How to Breed Dogs

Six Parts:Deciding to BreedChoosing Which of Your Dogs to BreedExamining Your DogsStarting the Breeding ProcessDealing With the DeliveryTaking Care of the Puppies

Breeding dogs is not a casual undertaking. It can be very fulfilling and wonderful if you understand the responsibilities. Before you decide to start raising puppies, there are some decisions you need to make. You also need to consider the responsibilities and preparations.

Part 1
Deciding to Breed

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    Do your research. Before you can decide if you are ready and fit to breed, you need to do research. This will help you know what the process means and what you will have to do. Read books by reputable breeders or veterinarians. Talk to your veterinarian about the pros and cons. Talk to other reputable breeders about the realities of breeding.
    • Look for books written by veterinarians. Consider titles such as Canine Reproduction: A Breeder’s Guide, 3rd edition by Dr. Phyllis A. Holst or The Complete Book of Dog Breeding by Dr. Dan Rice.
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    Have the right reasons. The only responsible reason to breed is based on previous experience and research. If you have spent the last two or more years training, working and competing your dog, you are a good candidate for breeding dogs. Bringing high quality, healthy puppies into the world requires work and research.
    • You shouldn't breed dogs to sell them as pets. This is not a profitable or responsible way to breed. This reason creates a market, which unfortunately drives the many puppy farms found across the United States. Please be responsible and do not be someone who contributes to the pet overpopulation problem.
    • Breeding dogs properly and responsibly takes a lot of time and investment.
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    Examine your situation. Make sure you determine that you have an exceptional example of your breed. You do so with the help of experts. You want to improve the breed, so you need to have evidence that your dog is within the top 10% of the specific breed. You want your dog to contribute positively to the genetic pool.
    • Your dog should be healthy and talented. Your dog should also have a symmetrical physical appearance that matches up to the breed standards. Your dog should also have an exceptional temperament.[1]
    • You need to be prepared to live with the puppies for a minimum of 8 weeks before they leave your house for new homes. You need to know what time of the year the breeding may happen. This can help you figure out how it will affect you and your family.
    • Be prepared to keep all the puppies. You are responsible for their health and happiness. If for some reason you cannot get them all homes, you may have to keep them all.[2]
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    Learn what dogs are good to breed. There are a few types of dogs that are good candidates for breeding. There are also hereditary traits that can be valuable to pass down to new puppies as well. You can breed working dogs. Their talents are based on the dog's ability to retrieve and herd livestock or track prey. You can also breed show dogs, which are judged based on their physical appearance and behavior.
    • In working dogs, the tendency for a dog to be good at those jobs can be hereditary. The dam and sire dogs need to have proven track records out in the field. There are competitions to prove a dog is able to perform.
    • Your show dogs need to follow conformation. This is the standard of physical appearance for every dog breed. Every breed has a breed standard set by the American Kennel Club for the United States. Dogs bred to meet these standards are judged in a show ring against others to determine which dog best represents the breed’s standards.[3]
    • Other countries have their own breeding standards. If you plan to show is other countries, look for the conformation standards in the area.

