To Breed or Not to Breed

Lisa Radosta, DVM, DACVB
Written by:
Published: March 21, 2012
To Breed or Not to Breed

Your Rottweiler puppy is the love of your life. She is cute, sweet, good looking and intelligent. You’ve been thinking that you might want to breed her when she gets a little older. After all, she is a wonderful dog.

There is a neighbor down the street with a nice Rottie male. You might make a little money if she had a litter of pups, and she would know the joy of being a mom. You could even get a puppy just like her for free.

There are lots of other things to think about, too. If you are thinking of breeding your pup, read on.

Get a Reality Check

The myth is that there are very few purebred dogs in shelters and in rescues. That is not the case. Do an internet search for your dog’s breed rescue. For example, "Rottweiler Rescue," and you will find your breed’s national rescue. On their site, they will have rescues listed from all over the country. If you haven’t done this before, get ready to be floored at the number of dogs of your breed — good looking, cute, intelligent dogs without homes.

I know what you are thinking: "Those dogs are from puppy mills." For some, that may be true, but not most. These dogs were mostly bred by backyard breeders or hobby breeders like you. Ask yourself the honest question of whether you really need to make dogs when so many need homes.

What is Your Return Policy?

Responsible breeders understand that even good families may not be able to keep their pups into adulthood. Good breeders take their dogs back, no matter what the reason, until the day the dog dies. Period. So, if your dog has six puppies, you should be prepared to take them back at any age. If you aren’t prepared for six more dogs, don’t breed your dog.

When I was looking for an adult rescue dog, I called a lot of breeders. What shocked me was how many really great breeders had dogs sitting there who were returned. There were all kinds of reasons, but the economy and divorce were at the top.

Don’t Expect to Get Rich

I have been in dogs for my entire adult life and I have never met a breeder who was rich as a result of dog breeding. I have met breeders who have another professional career that pays them a nice salary, affording them a beautiful home or property, but they didn’t make that money breeding dogs. The health clearances can cost a lot of money to complete. Supporting the mother requires fairly frequent visits to the veterinarian, and there are the tests, such as ultrasounds.

Hopefully your dog will deliver naturally. However, that isn’t always the case. For some breeds, a Cesarean section is the norm. After the pups are born, they will need veterinary examinations, deworming, health certificates, and vaccinations before you adopt them out at eight weeks.

Find Out What is on the Inside

It is easy to view our kids — dog or otherwise — with rose colored glasses. But before breeding, you have to find out if your dog is healthy on the inside. Go to your dog’s national breed website by searching for something like "Rottweiler Club of America" and read about the common genetic diseases that affect your breed. Then, head to the veterinarian to have your dog cleared for those diseases.

Some, like thyroid disease, require a blood test. Some, like hip dysplasia, require a series of X-rays. Some, like retinal diseases, require a trip to a veterinary ophthalmologist for an eye check. Do you feel yourself getting rich yet?

Does Your Dog Have Behavior Problems?

Problems of anxiety, fear and aggression are heritable. If you are having trouble with your dog in these aspects of her life, it isn’t fair to the pups — or to the new owners — to breed her. Be honest with yourself here. Biting, nipping and aggressive barking qualify as behavior problems, all of which are likely heritable. Behavior problems are one of the leading causes of relinquishment of dogs and cats. If your dog has a known behavior problem, don’t breed her.

Get to Know the Father

If your daughter brought home a boy that she was dating, wouldn’t you want to know a lot about him? That applies to anyone your dog is dating too! All of the health clearances that you made sure to get on your dog should also be completed on the potential sire. In addition, the temperament of that dog should be evaluated before breeding. Often, if you ask someone if their dog is aggressive, they will say "no." In many of those cases, with further questioning you will learn that the dog "doesn’t like" certain people, or the grandkids, or certain dogs. That translates in most cases to either fear or aggression. If the potential father has behavior problems, don’t breed to him.

My Dog Should Experience the Joy of Childbirth

This one always gets me. Do you really think that a dog wants to experience the joy of childbirth? Really?? I love being a mom more than anything else that I do, but the parts that I can say did not bring me joy were the 40 hours or labor and the cesarean section birth. If I had six babies instead of one, I don’t think that would have made it more joyous! Your dog will experience the wonders of life without giving birth to puppies.

I Want a Pup Like My Dog; if I Bred Her, I Could Get a Pup for Free

You might get a pup just like your dog or you might not. If you really want to have a dog just like your dog, have her cloned. That is your best bet. If you are looking to get a free pup, breeding is not the way to go. If you read this entire blog, you know that breeding a litter of pups can get pretty expensive.

Your dog is wonderful. There is no doubt. She brings you joy and love. These reasons alone, however, are not enough cause to breed her. Love her dearly and enjoy her. Then, get a rescue from the same breed and save a life.

Dr. Lisa Radosta

Image: Christian Mueller / via Shutterstock

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