Breeding for pet owners

Why do I want to breed?

Many owners find the companionship of their dog so rewarding that they feel they would like to breed their dog, continue the bloodline, and retain an offspring. This can occur with both male and female dogs.

Others, especially first time dog owners, will acquire a female dog with the intent to breed her when she is old enough.

Whatever the reason, there are certain important considerations you should consider before embarking upon any breeding program.

Here are some questions to ask yourself before you proceed:

Will breeding your dog provide high-quality puppies that improve the breed?

Has your dog been screened for hip and/or elbow dysplasia, heart diseases, eye problems, or other genetic disorders that should not be passed on?

Have you checked the health records of your dog's parents and grandparents for hip and/or elbow dysplasia, heart diseases, eye problems, or other genetic disorders that should not be passed on?

Have you checked these same records for the dog to which you plan to breed your pet?

Does your dog have a desirable personality, with no signs of aggression towards or fear of people (including children) or other dogs? Many fearful or aggressive tendencies are hereditary.

Is your dog in an appropriate condition to safely and healthily go through pregnancy, whelping, and lactation? A dog that has ongoing medical concerns may not have the energy reserves to develop or raise healthy puppies. An obese dog is more prone to complications with whelping than one in fit condition. An underweight dog may not be able to support herself and her litter adequately, and may have problems producing enough milk, or may "milk off" her own muscle and reserves, possibly leading to long-term endocrine or muscle problems.

Is your dog of an appropriate age to breed? We do not recommend breeding dogs on their first heat cycle. Most dogs will start cycling at 6 - 9 months old, while they are still growing rapidly themselves. While they are capable of getting pregnant at this time, keep in mind that this is the equivalent developmental age to a 14-16 year old human girl. It is preferable to allow your dog to finish growing before putting her body through the stress of breeding. Conversely, a dog that is too old may not conceive well, and should be screened for kidney, liver, or endocrine issues that may be developing and aggravated by pregnancy and lactation.

Do you have an appropriate area for your dog to whelp and raise puppies? Do you have the time to care for and clean up after a whole litter of pups for 2 months? Remember that some large breed dogs can have more than a dozen puppies in a litter; that's a lot of space and a lot of mess.

Do you have good homes lined up for all of your expected puppies, with at least 2 extra homes in case you have more pups than expected or someone decides not to get a pup at this time? Remember that any pups not adopted will be your responsibility.

We recommend starting puppy vaccinations at 6 - 8 weeks of age, with boosters every 3 - 4 weeks until 16 weeks of age. This means at least one and possibly 2 vaccines should be given before you can sell or adopt out your pups. Pups also usually need to be dewormed. Do you have the money on hand to provide your pups with a veterinary check, vaccinations, and deworming?

Do you have the money ready if your dog requires a c-section? Emergency surgery if your dog has trouble whelping can run up to $1000. Remember that most veterinary clinics request payment at the time of services, so you can't count on paying for this after you sell your pups.

Are you expecting to make a profit selling your puppies? Unfortunately this is usually not a realistic expectation. The market for puppies has been significantly depressed by the recent economic upheavals, and unless you have high-quality, pure-bred puppies with impressive bloodlines, you will most likely not be able to sell them for very much.

I have a mixed breed dog but he/she is so lovely I would like a puppy from him/her. How do I go about it?

Remember that just like people, dogs are individuals and although we say "like father, like son" this does not necessarily always apply. If you really are intent on mating your mixed breed dog you must remember that female dogs, unlike people, usually have more than one puppy at a time. You have to consider how you are going to find homes for the other pups in the litter.

Spaying or neutering is usually the right choice for mixed breed dogs. Five to ten million pets are euthanized in shelters nationwide each year. Since each female dog is capable of having up to twelve or more puppies with each mating and they may mate twice a year, the pet overpopulation problem can only be resolved through decreased breeding. Don't worry; with the abundance of homeless pets needing good homes, you'll have no difficulty adopting a pet with the same wonderful qualities when you decide to add to your family.

Think about what will happen to the puppies your pet will produce. Will you be comfortable if some, if not all, of the rest of the litter end up in an animal shelter? This is a serious decision with the future puppies' lives potentially at risk. Make your decision wisely and carefully.

I have considered this. I am a member of a local dog training club and there are lots of people who would like a puppy from my female.

That is fine. Unfortunately, there is a great difference between initial enthusiasm and final acceptance of the puppy. Many people change their mind in the period between birth and weaning and this is the primary reason there are so many puppies in animal shelters everywhere.

If I do decide to go ahead and breed my dog, is it likely that the offspring will have the same desirable personality traits?

Frankly the odds are against it, although training and environment mold puppies just like people. It is rare that the puppies are identical to either parent.

I want to breed my dog to reduce his sexual activities. Does this work?

No! Mating your dog may actually make these behaviors worse! If your intent is to control or curtail your dog's sexual behaviors, breeding him will not solve that problem.

What will reduce my dog's sexual activities?

Neutering your dog will reduce some unwanted behaviors, such as roaming to find a mate. Dogs that roam are at a greatly increased risk of injury from dog fights, being hit by a car, or being shot, as well as being lost.

Territorial behaviors such as marking/urination will also be decreased by neutering, though if the dog is older and "in the habit" this behavior may not be entirely eliminated.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of desexing?

The advantages of neutering far outweigh the disadvantages. Neutering your pet reduces his chances of developing prostate disease and eliminates the risk of testicular cancer. Additionally, neutering has been proven not to cause personality changes in your pet.

Similarly, a spaying a female dog eliminates the risk of ovarian cysts or tumors, uterine tumors, and uterine infections. Depending on the dog's age at the time of spaying, it may have a significant effect on her risk of mammary tumors. It also eliminates the risk of accidental or unwanted pregnancies - an unfortunately common occurrence.

Weight gain is often claimed to be a consequence of spaying or neutering, but it is only an indirect effect. A neutered dog has a lower metabolic demand, since he is not spending energy roaming, fighting, or courting. Likewise, a spayed female is not burning calories on heat cycles, developing pups, or lactating. So a desexed dog may indeed gain weight if fed the same amount as an intact dog, but simply providing adequate exercise and decreasing the amount of food fed to a level appropriate for actual demand is enough to keep neutered dogs at an ideal body weight.

We have more information on neutering and spaying here.

If I don't breed my dog, how can I get another dog with similar characteristics?

Start by contacting the person or organization where you obtained your dog. There is a good possibility that they may have similar pets that would make an excellent addition to your family. Alternatively, visit a local animal shelter and rescue a homeless pet. You may pleasantly surprised by what you find. Finally, talk with your veterinarian. They will be able to direct your search and provide you with assistance in finding the "perfect pet partner".

What, then would you suggest?

Have your dog spayed and select a similar type of puppy from your local animal shelter. It's the right decision for you, your dog and the millions of dogs in desperate need of adoption. Remember all service dogs - Guide Dogs, Hearing Dogs for Deaf People, and Dogs for the Disabled - are sterilized.

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This client information sheet is based on material written by Ernest Ward, DVM © 2005 Lifelearn, Inc. Used with permission under license.

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