Gazette Vet: Breeding Dogs: What Could Possibly Go Wrong?

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By John Andersen, DVM

I love dogs.  I love the amazing variety of domestic dogs we have on this planet, from Great Danes to Chihuahuas. It’s really quite amazing to think that we humans have somehow manipulated the mighty Gray Wolf over thousands of years to create the incredible variety we now see in today’s dogs.

It’s also very interesting how each breed of purebred dog has its own story and many times its own purpose. Hunting dogs, herding dogs, guard dogs, pest control dogs—not only have we manipulated and created a certain size and look in our domesticated dog breeds, but we have also somehow manipulated their instincts!

If you think about this, it’s really pretty mind-blowing. Where is the survival advantage in being an obsessive ball-retriever? If you have a Labrador Retriever, you have no doubt that this is an instinct they are simply born with, and I’m guessing that wolves did not have this instinct nor others such as pointing or herding.

So, as a veterinarian who does indeed love and support our mutts, mixes, and shelter dogs, I really appreciate the breeders who have over thousands of years produced some incredible companions for just about any individual on this planet.

But how about today? What does it take to breed a dog? Should I? What could possibly go wrong? How can you tell a good breeder vs. a bad breeder?

I have no problems with people breeding dogs. It irks many people that so many people breed and buy purebred dogs when there are so many stray, homeless animals out there, and to some degree I see their point. However, the majority of purebred dogs go into good, responsible homes. It’s the knucklehead owners who don’t spay or neuter them AND let them roam around and get pregnant that contribute to our pet overpopulation problems. Suggesting that stopping the breeding of purebred dogs will solve our homeless pet problem is like suggesting that gun control will stop our gun homicide problems. Maybe it will help a little, but these will always be people problems rather than gun/purebred dog problems.

But I do strongly think that we need fewer bad breeders out there, so if you’re someone who is considering breeding your dog, consider my description of a good breeder vs. a bad breeder:

A Good Breeder of Dogs:

  • Loves dogs! (Seems obvious, but…)
  • Is very enthusiastic and knowledgeable about the breed
  • Has a long history of interest with the specific breed
  • Is aware of the common health problems of the breed
  • Does due diligence to avoid breeding dogs with inherited health problems
  • Does not breed dogs to make money.  They may make money, but that is NOT the primary, or even secondary goal of breeding
  • Has the time, desire, and financial resources to provide veterinary care for the parents and the puppies
  • Has the financial resources to deal with potential problems like caesarean section surgery.
  • Keeps the mom and pups in a clean and loving environment

A Bad Breeder of Dogs:

  • Does not like dogs
  • Wants to breed because “I want my dog to have puppies.”
  • Has no in-depth knowledge or history with the breed
  • Is unaware of the common or potential inherited health problems
  • Breeds dogs with known health problems
  • Thinks breeding dogs is a good way to earn some extra cash
  • Never takes dogs to the veterinarian or seeks veterinary advice
  • Would not have the financial resources to pay for a potential $2,500 emergency C-section
  • Keeps the mom and pups in a less-than-ideal environment

Fortunately, in my experience most breeders fall into the category of Good Breeders.  They love their dogs and have a deep interest in continuing the success of the breed as is.  However there are a lot of people who just haven’t quite given enough thought as to why they actually want to breed their dog and what effect this will have on the long-term future of their breed.

In the end, my advice is quite simple: Don’t be a bad breeder!

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