So you want to breed your dog?
I have seen a few new people asking about breeding their dog and inevitably puppy owners are curious so here is a brief guide. It is much more involved than simply having a male and female dog and letting them mate.
First off, you should only breed your dog (male or female) if they and you are going to produce healthy puppies that can succeed in the world. If we have any chance to keep having purebred dogs in our society, we need to do the best job we can. It may seem like breeding your dog could be a fairly easy way to make some money while helping your friends get nice pets, but it is important to step back and do the right things to ensure the best outcomes. Even if you only want to breed one litter, those puppies deserve the best, and it is your responsibility as a dog lover to give it to them. Yes, there are people out there doing a less than stellar job. But to be quite honest, it is imperative that we care for the dogs as much as they care for us. How a puppy’s parents are raised and how the puppy is raised quite literally influences their DNA and future generations.
Crossing your dog with another breed is unlikely to generate consistent healthy puppies. Dogs with thick undercoats like Swissies crossed with “no shedding” dogs like poodles often create puppies who both shed and get deeply matted hair. Crossbreds also do have higher risks of some health issues, and certainly no lower risks. Breeding dogs is a love and a job- it requires a huge amount of education, time, money and heartbreak. People do make money breeding eventually, but those are people with a great deal of experience. The first few litters you are likely to lose a lot of money, sleep and tears!
There are many more details to the actual breeding, whelping and puppy raising, but this is an important list of steps if you are considering it.
1. Join the local and national breed clubs
2. Go to dog shows, meet breeders and find someone you mesh with who can mentor you- it is amazing how much you will learn and need help with
3. Be prepared that your first dog may not work out for breeding- their conformation may not turn out well, or they may have a health issue that could be passed on. This can be heartbreaking, but is something to be prepared for. I would also stress to bitch owners that there is always a chance you could lose your bitch during whelping, and losing one or more puppies is likely. Having a hard heart is important.
4. Be prepared that your mentor/breeder may want to remain co-owner on your dog- this varies with the person what this relationship will be like, so ask!!!
5. Start showing your dog- your dog needs to have their Championship with AKC to know that their conformation is appropriate for their breed. It is also an important way to meet other breeders.
6. Go to some performance events and dog training classes- this will help establish your dog as desirable to have puppies from and help you learn how to train puppies (there is a surprising amount of training that you need to do with puppies before they go home.)
7. Your dog will need to have all appropriate health testing (most after 2 yo, some can be done after 18 m)- they will need to have at a minimum xrays of their hips, shoulders and elbows that get sent to OFA for grading, and an eye exam by an ophthalmologist. There are currently no DNA marker tests for GSMD that are recommended/needed, but this may change in the future.
8. If they do not pass one or more of the health tests, you probably should not breed- occasionally experienced breeders do and find a match that decreases likelihood of issues but it is not recommended new people do this.
9. Other things like allergies, seizures and temperament issues are also genetic, so we need to be honest with ourselves (and each other) to avoid this.
10. Talk to people to find a good mate for your dog- if you have a prospective stud dog, get Alison to put you on the GSMD stud list. If you have a bitch, then ask your mentor and other breeders who would pair well with her. Pick a stud dog you have met and like.
11. Track your bitch’s heat cycles so you know approximately when she will come in. Swissy bitches are only really fertile from about 2yo-5yo.
12. Bitches are typically in heat for about 14-20 days, although this can vary. They are fertile and will need to be bred near the end of that time, but you will need to have blood testing done with your vet every few days through the cycle to determine exactly when she is ready to breed. Make sure to find a vet and establish a relationship well before she is due to come into heat so that you are prepared.
13. Stud dog owners should be prepared for bitches to need collection/mating with only a few days notice- this can be a challenge getting your dog to a vet to be collected if he is to have shipped semen or to have to drive to meet a bitch owner. Stud dogs who have not been collected several times before will need a bitch in heat to help them figure out what to do, so make sure to have these conversations well ahead of time and find a vet clinic with an experienced reproductive department. Semen can be shipped next day via Fedex with the proper measures, although often first time breedings are better done with both male and female together.
14. Often Swissies need AI so an experienced vet or breeder is important to have around (and their equipment!)
15. Dogs can be bred with frozen semen but this requires extra time, expertise and expense so make sure to think hard and talk to your vet about this.
16. Once the bitch is bred (usually twice a few days apart) you will need to wait 4 weeks or so to get an ultrasound to see if she is pregnant. She should be on normal premium food during her pregnancy although some supplement bitches with folic acid at the beginning. Generally they should not be fed extra unless they start to get thin.
17. She will need an x-ray done with your vet 5-6 days before she is due to determine how many puppies she is carrying
18. Discuss plans for whelping with your vet- it is not uncommon at all for Swissies to need c-sections due to uterine inertia, so if your vet is not able to do that, they should know of an emergency facility to send you to.
19. You will need a whelping box such as Dura-Whelp or EZ whelp, warming pads and lots of other supplies
20. You will need to plan to be with the puppies 24/7 for the first 2-3 weeks. This means if you need to take a shower, someone should be designated to watch the puppies. It is very easy for a large bitch to lie on a puppy and kill them inadvertently.
21. You will need to get Puppy Culture or Avidog and do all the puppy raising and training protocols to ensure success
22. Your mentor can help you find good homes, but generally talking to puppy buyers and making sure that they are right for the breed combined with a website to give them information is helpful
23. You will need to provide lifetime support to your puppy people- if something goes wrong with their puppy physically or training or the person gets sick and cannot care for them, you need to step in and take care of that dog.
24. Stud dog owners typically get a fee per puppy up to a maximum of the cost of a puppy although this should be negotiated ahead of time. It is expected that the bitch owner pay for vet collection or shipping fees. It is helpful for stud owners to work with the bitch owner as much as possible to make the breeding happen- it may seem a pain to drop everything and drive for hours at a days notice, but this is much less of a pain than raising the pups, trust me!!