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Should you breed your female dog?

By Michele Welton, Dog Trainer, Breed Selection Consultant, Author of 15 Dog Books

female Golden Retriever nursing her puppies

Even if you weren't planning on breeding your dog repeatedly, you might have wondered if you should let your female have just one litter, perhaps for her health and well-being?

No. Your female does not – absolutely does not – need to have puppies in order to be happy or healthy.

In fact, just the opposite is true. Female dogs carrying puppies or trying to birth puppies can suffer infections and complications that can make them miserable or even kill them. Imagine the guilt you would feel, losing your beloved dog so unnecessarily.

Pros and cons of breeding a female dog

Here are the pros (pluses) of breeding your dog:

  • You might get cute puppies.

Here are the cons (negatives):

  • Responsible breeding is expensive.
  • Responsible breeding takes a lot of time and effort.
  • Breeding can be stressful and heartbreaking.
  • Breeding won't improve your female's personality.
  • Breeding won't produce puppies just like your female.
  • Breeding takes homes away from needy dogs already born.

Let's look at those negatives in more detail.

Responsible breeding is expensive

Official health tests.  You must find out if your female has any hidden health problems that could be passed on to her puppies. Different tests are recommended for different breeds, but include hip and elbow x-rays, and specialized tests for hereditary disorders of the eyes, heart, liver, kidneys, digestive tract, or thyroid.

The proper tests can cost several hundred dollars. But hereditary health problems have become an epidemic  in many breeds because so many irresponsible people are breeding their dogs without doing these required health tests.

Stud fee.  Sure, you might promise a puppy to the stud dog owner instead of a fee.... but then you're out what someone else would have paid for that pup. Or you might think you can save money by using your own male as the stud dog. But then you have to pay for all the official health screenings for HIM, too.

Norwegian ElkhoundVeterinary costs.  Infections can occur during pregnancy and after whelping. A C-section may be required – super expensive. In some breeds, fragile puppies  (needing ongoing medical care to save their lives) are very common. In some breeds, the puppy mortality rate is shockingly high.

veterinarianFood costs.  A nursing female eats twice as much meat as normal, and weaning puppies gobble up meat like there's no tomorrow.

And your costs don't necessarily end once you've sold the puppies! Depending on your contract, you'll need to pay for the treatment of puppies who develop health problems covered by your guarantee. If you refuse to pay, the new owner may sue you. Win or lose, lawsuits cost time and money to defend.

Responsible breeding takes time and effort

Learning about genetics.  If you don't know what a coefficient of inbreeding  is, you're not ready to produce a litter of puppies.

Researching pedigrees.  A pedigree is only a written list of names. You need to learn about the actual dogs  behind those names. What health problems did they have? What was their temperament like?

Finding a suitable male.  You'll need to put in time and effort evaluating (and rejecting) male dogs whose owners are eager to breed them. A male's pedigree must be compared with your female's; when bred together, what will the coefficient of inbreeding be for the litter? The male should have the same excellent temperament and health tests as your female.

Sadly, 99% of these so-called "stud dogs" have not been tested for ANYTHING.  All they might have is a stupid general health certificate, which is worthless. It says nothing  about genetic health problems that can be passed on to the puppies. These would-be fathers are not ready for breeding!

Facilitating the actual breeding.  Often it takes several trips to the stud dog's home to make sure the breeding "takes". In dogs, there's only a small fertility window of a few days twice a year.

Waiting at the vet's office.  According to Murphy's Law, problems during pregnancy and whelping usually occur in the middle of the night on a holiday weekend. During a blizzard. When your car won't start.

piles of newspapersTending to the puppies.  Preparing food. Replacing dirty newspapers all through the day. You may need to get up at night to do supplemental feeding by tube or bottle.

Doing paperwork.  Registration applications, advertisements to sell the pups, sales contracts and health guarantees so you're covered legally.

"Qualifying" prospective owners.  That means answering emails and phone calls. You must ask the right questions: "Are you willing to feed this puppy real food? Do you have toddlers? A fenced yard? Is someone home all day? What happened to your past dogs?" Some of your questions will annoy prospective buyers and your conversations may become arguments. This can be stressful, to say the least.

