Things to Consider if You Decide to Breed Your Dog

Puppies are so hard not to love, but don't jump head-first into breeding without a little know-how.
Puppies are so hard not to love, but don't jump head-first into breeding without a little know-how.

Pets are a wonderful addition to the family. And they can bring in a little profit, too.

For a long time, my family had one dog. His name was Max, and he was a great dog. When Max was gone, we needed to fill the void somehow. We bought Buddy Rabbit (Owie). Then we felt he needed a friend, so we got Madeline Josephine (Maddie).

And then Mom said, "NO MORE DANG DOGS!"

... And then they had puppies.

Sometimes, life happens. Sometimes, you help life happen. Breeding dogs can be a wonderful experience, but it can also be overwhelming. Take it from a girl who's been doing it since she was 11. Now, I don't condone puppy mills, so please don't think of this as a guide to that. This is my (not so) little advice guide thing to the wonderful world of dog breeding.

I've been doing this for almost 7 years (we did have to put our feet down when the economy really went downhill), and I've spoken with veterinarians and taken a course on Small Animal Vet Care through my high school (ah, the fun I had in that class), but I am not a vet and I have no official training I can really rely on. This is mostly me going by what I know and have learned over the years. If you have any concerns with anything said in this hub, please feel free to tell me. I take every comment with a grain of salt.

Now, I would like to talk to you about the NUMEROUS (and seriously, it is quite the expanse of) topics you really should consider before you decide to breed your dog(s). And please, take this as advice, not as a medical diganosis or an exact scientific explaination of how it must be done.

Just to make myself clear, a sire is a male breeding dog. A bitch is a female breeding dog. A teet is a milking nipple on a bitch. I do not use these words to offend, but to educate. They are considered the technical terms, and I want this to be as informative as possible. I apologize if you are offended in any way.

How old is your dog?

Age can be a big factor when it comes to breeding. If they're too young, you have the potential to cause some serious damage, whether it be physical or mental. If they're too old, it's mostly physical. The safest age to breed is 1 year, but try to go for 1.5 to 2 years, if you can. It's a little easier on the bitch. The sire can start breeding right at 1/2 years, so it's not too bad or him, but you're better off going with the 1 year mark. Mostly because it'll be easier for him to get on his mate.

Not entirely sure of your dog's age? If you bought them at a pet store, they usually keep records of the dog's births, since those are generally required to sell a dog in a pet store. And if you're going for specific breed breeding, they might just be registered with the CKC or the AKC.

"How's he feelin', Doc?"

While you should bring your dog in for regular check-ups, if you decide to breed your pet(s), your best bet would be to have them evaluated by a trained veterinarian. They'll be able to tell you quite a few things about your dog, and lead you to a number of books, documentaries and websites you can use for reference as you go. They'll also be able to tell you roughly how many pups your bitch can have, or how good the chances are that your sire will be able to produce pups. You can figure that first one out for yourself, which I'll explain later, but the second part's pretty easy. It's just like human men going into a sperm bank. Which, by the way, you can do for your dog, if you so choose (though it is a little costly).

Yes, ladies and germs, you CAN predict the number of pups your bitch will have (pretty accurately, too)! It's a simple procedure you can do from the comfort of your home! Want to know how you do this?

You roll her over and count her teets (hate to say it, but again, it's a technical term).

I know, I know, it sounds pretty funky. But it's true, and I know this for a very good fact. Let me tell you a little story...

A side note...

Dogs, when "mating," are literally stuck together. I mean it. While the sire is expending his love-juice into the bitch, they are stuck. They can't come undone until he's finished (or semi-finished sometimes), and that could take upwards of 20 minutes. It's an embarassing sight, and I'm certain they're just as embarassed as you are, but that's how dog mating goes, mate.

It all started with a "What're they doing, Mom?"

We didn't really intentionally start breeding Cockers. It kind of happened one day. Owie and Maddie just sort of... went at it. You see, we didn't have the money to actually get them fixed, and we thought we'd be able to keep them separated. So much for that idea, right?

