The first question that potential breeders should consider is "Why breed?" There are many unwanted dogs, including purebreds, that end up homeless or in shelters. No one should breed just so that their children can witness the miracle of birth, or to have a pup from a favorite pet.
POINTS TO CONSIDER
The only valid reason for allowing a male or female to reproduce should be to further the enhancement of the breed. A purebred should be evaluated for its worth and value as a producer by a professional - either a breeder or a handler/trainer or judge. The animal in question must be evaluated against the breed's Standard, with emphasis on temperament and absence of serious or disqualifying factors. Next, a three-generation pedigree should be analyzed to determine the quality of the animal's ancestors with type, temperament and health the key considerations.
The third very important part of this decision concerns health, age and testing for heritable defects. Generally, a bitch under the age of eighteen months should not be bred - and ideally should be at least two years old. Any bitch over the age of six should not be bred for the first time unless there are extenuating circumstances. The risk of loss is too great, and the birthing process too painful and traumatic to an older bitch, particularly if she has been a family pet.
CHECKING FOR HERITABLE DEFECTS
X-raying for hip problems in almost all breeds is a necessity. This cannot be done for certification until the age of two years. The patella and elbows may also be certified at this stage. Eye examinations for progressive retinal atrophy, cataracts and narrow or non-existent optic nerves should be done early. Blood testing for Von Willebrand's disease (a bleeding disorder) should be done periodically. Skin punch testing for sebaceous adenitis is another annual procedure. A breeder or vet will be able to advise about other heritable problems that are breed specific. No dogs with apparent epilepsy, large umbilical hernias, inverted eyelids, skin disorders or temperament problems of any sort should be bred.
A BREEDER's RESPONSIBILITIES
It is essential that the potential breeder carries out all the above checks, is fully aware of what is involved and plans the breeding carefully. It is also most important to remember that breeding is not a money-making venture. Most breeders are lucky if they manage to break even on a litter. The dangers in breeding a bitch should also not be forgotten. She may die during whelping or in a Caesarean section. Similarly, males after being used at stud may be less clean in house manners than before.
In addition to paying for the tests for heritable problems, for a complete physical examination of the bitch and bringing all inoculations up to date, there are other costs which should be taken into account. There is the expenditure involved when taking or shipping the bitch to the chosen stud dog or, in the case of using cooled semen, the cost of obtaining semen from the dog, the shipment of the sperm, and the implantation by the vet.
A stud fee must also be paid at the time the bitch is bred or at a later date, if specified in the breeding contract. if the stud fee involves the choice of the litter being returned to the owner of the stud dog, the bitch's owner is responsible for all the expenses incurred by this puppy (physical examinations, inoculations, wormings and so on) until the puppy is delivered. Many behaviorists and writers advise that a puppy should be placed in its new home by the age of seven weeks, but this is up to the breeder. Some wait until the puppy is older and well socialized before selling.
The bitch also incurs further expense. She must be taken to the vet after breeding to be palpated at about three or four weeks or to have a sonogram to ensure that she is indeed in whelp. Special food is required as well. If vet fees, possibly including the charge for a Caesarean section, will have to he met.
The new mother and her puppies must be seen by the vet within twenty-four hours of the birth. The vet will examine for heritable defects such as cleft palate, hernias and so on. After the birth, the mother should be given a shot of oxytocin to clear the birth canal and uterus of placental residue, retained after-births or even a reluctant puppy. This is best administered by the vet since it is an intramuscular injection with some risk involved.
At five days, puppies must have their dewclaws and tails dealt with, if part of the breed Standard, thus incurring yet another vet's fee. Worm checks on the puppies, and required inoculations should start ten days to two weeks after they are weaned. This all involves quite a large outlay of money, plus a great deal of time. Not to breed may often be the best choice.
It is important for breeders to keep records. In the United States it is a requirement of the American Kennel Club. Breeding dates, complete identification of the dog bred to, its owner's name and address, the litter birth date, the sexes of the puppies, when and to whom the puppies were sold, and the dates when the registration papers were transferred are all part of correct record keeping. The person who has bred the litter should be prepared to accept total responsibility for the puppies. This means being willing to take them back and find new homes if the original homes do not work out.
