When I first started looking at Labrador Retrievers I was looking for a dog that would make an excellent breeding dog. Breeding wasn’t my first plan but I wanted to have the option open just in case I really wanted to pursue dog breeding. My parents had bred Pomeranians and since I enjoyed it as a teen, I thought I might enjoy it again as an adult.
The first Labrador Retriever that we purchased was a male and we purchased him with full breeding rights. It was a big step and our male became a successful candidate as a stud dog for a service dog program. His puppies went on to work with autistic children. However, that was the extent of my breeding efforts and after purchasing a female Labrador Retriever and trying my hand at conformation, I realized that the life of dog breeding just wasn’t for me.
What many people don’t understand, and what I failed to see originally, is that breeding is a heavy responsibility. Sure, you can simply breed a dog to produce that one litter and there is always a reason why you should but for every reason to breed there are ten reasons not to breed. The main point about breeding “just one litter” is that most puppies from a “just one litter” end up in shelters or are euthanized. The puppies that are born usually have several health problems and many owners quickly realize that the work involved is just not worth it. This means that whole litters, along with their mothers are dropped off in front of shelters on a regular basis.
The first rule of becoming a breeder is to become a responsible dog breeder by helping control our pet populations and by ensuring that the population continues to be healthy. Improper breeding practices mean that dogs are born with more diseases and temperament and health problems so it is important to start off on the right foot.
Get to know your breed (er):
Before you begin breeding, it is important to understand the breed that you will be breeding. Know the qualities of a great dog and what the breed standard is. Also find out what problems the breed has a predisposition to and ways to avoid those problems.
Once you know your breed it is time to start networking. Go to dog shows and other dog events and start looking at the dogs that are there. Get to know the people handling the dogs and ask the questions that you have. Remember that the handlers are there to compete so they won’t want to answer questions when they are waiting at the side of the ring, instead wait until opportunities when they have or simply ask for their card so you can talk to them some other time.
At that point, you should find a breeder that will take you under his wing. This may take a bit of time but usually breeders are more than happy to help someone start out with breeding on the right foot.
Get those tests done:
As most dog owners know, purebred dogs often have a number of inherent diseases and conditions. These conditions are different depending on the breed and although some of the diseases cannot be controlled, a great number of them can be.
When you choose to be a dog breeder, it is important to use only the best breeding stock possible; using dogs that have diseases or inherent problems only means that the puppies will also have a greater risk of having the problems. When you purchase a puppy with the intentions of starting your breeding, make sure you take look for a quality breeder. If you have already established a long time relationship with the breeder already, he will be happy to help you in selecting a puppy and although many breeders have stipulations on breeding rights, if you are serious about breeding, then you will have no problem meeting those stipulations.
In regards to tests, there are some that are breed specific but most dog breeds should be have their eyes checked and certified yearly, hips and elbows certified, and yearly health exams at the very least.
Compete with those dogs:
I know that not everyone has the time to compete with your dog but breeding dogs that have obtained a title in one discipline or another simply reaffirms for both you, the breeder of your dog and the potential puppy owners that you are truly offering the best of the breed.
Understand the risk:
Many people often think of the end result when it comes to breeding; the cute little litter of puppies that they can love for 8 weeks before they ship them out to their new homes. Unfortunately, breeding is not as cut and dry as that. When my parents had their first litter of Pomeranian pups, the mother ended up with a serious illness a few days after delivery. We almost lost the dam and we got to enjoy a few weeks of hand feeding 3 puppies. Luckily her litter was small and everyone made it through but could you imagine having to hand feed a litter of 12 puppies.
Even if the female has such a severe problem after delivery, there can be thousands of other problems that will result in a hefty vet bill. Emergency c-sections are common for many dogs and whole litters can be lost throughout pregnancy and even shortly after delivery. One common complaint that I have heard from long time breeders is the number of puppies that they lose each litter. It is rare for all of the puppies to survive until they are weaned and ready for their new homes.
Lastly, not all puppies find a new home. A responsible breeder can be left with a puppy for up to 6 months or longer and some adults are returned to breeders if a home doesn’t work out.
Do it for the love of the breed:
The last point that I want to make about breeding is that it should be done for the love of the breed, not for any monetary gain. One breeder that I knew mentioned to me one time that she worked out the amount of work that went into raising a litter of puppies, combined that with all the overhead costs and figured out an hourly wage if she only worked a 40 hour week. The grand total for raising a litter of 8 puppies was .16 cents per hour.
As you can see, breeders are rarely compensated for the work that they do, well, except in the knowledge that they are bettering a breed and creating wonderful companions for many families.