Maddie got preggo. It happens. At first, we were a little worried. Would we be able to afford puppies? What if something happened during labor? What would we do with them? After a while, as she got bigger and bigger (and MAN did she get big), we sorted through our concerns with ease. We built her a welping pen and got it full of blankets and old towels and put a door on it so she could get out but the pups would stay secure. We thought we had our bases covered.

And then she had the pups.

...

All 14 of them.

Yes, oh yes, that girl had 14 puppies. And we were in shock. None of us were aware that a single bitch could actually have THAT MANY FREAKIN' PUPPIES. It was crazy! But we soon discovered how we could have calculated this number even before she'd gotten so dang huge.

After the pups were sold and everything, we took her in for her usual check-up when Dad had mentioned the 14 litter miracle. The vet rolled Maddie over and stared at her tummy for a while, then said, "How did you not know? She has 14 teets on her." We didn't know you could actually do that. But, thankfully, now we do, and we can pass on this information to any new breeder we meet.

And trust me, you definately want to know that kind of thing!

Do you want to register the pups?

I'm gonna use a couple of abbreviations you might not be used to, so let me spell out the two I'll be talking about here:

  • CKC: Continental Kennel Club
  • AKC: American Kennel Club

Personally, I prefer the CKC to the AKC, but it all depends on what you're going for. Are you looking to register them to get a little more bang for your buck? Are you going for the perfect specimen? Or do you honestly not care which one you register with? While the first two might make you sound a little cruel, they are honest things to consider. The third is gonna be tricky, and here's why.

The CKC is pretty lenient in their registrars. They're not too picky about specifics; whether you bred an American with an English or a German, if the breed permits, is no big deal to them, as long as they're still a Whatever. The AKC is very persnickety about the details of the breed. If you bred an American with an English, forget about registering with them; they won't have none of that across-the-pond mixing! Though if you're going for that Cockapoo, you might have a better chance (please, don't make a Cockapoo, they're really not attractive). The AKC has it's bouts of leniency, especially with certain mixed breeds it favors. Almost anything mixed with a Poodle can be registered with them, but that's mostly because Americans like the Poodle for their hypo-allergenic coats. Though that could be my opinion, so don't take my word for it.

If you want to register your pets, you can visit www.akc.org or www.continentalkennelclub.com to find more information on just how you can do this.

For more information on breeds, check out any encyclopedia website you prefer. I would suggest www.wikipedia.org , though some people don't believe it to be a good resource of information (schools especially) because anyone can change anything on any article, which can lead to a few hassles. But for the most part, I haven't had a big problem with the site.

Continuing on: Financial Security

While some people don't consider this, it's a big factor in breeding. Can you afford the dogs' food? The pups' food? Are you going to take the bitch in for regular check-ups during the pregnancy? Do the pups need their tails docked? Their ears? Their dewclaws (pardon me if that's spelt wrong, I never learned how to spell that right)? Are you going to do it yourself or have it professionally done? What about puppy shots? Puppy check-ups? What all exactly do you need?!

There's a fine line between having enough, and just blowing it away.

Let me give you a word of advice: dog pregnancies can be complicated, but for the most part, they're easy as cake. There's little maintenance required. About the only thing you might want to consider is an ultrasound, though they're not cheap. Still, it's not always a bad idea to bring her in if you're worried about her and her pups' health.

As far as food, dog food itself shouldn't be a hassle if you've already been dealing with it. Sure, food intake might increase a little bit, but it's not going to change too much. About the only thing that will need to change is how nutritious your bitch's food is. That's a huge factor in her diet, though it should already be one. Let me tell you a little secret; read your dog food labels. The higher the meat (or meat substitute) is to the top of the list of ingredients, the better the food is. Also, the closer that meat thing is to actual meat, the better. Try to stay away from foods with dye in them (you know, the ones that have the colorful bits that claim to be more appeasing but are really more appealing to your eyes). One more thing you might want to do is add a raw egg to her bowl of food. It's nutritious, and it keeps her coat nice and glossy. Oh, and keep her food bowl seperate. It's easier, trust me.

