Breeding from your Bitch?

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“I thought it would be nice to let her have a litter of puppies before we have her spayed”, is something that we frequently hear in the consultation room. If it is something that you’ve occasionally wondered about, then read on……..

The idea of a litter of ‘Andrex-style’ puppies running around the house, being cuddled by the family and bringing in a little extra cash when sold to family and friends, may sound appealing – but do you actually know what is involved in breeding, what you should do even before choosing a suitable husband for your bitch, how much it will cost, not to mention the potential pitfalls, both physical and emotional for you and your family pet? Below are some points to think about if you are considering breeding.

Consider why you are breeding

Have you given consideration to why you are breeding?

  • There is no evidence that having a litter is necessary or desirable for a bitch;
  • Owners frequently find that breeding from a young bitch, prematurely ages her both physically and emotionally, and what was a bonny and playful family dog, slows down to a ‘plodder’ after a litter, no longer keen to interact with the family;
  • Lots of dogs, including puppies from a few weeks to a few months old, are sitting in rescue centres, in need of new homes – is it fair to add to that problem?

Temperament

Does your dog, and her potential mate, have a good temperament? Everybody thinks that their dog is well-tempered, but ask yourself honestly, is she good with children, strangers, at the vets, and with other dogs? If the answer to any of these is 'no', then we would certainly advise that you reconsider your plans to breed. Sadly, more dogs are put to sleep due to behavioural problems nowadays, than die from any disease or illness. Since temperament is largely inherited from the parent dogs, nervousness, with or without a tendency to nip, is a good reason not to breed.

Pre-mating breed examinations

Certain breeds are prone to hereditary illnesses such as hip dysplasia in German Shepherds and Labradors. To prevent these conditions, and the pain and upset that they can cause, schemes of scoring adult dogs have been developed, to establish which animals are less likely to pass conditions on to their off-spring. If you are intending to breed, you should ensure that your dog is not carrying any of these hereditary diseases, by having it, for example, hip and/or elbow scored, or having its eyes examined. Your vet will be happy to give you an independent opinion on whether your dog is suitable for breeding, given its, or its parents’, medical history. Complying with these schemes may not be the highest priority on your list when you first consider breeding, but it probably should be! Consider how you would feel if puppies from your litter had to be put to sleep at 6 months of age, due to hip dysplasia, or became completely blind in their first year of life, due to retinal degeneration.

When you chose a mate for your dog, you should examine his results in these scoring schemes also. As such, the dog that you walk with in the park, or who lives up the road, is unlikely to be a suitable mate, once temperament and disease-scoring have been considered.


Do you know how much is involved?

Everyone imagines cuddling cute bundles of fur, but have you considered:

  • sleepless nights, waiting for your much-loved and now heavily pregnant and uncomfortable bitch to whelp?
  • the possibility of one or more still births, or even losing a whole litter?
  • your bitch may have problems giving birth. Are you ready for the stress and cost of a caesarean section at 2am in the morning?
  • what would you do if mum doesn’t have enough milk to feed the pups, or rejects them, or even, Heaven forbid, that mum is sick or dies? Do you have the time to feed a litter of pups every 2-4 hours, 24 hours a day for a minimum of 3 weeks?

Do you know enough people to offer a good home to every puppy?

Lots of people say that they would be interested in a puppy from a litter, but when it comes to it, back out for a variety of reasons – imminent holiday, children’s exams, elderly relative etc. Of course, you could always advertise ‘puppies for sale’ – but could you guarantee good homes?

Breeding a litter of healthy pups and seeing them all settle into good homes, can be extremely rewarding, despite all the hard work. However, like having children, it will change your life - although fortunately for only half a year, not for the rest of it! Think all of these questions through and if you are still considering having a litter from your bitch, why not pop into the practice for a pre-natal consultation with your dog?