What do I need to think about if I want to breed from my dog?
Discussing this round the dinner table yesterday, my father-in-law made an interesting point. He said “If you’re breeding cows, you want to breed them to produce lots of milk. If you’re breeding racehorses, you want them to run really fast. But with dogs, you want so much from them. You want to them to look a particular way, but also to have a good temperament as a pet, and to be keen to do dog sports etc etc.” It’s a bit of a challenge, isn’t it?
As a breeder, I believe that I am just doing ‘what anyone would do’. But is appears that this is not the case. I want to produce the best puppies I can, who will go out there and enhance their owners’ lives. I want them to be good with people and other dogs, to be ready and keen to learn, to be confident, outgoing dogs. I want them to be as healthy as they can be and to live long, healthy lives. I also want them to look fantastic!
In the last couple of days I have heard about a renowned agility trainer and competitor who has a large number of breeding dogs. They are kept in barns and all mixed in together, so the parentage is not always clear. They are delivered to their new owners, who do not visit and will not see them with their mum. They are not registered as pedigrees, so they are not regulated.
I have also heard about a renowned obedience trainer and competitor who has had a fifth litter from a dog aged over 8 years, bred to a cousin probably. Not ideal. Again, not registered as pedigrees, so not regulated.
Finally, (and most upsettingly) I have learnt that a dog owned by a show breeder who has sired an epileptic pup, has been used to sire another litter. Because there is no proof that epilepsy is carried genetically and there is no test for epilepsy, they can do this. Would you buy a pup, knowing that it might develop this disease?
All of these examples demonstrate that dog breeding is a minefield. For those of us trying to do the right thing, we struggle to find dogs to mate with ours that are from healthy lines and have no temperament issues.
Why bother to breed?
The first thing to think about when considering whether to breed from your dog is why you want to do it. Please, please do NOT do it for the sake of the dog. I promise you it is a stressful and difficult process and they won’t thank you for it. Many dogs hate the mating itself. The health testing involves sedation and/or anaesthetic. The births can involve trauma and the feeding is exhausting. Even for a male dog, the process is hard work and stressful. Keeping a male entire might seem like the kind thing to do, but you then have a dog being tormented by raging hormones and once used at stud, they will be forever searching for the next female.
I had watched and been involved with my mum having over a dozen litters from 7 different dogs over the years. She had a very laid back approach and produced lovely puppies without too much difficulty. I loved my dogs and loved the puppies, so always thought it would be a ‘fun thing to do’.
When I started, I was fortunate to have an experienced breeder to mentor me. She ensured that my dog was fully health tested and advised me about many aspects of breeding that I had not previously considered. I have run a successful business and am a good administrator, so I have enjoyed that side of breeding, as well as producing lovely dogs. But I had completely underestimated how emotionally challenging it would be, finding suitable homes and dealing with all the owners, supporting them through the process of taking their puppy home.
Before you do anything else, you need to ensure your dog is as healthy as it can be. If you go and look at the KC Health testing page you can look up the requirements for each pedigree breed. Of course if you are breeding a crossbreed, you should ensure that the parents have all the relevant test for their breed. Poodles need eye testing and Labradors definitely need hip scoring, for example. As I said, some tests involve the dog being knocked out and all are expensive.
If you want to breed from your dog, you should ensure that it is of sound temperament. This means that you need to train it. If your dog is an uncontrollable maniac, it won’t make very nice puppies. You need to engage its brain and develop its obedience. You need it to be good with people, including children and other dogs. You need to expose your dog to a variety of experiences. It should be fit and athletic, participating in sports appropriate to its breed.
Proving your dog’s value
In order to demonstrate to people that your dog is worth something, you need to ‘campaign it’. This means either showing it, or competing it in a sport, or having something to prove that it is not just any old mutt. Of course eventually, if you have plenty of dogs and you produce lovely puppies, you will have testimonials and people will want to buy from you, being prepared to wait. However initially, you may well find yourself with ten puppies and no homes for them.
Assured Breeder Scheme
Ideally, you want to become a Kennel Club Assured Breeder. More about this scheme can be found on the KC website, looking at Assured Breeders for Border Collie for example.
Don’t do it for the money
You won’t make any! If you go into as a commercial enterprise, you will be a puppy farm, putting the money before the welfare of the dogs. It costs thousands of pounds and months of time to produce a litter of puppies and doing it on any sort of scale inevitably compromises the dogs.
Dog breeding is an incredibly exciting and rewarding experience. It’s certainly the best job I have ever had! But it is also the worst; the hardest, the most emotional, the most upsetting. Have a look at this Novice Breeder Checklist and then ask yourself: “is it worth the hassle?”
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