Puppy food's basically the same. Depending on the breed and the size of the litter, stick with the labels. They'll usually tell you what type of dog and at what stage of life their food is created for. You're better off going with the most nutritious here, too. When you first start weaning pups off the mother's teet, put milk in their food. 2% is good, or Half, but stay away from Whole, and try to lean away from Skim. While milk is good for them, that much fat isn't, and that little isn't either, since it's not the same milk as what comes out of a bitch's teet. You can also use water, though milk is much better for them. Start off with super-mushy food, and slowly work your way to hard, dry food. I have to admit, we've always used Diamond brand dog food, but you can use almost any kind you prefer.

When it comes to tails, ears, and those rather silly dewclaws (again, pardon me if I'm incorrectly spelling that), you need to consider the breed. Yeah, I suppose you cound consider docking inhumane, but it benefits the dog to an extent. You can bring them in to your local vet to have these procedures done, or you can do it yourself. It doesn't take a lot of know-how to do, but you will need a pair of scissors and a clotting agent, which you will have to get from the vet or a pet store. Also, if you want these things done, you really should do it within two days to a week of the pup's life. For one thing, they're small, it's easier to handle, and they'll never remember the pain. And while they'll cry for a while (and their cry will seriously pull your heart strings), they do stop. Their memory of pain is extremely short at that age. For Cockers, we docked the tails and those stupid extra claws. Tails because Cockers are a hunting dog, and their coats do get long and curly and MAN do they get full of burrs and stickers! It's a hassle you seriously don't want. Almost all breeds should have their dewclaws removed because they're of no use (don't whine if you think that's inhumane, it's a true fact) and they have a better chance of getting infected from any number of things. About the only time you'll need to have the ears docked would be if you prefer to have pointy ears, like Dobermans. It's mostly for looks.

For shots, I would recommend the vet. They know exactly what shots are needed and how much of the stuff the pup needs. I personally don't know of many breeders who do shots themselves, though I know we usually didn't do them because it does cost money to have shots done. I do suggest to any puppy buyers that you have all the records with you when you bring your pup to his/her first vet check, so your vet can tell you what needs to be done.

About the only other thing you'd want to think about would be toys. Lots and lots and lots and lots and LOTS of toys. Fuzzy toys, squishy toys, hard toys, plain toys, rawhides, chewies, balls, jingly things, ropes, even old holy (er, full of holes) socks. Puppies LOVE to play, and they will find anything they can to make a toy out of. Shoes, sofas, pillows, clothing, wallets, coat sleeves, chair legs, table legs, electrical cords, fences, sticks, the neighbor's cat... Anything they can get their little puppy teeth sunk into, they'll most likely play with it. Even their food/water bowls. So you're better off running over to the dollar store and getting as many cheap toys as you possibly can, because they're gonna go through those things like a hot knife to butter.

You might want to stock up on socks...

Where's she gonna have 'em, anyway?

Bitches generally need some place to have their pups. You can use a kennel, a dog bed, or you can build a welping pen, whichever you prefer. My advice is, stick to a kennel or the pen; it's easier to clean up the GINORMOUS mess that comes with those wonderful balls of life than a doggie bed.

While this isn't always the case, stick close to your girl while she's in labor, because she just might get the urge to stretch her legs. Maddie's first time was super hectic; not only because she had a lot of puppies, but because that dang dog wouldn't lie still! She just couldn't! She had to walk around the entire room WHILE giving birth at the same time, so puppies were literally scattered EVERYWHERE!

And that is why I suggest the kennel/pen.

Another reason to stick close is in case there is a bit of a problem. If it's her first time, she might not know what to do about the placentas. Generally, maternal instincts kick in, and she'll be able to tear them and pull the pups out of them. But sometimes bitches can get overwhelmed on their first litter, and not know how to do this. This is where you come in. The placenta is pretty easy to tear, so you can use your hands or a small pair of safety scissors, if you prefer (I highly advise against that, though, since you could hurt the puppy).

I wouldn't worry too much about cleaning up the mess. While this might gross you out beyond belief, the bitch will usually eat the placenta and all the other lovely gorey bits that come out of her. Yeah, it's disgusting, and I've been known to gag a little at the sight of it, but it's actually very nutritious for her. Weird, ain't it?

