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You want to breed a litter?

You have no idea what you’re in for. I hear ya, you read all the books and watched all the DVDs, maybe you’ve even delivered human babies. You still have no idea what you’re in for. People think it’s two months of roly poly puppies full of adorableness, and that part is wonderful, but there’s more to it than puppy breath.

Preparing for the Breeding
They make it sound so easy, what with progesterone tests and vaginal cell smears. “Just wait for the progesterone peak and two days later you should breed her.” You’ll be constantly worried that you missed her progesterone peak and wonder, hmmm, spend money on a probably unnecessary test or sooth my worried brain? When did she come in? Why is this taking so long? So you do the test and it’s a big fat “not yet.” Ugh. You’ll email the stud dog owner every other day with meaningless updates as you try to figure out when to drop your leave chit at work so you can roadtrip to the stud. If you’re breeding her to an in-house male you don’t have to worry. Yet.

The Breeding
Your female will not enjoy this, in fact she might hate it. It’s not something that dogs do for fun and it’s painful for the female so she’ll probably whine or even shriek with pain. There’s also the chance that they just won’t be into each other, and some males have lousy libidos. If they do tie she’ll probably try to get away and might even try to bite him — this strange dog is hurting her in strange ways! Since that would be really painful for the male you are the cruel person who whispers sweet nothings while restraining her. It can be traumatizing for both of you. And you get to do it three times over the next few days. You’ll feel like a terrible person.

The Pregnancy
You bred her, woohoo! But, is she pregnant? You won’t know this until halfway through the pregnancy and even then there’s the chance of fetal reabsorption. There’s also the possibility that she didn’t take and it was all a false pregnancy. Skip the ultrasound and get an X-ray a week before her due date so you know how many puppies should be born. I say should because she could miscarry or have stillborn puppies. This sounds all gloom and doom but the worry is real!

Whelping
Oh em gee, your bitch made it full-term and is showing signs of labor! Rent a few movies and order takeout, this could take a while. You’ll think she’s about to start pushing and then she’ll take a nap. Chances are she’ll keep you guessing for two days before finally starting real labor at 4am after you’ve been awake for 36 hours. This is actually the scariest part because you want to help but you’re not quite sure how to do it safely. Don’t pull to hard or you might hurt the puppy, but don’t wait too long or they might suffocate. Has it been too long between puppies? What do I DO???? This is when you freak out if you don’t have an experienced person with you.

First Two Weeks
You thought it was going to be easy sailing after they were born, but no. For the first two weeks puppies can’t regulate their own body temperature, see, or hear and they need to eat every 1-2 hours. Even though you’ve been up for 48 hours you’re going to hover over the whelping box making sure nobody gets accidentally suffocated, they’re warm but not too warm, and holding puppies up to the nipple every 10min. Now you’re a helicopter parent who obsessively checks the heating pad and critically examines how mom jumps in the whelping box to see if you can make it safer somehow. You’ll fret over the runt, making sure they’re still alive every chance you get and holding them up to the nipple every 2min just in case. Are you sure you’re not hungry? Buy a webcam because eventually you do need to return to your day job or at least leave the house, but this way you can spy on them.

The Departure
This part is sad — these are your babies! It’s also terrible because as soon as one puppy leaves the others realize that the group dynamic has changed, and they start fighting viciously. This will scare the crap out of you in addition to being highly inconvenient, so it’s best to have them all picked up on the same day. After the last puppy leaves you’ll feel like a bear coming out of hibernation as you ease back into “normal” life and wonder how to fill your suddenly empty days. Even though you once thought “I wish I could keep them all!” now you’ll be thinking “phew, glad that’s over.” Six months later you might find yourself thinking you want to do it again.

My point is that your first litter is going to be trial by fire, probably much like having your first human baby. Now I understand why so many breeders are retired or don’t work outside the home! Is it a ton of work? Yep. Is it worth it? Yes! It’s a wonderful privilege to watch your puppies develop from birth and know that you had a hand in creating these amazing little creatures.

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Posted by on March 17, 2017 in Other Stuff

 

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Becoming a master breeder

I think I got this concept from Patricia Craige Trotter’s book Born to Win, Breed to Succeed. Basically, if  you want to be a successful breeder who makes a positive impact you need a plan.

