Everyone who has owned a dog has thought about having a litter of puppies. Here are some of the most common reasons pets owners give when asked why they want to breed their pets, along with a few facts that need to be considered.
1. "My dog has AKC papers. It should be bred."
This is a common misconception. AKC papers are worth exactly what they are printed on. The AKC is a registry only, not a regulatory agency. They require no proof of health or quality to issue papers. All AKC papers tell you is who the parents of the dog are, they are not a "license to breed."
2. "I paid $XXX.XX dollars for him/her. I'd like to make that back."
According to a recent survey by the American Kennel Club, the average litter of pups looses approximately $2500.00! There are so many hidden costs that the pet owner may not think about such as prenatal exams for the bitch, extra food for her when she is pregnant, food for the puppies once they're weaned, the puppies first shots, time off of work to care for the bitch when she's in whelp; the list goes on. What if the dam should run into medical problems? According to the same survey, 63% of the bitches bred suffer medical problems endangering their and/or their puppies' lives. C-sections, antibiotics, milk replacement for puppies, etc, all cost a lot of money. Most pet owners buy their dogs for pleasure. Do people really expect something bought for enjoyment to "pay for itself?" If someone bought a pretty gold ring, would they shave off little pieces of gold and make earrings so they could sell them and "get their money back?" Of course not! Then why must a dog, who gives so much and asks so little, have to justify its existence by "paying for itself?"
3. "You need to let them have a litter before they are spayed." or "I want her to experience motherhood."
These are nothing more than old wives tales. The benefits of spaying a bitch before her first season out weigh those of leaving her intact. A bitch left intact suffers a greater chance of contracting diseases and living a shorter life. A spayed bitch has no chance of developing pyometria, endometrosis, uterine and ovarian cancer and has a much lesser chance of developing mammary cancer, one of the more common canine cancers. As for "experiencing motherhood", bitches have no sense of maternal "needs." Their desire to reproduce is strictly an instinctive response to hormonal fluctuation.
4. "But I don't want to rob my dog of his manhood. He won't hunt or guard the house."
The pet owner should not confuse the canine sexual act with human sexual fulfillment. There is no "love" involved with canines, it is purely an instinctive hormonal response. Dogs do not need their reproductive organs or a sexual experience to "make their life complete." A neutered male makes a far superior pet. He will not roam in search of bitches in season, he will have less tendency to mark his territory with urine and he will be less likely to get into fights. He will not develop cancer of the testes and he will suffer far less prostate and urinary tract problems. He will make a better watch dog because he will be less inclined to wander off and will stay home where he is needed. If he is a hunting dog, you can be sure he won't be distracted by the scent of a bitch in season! The list of benefits goes on and on.
5. "But if I have my pet fixed he (or she) will get fat!"
A neutered or spayed pet will not get fat simply from the surgery. A pet only gets fat if an owner over feeds it. When an animal is neutered, its metabolism slows down, therefore it requires fewer calories. If the owner continues to feed the pet the same amount of food after the surgery as before, it is very likely the pet will gain weight. The owner needs to limit the amount of food the pet gets as well as maintaining a healthy amount of exercise.
6. "I want my children to witness the miracle of life."
Are the children ready for the miracle of death as well? As stated earlier, 63% of bitches bred suffer problems. Many times these problems are fatal for the puppies and/or the mother as well. Puppies can be born dead or die from complications at birth. Dams can retain placentas, develop eclampsia, go into uterine inertia or die during a c-section. The list of possible problems is very long. If the potential mother is a treasured family pet, why would anyone want to put her into a dangerous situation? Buy the kids a book, it's cheaper, safer and far more humane.
7. "I work all day, but I don't need to worry about being there when she whelps. Back on the farm, our dog had her puppies out in the barn and no one ever helped."
The dog has been a domestic animal for centuries. Man has shaped it into many different breeds and types. Because of this, it is no longer a wild animal that can reproduce with no help from man. Some breeds can rarely even breed naturally and must be artificially inseminated. The bitch does need assistance, even if it is just someone to watch and make sure she is not in trouble. On a regular basis, veterinarians see bitches that have been in hard labor for 36 hours or longer with no results. Usually, the owners will say they didn't realize she was in labor, or that they thought she could "do it all alone." The poor animals and the puppies they carry rarely ever survive. Even well-cared for bitches can have problems. Eclampsia can develop very quickly and will kill the dam if the owner doesn't seek veterinary assistance immediately. Then the owner is left with orphaned newborns that must be bottle fed every three hours, around the clock. How many pet owners have the time to devote to this? A pet owner who would let the puppies die rather than taking proper care of them had no right to breed them in the first place.
