Breeding Your Sheltie
What could be more fun than a litter of puppies? Many people want to breed their dog to let the kids (or themselves!) enjoy the experience, or to get another dog just as special as theirs, or maybe even to make a couple extra bucks. But breeding dogs is an often misunderstood process, and one that has many drawbacks. Before you breed your dog, consider this:
- Breeding dogs is expensive. Before you breed your bitch or stud, s/he will need to be x-rayed for hip dysplasia, checked by a certified veterinary opthalmologist for eye problems, tested for thyroid problems, and cultured for brucellosis (a contagious disease that causes abortions). The fee for a good stud is usually several hundred dollars... if you decide to give a puppy to the stud dog owner instead, you're still out the amount of what someone else would have paid for the puppy.
- Raising a litter of puppies is expensive. Once born, the puppies will need to be checked by a vet at least once for genetic problems, and will need to be wormed and have at least 2-3 sets of shots. Since most people want AKC papers, you will also have to pay to have the litter registered. And don't forget the cost of feeding all those puppies! And remember a bitch will eat twice as much while pregnant and about 3 times the normal amount when lactating.
- Placing puppies is difficult and expensive. All those people who say they would *love* a puppy seem to disappear when the actual time for puppies to go comes. You may have to place ads in the paper for many weeks, answer lots and lots of phone calls, arrange your schedule to be home for people to come visit, and end up keeping a puppy or two for several months longer than you wanted because you had trouble finding it a home. And will you be able to handle giving up those cute puppies that you have put your heart and soul into raising?! Who knows what those people who have taken your *baby* are really like? Will they take good care of him? Give him a good home? Or will he be one of the unlucky ones that ends up in a shelter?
- Breeding dogs is a huge responsibility. Just as a parent is responsible for their children, a breeder is responsible for the puppies they bring into the world. Are you prepared to take care of a deformed puppy? What about a puppy someone wants to return because it turned out to have some genetic disease? Will you be able to handle someone who wants to give the puppy back because it's "too much trouble"?
- Breeding is always a risk. Dogs can die whelping...if you are breeding so your kids can enjoy the experience, think how traumatic it will be (especially to a young girl) to see their beloved dog die giving birth. It happens much more than you would think. Or there is the expense of an emergency C-section (dogs always deliver at night, of course). Puppies as well, can have all kinds of complications...it is fairly common to lose a puppy or two, and not unknown to lose them all. From cleft palettes to "fading puppy" syndrome, there is a multitude of problems that can happen.
- Breeding seldom gives the desired result. If you are looking for another dog "just like mine", breeding is not the way to go. Puppies are as individual as children are compared to their parents. They may look and act nothing like the parent. It often seem that whatever you want most from a breeding is what you are least likely to get! Go back to the breeder you got your dog from, and with their help, pick out a similar dog. But remember, *every* dog is an individual!
- Breeding does not improve a dog's temperment. While a bitch may be more assured and confident while she has puppies, this is merely a result of hormones...once the puppies are gone, she will be back to normal. Males are generally much worse after breeding. They have less interest in pleasing you, tend to mark a lot more, mount everything in sight, etc.
- Finding a mate for your dog can be difficult. If you are trying to breed your male dog, plan on an uphill battle. Most breeders will not breed to anything other than a champion stud, so you will need to show your dog...easily a couple thousands of dollars to finish him. Then you will need to advertise, etc. Sure, you might find someone who just wants to breed their pet to your boy, but a responsible breeder should be trying to produce more than just mediocre puppies. And no, "cuteness" doesn't count.
- Handling a stud is not easy. What will you do if there are problems? Dogs don't always just "know what to do". Are you prepared to keep the bitch in heat at your home for a week? Some females are, well, "bitchy" and your male can get bitten...or he might bite that valuable dog someone else owns (can you say lawsuit?) Also realize that many bitch owners see you as the "expert"...will you be able to answer their questions about whelping...at 3 in the morning? And if the breeding doesn't take, the bitch's owner will want a repeat breeding, and another, and another...
- Finally, consider this before breeding. Hundreds of dogs are put to sleep EVERY DAY. There is a huge pet overpopulation in this country. Do you really need to add to the excess? Every dog that is bred means one more that will die. No matter how good the quality of your dogs are, there are dogs that will not have a home, because one of your puppies is there instead. If you have time and money enough to raise a litter, why not consider volunteering for your local breed rescue instead? With the large numbers of dogs put to sleep in this country, I feel that NO breeder is "responsible" unless they also spend time finding homes for rescued dogs.
So...you still want to breed your dog? Well, here are some rules to follow. Also, be sure to read the ASSA Code of Ethics for Breeders. And don't miss Confessions of an Ignorant Breeder to get the full scoop on whether breeders are being honest when they tell you how much work and heartache breeding can be. You can find more links on breeding here.