Vision, Part I – How many dogs?
I’ve noticed that many, though not all, of the breeders who have a huge impact on their breed tend to breed frequently. This makes sense when you recognize breeding for what it is: playing the lottery. Beyond selecting the parents you have absolutely no control over what genetic material gets passed on to your puppies. The more you breed, the better chance you have of hitting the genetic jackpot. [This is not an endorsement for irresponsible breeding!] The challenge is to have that kind of impact while enjoying your dogs individually and keeping them happy.

Let’s assume your breed has an average lifespan of 15 years; eventually you’re going to have multiple dogs living under one roof. I’ll also assume that your girls have their first litter at age two and have one litter per year for three years. The image below illustrates three basic approaches you could take and how each one impacts your household. Every time you add or lose a dog it impacts group dynamics and increases the risk of dog-dog conflict. How will you maintain a healthy, stable, peaceful household?

capture

Vision, Part II – What is your ultimate vision?
With your approach in mind, create a mission statement that describes your aims and values. This will guide your decision-making, spell out your goal, and provide a path. To breed healthy, structurally sound, even-tempered puppies that are cherished in a forever home. Then create a vision statement that describes your desired future position. To conserve the breed and make a positive difference in the fancy.

Select a breed that makes your heart sing
You’re going to sacrifice blood, sweat, tears, time, and money. Showing is a huge investment by itself and breeding is definitely not for the faint of heart. This should be a breed you’re deeply invested in emotionally, otherwise ask yourself why you’re doing it.

What is your standard of excellence?
I think of this as, what characteristics does my ideal dog have? My ideal Border would have excellent breed type, balanced structure, fluid movement, and a great temperament. They would also have satisfactory OFA scores and a CH title. Basically, Wally. Break these down into their component parts (what makes up balanced structure?) so you can prioritize them for the next step.

What are your conformational priorities?
No dog is perfect and there are some traits that might be especially important to you. What traits should you focus on to achieve your mission and vision? These will come into play when choosing your foundation dogs, selecting mates, and deciding which puppies to keep. What are you willing to sacrifice and what is truly non-negotiable?

Educate yourself
Study anatomy and physiology, breed standard and history, behavior, and genetics. You’ll be making decisions that bring life into this world! Set your dogs up for success by having a broad knowledge base. This will also allow you to run the advice of others through your mental filter to make decisions you feel confident with.

Get connected
Join clubs, go to shows, and find a mentor. You’ll need them! It’s possible to fly solo but you’ll achieve greater success more quickly if you have a mentor to guide you. Just remember that your mission and vision may not perfectly align with theirs so sometimes you’ll respectfully disagree. A good mentor should expect this!

Acquire an awesome foundation
Your foundation bitch should be as close to perfection as possible since your entire breeding program will be built around her. That being said, no dog is perfect so revisit your priorities and figure out what’s most important to you. What are you willing to spend time “fixing”?

You don’t need a stud dog
Two reasons: money and genetics. At first glance it seems a lot cheaper to own a stud dog since you get to cut out all the stud fees and vet bills that come with using an outside stud. You might also think you’ll make some money on stud fees. How do you find out about studs that are available? They have ads in magazines and show every weekend, which costs thousands of dollars. Unless you plan to do that it’s unlikely anyone will approach you about using your stud.

Genetically you’ll be limited within your own breeding program, assuming you’re trying to avoid inbreeding. You can use your stud on your own females but not the next generation, so ultimately you’ll have to use outside studs anyway.

Have fun!
Remember that, above all else, your dog is your companion. Enjoy the naughty puppy phase and make training fun. Showing should be a big party! Showing and producing puppies is just a tiny part of your dog’s life. Most of it is spent being your best friend.

 
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Posted by on March 10, 2017 in Other Stuff

 

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Form = Function

The quote below is something that I try to remind myself of frequently when I critique dogs. Am I criticizing a trait because it’s not what I like to see or is it truly incorrect (and thus non-functional)? Everyone has their favorites traits, be it head, coat, gait, topline, teeth, angulation, whatever. Focusing on your one priority trait with no regard to the overall function of the dog as it applies to the breed’s original purpose is detrimental to the breed. Example: Bulldogs of today could never bull-bait because they would die almost immediately from lack of oxygen. They can’t breath because of the extreme jaw structure and nasal malformation. Some Border Terriers are grossly oversized, meaning they could never fit into a 9″ hole in the ground. As a future dog breeder I plan to keep the “function over form” mantra at the forefront of all of my decisions. A beautiful dog must be functional, otherwise what’s the point?

 
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Posted by on May 28, 2013 in Other Stuff

 

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