8. "The vet says my dog is perfectly healthy."
The special tests required to diagnose hereditary problems are not normally part of a routine veterinary check up. Hip dysplasia is a hereditary, crippling disorder that has been diagnosed in virtually all AKC recognized breeds. It can be as mild as a 4 or 5 year old with a little stiffness on a cold morning or as severe as a 6 month old that can't get up and walk. Rottweilers, Bullmastiffs, Saint Bernards and Staffordshire Terriers are just a few of the breeds which have a particularly high incidence of this disorder. The only way you can be sure your dog is not afflicted with the disease is to have a special radiograph taken and sent off to the Orthopedic Foundation For Animals (OFA) where they will be read and evaluated. Hereditary eye diseases which can cause blindness are also a big problem in many AKC breeds such as the American Cocker Spaniel, the Siberian Husky, the Poodle, the Collie, and the Labrador Retriever. In most cases, these diseases can only be detected by a special exam performed by a canine ophthalmologist. There are also inherited blood and heart disorders that can severely shorten a dog's life and/or require it to be on medication for the rest of its life.
All these things can be prevented if people would just take the time to test the dogs they want to breed. Not just the health needs to be checked, but the quality of the animal needs to be taken into consideration. This is especially hard to do with a much-loved pet. A pet that is too large, too small, bites when being groomed, has a coat which is too long or too short is not a good representative of the breed. These traits are hereditary. How would someone feel if they bought a Shetland Sheepdog and it grew up to be as large as a Great Dane or if they purchased a Cocker Spaniel that bit every time they tried to brush it? It certainly wouldn't be what they expected or wanted, yet someone bred it and sold it to them as a purebred dog. It happens every day.
Several years ago, the Cocker Spaniel fell from the first place in popularity because it developed some severe hereditary temperament and health problems. They became nasty dogs that bit with little provocation and "hyper" dogs that urinated when excited. They developed tremendous hereditary eye problems that cause blindness as well as hip and joint problems that cause lameness. Who was to blame? John Q. Public who insisted on breeding dogs without doing any testing and with no regard to quality. Fortunately for the Cocker, there was a staunch group of fanciers who managed to preserve the health and "merry " temperament that makes the cocker such an endearing pet. Due to the hard work of these individuals, the American Cocker is back in the top ten. Unfortunately, once again, cockers with bad temperaments and/or serious health problems are starting to show up. All because people insist on breeding their pets with no regard for physical, temperamental or health quality. Now several other breeds such as the Rottweiler, the Akita, the Siberian Husky and the Chow Chow appear to be headed the same direction as the American Cocker Spaniel.
9. "We're not interested in doing all that testing. All we want to do is have a litter of puppies. We're not going to show or anything, in fact, we aren't even going to sell the puppies. We are going to give them away. All the neighbors said they'd take one. Besides, what harm is there in one litter of puppies?" "What harm is there in one litter of puppies?"
The answer is simple mathematics. Say a pet owner breeds a litter without bothering to check the parents for hereditary problems or evaluate them for quality. If six puppies are born, and those puppies each go on to have six puppies, who each, in turn, have six puppies, it doesn't take much to figure out that soon it will be next to impossible to find any representative of the breed which does not have a tremendous potential for hereditary problems. The harm is done to the very breed which the pet owner professes to love, the unsuspecting person who buys a puppy from him or her and the dog itself, who must suffer with a problem that very well could have been prevented. The fact that a pet owner is not going to show a puppy or is not going to take money for it does not relieve him or her of the responsibility, either. It is not any fairer to give an unsuspecting person a dog with problems that could have been prevented than it is to sell them one. Also, unless you have a deposit and contract in writing, don't count on all the neighbors to take a puppy. It is an old joke in the dog fancy that when the puppies show up all the homes disappear. The thought of a warm, cuddly puppy is nice and everybody wants one when they are talking about it, but when the puppies actually show up, there is always an excuse to not take one.