Part 2
Choosing Which of Your Dogs to Breed

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    Choose your dog. You need to choose which of your dogs you are going to breed. You need to choose a dam, which is a female dog capable of having puppies. You also need a stud, which is a male dog you want to breed with a dam. You need to make sure they have the discussed characteristics.
    • You can also get a stud from a different breeder if you don't have one. Hiring a stud or purchasing semen costs money. Sometimes the arrangement allows the owner of the sire pick of the litter. Make sure that all agreements are written and signed so that there is a contract between all parties involved with the litter.
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    Determine their genetics. You should look into the dogs' genetic backgrounds. Examine the bloodline of your dogs to make sure they have good qualities in their bloodline. For purebred dogs, you can obtain their bloodlines from the American Kennel Club or other registering authority. You must also ensure the pair are not directly related to prevent genetic defects of inbreeding.
    • You should have your dog and the dog you want to breed them with tested for genetic problems associated with their breed. The Orthopedic Foundation of America (OFA) manages a database of dogs and their test results for genetic problems like hip and elbow dysplasia, eye conditions, patellar luxation, and heart problems. You do not want to breed dogs with health conditions that can be passed on to the next generation.[4]
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    Observe their temperament. Watch the dogs you want to breed to examine their behavior. This should be with each other as well as other dogs. Breeding friendly, well balanced dogs tends to increase the chances of the puppies having similar temperaments. Aggressive and overly fearful dogs should not be bred. They are dangerous.[5]
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    Check the dogs' ages. You need to be sure that your dogs are breeding age. Most dogs need to around 2 years old. Many genetic issues will show up by 24 months of age. You can have these screened in specific tests. For example, the OFA will not accept the x-rays of dogs until 24 months for hip dysplasia evaluation and grading. To breed successfully, your dogs will need permanent identification in the form of a microchip or a tattoo to be able to submit testing data for evaluation by the OFA and other entities. They want to make sure there is no way to falsify the results.[6]
    • Dams begin their heats, or estrus cycles, between 6 and 9 months. They go into heat every 5-11 months after their first cycle. Most breeders do not breed a dam until she is 2 years old and has had 3 or 4 cycles. This is the point where she is fully mature. She is also physically able to endure the stress of carrying and delivering pups.

Part 3
Examining Your Dogs

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    Take your dogs to the vet. Before you breed your dog, you need to have the dog checked by your veterinarian. Make sure that your dog is up to date on vaccinations. Her antibodies will be passed on to the puppies through her milk. These antibodies protect the puppies from getting sick.
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    Know your dog's medical history. If your dog has unknown medical problems, it can change your breeding plans. Small breed dogs can have genetic conditions that you want to understand before breeding. The puppies are likely to have the same problems, or worse. Issues can include dental problems such as malocclusions, a condition where the upper and lower jaws do not meet together properly. They can be prone to dislocation in their knee caps, hip or elbow dysplasia, and spine problems such as disc rupture. They may also have allergies leading to skin and ear infections, heart conditions, eye problems, or behavior problems.[7]
    • Make sure that your dog is on a deworming program. Roundworms, Hookworms and Heart worms can be passed from the mom dog to the puppies.[8]
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    Have a breeding soundness exam. You need to have your animals checked to make sure they are able to breed. This may include a semen analysis for your male dog. For example, these tests can find genetic problems as well as contagious diseases like Brucellosis. Before breeding a sire or dam, Brucellosis testing is recommended to make sure neither dog is a carrier and could pass it on to the other.

Part 4
Starting the Breeding Process

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    Wait for the dam to go into heat. Your dam needs to be in heat before she can be bred. The timing is not set in stone, so watch you dam to know when this happens. The dam's genital area will begin to swell and there may be a bloody discharge. If you have the stud in a nearby pen, he will get more excited and interested in the female.
    • The dam will not accept the stud until she is ready to breed. She may even snap at him to keep him away until she is ready. Do not let your dogs get injured. Monitor them closely when they are together.
    • Typically, the female will be receptive about 9-11 days into the heat cycle and allow the sire to mount and mate her.
    • If you have difficulty getting your dam bred, your veterinarian can do Progesterone testing. This helps find out when she is in estrus and her body is ready to accept semen. Progesterone levels will rise 1-2 days before ovulation. Some dams will have silent heat cycles which make estrus difficult to detect and Progesterone testing will help pin down ovulation timing.[9]
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    Consider artificial insemination. Artificial insemination can help you breed your dog if you don't have a stud. Frozen dog semen can be shipped around the world stored in liquid nitrogen. Specific steps are taken to thaw it and inseminate the female dog. You may need to consider this if the pair you chose cannot seem to breed naturally.
    • This can be problematic because It raises questions about the potential problems for the next generation’s breeding soundness.
    • In really special cases, semen can be surgically implanted into the uterus by a veterinarian with the dam under anesthesia. Of course, these extra procedures increase the cost of each pregnancy and each puppy in the litter.[10]
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    Keep your dam healthy. When you are sure the dam has been bred, you can separate her from the stud. You need to feed her a balanced diet. You can also give her supplemental vitamins, such as calcium. These are typically recommended by your vet.
    • This needs to happen over the course of the pregnancy. The gestation period for dogs is 58-68 days.
    • Keep the dam's kennel free of infestations such as fleas. Clean it regularly and provide lots of fresh water and clean bedding.
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    Notice changes to your dam. The nipples and mammary glands undergo changes during pregnancy. Toward the end of pregnancy, the mammary glands will start to fill with milk. During the last three weeks of her pregnancy, she will require extra nutrition. Discuss proper nutrition with your veterinarian.
    • Typically, the pregnant female is fed puppy food during the last three weeks of pregnancy. This provides her with adequate calories and nutrition for the growing fetuses and helps prepare her for lactation.

