Should You Breed Your Dog...or are you asking for disaster?!
If you’re asking “Should I breed my dog?” then I’ve got 7 questions you need to answer to know if letting your dog have puppies is the right decision or not. Don’t go anywhere!
There are a lot of myths and misconceptions about whether you should let a female dog have puppies or not. In some cases it may definitely be the right decision to make but in others it may actually be detrimental to your dog, her puppies or even yourself.
So let’s jump into the 7 questions you need to answer to know if you should breed your dog or not.
Should I breed my dog?
Why do you want to breed
What is the benefit to your female dog?
Is your dog healthy enough?
Can you afford it?
Where will the puppies go?
Can you hope with the work + stress?
Do you have a long term plan?
Why do you want to breed?
This is a big one. What is your true motivation behind wanting to breed puppies from your dog? One of the most common reasons people want to breed their female dogs is because they feel that they are special, have an excellent character and temperament or they look different or better than a lot of other dogs they know.
If this is you then you need to know that the puppies from your dog are likely to be different. This is because how a puppy ends up is determined as much by the father's genes as the mother’s. If you want another dog in the house who is similar to your dog then you would be much off trying to get a pup from the same breeder as before.
If your dog is a rescue or came from a backyard breeder and is a mixed breed then you really won’t know what the puppies will be like. They may look and act completely differently to their Mum.
You also need to be brutally honest with yourself if you want to breed because your dog is special. Are they really that much better than the rest of their breed. Are they going to positively impact the genetics within the breed to improve the health of future dogs? Are they a Westie with perfect skin? Are the a cavalier spaniel with a strong heart? Are they a French Bulldog with a nose? If so then these traits may very well be worth preserving.
The 2 other most common reasons people want to breed their dog is because they think it will be easy and lots of fun as well as to make a little bit of money (or an awful lot depending on breed).
You might be in for a surprise with these last 2, as I’ll come onto in just a minute.
Of course you might be watching this because your dog has accidentally become pregnant...oops! Definitely keep watching to the end and then discuss the situation you find yourself in with your vet if you decide that having puppies is maybe not for you or your dog!
What is the benefit to your female dog?
A big thing I hear in the consult room is people saying that they want to let their dog have puppies because it is good for their health and they want them to experience the joy of being a mother. Others worry that their dog will always feel sad if they’ve not been allowed to have babies.
The reality is that these are complete myths. There is no proven benefit that I am aware of which suggests that having a litter of puppies does a dog any good from a health point of view. In fact it could do the reverse. If it is delaying them being spayed than there may be health implications which I have discussed in a separate post all about the pro’s and con’s of spaying your female dog. There is also the risk of pregnancy itself which again, I’ll come onto later.
As for the desire to be a mother, this simply isn’t a thing. Yes, a dog on heat has a strong desire to mate and breed, but that’s just the hormones talking. There is no higher desire to be a mother. Take the hormones away, either by spaying of simply between seasons, and a dog couldn’t care less about having puppies or not.
We do need to be careful at times not to anthropomorphize and put our own human feelings onto our pets.
Is your dog suitable + healthy enough for breeding
Pregnancy isn’t a walk in the park, and neither is giving birth. It’s the same with dogs and not all will be able to take the stresses and strains in their stride. Any dog who is being bred should be fit and healthy and of a good body condition. If they are not then they may well struggle and the risks of complications could be higher.
Equally, what is the best age to breed a female dog needs to be considered. The general recommendation is that the earliest you should consider breeding a dog is 2 years of age. 2 and a half is probably better. And the oldest age a dog can have puppies? Well, 8 years is probably the absolute maximum, but 6 or 7 is probably better. It does depend on breed to some extent.
As I touched on before, your dog should have no congenital abnormalities that they are likely to pass onto their puppies and perpetuate the problem. This could include many things from the more obvious like hip dysplasia, through to those suffering from epilepsy, severe allergic skin disease certain heart conditions and other serious diseases linked to genetics.
It should, in my opinion also include genetic problems that are considered “normal” for the breed. I’ve spoken at length before about the problems people have created by breeding to achieve a certain look so you should definitely check that out in my article about problems in flat faced dogs and other pure breeds. But if a dog is struggling to breath, if they have poor leg conformation, huge skin folds...you get the picture, breeding more of the same is just not right.
As for breeding dogs who you know will not be able to give birth by themselves...well hopefully I don’t need to say anything else about that.
Can you afford it?
Let’s talk money. If you think you’re going to get rich breeding dogs then think again. Yes, certain breeds can sell for ridiculous sums of money, but that is not the norm and there are definitely costs you need to consider before you ever get to the stage of selling puppies.
Your dog clearly needs to be fully vaccinated, regularly wormed, fed a premium food for the growing energy she will need combined with a reduction in the amount she will be able to eat as the puppies grow.
