Before you Breed

I read this off a message board I visit and got permission from the poster to swipe and stick here. She did such an eloquent job that I felt it should be available for others to hoist and share with folks considering breeding.

All good advice:
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If you’re seriously considering breeding, please make sure that you’ve done your homework, and are able to do it in a way that is good for both your girl and the puppies that you would be bringing into the world.

I’ve worked in front-line rescue for several years now. Most people are shocked at the number of purebred dogs that end up in rescue, primarily due to being born to breeders that either don’t know or don’t care about their fate. I highly recommend spending some time volunteering in the local animal shelter. Every puppy that comes into the world to a breeder is a dog in that shelter that won’t find a home. Many of them will die because there aren’t enough homes for them.

Some questions to ask yourself:

1) Is there a reason to breed the dogs you are intending to breed? Have they been shown, and earned enough points to qualify them within their breed as exemplary individuals? Do they carry traits that will improve the breed as a whole if passed on to the next generation?

2) Have you had routine genetic tests run on both sire and dam, to make sure that they are not going to pass on predispositions for eye problems, hip dysplasia, or other commonly inherited diseases? If you are using a stud, are you willing and financially able to have him screened for diseases that can be sexually transmitted between the dogs, infecting your female?

3) Do you have good homes lined up for the puppies you are thinking of bringing into the world? Are you prepared to screen potential owners carefully to make sure that your pups will be going to permanent homes where they will be treated well, taking into account such issues as grooming, exercise, and training that the new owners will face?

4) Are you willing and able to take back puppies that you breed at any time in their life, should the new owners be unable to keep them for any reason, and to make the new owners sign a contract stipulating that they abide by this? This makes sure that pups you breed don’t contribute to the problems faced by an animal rescue system that is already overwhelmed by too many dogs, too little space, and too little money. Are you willing and able to deal with possible behavioral and health problems that these returning dogs may have?

5) Do you have the time to hand-raise a litter if the mother is unwilling or unable to do so? Young pups are like human babies – they need to nurse about every 2 hours, around the clock – and if you have 5 or 6 that you’re having to hand-raise, by the time you’re finished feeding all of them, if you’re lucky, you’ll actually have a few minutes before it’s time to begin again (ask me how I know!) Are you able to either give up time at work (and sleep!) to take care of the babies, or to pay someone to do so for you, if the mother cannot or will not take care of them? Especially with first-time mothers, rejection is not that uncommon, and medical problems such as mastitis could also lead to the mother being unable to care for the pups.

6) Do you have the financial means to provide the prenatal care that the mother and babies need, including building the mother up nutritionally to prepare her for pregnancy, routine screening during the pregnancy to make sure that things are going well, and emergency funds for procedures such as a C-section that may be needed if things go wrong? Have you done sufficient research to know what to expect during pregnancy, and what the warning signs are of problems, so that you know when she needs vet care?

7) Do you have the finances to provide medical care for the pups after birth, including checkups, shots, and worming?

8) Are you and your family mentally and emotionally prepared to deal with the possibility of dealing with the death of pups that may be too weak to make it? Are you willing to accept the possible loss of the mother, if things go badly?

I know that this sounds very negative, and I am the first to admit that I’m pretty adamantly opposed to breeding. I’ve seen how many dogs are out there already that need homes, and how many die due to lack of homes. I receive emails daily, on average featuring 15-20 different dogs each day that will be euthanized within days if a rescue is not able to pull them from the shelters and fit them into their programs. The majority of those dogs never get out of the shelters – and that’s only a very small area of the nation. A surprising number of those dogs are purebreds. While purebreds tend to have a higher survival rate than mixed breeds, every new pup born is a dog that’s already here that won’t find a home. There simply aren’t enough homes for the dogs that are already here.

Furthermore, breeding can be dangerous for the mother. It can be expensive for the owner, taking enormous quantities of time and money – it’s something of an adage that if you’re not losing money breeding, you’re doing something wrong. It can be emotionally devastating for the family that owns the mother. I had acquaintances back in West Virginia that bred their Boston terrier. There were complications during delivery – the people didn’t know what to watch for. The end result was that of the two pups, one was born dead, the other was premature and died a week later. The mother spent three days in absolute agony, and underwent an emergency spay to save her life afterwards. The vet bills approached $2000, with no puppies to show for it.

Another family, who is a friend of one of the regulars on the board here is a champion breeder. She is extremely experienced, and her dogs receive optimal care. One of her show dogs (who was also a beloved pet) had to undergo a C-section due to complications with delivery. A few days later, the incision came open. They lost the mother, leaving them with a litter of orphaned pups that had to be hand-raised. When it comes to breeding, knowing what to expect and what to watch for and having the financial resources to provide the best vet care can definitely help, but it can’t guarantee that you won’t experience tragedy.

Ultimately, only you can decide what is best for you, your family and your dog. But if you are considering breeding, please take these things into consideration. Be sure you have done your homework very thoroughly, and that you have the financial and emotional resources that may be needed, as well as the overwhelming amount of time that may be required, should problems arise.

There’s nothing in the world cuter than a litter of pups. But sometimes, the best thing you can do – for them, for the mother, and for you – is make sure that those pups never come into the world.

Please consider these things very, very carefully before breeding. If you ultimately decide that you are not able to breed in such a way as to insure the best life possible not only for the mother of the pups, but to the pups that you would bring into the world, please consider having your female spayed.

Good luck with whatever you ultimately choose to do.