© 2000 by Elaine C. Stevens -- All rights reserved
Permission to reprint normally granted, but please ask first :-)
So you want to be a Breeder! Okay, first
let us tell you about the responsibilities and consequences that come with being
a Breeder so you can be prepared. Oh, you don't want to be a Breeder,
just want to raise one litter?? Well, listen up -- breeding just ONE litter
makes you a Breeder, so please take time to seriously consider what you are
about to undertake BEFORE making the decision to bring more puppies into a world
that is already overpopulated with pets. It is not "wrong" to want to
be a Breeder; if there were no Breeders, then Aussies and other purebred dogs
would cease to exist. But breeding should be left to the sincere, knowledgeable,
ethical, conscientious breeders who truly care about the welfare of their
animals, the breed in general, and last but certainly not the least important
– the adoptive owners of pups from the litter.
Breeding dogs encompasses more than just
putting an intact male and intact female together and allowing them to mate. In
fact, the actual physical breeding is only a very small part of what breeding a
litter is all about. Preparation and planning begins months, or even years, in
advance of the mating, and continues for years afterwards. Remember that as its
Breeder, you are responsible for every puppy that is whelped. It is your duty to
ensure its welfare, to the best of your ability, for the rest of its life. So
before you breed, please ask yourself these questions:
Do my dogs
measure up physically?
The first thing that should be considered
is whether or not the two dogs you have chosen to mate are of the superior
quality that breeding stock should be. Only the very best examples of a breed
should be allowed to reproduce. We all love our dogs unconditionally and
naturally all of them are beautiful to us, but for breeding purposes forget that
they are your "darlings" and look at them with a critical eye. Just
because a dog is registered or has champion parents, or several champions in its
pedigree, does not mean that it is of superior quality. Normally only one or two
puppies from a litter are truly breeding quality; the others will have various
faults that make them unsuitable for breeding. Be objective in your assessment
of potential breeding stock in regard to both structure and temperament. If you’re
not familiar enough with the breed or breed standard to make an assessment, ask
a more experienced breeder to help you.
If your Aussie has passed the physical
assessment, what about genetics? Have its hips been checked and rated by OFA or
PennHip as free from hip dysplasia? Have its eyes been examined by a canine
ophthalmologist that is familiar with Aussies, and certified free of all
abnormalities? Are you familiar enough with your Aussie’s background to be
reasonably certain there are no familial tendencies for epilepsy, autoimmune
disorders, hemophilia, or other inherited
diseases? Is it free from other health
disorders which may not be inherited? Admittedly, there are some
disorders for which the mode of inheritance is not known, and therefore the
likelihood of occurrence cannot be predicted with 100% accuracy. However, hips
and eyes should definitely be cleared before breeding, and you should be as
certain as you can be, after diligent research, that your Aussie does not carry
any inherited diseases.
Why are you
What do you really hope to accomplish by
producing this litter? Here are some of the most common answers we’ve
"I want another dog
just like Missy, she’s the best dog we’ve ever had and I want one of her
puppies before she’s too old."
Think again. It won’t happen. No two dogs are alike. No two pups in the same
litter are alike. No two pups from the same cross but different litters are
alike. The offspring will resemble their parents but unless you’re into
cloning you won’t get another one exactly like Missy – ever. Their
behavioral and physical characteristics will be different, and if you are
looking for another one just like its parent, you will be disappointed.
"I thought it
would be nice to have a little extra money coming in from a litter of
pups." Whoa!!!! Think again
many times!! As any Breeder will tell you, if done correctly, breeding dogs is
NOT a money maker. Consider the health checks and genetic clearances your Aussie
must have even before the litter is bred. Then you have vet care and special
supplements for the bitch during pregnancy. Don’t forget the stud fee, if you
don’t own a suitable male. If you’re lucky, whelping will go smoothly and
normally. But there’s always the possibility of an emergency delivery
situation, a sick mother, sick puppies, (perhaps even NO surviving puppies) and
a HUGE vet bill. Then there’s food, health care, vaccinations, and parasite
treatments for mama and offspring, and advertisement for the litter. All this
must be paid BEFORE you sell the first puppy. And what if you can’t sell them
all? Or what if there are only one or two in the litter? You’ll lose money in
And this is perhaps the one we hear the
would like for the children to experience the birth and raising of a
litter." Please, PLEASE don’t raise a litter for your children’s
biological education. Yes, birth can be a beautiful thing, but it is also
painful, messy (sometimes downright gross), unpredictable, and comes at the most
inopportune times and ungodly hours of the night. Our bitches much prefer to be
left alone during this process, and certainly would not appreciate someone
staring at them as they give birth. Would you?? Some bitches become nervous and
agitated with so many people around, which can affect the births or the way she
cares for her newborns. Also think about this – do you want your children to
see the mother eating the afterbirth, which is a normal act? Do you want them to
see the birth of a deformed puppy which must be euthanized? Or see the mother
cry in agony as you attempt to help deliver a large puppy that is stuck half in
and half out?? And not all puppies are born alive, you know…how would your
children handle death as well as life?? What if the bitch is not a good mother,
and ignores or hurts her puppies? And don’t forget that bitches do sometimes
die while attempting to give birth. How would your children handle seeing this?
