Thinking of beginning dog breeding? What do successful dog breeders have in common? Here we look at the elements to dog breeding success.
It is probably possible to raise dogs successfully in a small apartment if you do it right, choose a suitably small breed and undertake to have only a small number of breeders, but it certainly isn’t the ideal situation. Puppies are messy and need space to exercise, earth to dig, and grass to play in. Unlike adult dogs that can be taken out for regular exercise, nursing pups are best left safely at home away from stray diseases and other dangers. Even if it was safe, an outing with a litter sounds like a recipe for disaster! So I can’t recommend running a successful dog breeding operation unless you have access to a yard with grass and sunshine for puppies and dogs to enjoy.
So, assuming you do have access to a yard, it of course must be safely and securely fenced against escape of your dogs or invasion by outside dogs. The prospect of theft is also very real. It is best to keep your dogs and puppies where they are not visible from the street where you live, and have access points locked against entry.
The other consideration is the size of the space you have available. It will dictate the size of the breed you choose and the number of breeding dogs you keep. You need to become familiar with the local government by-laws setting the maximum number of dogs you are legally allowed to keep in your municipality. And if you have only a small yard then you should only consider keeping small dogs!
Your space should include provision for facilities to separate your dogs at critical times in their breeding cycle. If you decide to keep both male and female breeding dogs, you will need to at times keep them from mating, as your bitches will need to take a break from pregnancy now and then. Also, it is wise to separate nursing bitches and their puppies from all other dogs. I found this out the hard way years ago when one of my bitches killed a whole litter of my other bitch’s puppies. In 15 years of breeding I had never had this experience, as my bitches happily accepted each other’s puppies and even suckled each other’s at times. I now know that this is a common occurrence – even mild mannered bitches may become jealous enough to destroy the progeny of ‘rivals’. So be forewarned! (Wish someone had warned me!).
Your home environment needs to be warm in winter and cool in summer. This is especially true of the nursing environment. Newborn puppies, in particular, are easily lost to excessive heat or cold.
The ideal home environment is also one where the puppies have direct access to a grassed area right from an early age. With such access they automatically learn to toilet outside. If they are raised on concrete or paving then they find it harder to successfully toilet train when they go to their new homes.
Your time availability
Before beginning dog breeding consider this – do you have the time to breed dogs? Dog breeding is ideally for stay-at-home people. Unless puppies are around or imminent, it takes very little time to feed, water and supervise your dogs. However, to be healthy, all dogs require daily exercise, without which they may lose their fitness and natural vigor, inviting subsequent problems with health, birthing and breeding performance.
So take them out every day for a brisk 30 minutes plus walk. If you only have a few dogs like me, then it’s easy to do, which is yet another good reason to keep your breeding operations small and manageable. The daily walking will be wonderful for both you and them – you’ll never need to buy another gym membership again! Train them properly and you will safely be able to let them loose in appropriate settings to tear around and enjoy a little freedom.
Are you planning regular trips away? Do you love to travel? If so, then dog breeding is not for you. Having dogs is like having children. You simply can’t take off and leave them! If you only kept one dog as a pet, then you perhaps could occasionally board it at kennels or with friends, but breeding dogs are another matter. When breeding dogs you have to consider when they are next on heat so that you can either successfully manage or avoid the next mating. You also must make sure you will be home fulltime, settled and available to turn on the care and attention before, during and after whelping each and every time you have puppies to care for.
Your love of dogs
Don’t become a dog breeder unless you are a genuine dog lover, and enjoy dogs. Otherwise you will come to resent the care required to keep them happy and produce great puppies for grateful clients. Your dog breeding hobby will only prosper if you love mutts! And if you love dogs but hate people, then forget it. To be a truly exceptional and ethical dog breeder you need to be able to communicate in a positive way with people and hold their best interests and welfare up there with those of your dogs.
How strong are you?
We’ve already mentioned that dogs need to be exercised, and if you are a breeder, you will need to exercise several every day. Are you strong and healthy enough to accomplish this? Your strength will also dictate the breed of dog you choose to work with. If you are healthy enough to go for a brisk walk every day, that’s good enough, so long as your physical capacities match the size, strength and temperament of your special breed. Don’t go for Alaskan Malamutes if you suffer from a muscle wasting illness! Be sensible.
Dog breeding means saying goodbye!
Beginning dog breeding is not for the faint hearted. As a dog lover, you relish the job of looking after your dogs, and the fun of regularly producing whole litters of gorgeous puppies to play with. But dog breeding comes at a price that is far too high for the more emotional dog lover. The price is being able to say goodbye! Like it or not, you will get attached to your puppies, and you have to be able to let them go, litter after litter.
Harder still, if you intend your dog breeding venture to prosper over the long-term, you will sooner or later have to face the prospect of replacing your breeding stock. While a male dog can successfully stud into old age as long as he is healthy, around half of all bitches no longer cycle or reproduce by the time they are seven years of age. Is that when you plan to go out of business? You may feel obliged to keep every breeding dog until it dies of natural causes, or pressured to do so by the other members of your household. After all, every breeder will be a part of your family. If so, then go into the business fully anticipating that its going to be relatively short-lived.
If not, then you have to set out from the start knowing that your bitches will need to be sterilized (to avoid possible subsequent health problems) and re-homed to a fabulous new owner when their breeding days come to an end. The aim is to move them on to a better life that they had with you for a well earned and happy retirement. Unless my retiring dog is mad about children I always find retired active people for them, who will give them heaps of love and one-on-one attention (which dogs raised in groups crave!). I sell them locally, and insist on visiting rights. And I regularly have enquiries from loving people, who do not want the bother of a puppy, looking for older ex-stud dogs. Such people also feel secure that they can be sure of the temperament of the dog they acquire – that it is great with kids, for example, or a good watch dog – something you take pot luck on when you buy a puppy.
So don’t even think of beginning dog breeding unless you know you are up to it! Do you have the emotional fortitude to say goodbye? My family has become used to this dilemma. We all love puppies. If we couldn’t let them go, then we couldn’t breed dogs, so we wouldn’t have puppies to enjoy any more. Focus on the love your dog breeding brings to your grateful owners and hand your wonderful fur-babies over with joy in your heart.
It’s as simple as that!