If you are contemplating breeding your dog, do yourself a favor and do some research before jumping into a project that, while often fun and adorable, can also very quickly become emotionally and financially draining. People express interest in breeding for all kinds of reasons. Some want adorable puppy versions of their very loveable dog to pass on personality traits. Some just want to witness (or let their kids witness) the miracle of birth. Some want to make a profit. And others truly love their breed and want to help improve their genetic pool. Here are a few things to ask yourself before you dive in.
1) Breed knowledge: How much do you know about your particular breed of dog? Do you know all of the congenital diseases they are prone to developing? Does your breed frequently require C-sections, or artificial insemination (Bulldogs almost uniformly require C-sections)? How about the dog you bought? What is his/her temperament like? Does he/she have any evidence of those diseases in their blood line? You should at least know the status of both of your dogs’ parents, and ideally 2-3 generations of parentage. Consider joining a local club for your breed. Also talk with some reputable breeders about what is involved and their experience with raising that breed. Responsible breeders will test their breeding animals for heritable diseases to ensure they don’t pass on those traits. If the dogs they breed create affected puppies, they will not breed those dogs again. The goal is to prevent the creation of puppies that will suffer throughout their lifetime due to these diseases. Spend a lot of time looking at the American Kennel Club website. They have a lot of excellent information on dog breeds, breeding in general, and can help you find a local breeder.
2) Veterinary care: Do you know what kind of veterinary care your dog and the puppies will require? What vaccines do they need and when? How often should they be dewormed (puppies should get dewormer every 2 weeks), and when do they need to be examined by a vet? What kind of food does your female need while she is gestating and lactating? When do you introduce food to the puppies and what do you offer? You will also need to make sure your female is continually on heartworm, flea and tick prevention. Flea infestations and heavy parasite loads can be devastating to young puppies. Here’s a great link on pregnant dog care.
3) The whelping process: Educate yourself as much as possible on the entire process of birth itself. This includes the length of gestation (you’ll want to know when your female is due!), nesting behavior, signs of impending labor, and what signs indicate your dog is having trouble during labor and needs veterinary attention. You’ll need to make sure someone can be home with her from the time she goes into labor until at least a couple days after the pups are born to make sure there are no issues. Also familiarize yourself with post-natal care of the puppies. Mom will usually remove their birth sacs so they can breathe, and she should gently chew through the umbilical cord, though sometimes new mom dogs don’t know what to do and the puppies can suffer or die. You’ll need to make sure each puppy is latching on to nurse, and that mom is licking their bottoms to stimulate them to go to the bathroom. If she can’t or won’t, you may be the one getting up every couple of hours every night to feed the pups and stimulate them to pee and poop. Veterinary Partner has an excellent article on care of orphaned pups. Also, Whelpwise has an excellent list of items to have handy for whelping.
4) Preparing pups for new homes: What kind of training will your puppies need before they leave? You will have puppies in your care for the first 8 weeks of their life (many breeders send their pups out at 6 weeks, which is too early for proper social development). Your job is to make the transition to a new home as easy as possible for your pups and their new family. You will want to get started house training them before they go to a new home. You will also want to expose them to as many new situations (noises, types of people, textures, etc.) as possible, and in a way that doesn’t scare them. Many people get new dogs and discover they are scared of things like plastic bags or brooms, and assume they were abused, when in reality these dogs were just never exposed to those things and are now terrified of them. Behavioral problems are the number one reason pets are given up. Training and socializing your pups as much as possible will help keep them from being a statistic.
5) Preparing for the worst: What happens when it all goes awry? What if you can’t get your dog pregnant, or she gets out and is bred by a mutt? What if during labor a pup is breeched, or she just tires out? Are you prepared to spend $1500-3000 on an emergency C-section? Dogs and pups still die during birth. If you’re doing this for the sake of your kids witnessing the event, are you prepared to explain this to them? Also, what happens when you can’t find a home for one or more of your litter? Are you prepared to keep them for the rest of their lives? Beaver Lake Animal Hospital has an article written by a breeder of things that have gone wrong for her or people she knows. It’s a bit of an eye-opener.
In reality, most of the time breeding and birthing dogs goes relatively smoothly. But as in all things in life, nothing is guaranteed. Doing the research first and being prepared will save you a lot of heartache later.