Breeding dogs is a serious responsibility and entails risks and surprises for even experienced breeders. But, even in a world too crowded with unwanted dogs, there are positive aspects. Here are a few things to consider…
Breeding dogs starts with selection of high-quality parents. There are already many unwanted dogs of unknown parentage. Though some find homes, they almost always wind up in a shelter where they are shortly euthanized. For those unfamiliar with that term, it means killed. Humanely, but nevertheless, terminated. Selecting good parents to breed will help maximize the odds of the offspring finding good homes.
Part of selecting good parents involves knowing their medical histories. Both dam and sire, as well as their parents, should be free of hereditary diseases and have been tested for hip dysplasia. They should be tested shortly before breeding for any infectious diseases.
Even with good parents, breeding is risky – for both mother and pups. Escherichia coli (E. coli), streptococci and other bacteria are a common problem, especially for breeding in the country or on a farm. Such factors are not inevitable, but they should be taken into account. Extra effort and expense will be needed to ensure a healthy mother and pups.
Puppies sometimes do die during whelping or shortly afterward. This can be emotionally difficult for both adults and children. While not an overwhelming reason to forgo breeding, the effects – which can require considerable time to recover from – are real and should be considered.
Breeding and whelping take time, effort and expense. Either a whelping box, or at minimum several large, clean cardboard boxes will be needed, along with heat lamps, thermometers, hemostats, and a long list of other items. The materials themselves are not expensive, but you will need a place to house mother and pups and practice using the tools.
After the puppies are born, mother takes care of most of their needs for about three weeks. If the puppies are healthy, the mother will feed them, bathe them and keep them out of trouble. You will need to help by providing access to the outdoors for her at all times, day and night. Her regular bathroom habits may be disrupted during this period. She’ll need time away from the pups.
A literal ton of newspapers will be required to keep the area clean, unless the pups are whelped in a barn or other outside-the-house enclosure. Even then, you’ll find that straw or blankets will need to be frequently replaced or cleaned. Prepare to do a lot of laundry if you use blankets.
Puppies will need to be kept warm. Apart from infection, hypothermia is one of the leading causes of puppy mortality. Heat lamps with an automatic thermostat are essential anywhere or any season where the temperature dips below 70F (21C). Mothers will become uncomfortable at higher temperatures, but 75F-80F (24C- 27C) is quite good for pups.
Expect many sleepless nights. Most breeds, even when continually attended by the mother, will bark and whine. They sleep an hour, then awake, eliminate and then get active. They’ll settle down shortly, and then you will be busy cleaning up the waste while they sleep for another hour.
This goes on from about the second or third week to the eighth or nineth week. If you ignore them until morning, you will have an extraordinary mess along with puppies at high risk of infection. This continues until you sell them or give them away.
You’ll need to have the puppies checked by a vet and inoculated. Then you’ll need to find the puppies good homes. Be prepared for the emotional loss that comes from having the puppies leave the home. Though it’s rewarding to see new owners acquire a companion, the time is bittersweet.
On the positive side, if you are prepared for high vet bills, health risks, sleepless nights and seeing them leave you can also expect several irreplaceable rewards.
Seeing them find a good home, with people whose faces display the joy of having that perfect pup, sometimes creates lifelong friendships. And you do get those seven or eight weeks. Puppies aren’t merely cute – they are the embodiment of joy and eagerness for life. That’s often worth the effort!