So you want to breed a litter.
Before you breed a litter there is a lot of planning that needs to be done.
- First question you should ask yourself is why am I breeding? Could I get the same result by purchasing a puppy?
- Secondly you should ask yourself can you afford it? It is not just the stud fee you need to take into account, you also need to be prepared for what can go wrong. Recently, I had a litter which I got very little change out of $4000 and I only had 3 puppies for my efforts. Most vets want their money upfront or within 7 days. Do you have this money available?.
- Then you need to ask yourself, am I prepared for the worst? Meaning you could loose the whole litter, in rare cases you could even loose your bitch.
- Will I be strong enough emotionally? Dog breeding can be heart breaking.
- If you show your dog, her show career could be over if you have to have a C section due complications, there is a possibility of the uterus rupturing. You may also face having your bitch being desexed at the same time.
All this to consider and you have not even thought about the stud dog yet. What do you look for? How do you know what is right for your bitch? How is it going to work? How much will it cost?
Well lets look at your bitch. You need to be honest with yourself. a good stud dog is not a magic wand, no matter what accolades he may have, he can not fix the unfixable. Your bitch needs to be like a quality canvas to build on, so the better the quality of the canvas, the better the artwork. If you truly can not assess your dog honestly, or if you have not had much experience, it is wise to approach an experienced person who is renown for their integrity and has a track record of quality breeding. You need to consider questions such as
Is she true to type? She may be beautiful and cute and the people in your street and your friends and family may love her and constantly tell you she is a fine specimen and you should breed her. That is all nice to hear and it is wonderful that she is loved and adored by the people who know her, every dog deserves that. However, that being said does not make her true to type, unless those people know and understand the Stafford standard their loving admiration has no bearing on her true quality.
Does she meet the standard? Is she a bitch that has been bred to the standard and does she meet 95-99% of the standard requirements? are the deviation from the standard minor faults or are they serious faults?. Remember when breeding, the faults your bitch has carries a risk that she will pass them on to her puppies. Get to know and understand the standard, talk to ethical breeders who understand the standard completely. Be prepared for an honest evaluation, you may learn that your bitch does not meet the quality required for good breeding. That does not mean she is not a beautiful dog, she is still the same pet you have always loved that does not change.
What virtues does she possess? Know her strengths, does she excel in any areas? Do her strengths out weigh any faults or weakness she may have? Again you may need to consult an expert.
what is behind her? Do you know anything about her family heritage, what has been produced from her mother and father and her grandparents you should check at least 3 generations more if possible, have there been puppies born with major illness or faults if so you may need to DNA test your bitch before you breed her. Research is required, I guess the picture is getting bigger then Ben Hur now.
How much do you know about her blood lines? Have you researched her blood lines that is her family history. Is she line breed or is she and out cross? Line breeding is where the blood line is kept fairly tight within the same family blood lines so her mother (Dam) and Father (sire) have common relatives such as grandparents or great grandparents. Out crossing is where the connection are distant or not at all in recent history. a dog can be considered an out cross where they share very loose blood connection such as great grand parents being second cousins etc.
Do I look at line breeding or looking at out crossing? This would depend on the bloodlines of your bitch, the strength of her breeding and type. Does she come from strong linage that is typical of the breed and is she virtuous are questions you need to consider. You need to understand what you are trying to introduce to your line. The problem with outcrossing is that if you do not do it properly you can end up with a litter that is like a lucky dip. In saying this no pure breed dog is a complete outcross you will find they all share common heritage if you go back far enough.
So to recap What we have explored so far have I ask myself the right questions about breeding? Have I checked the history of my dogs family and does she come from good stock? Is my bitch of standard and correct type and has no major health issues? and what do i know about line breeding and out crossing and virtues and weakness?
Questions who would have thought there would be so many.
Once you have assessed your bitch you need now to find a dog that compliments her. That is not necessarily the dog that’s winning in the ring at the minute, he may well be a beautiful specimen of the breed, but, may not be the right dog for your bitch.
You need to do the same assessment on every potential stud dog as you have on your bitch, If possible go look at his Sire and Dam and the grand parents. If he has sired a litter previously check them out look at their mother is she a similar type to yours. Planning a litter is a marathon if done correctly.
Familiarize yourself with the standard, understand it, there is a difference between being able to recite it and actually understanding what it means. Go to breed seminars talk to as many people as possible. “Remember Marathon”
Learn about health issues and genetic faults that are common in the breed understand them and do research so you can identify tell tale signs when something is wrong.
Do you know what a dog with HD looks like or what characteristics indicate a dog may suffer from HD, in saying that you need to be able to tell the difference between the dog having a sore leg or a sore back and an actual health issue. Dogs are no different to us they can hurt themselves, so you need to know the tell tail signs of a continued problem for your own dog as well as other dogs you may think of using.
At the same time don’t be a fault finder no dog is perfect, we need to look at the dog in its entirety and what value it would add to your breed plan. I would never use a dog who has a health issue but, a cosmetic fault can be forgive if its virtue is excellent in total.
Never allow colour, personal politics or relationships influence what is best for the breed and your breed program. Just because you don’t like someone does not mean they can’t breed good dogs, or their dog is not a possible sire for a future litter. Our dogs do not buy into human politics, nor should your choice of blood lines, as we are breeding for the breed itself, not for our glory or personal popularity.
Listen to everyone as each person can teach you something, take from it what you want or what you think will help you. Sometimes the person that helps you the most is the person who tells you what you don’t want to hear. If some one tells you something you don’t like, think about what they have said and assess whether or not what they have said is relevant. Take the emotion away from your breeding mind, emotions and what is the right thing to do rarely result in positive results, your emotions are not objective and when breeding you need to be.
There are very few dogs in the show ring that do not offer virtue and there are definitely none that are perfect, so try to be open minded when people are giving you feedback about your animals. Sometime people will give you feedback to you even when you are not wanting their opinion, however, you may just find a truth in their words, that may be the ace that you can keep and learn from. At the end of the day you are responsible for the print you leave on the breed if you breed well then you have done the breed Justice but if you breed poorly it will take generation to fix the problems you create.
Original work By Keelford Staffords