If you've made the commitment to spend the amount of time and money necessary to correctly breed your dog, here's what you need to do:
- Evaluate your dog. Before you go any further, ask yourself if your dog is really breeding quality. "Pretty and smart" is not enough! Your dog should be confident, willing to please, and good with people. There have been a lot of problem with shy shelties...do not make excuses for why your dog is afraid of people, just don't breed it. Remember that ALL shelties are pretty, smart, special dogs. The main thing you need to look at is how your dog fits the standard. If your dog has obvious faults -- over or undersize, poor bite, prick ears, poor structure, they should not be bred. Don't breed a poor sheltie just because you want one that is bigger, or smaller, or different in some way, than what the breed standard asks for. You are bringing genes in that will create shelties that are not what they should be. This isn't fair to the people that get shelties because they like the breed for what it is.
- Have experienced breeders evaluate your dog. Unless you have many years of experience in breeding and showing, you are not likely to have the "eye" to really evaluate your dog properly. And let's face it...who is really objective when it comes to their own dog?? You need someone who can stand back and judge the entire "package". So go to shows, talk to breeders and handlers...try to find someone willing to mentor you a bit. You don't necessarily have to have your dog evaluated in person...breeders can do a lot with a good picture or two and a complete pedigree. Also, join your local sheltie club, and definitely join the sheltie internet mailing list!
- Research your dog's history. Remember that breeding is a large portion of genetics. The genes your dog passes on are the ones it got from *its* parents. Learn how genetics works, and find out all you can about the dogs in your dog's pedigree. Try to visit as many ancestors as possible, or get pictures. You might even talk to their owners about their good and bad points. You may want to pay particular attention to how well the dogs did being bred...did they whelp naturally, or by C-section? How many puppies were produced? Were they of good health? How about temperments? Try to avoid faults that have appeared in the past that your dog carries as well. Also look for dogs that are good and healthy into their teens.
- What can you contribute to the breed? By this point, you should know if your dog has the level of excellence you should strive for in a breeding dog. It should be enough to justify bringing more dogs into the world...or you should stop right here. When selecting a mate, be sure the other dog cross-faults well...that is, has strong points to compensate for your dog's weaker points. Remeber half the genes come from the other dog. It does you no good to do all this work to make sure your dog is of a quality worth breeding, only to breed it to a mediocre dog, that passes on some genetic problem. Preferably, you will find an experienced stud that has produced good puppies in the past.
- Before breeding, make sure your dog is healthy. You should not breed a bitch until at least its second, preferably its third, heat. She should be about 2 years old. She should be in good general health, of good weight, up-to-date on all shots, and tested prior to breeding for hip dysplasia, eye disorders, and brucellosis.
- Educate yourself on what to expect and how to deal with any problems that might arise. Make sure you have a vet or emergency clinic you can get a hold of at any hour. And read anything you can get your hands on! You can order a good book on breeding online from Amazon.com, The Complete Book of Dog Breeding