So you want to have a litter of puppies for Sassy’s sake
or the kids’ education or the vacation or holiday fund?
Don’t – unless you:
consider all the potential pitfalls to breeding,
are willing to guarantee the health of the puppies,
are prepared for the daily care and socialization of
can deal with the emotional impact of problems and of
parting with the puppies,
will carefully screen potential puppy buyers,
can withstand the financial expenses that occur if Sassy
has trouble whelping or a pup gets sick or a buyer can’t
keep the pup he bought.
In other words, unless you are prepared to do the same
things a responsible breeder would do,
Getting the litter on the ground is only half the battle.
Although many litters are born without trouble and
puppies trot off to new homes with nary a glance
backward, responsible breeders do everything they can
to make sure the pup not only gets a good start in life,
but has a lifetime commitment to keep it healthy and
safe. Although the best plans can go awry, they do not
leave the fate of their pups to chance.
Backyard breeders have a different perspective. Whether
they are producing pups for money or to give Sassy or
the kids the experience of birth, they usually approach
puppy production with a carefree attitude. If a pup dies, it’
s too bad, but that’s life. If it has worms or fleas or
mange, that’s life, too. And if that last pup or two doesn’t
sell by three months, well, it’s off to the shelter.
Responsible breeders consider every aspect of puppy
production to be important. After taking care to whelp
healthy puppies to be sold as pets or show dogs, they
treat each litter with care and concern for their physical
and mental development, provide initial socialization and
housetraining, and carefully screen prospective owners.
Responsible breeders are those who carefully select a
mate for Puffin or Princess; make sure she’s hale and
hardy before breeding; and get her checked for hip
dysplasia, eye diseases, deafness, or any other breed-
related genetic abnormality. And they make sure the
male selected to father the litter is just as healthy.
All breeds – mixes included – suffer from genetic
abnormalities. Some of these abnormalities can be
detected by x-rays or through blood tests or DNA
screens. Skeletal malformations such as hip dysplasia,
elbow dysplasia, and loose kneecaps (luxating patellas)
can be detected by x-ray. These joint deformities can
cause painful arthritis in later years, can be passed on to
offspring, and may lead to expensive surgeries and the
emotion trauma of euthanizing a young dog that is
afflicted beyond repair.
Since the idea of purebred dog breeding is to produce
puppies that will grow up to look like a particular breed,
dogs with a disqualifying breed fault should not be bred.
At times, this may mean foregoing a litter with a bitch for
faults that seem to be minor but can lead to diffusion of
breed character. For example, a too-tall American
Eskimo Dog might produce pups that look more like
Samoyeds; an Akita bitch without the characteristic
curled tail might produce pups with equally unacceptable
tails; a white Boxer is likely to be deaf or to produce deaf
Dogs with minor faults should only be bred to mates that
can correct those faults. For example, if Sassy’s teeth
alignment is off, she should only be paired with a male
with perfect teeth. Or if she’s a bit small or large for the
breed standard, she should be bred to a dog that is the
Since temperament is also inherited , even if Puffin is a
perfect physical example of the breed, she must have the
typical breed temperament in order to be a good
candidate for breeding. A Cocker Spaniel should be
happy-go-lucky, sweet, good with children, and relatively
responsive to training. A German Shepherd is allowed to
be aloof with strangers and protective of the family and
territory, but should be responsive to training, good with
children, and never exhibit viciousness. An Alaskan
Malamute can be aggressive to other animals and
domineering to other dogs, but she can never be
aggressive to people and should be responsive to
Dogs that are very shy or fearful, dogs that are
domineering, and dogs that have an atypical energy level
for the breed can pass these characteristics along to their
pups. Thus familiarity with and attention to the breed
standard is critical in deciding if Princess should be bred.
Finding a stud dog
Easiest place to find a stud dog is in the neighborhood,
but easiest is rarely best, especially since you want the
stud dog to be as healthy as your bitch, to have a good
temperament, and to be a good example of the breed.
Best place to find a stud dog is through the local dog
fancy. Your veterinarian can likely provide a telephone
number of a breeder or a kennel club contact, and you
can begin the search. If there is no suitable male locally,
you can contact the breed’s regional or national club for
Be prepared to travel a bit if your breed is not well-
represented in your region.
Most bitches cycle every six-nine months, depending on
breed, health, and other factors. The search for a mate
should begin months before the cycle is expected so you’
re not scrambling at the last minute.
The heat or estrus cycle begins with a swelling of the
external opening to the reproductive tract and lasts about
21 days. There is a bloody discharge for the first week or
so, although you may not notice if Puffin cleans herself
well. When the discharge becomes clear, the fertile
period is imminent – usually from day 10-day 14. After
the fertile period, the heat winds down until the discharge
and swelling have disappeared.
A bitch may be cranky as her heat cycle approaches.
She will not accept a male until the days when she is
fertile; until then she may fight him if he tries to breed.
Some breeders take advantage of advanced reproductive
technology to pinpoint the exact days when conception is
likely to occur and have their bitches tested for hormone
levels and reproductive system cell structure.