You will find it very difficult to find buyers who will care for your beloved puppies the way you now know they should be cared for. Too many buyers let their vet make all the decisions, subjecting the pups to feeding and vaccination practices that are awful. (If you've been reading my free health care book, in order, you've learned about those things.)

Meeting prospective owners.  You'll wait all day for people who never show up. Others will make it past your qualifying questions on the phone, but when they show up, you don't like them. They reek of alcohol and cigarette smoke. They handle the puppies roughly. Their kids are spoiled brats. Their other dog is standing in the open bed of their pick-up truck, barking his head off.

When your goal is to place puppies carefully, you will have to turn some people down. Do you have the social skills to get them out of your house tactfully, without finding your tires slashed the next morning?

Handling problems after the sale.  When their new puppy is misbehaving, buyers will call you for help. When they have to move, or they lose their job, or they bring home a new baby, or their mother-in-law moves into their spare bedroom, they might want you to take the dog back.

Are you willing and able to take all your pups back (at whatever age, complete with existing health or behavioral problems) and find new homes for them?

Breeding can be stressful and heartbreaking

RIP gravestoneYou may lose your female.  Dogs die trying to give birth, or shortly thereafter. Can you really handle this kind of guilt? Your dog was happy and healthy and full of life.... until you decided that you wanted puppies.

Puppies may be born dead or deformed.  Mummy puppies  are all shriveled up. Water puppies  have no skeleton and appear full of gelatin. Puppies can be born with missing eyes or limbs, or cleft palates (a hole in the roof of their mouth so they can't eat), or hydrocephalus (fluid on their brain). It's sad to witness, especially if you have children.

Puppies may slowly weaken and die.   It's heartbreaking trying to save "fading puppies" who die for no apparent reason.

The worst anxiety is when a puppy leaves.  What if the home you chose isn't as good as it seems? What if they neglect this puppy who knew nothing but loving care in your home? What if they sell him to someone else? What if they feed him crappy food? What if they leave the front door open, or the gate near the pool?

It's hard to find homes as careful and responsible as yours. You're  reading a book about caring properly for your dog. Most people who want a dog don't even bother.

Breeding won't improve your female's personality

shy dogIt's a myth that a shy or nervous female will become more confident if you "let her be a mother." Females who show increased confidence when they're caring for a litter do so because of maternal hormones.... which don't last. Once their hormonal levels subside, shy females become shy again.

Even worse, many nervous females continue to act nervous while caring for their litter. Since pups tend to mimic their mother's behavior, this sets a terrible example for them.

Finally, if shyness is actually part of your female's genes, she may pass those genes along to her puppies. The pups won't show it for many months, but eventually they will.

The moral is this.... a timid, nervous, insecure, or shy female should NEVER be bred.

Breeding won't produce puppies just like your female

If you're hoping to get a puppy just like your female, the chances are slim to none. In each puppy, half of its genes come from its father. So unless the male is a genetic clone of your female, you can only get half of your female in each puppy.

If you want another dog who looks like your female, go back to the breeder and get another pup from the same parents.

Also, much of what you love about your female is her personality  (her habits, quirks, idiosyncrasies).

But personality is not inherited. Certain behavioral traits  (herding, hunting, protectiveness) can be inherited. General temperament  (confident, shy, outgoing, nervous, independent) can be inherited. But personality is unique to each individual dog.

Breeding takes homes away from needy dogs already born

  • Visit your humane society and walk along the rows of cages.
  • Attend one of the "Adopt a Dog" days sponsored by your local pet store, where local rescue groups bring some of their dogs who need homes.
  • Visit the web sites of rescue groups and animal shelters and look at the photos.
  • Watch a few videos on the Hope For Paws rescue channel on YouTube.

After looking at the hopeful faces and wagging tails of all those dogs who desperately need homes...

Do you really NEED to create more lives and take homes away from these dogs who are already here and running out of time?

Michele Welton with BuffyAbout the author: Michele Welton has over 40 years of experience as a Dog Trainer, Dog Breed Consultant, and founder of three Dog Training Centers. An expert researcher and author of 15 books about dogs, she loves helping people choose, train, and care for their dogs.

My best-selling books – now available  FREE  on my website

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book coverTeach Your Dog 100 English Words is a unique Vocabulary and Respect Training Program that will teach your adult dog to listen to you and do what you say. Click here to read for free.
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