Kids and puppies: do they mix?

For the most part, they do. But please, PLEASE be cautious if your child's under 5, because before that age, they don't always understand just how strong they are and just how weak puppies are. Little Billy's gonna wanna snuggle and snuggle and snuggle, and poor Spot might not be able to physically handle the love.

And while 5 is not a bad age, I really do mean it when I say you're better off waiting until they're about 10-15. Why? Well, for one thing, breeding can be a blessing in disguise. If you do what my parents did and explain that the sire and the bitch are "Husband and Wife," it helps bring about the idea that you shouldn't have kids before marriage. This doesn't mean that you have to follow what my parents did, but it is a good way to teach this family value, if you choose. Plus, it's a great way for your son and/or daughter to learn about the miracle of life in a much easier to understand way. Because seriously, watching the "Miracle of Life" vid in Sex Ed. is NOT easy to understand the first time around.

Puppies can also install that lovely Responsibility factor you've been meaning to give a go. Remember, I'm not saying you HAVE to do this, I'm only telling you that it works, and it usually works well. Have your kid(s) feed the puppies. Teach them how to mix the food and milk (or water). Show them how to clean up after the pups' "oopsies." Let them know that puppies can get into anything and everything, if given the opportunity; thus, they need to keep their valued possessions off the floor and out of reach of wandering muzzles.

Puppies (and dogs) are an amazing learning tool, if you choose to use it.

Selling? Giving away? What should I do?

Well, my friend, that depends on what you want to do.

Selling puppies is great, fine and dandy, and makes for a nice vacation fund, but you absolutely must consider who you're selling to. I cannot stress this enough. There are bad people in this world. Sure, we like to pretend that's a lie, but let's face the facts; people aren't always nice. You really need to be careful with dogs and selling dogs and giving away dogs. I know some people just don't care who buys/takes your puppies, but don't turn into one of them! Please! Take the time to really talk with the prospective new puppy owner. Get to know them a little. Find out if the pup's for them, a friend, or a relative. Did they bring their kids? See how they interact with the puppies. And while maternal instincts can sometimes be a sign, I must tell you to err on the side of caution when it comes to mother dogs. Some will be overprotective of their litter. Take it with a grain of salt.

If you decide to sell the pups, I will give you an inside tip; if you register them, they'll go for more. AKC prices are higher than CKC, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't register them with the CKC if the AKC won't take them. You'll still get a good price. Just be aware of buyers' ability to buy; if the economy's bad, you'll be hard pressed to sell your pups for top dollar, unless you're really lucky.

A fun prospect of selling (or even giving away) puppies is that sometimes, the new owners will send you updates. We've had people send us pictures of the puppies we sold them, or letters about the dogs. We've even had people ask us to puppy-sit for them.

Good luck!

I wish you the best in your breeding experience. There are only a couple of more things I can tell you, and they're pretty basic.

  1. You will most likely have at least one pup die from almost every litter. It happens; the runt is usually the one to go, and it will hurt your heart to see this happen.
  2. There are certain medical conditions that come with almost every breed. You can ask your local vet to tell you about these conditions so that you may inform future owners, or you can look it up on the web through Google.
  3. Puppies need A LOT of attention. Don't commit to something you don't have the time for.
  4. If you can't get rid of all your pups, it doesn't hurt to keep one. Trust me on that. But if you prefer not to do this, I highly advise that you bring them to an animal shelter that doesn't use euthanization.
  5. Be aware of what human foods can be harmful to dogs, and make this information available to new owners. Certain foods can cause digestion problems, heart problems, liver problems, and may even cause death.
  6. Encourage new owners to use heartworm, tick and flea meds/collars. These pests can be annoying, and can carry diseases, while heartworm (if not treated properly or in time) can cause death. I've seen it happen, it is not pretty.

I'm glad you took the time to read this and educate yourself a little before you jumped into the great breeding world. If you have any further questions, feel free to leave a comment. Enjoy your experience, and may your pups grow up to be healthy and strong!

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