related topic for Dr. Schenck to discuss in an upcoming article, email it to firstname.lastname@example.org.