18 Tips for First-Time Breeders

For the first-time breeder, it’s crucial to prepare as thoroughly as you can for that first litter.

Breeding a litter is a rewarding and challenging experience. It is also a very time-consuming, labor-intensive, and sometimes heartbreaking endeavor. It takes real commitment on the part of bitch owner combined with lots of patience, money, and months (or even years) of careful planning and organization before a breeding should even take place.

Here are some important tips for first-time breeders:

  • Begin by educating yourself about the breed, dog breeding, and the AKC breed standard (read, read, read).
  • Don’t rush to breed your bitch. Let her grow up first, and have her health certifications completed after the age of 24 months.
  • Have your veterinarian give your bitch a thorough examination, including a fecal check, prior to having her bred, and make sure vaccinations are current.
  • Talk to your breeder about breeding your bitch, and get his or her opinion as you start your search early for a “perfect male” who complements her. Also consult with other longtime, successful breeders. Look at conformation, temperament, and health of potential stud dogs, and research several generations back. Study any progeny, and confirm health histories.
  • Once you have picked your potential stud, select a “backup” male in the event that your first-choice dog becomes unavailable.
  • Finalize the stud contract, clearly stating all terms and obligations.
  • Begin developing your own contract of sale. For help in this, ask other breeders if they would share samples of their contracts.
  • Start an advertising campaign well ahead of the breeding to let people know about the planned litter. This may include taking an ad out in a breed publication and designing or updating a website that posts a puppy-buyer application, pedigrees, and photos of the sire and dam, along with AKC registration and health information.
  • Once your bitch comes in season, begin progesterone testing to determine the optimal time for her to be bred.
  • Feed your pregnant bitch a high-quality dog food, and exercise her daily so she is in good condition to whelp.
  • Prepare a whelping box large enough to comfortably accommodate your bitch and her new offspring. (In terms of our breed, remember that Anatolians can have large litters.)
  • Have on hand plenty of towels (large and small) and blankets (or newspapers) for the whelping box.
  • Once your bitch is bred, decide whether or not you will have an ultrasound done to confirm pregnancy. Notify your veterinarian of the due date, and discuss with her when to take the mother dog in for an X-ray a few days prior to the whelping date so as to get an approximation of how many puppies to expect.
  • Prepare your whelping supplies to include thermometer, stethoscope, gloves, hemostat, bulb syringe, disinfectant, charts to record details about the pups at birth (with places to indicate each one’s weight, sex, and color)—and, of course, lots of coffee and snacks.
  • Arrange for an experienced dog person to assist you during the whelping, ideally someone who can come on a moment’s notice.
  • Make sure you have extra cash saved up in case there are complications during pregnancy or whelping. Money will also be needed for puppy exams and vaccinations.
  • No matter how prepared you think you are, things do not always go as planned. Keep emergency numbers handy (veterinarian, emergency animal hospital, your breeder, and so on).

Finally, get as much sleep as possible the week before the blessed event, since you won’t get any once your bitch whelps.

Successful breeders will tell you that breeding a quality litter isn’t easy. Puppies are such a joy, but a lot of research, hard work, financial commitment, and preparation on the breeder’s part are required to ensure that the dam and litter are healthy and happy and that the pups will grow to be outstanding representatives of the breed.

—Marilyn Harned, Anatolian Shepherd Dog Club of America