Before we even get to this stage though, depending on your dog’s breed, there may be tests that need to be run. This might be hip scoring, eye tests, heart scans of other genetic blood tests. Your dog may unknowingly be carrying a gene that could cause all kinds of problems in her puppies and that is something that clearly needs to be known beforehand.
Once the puppies come along you will need to feed them a quality puppy food, pay for them to be vet checked, vaccinated and microchipped, as well as treat them for worms and other parasites. If you have a big litter then those costs can really add up.
And then what if things go wrong? What about the unexpected cost of pregnancy?
If a cesarean section is needed the cost may be well over $2000/$2000 depending on the time of day or night and what other complications are involved. If your dog suffers from eclampsia, a potentially fatal drop in blood calcium levels then again emergency treatment will be needed.
Of course the majority of dogs will not need a c-section or suffer from eclampsia, but if your dog does it can get expensive and their treatment will need paying at the time. I have seen too many social media posts complaining about money being asked for when a c-section is needed and the funds weren’t available. I have been in that position myself and it is not fair on the vet or your dog.
If you’re reading this then I’m sure this won’t apply to you, but if you go down the route of breeding your dog it is a conscious decision and these are real risks that you need to accept. As such you must have the means to pay for the care your dog needs when they need it.
Where will the puppies go?
To good, loving homes is the obvious answer. But just how easy is this to be sure of?
Your friends and family might have sounded interested when you mentioned to them the idea of having puppies but it’s amazing how that interest vanishes when the puppies materialize. You might think that you will be flooded with wannabe buyers after placing an ad online but even if this is true, you’ve still got a lot of work to do.
Screening potential owners is vital. You need to know what their family and lifestyle is like. Are they out of the house all day in the week, are there other pets in the house, what about children, do they have a garden or live in an apartment? You need to find out as much as possible to make sure that the new home you are sending your puppies to is as suitable as possible.
If you make the wrong judgement then it may well be that your puppy ends up in a shelter and the sad reality is that many shelter dogs are euthanized through no fault of their own.
Maybe your energetic puppy wasn’t suited to being by themselves for 12 hours a day and started chewing the furniture. Your large breed dog might have become too big for the owners home. You can’t predict every eventuality but it is important you try.
It’s even more important if you find your dog having puppies just before Christmas. Unfortunately people still think it’s a good idea to surprise someone by giving them a puppy they don’t want and don’t have time for. That’s not a good start to a companionship that should last a lifetime.
Speaking of shelters to, it might seem like your dog having just one litter wont add much to the dog population. But, if your dog or bitch produces just one litter of 4 pups who in turn each produce just one litter of 4 pups and so on, in only 5 years your dog could have 4096 descendants!
“Just one litter" can have serious consequences!
Can you cope with the work + stress?
Having a puppy will be fun and easy! Possibly, especially if you know what your doing and your dog proves herself to be well suited as a mother. Letting your dog have puppies though can certainly be hard work!
Stress can run high in the build-up to the big day, and the actual birth can be a long, drawn-out affair with you wondering if there is a problem or if you need to head to the vet or not. There can also be a lot of mess to clear up. Not just after the whelping, but also clearing up after the puppies who can be little monsters when it comes to table manners and toileting habits !
And what if your dog doesn’t have enough milk or chooses that letting her puppies feed is not something she’s interested in? Well the answer to this is that you will have to bottle feed the puppies every 2 hours to begin with, day and night!
Yes puppies are fun, but easy? Definitely not!
Do you have a long term plan?
Phew, you’ve made it through 8 weeks and the puppies are finally of to their forever homes (provided you’ve screened the new owners properly!). You’re looking forward to getting your life back and having a bit of peace and quiet!
What happens though if the new owners decide having a dog is not for them. Will you be able to take your pup back so they don’t have to go into a shelter system they may not come out of?
What if there are any genetic problems or other health issues that raise their head and you’re faced with an owner who wants their money back? You might legally have to refund them and take the pup back under so-called “puppy lemon laws” in some US states. This might even be 6 months after you re-home the pups!
OK, so if you’ve got answers to my 7 questions about whether you should breed your dog or not and you’re still keen...go for it!
Letting your dog have puppies can be an amazingly rewarding experience. Just make sure you consider all of the things I’ve discussed and go into it with open eyes. Expect the unexpected to happen and you’ll be less stressed, get into less difficulty and have loads more fun.
If you’ve never bred a dog before then you will likely have many more questions. Of course your vet will be more than willing to answer any health related queries you have and let you know what you should be considering, but another excellent resource to start with is called the “Book of the Bitch”. It is a resource that I recommend to all of my clients who are first-time breeders so make sure you pick up a copy today (you can check it out on amazon here)
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