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Your dog wins friends and admirers everywhere she goes. She is purebred, happy, and well-groomed, and you are naturally very proud of her. Then, someone at doggy daycare asks you the question you can’t get out of your head — “Are you planning to breed her? I’d love a puppy!”
From that moment on, you are consumed by thoughts of sweet puppy breath, giggling children, and happy families driving off into the sunset. But breeding a litter of puppies is a huge responsibility. So what is involved in breeding a litter, if you are going to do it right?
Why Do You Want to Breed?
In planning a litter, good breeders always try to produce puppies that will be sound in body and mind. That starts with pairing two dogs that complement one another and conform to the breed standard. Does your female dog meet the breed standard? Every breed has a standard that describes the ideal specimen in structure, movement, and temperament.
Many of us show our dogs to see how they measure up against others of the same breed. Dog shows were initially developed to evaluate breeding stock, and that carries through to today. Winning under multiple judges to earn a championship tells us our dogs have the quality to breed and produce the next generation.
The Importance of Genetic Health Testing
Then we turn our attention to things that can’t be seen in the show ring. Are you familiar with the inherited issues that can pose problems for your breed? Your female dog will need a thorough veterinary examination to confirm that she is in good health, as well as health testing to ensure that she is free of any serious issues (hips, eyes, elbows, heart) that could be passed on to her offspring. The potential sire of her litter should have undergone the same rigorous health testing.
Breeding a litter can get very expensive. Besides the health testing and stud fee to be paid, there will be the cost of ongoing veterinary care and good food for the mother and puppies. Depending upon the breed, the number of puppies she is carrying, or issues that arise, a C-section may be necessary to deliver them. There will be rounds of puppy vaccinations and worming needed before the young ones are ready to go to their new homes at 8 to 12 weeks old.
Dog Breeding Is a Lifelong Responsibility
Speaking of new homes, are you prepared to keep the puppies until suitable homes are found? Long-established breeders often have waiting lists of puppy buyers. But as a first-time breeder, you won’t be as well-known, so sales may be slow. Do you have the ability to hang on to four, five, or six energetic, growing puppies?
Are you also ready and willing to take back a puppy or grown dog, should one of your owners have to deal with divorce, job loss, terminal illness, or death? This is part of what being a responsible breeder means.
Finding a Mentor
The ideal person to help shepherd you through these many challenges is, of course, your dog’s breeder. However, if they live on the other side of the country or on another continent, a local mentor will be invaluable. To find one, join your local breed club or attend a dog show to meet the exhibitors. We were all novices once, and breeders are generally willing to lend a hand to new people who share their passion for the breed.
Ask experienced breeders to evaluate your female against the standard, as well as suggest stud dogs whose structure and pedigree complement hers. (By that, we mean we don’t want to double up on flaws in offspring, so it might be a good idea to pair a slightly built female with a more substantial, bigger-boned male rather than an equally slight one.) These breeders may also have a few folks on their waiting list who might be the right fit for a puppy from your litter.
Another essential way to build your breeder network is to join your local all-breed kennel club. Even if there are no members who own your breed, you will meet longtime breeders who can help you deliver that first litter. It is a stressful experience that you don’t want to go through alone. You will also learn a great deal about dog sports by attending regular club meetings.
Breeding a litter should never be a casual undertaking. Don’t be shy about asking for advice. Before you know it, you’ll be the one paying it forward.
Registering Your Litter
After whelping a new litter of new puppies born in the U.S., it is important to register this litter. Why? The AKC is the only purebred dog registry in the United States that maintains an investigation and inspection effort.