Part 5
Dealing With the Delivery

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    Prepare a whelping box. A whelping box is what will be used to deliver the puppies. This box should be about 6 inches (15.2 cm) longer than the female when she is lying prone, and a foot or so wider. It should have a rail to prevent her from laying on the pups after they are born.
    • Place alternating layers of plastic sheeting and newspapers in the bottom of the box. This helps keep it cleaner when the bottom becomes soiled. You can just slide out a layer of paper and a sheet of plastic, leaving a clean one in its place. Include clean towels or other bedding that can be easily laundered.
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    Be alert. You need to be aware of when the time for delivery is near. Educate yourself on the stages of labor. Once she starts delivering puppies, monitor her for strong contractions longer than 30-45 minutes that do not produce a puppy. This may signal complications during the delivery.
    • Having x-rays done at 45 days of gestation will allow your veterinarian to count how many fetal skeletons are present. This also shows if there are any abnormally large puppies inside that may cause problems delivering. This information will prepare you and your veterinarian for the possibility of a c-section and give you an idea of how many puppies to expect.
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    Keep the pups warm. When the puppies are born, you need to keep them warm. You also need to make sure they are all able to nurse. Examine them for birth defects like a cleft palate. The roof of a puppy’s mouth should be complete, with no evidence of a separation of the oral tissue. The dam will clean the pups and help the puppies get into position to nurse.
    • If there is a cleft palate, milk will go from the mouth into the nasal passages. If it is a severe enough situation, the puppy should be euthanized because they will not survive.
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    Record the birth. Write down the birth date, total number of pups, and the number of each sex. If you are planning on registering the litter with organizations such as the AKC, you can do so online. You will need the registration numbers of the dam and sire when filling out the form.

Part 6
Taking Care of the Puppies

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    Monitor the puppies. Watch the puppies carefully the first few weeks, making sure they stay clean and warm. Also make sure they are getting enough milk. Weigh the puppies on a gram scale daily to ensure that they are gaining weight. Healthy puppies should be absolutely clean, active, and have full bellies. Puppies should gain about 10% of their body weight per day for the first 2 weeks of life.
    • At about 4 weeks, they will begin to get very active. The whelping box will no longer be large enough. Give them a larger, safe enclosure to explore. The dam will likely leave them alone for longer periods of time. You can start weaning the puppies on to soaked puppy kibble at this time.[11]
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    Take them to the vet. Take the puppies to the vet when they are 7 to 8 weeks old. The veterinarian will give them their first vaccinations. These include Distemper, Hepatitis, Parvo, and Para influenza or DHPP. They are also treated for worms. Flea and heartworm prevention should be discussed.
    • Have your veterinarian check for other health or hereditary problems as well. A responsible breeder will provide this information to the new owners of the puppies so that the new family can properly complete the puppy’s vaccination series during the recommended time frame.
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    Screen new puppy owners. This process needs to be done carefully. You want to make sure that you are sending the puppy to a great home. The new family should be responsible and prepared to devote time, energy, and resources to the new dog.
    • Consider a home inspection. Be prepared to turn down a family if they are not a good fit for one of your puppies. [12]
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    Create a contract. When you find the right puppy owners, you should draw up a contract with them. Make sure to include any health guarantees that you are providing and what the limitations of those may be. Include that the family must return the puppy to you should they be unable to keep it for any time during the pet’s life.
    • You should also Indicate whether the puppy was sold as a pet or a breeding prospect and if there are any requirements for spaying/neutering by a specific age.[13][14]

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