Breeding your own litter of puppies

There are many things to think about when deciding whether or not to breed from your female dog. Do you want to cross breed, which mating partner, desired temperament of the puppies, hereditary diseases you should be aware of, will you find good homes, and so on. My Labrador, Venus was lucky enough to deliver 6 beautiful and healthy puppies but I made sure all of the necessary health checks were done on her and also on the sire (her breeding mate).

Considering a breed

Crossbreed puppies are a popular option, however you should consider the demand for such a puppy. Is it going to be easy to find a happy loving home for all of your puppies? On the other hand breeding pure bred dogs can take time and research. You should make sure the risk of hereditary disorders is minimized by checking the history and health of your female dog and her breeding partner.

Many breeds are prone to common hereditary diseases. You need to check that the bitch and sire (female and male) do not have these diseases at the time of breeding and are unlikely to develop them later (by checking the history of their parents and grandparents). You can also ask your vet what hereditary diseases to look out for.

What age should I breed

I bred Venus at about 2 years of age, it is not advisable to breed them much before this age as they are still developing themselves up until 18 months.

What assessments are necessary?

The first assessment I made on her was on her temperament as this can be passed on to the puppies. She is a lovely temperament, easy to train pet. She is very attentive and responsive to commands as well as friendly with other dogs and people and a loyal companion.

Secondly, I had to consider her general health. She has good skin and no history of allergies, hot spots or ear disease, this is important as this can be passed on to the pups as well.

Venus also had a test for hip and elbow dysplasia and eye testing for hereditary eye diseases. The hip and elbow scoring involves a general anaesthetic and x-rays which are then sent off to the Australian Veterinary Association for scoring. This test needs to be done after they are 12 months of age and once it is done does not need to be repeated.

Hereditary disorders

Hip and Elbow dysplasia are common in many large breeds of dog. Here's some of the well known breeds that are prone to dysplasia - Labradors, Golden Retrievers, Flat Coated Retrievers, German Shepherds, Rottweilers, Alaskan Malmutes, Husky, Swiss Shepherd, Belgian Shepherd, Bull Mastiff, Newfoundlands, Saint Bernard. We have also had cases in Blue Heelers and Cocker Spaniels).

Hereditary eye diseases are found in many breeds some of which include Labradors, Collies, Poodles, and Schnauzers.

Heart disease can be present in several breeds as well (valvular disease) Cavalier King Charles, Maltese, Shih Tzu, Lhasa Apso, Chihuahua more small breeds of dogs although we can see hereditary heart disease of a differing kind (Cardiomyopathy) in Dobermanns, Boxers.

It is best to contact your local vet and you can also access websites such as the LIDA website list both hereditary diseases and diseases that affect different breeds.

A good breeder will readily offer this information to you as well and have certificates of all of the diseases/tests that are done.

Choosing a sire (male partner)

Once these tests were done I had to choose a sire which also had all of these tests done as well as the same physical attributes as my bitch - broad head, wide base tail, stocky build.

When should she mate?

On average mating should occur on days 10-14 after bleeding first starts with vulval swelling. Each female's mating period varies on the days she will accept the sire.

Pregnancy and your dog

Whilst your female dog is pregnant, she will need to be put onto a premium puppy food like Advance Growth (particularly important after week 5), and should be fed this throughout her whelping and lactating periods as well. You will also need to make sure she is up to date with worming, vaccination, flea control and heartworm prevention.

Whelping can occur between day 61 and 65 after mating, although most will deliver on day 63.

A whelping box is required for the bitch to have the puppies in and then an area where the puppies can be placed when they are too old for the box.

The puppies need to be fed supplementary food from 4-5 weeks of age and will also require worming from 2 weeks of age when they are born.

If you have never bred a bitch before it is advisable to talk to your vet regarding what to expect and any possible complications etc. Complications that can occur include dystocia (puppy stuck or bitch unable to whelp), caesarian, haemorrhage, metritis, mastitis, hypocalcaemia etc.

As you can see there are a lot of considerations to think about and it is a hard work, non profitable hobby but can be a rewarding experience. I do not encourage pet owners to breed their female dogs as a rule. Contrary to the popular belief that females should have a litter before being desexed, the opposite is true. Sterilising a dog before her first heat will reduce the risk of mammary cancer to nearly zero. If you are thinking about breeding puppies please consider not only the amount of time and effort that must go into raising and nursing puppies but also to the many orphaned dogs that are euthanased every year due to irresponsible breeding.

Venus's puppies have gone to wonderful homes who I know will take great care of them. The hardest part was saying farewell.

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