REASONS FOR BREEDING
Of course, the show ring is not the only reason to be interested in breeding dogs. The Standard of perfection as set down for every breed is not based on beauty but on designing an animal that can function best at what it was designed to do. Breeds vary tremendously. There are the magnificent bird hunters, pointers, setters, spaniels - whose attitude, temperament, wonderful legs, angulation, feet, hard toplines, good mouths and keenness enable them to hunt for hours. There are also breeds like the Pekingese. With its expressive face, glamorous coat and fringes and its short legs, it fits the bill as a child substitute in looks, while its short legs prevent it from straying too far. The Obedience ring is a proving ground, with tests to establish mental ability, stamina and soundness in jumping and retrieving. There are dogs that compete in Agility, guard and herding dogs, police workers, drug sniffers, search and rescue dogs and therapy dogs - all these types benefit from correct breeding practices.
It is the responsibility of the parent club of each breed, or of the Kennel Club itself, to write, up- date and clarify the relevant Standard. Also the Standards can differ from country to country. Very early dog enthusiasts may not have had insights about genetic problems but they were certainly animal people. The Standards that they therefore originally conceived were written to convey in words the description of a perfect specimen, which was well suited in conformation as well as in coat, color and temperament to perform the tasks for which it was bred.
FINDING THE PERFECT STUD
Once a potential breeder has decided that he or she can afford the time and money to breed, the right mate for the bitch must be found. The first step is to contact the breeder who supplied the bitch. In all probability, he or she will be interested. Contacting the national breed club of the breed in question is also a good first step. Usually, a letter of inquiry to the breed club will generate a list of local club members who may prove helpful in the search.
Another course of action is to visit dog shows. These will he attended by interested, knowledgeable people. With persistence, it is usually possible to find someone who will allow his or her dog to be used for breeding, but the reasons given for not breeding should always be carefully weighed. Anyone who does enter into an agreement should always make sure that everything is in writing.
CHOOSING A STUD DOG
The breeder is entitled to extensive information about the potential stud dog. The stud dog must undergo the same testing as the bitch.
Choosing a stud dog is both a visual and mental process. Some breeders rely on looks alone while others are swayed by a strict analysis of the pedigree. The most consistently successful choices are made by balancing all the factors and considering all the information to hand. The breeder must have both a correct mental picture of the breed and the ability to be a visionary with the will to improve. Breeders need to acquire important scientific knowledge to help with their decisions. If the bitch is a maiden, it is best to breed her with an experienced stud. A proven brood bitch may he bred to a young inexperienced dog.
TYPES OF BREEDING
There are three basic ways to select a breeding partner and which type is chosen will largely depend on the individual breeder's commitment and enthusiasm for the job to hand. The three are known as outcrossing, linebreeding and inbreeding.
This method involves breeding to an unrelated animal of the same breed. It is of course based on the visual physical attributes of the animals involved as well as their compatibility. But this is not a balancing act. A small bitch to a large dog will not necessarily result in all the offspring being medium sized. With a small bitch, the best result is most likely to come from breeding to a male that is the correct breed Standard size. It is always wise to investigate what the male has produced before - whether it has proved dominant and strong in producing its correct size.
The second way to select a partner is to breed the most perfect specimen possible, which has the same exceptional common ancestor in the first three generations. This is the route that most successful breeders take. The reason this works is that all factors are taken into consideration: conformation, temperament and health matters. A well-known and successful family of any breed is known for its strengths and its weaknesses. It is obviously not clever to reintroduce to a family a dog that shows signs of the family's faults such as poor feet, light eyes, a poor coat or an incorrect croup and tail set. Breeders should aim to consolidate a family's strengths - temperament, intelligence, correct size, and longevity.
The third method is inbreeding - breeding father to daughter, brother to sister or mother to son. This type of selection naturally played an important part in the formation of different breeds but responsibility increases dramatically. Close inbreeding has been used to uncover the hidden or recessive genes in a family i.e., light eyes, incorrect placement of teeth, incorrect coats, bad temperament. The resulting litter should be carefully evaluated. If the results are poor, those puppies that have good dispositions and are healthy should be neutered and allowed to go to homes as pets. The remainder should be humanely destroyed. This type of breeding is obviously not for the uneducated breeder, the fainthearted or those with limited resources.