So are you prepared for them to see and handle tragedy, as well as joy??
How do you
plan to market your litter?
There are enough "just pets"
already out there -- just ask any rescue organization. If a litter is critiqued
honestly, there normally will be pups in a litter that are sold as pet
(non-breeding) quality anyway, so there's certainly no need to breed just for
pets. You need to have a specific purpose in mind for your litter - will you
offer them as working dogs? Obedience prospects? Conformation prospects? Search
and Rescue? Have the parents been proven in the area(s) in which you plan to
market their offspring?? Just because Aussies are a herding breed doesn't mean
all of them will work. And just because they're smart doesn't mean they will
make good obedience prospects. A good nose doesn't mean the pups will excel at
search and rescue or tracking. Many more things such as temperament,
trainability, and drive are involved.
Do you have the contacts needed in order
to sell your puppies to the right people? Are you involved in the local and
national breed clubs? Do you have any prospective owners lined up? It's best to
have three or four puppies reserved by deposit before breeding a litter. Many
new breeders find they don't have a reputation in the breed yet, and people
looking for competition dogs are reluctant to buy from them. Breeders often sell
dogs by referrals from other breeders, which a newcomer won't have. What will
you do if the puppies don't sell? Are you prepared to keep them until they do,
even if they're several months old before they go to their new home? If you have
even entertained the thought of selling them to a pet store or taking them to
the pound, you don't need to be breeding dogs. When you make the decision to
bring lives into the world, you are responsible for looking after them until a
suitable home is found, no matter how long it takes.
Do you have
It has been said that it takes over 130
hours of work, which is about two hours per day, to raise an average litter.
Personally, we think it takes more. If you decide to remain with the bitch
during labor and birth, be prepared for several hours of vigil and perhaps
sleepless nights and days off from work. Even though virtually all the puppy
care is up to the mother for the first several days, after then they rapidly
become more demanding of time and attention from the breeder. They must be
weighed, checked, and handled for socialization. Later you can add grooming and
kindergarten training (including crate and the beginning of house training) to
the list. Each puppy needs a minimum of fifteen minutes individual attention
each day. If there are eight pups in the litter, that's two hours right there!!
The delivery and nursery areas need frequent cleanings, and bedding must be
washed. At about three or four weeks of age the puppies begin to eat solid food
and the mother ceases to clean up after them. If the thought hasn't already
occurred to you, this is when you will realize that maybe breeding a litter
wasn't such a good idea after all. To say the puppies are messy and smelly at
this age is an understatement. Constant and diligent clean-ups and disinfecting
are necessary in order to keep everything as it should be. If you have any
abnormal situations, count on spending double the normal amount of time with
your litter. If you don't have the time to spend, you may wind up with dead
pups, or a sick bitch, or a sick bitch and sick pups; none of which is any fun.
At the very least your babies may be inadequately socialized or dirty -- which
is not appealing to a prospective buyer.
And don't forget the paperwork involved
-- litter registrations, pedigrees, answering inquiries. Not to mention the
hours spent interviewing prospective owners, either on the phone (another
expense -- long distance calls) or in person. Don't let anybody kid you --
breeding dogs is WORK.
Are you ready
for the responsibility?
In a sense, breeding a litter is like
having a child. You care for it when it's young, raise it up the best you can,
then send it on its way into the world, and then...sometimes it comes back to
you…. If you breed a litter you should be prepared to take back any puppy
which doesn't work out -- even if it's years down the road. You should always be
willing to offer a home to any dog you bred, no matter how old it is or its
physical condition. It is your responsibility for as long as it lives. What will
you do if someone returns a puppy or even an adult, and asks for a refund or
replacement? Are you prepared to give money back? Will you have other puppies to
replace it with? If not, you don't need to be breeding a litter.
Are you ready to take the responsibility
for each puppy, screen its prospective owners thoroughly, and turn down a buyer
if you don't feel it's the one for your puppy? Can you watch that money you
thought you would make walk away because you refused to sell a puppy - that you
know is not breeding quality - on full registration? It would be easy to just
let it go without checking that "Not For Breeding" box. But remember,
if you do that, this puppy will produce offspring, which will produce offspring,
ad infinitum. And you will be partly responsible.
You are responsible for keeping registry
records on each puppy for at least five years - color, sex, date sold, new
owner's name and address, and registration application number, among other
things. Breeding just one litter makes you eligible to be inspected, randomly
and without notice, by the registry officials. If your records are not in order
you can be subjected to suspension and/or fines. Are you prepared for this?
After reading this article, if you are
willing to do what it takes to be a responsible, dedicated, ethical breeder,
then we salute you and will do all we can to help you. If you don't think you or
your dogs quite "have it", or aren't willing to make the necessary
sacrifices, please leave the breeding to the professionals who understand and
LOVE breeding dogs -- or we wouldn't be doing it.