10. "But Poopsie is such a wonderful pet, we want to get a puppy out of him/her."
Poopsie being such a wonderful dog is no guarantee that the offspring will be. The offspring can never be exactly like the parent and to expect such is to set yourself up for disappointment. Besides, just because the owner loves the pet does not excuse him or her from the responsibility of checking for quality and health. If the pet owner is truly ready to take on another dog then he or she should search out a reputable, quality breeder and buy a nice, pet-quality dog that has been bred with care, planning and forethought. Remember, a pet-quality puppy from a superior quality litter is far better than a "pick" puppy from a poor quality litter. Besides, would a pet owner really love his or her pet any less if it never has any offspring? Of course not!
11. "I'm not interested in showing. Dog shows are just beauty contests. I want to breed real working dogs for hunting (or herding or police work, guard work, etc.). Besides, I heard that dog shows are nothing but politics."
To someone who doesn't understand dog showing it may appear that it is just a "beauty contest". Actually, the dogs are being judged on a lot more than just their pretty faces. They are being judged on their correct movement, size and structure. A dog that is correctly conformed moves correctly and efficiently, therefore using less energy. It's fine to have a hunting dog that has all the instincts, but if its conformation isn't correct it will burn too much energy loving and won't be able to hunt as long as a dog that is correctly conformed. Also, if someone is truly interested in breeding good working dogs then testing for hereditary problems takes on just that much more importance. What good is a herding dog with great working abilities if it has hip dysplasia and can hardly get up and walk? There is a saying around the dog fancy that "form follows function". This proves itself to be true time and time again with an increasing number of dogs achieving both conformation show degrees and working titles. As for the politics in dog shows, yes, it is there.
12. "My dog has 'champion bloodlines'. his father (or mother, grandfather, great-grandmother, etc.) was a champion."
The words "Champion bloodlines" are probably some of the most misunderstood and misleading ever used in advertising. Just because a dog has champions in its pedigree in no way guarantees it is show/breeding quality. Most of the show/breeding quality dogs today will only have one or two untitled dogs in their entire pedigree! When a show breeder breeds a litter of puppies he or she does so with the quality of the animal being bred in mind. He or she tries to breed the best to the best and hopes for the best, i.e. that all the pups will be championship quality. However, not all pups in all quality bred litters are show/breeding quality. Maybe one's ears are a little too long or neck is a little too short. Not enough for any pet owner to notice, but enough to make the pup a "pet-quality" rather than a "show/breeding quality." These "pet-quality" puppies may have a pedigree full of champions and still not be breeding quality! If your father was an Olympic gold medallist in the 50 yd dash, wouldn't it be a little silly to assume your child would be too?
The influence of any single ancestor is miniscule at best. Therefore, the chances of a pet-quality dog with only one or two champions in its pedigree being a show or breeding quality animal are quite slim. There is nothing wrong with a dog without a star-studded pedigree, just as there is nothing wrong with a "pet-quality" pup with a dazzling pedigree. It does not mean that the animal is not intelligent, can't live a long and productive life or be the most wonderful companion in the world. It just means that he or she shouldn't be bred.
According to Mr. Ken Marden, past president of the American Kennel Club, the only reason a dog or bitch should be bred is for the betterment of the breed. Only dogs that have proven themselves to be of superior quality in the show ring, obedience ring, field or tracking trials and tests, etc. and have been tested clear of inheritable problems should be bred.
Every year 40,000 pets pass through the Travis County Humane society. Only approximately 10,000 are adopted. This means 30,000 pets are killed each year in Travis county alone. A frightening fact is that roughly 22% of the dogs are purebred! Obviously there are more than enough pets in this world all ready and anyone who is breeding "just pets" is doing a horrible injustice to the very animals they profess to love!
If the pet owner truly wants to breed dogs, he or she needs to start by spaying or neutering the pet they own and purchasing a high-quality animal from a respected, responsible show breeder.
The pet owner needs to be prepared to do all the medical testing to rule out hereditary problems in that animal. The owner should also be prepared to exhibit that animal in show and/or working trials and tests to make sure it is the quality to be bred. This means a considerable outlay of time and money. If the pet owner is not willing to do this then he or she should not consider breeding. If the pet owner if willing, then they will discover a wonderful new sport; the sport of purebred dogs.