Being a dog breeder is NOT for the faint of heart.
People think breeding is just an easy way to get money and that dog breeders are only “in it for the money” or whatever. Let me tell you that dog breeding is NOT easy money. Period.
Good dog breeders know what they are doing and invest in their dogs. They invest in health testing, proper grooming (or they take the time to learn how to do it right and spend hours doing it themselves), they are always educating themselves and bettering themselves. They are striving to keep up with the newest science and research on all kinds of things. Coat type, colour, health and genetics, testing their dogs need etc. Always trying to keep up with NO guarantees.
Let me tell you that once you THINK you are well educated on something related to animals, something new ALWAYS comes up and you NEVER stop learning. Anyone who thinks they know everything about anything truly knows nothing at all.
On top of all that, the biggest stressor about being a dog breeder is the uncertainty.
They have just invested $5000 into a breeding dog. Will this dog even pass it’s health testing? (About an additional $1000). If the dog does not pass it’s health testing, which is typically not even done until 1-2 years, then all the money invested in that dog is gone. Even if the dog was guaranteed, you still need to wait for the breeder to have another suitable litter, for there to be a suitable puppy, and then it’s another year or so before that puppy matures and is old enough to pass (or possibly fail) health testing.
Let’s just assume this breeder got lucky and all their dogs passed all their health testing (I say lucky but buying from quality lines really gives you the advantage with this), then it’s time to breed the dog.
Most breeders breed their dogs for the first time between 18-26 months. This presents a new challenge. Will the male be fertile? Will the female even “catch”?
Great the female is pregnant! Will she stay pregnant? She could miscarry. Will she require an emergency c-section? A planned one? Will the puppies be born alive? Will some be born dead? Will i have to revive some? Do I have the skills to assist in a situation where something goes wrong with the labour? The vet is half an hour away, will we make it there?
Okay! Let’s say we had a smooth delivery and all puppies have made it into the world safely. Will any have any birth defects causing them to have to be put to sleep or require round the clock care? Is there a cleft pallet? A smaller and weaker puppy? Will any puppies need tube feeding? Do I take this sick newborn puppy with a very low chance of survival to the vet? Will the vet even help? What is my budget on this newborn puppy that will likely not make it? $1000? $5000? Or do i let nature take its course? What is best for this puppy? How do I balance real life and making sure I’ve done enough? How do I live with the guilt if the puppy does not survive? How do I watch a puppy pass away? Should I hold it? Should I let it be with mom? Vet says there’s no hope/ not to bother bringing pup in. What do I do? What if another puppy gets sick? How do I dispose of the body once the puppy dies? Should I keep the body and pay for an autopsy that will most likely be inconclusive?
What if I have taken a deposit on this puppy already? How do I tell the family? What if it’s due to sickness and I lose the whole litter?
These are just some of the thoughts that go through a breeders mind when something isn’t quite right with ONE or TWO of the puppies.
Let’s assume the litter is healthy and they make it to the week mark. Mom could get sick. She could get an infection from giving birth, she could get mastitis (this often results in the teat turning black and splitting open, losing your girl is a very real possibility). We are frantically checking on moms and babies multiple times a day and trying to prevent anything we can, but we can only do so much.
What if mom gets low calcium even when supplemented? I now have to bottle feed an entire litter. How do I manage that and make sure my puppies are still healthy? Will formula be enough to keep them healthy? What if they don’t like it? Do I try the home made formula that isn’t scientifically proven but that the pups like much better? Do I add supplements? Do I let mom nurse sometimes? How do I keep everyone healthy and happy until weaning?
Let’s just assume that the whole litter and mom is healthy and makes it until weaning.
Puppies seem a bit skinny but are being fed a lot, why? Poop is stinky? Time to take fecals into the vet… or do we treat what we think it is with the meds we have on hand and have paid hundreds of dollars for.
What if puppies catch parvo before they get a chance to be vaccinated? Will i lose the whole litter? Do I treat at home or at the vet? How will I handle a whole litter being sick? Most dog breeders have more then one breeding dog and Parvo lives in the soil for YEARS. Will all my future puppies get this? Am I ruined? Do I quit breeding? What do I do? Can this be properly cleaned? When do I let the families of the recovered puppies take them home? How do I tell my families that their chosen puppy that they have been waiting for for 7 weeks didn’t make it?
The uncertainty and stress that goes into breeding alone is something that only few can handle. This is why breeders don’t usually stay in the business for very long.
Let’s just pretend everything goes perfectly. Pups pass their vet checks, they go home and life is good. What happens if they get sick after they go home? Lots of things can happen. Are they grounds for replacement? If they are not, and the client insists on a refund, do you just make them happy by refunding regardless of your contract to avoid court and to preserve your good name… even when you know they are in the wrong?
Dog breeders’ biggest critics are often other breeders. You can never please everyone and there will always be someone trying to bring you down. Are you breeding purebreds? Are they registered? Are they the right colour to be in the show ring? Oh, All your dogs do is trot around a ring and look pretty to get titles? Oh, your dog is working lines and doesn’t show conformation? Gross. Wait your dog is registered and isn’t a standard colour for your breed? Well you must be a backyard breeder then. Your dogs are purebred? Well they aren’t as healthy as my mixed breeds… Wait, you breed health tested mix breeds? You are a backyard breeder. You only charge 1000 for your dogs? Maybe you shouldn’t be breeding. You make MONEY breeding dogs?!? You are doing it all wrong! Your dogs got a transmissible disease? Your kennel must be dirty. You raise your dogs in your home? That’s gross. You raise your dogs in a kennel? That’s abuse. You have more then 2 litters a year? You must be a puppy mill. You have less then two litters a year? You’re not a real breeder…
These are just some of the statements breeders of all kinds hear. The amount of scrutiny we face from other dog people is absolutely insane and really it’s quite sad.
Being a breeder is so not about playing with cute puppies all day. It’s cleaning up 💩 all day, stressing 24/7, and still loving the dogs and pups enough to provide them with good quality of care and giving them the best head start you know how.
Honestly this novel is just a fraction of what goes on with breeders.
I respect any breeder that has been doing this a few years and has seen the good, the bad, and the ugly, and still continues to breed and enjoy breeding.
As I said before, it takes a very special person.
I hope this will maybe change a few peoples perspectives on what it takes to be a dog breeder.
Written by: Nina Maillet, Dog Breeder