Breeding What it's Really Like

by Naomi Kane


Youíve seen the gorgeous glossy puppy shots in the magazines, the picture perfect whelping boxes and x-pens, proud mom dog in perfectly groomed condition gazing soulfully into the camera as her litter of nine nurses contentedly.  Yeah right!  Reality check time!

Once you have decided to breed all the glamour leaves the dog world.  Dog mating is not pretty.  It is silly, exasperating, messy and unpredictable, but not pretty.  Expensive purebred dogs are not let out in the field to take care of everything by themselves.  Even if they are perfectly capable, breeders are going to be there to supervise or take the whole messy unpredictable business to the vetís office for various expensive tests and Artificial Insemination options.  Now go do it again tomorrow or the next day and then the day after that.  Now wait.  There is no way to tell if your bitch is pregnant until about four weeks later so guess and check and fuss and feel and poke and prod all you want it makes no difference.

Pregnancy is the time to feed the bottomless pit of the pregnant bitch, estimate how many puppies while agonizing over whether she is or isnít having any, make sure you have all your tools, set up your whelping box, try to encourage your bitch to go into the whelping box which she may do for whole seconds at a time before going out to excavate a cave under your back deck.

About nine weeks after mating your bitch will go into labour.  No matter how prepared you are it will typically commence when you decide that she really isnít ready today and give up and go to sleep. Your bitch will do it according to the book; the one she wrote not the one you read. 

Whelping is bloody and gross and slimy and disgusting and will lastÖ until it is over.  You will be covered in bodily fluids, your dear sweet dog will eat placentas, everything will be smelly and wet and you will go through several laundries worth of towels and rags and blankets.  Each precious puppy must be dried and inspected and weighed and identified.  Puppies are born limp, wet and slimy.  Then the slimy thing takes a first breath the body takes on firmness and the puppy is alive and wriggling and nursing, oh wow!  Donít spend too long admiring that pup because the next one is on the way and your bitch stood up and the first puppy just got buried under a towel as she started messing up the bedding so she could produce the next puppy onto cold bare floor.  Some multiple hours later you will have a litter of puppies.  You might have spent the hours in between assisting in a normal delivery or at the vetís office biting your nails through an emergency c-section.  You may have had to deal with malformed puppies or dead puppies and you have only just begun. 

The first three weeks are the lull before the storm.  Puppies look like pudgy little slugs and get into the most amazing places considering their legs are nearly vestigial and they canít see or hear.  They will be nursing and growing.  All the breeder has to do is make sure the bitch doesnít step on or lie on a puppy; weigh them every day to make sure each puppy is eating and growing; check the temperature to make sure it isnít too hot for the bitch or too cold for the puppies; clean the discharge that continues to leak from your bitch; make sure mom dog stays with the puppies long enough to feed them, sit and watch each breath and movement with a sense of never waning wonder as each puppy lives and grows.  Unhealthy puppies are more work and more heartbreak.  Sleep is something you will learn to value since you will get very little of it.  Most breeders sleep in the same room as the puppies and keep one eye open all night long at least for the first week or so. 

While you are taking care of puppies you will also be taking care of puppy purchasers.  One of the most time consuming but important things a breeder does is educate people about their breed, which means never ending phone calls.  In between sleeping and phone calls you will keep an eagle eye on every vital sign of the whole family and take endless pictures. 

At fourteen to eighteen days eyes will open, ears will open, legs will start working better and little bumps on the gums are signs of teeth to come.  The little slugs have turned into little seals and begin travelling around more. Puppies wander around like little drunks and fall on their faces and tumble into each other. Your bitch will still be cleaning up anything the puppies eliminate which is handy and gross at the same time.  You will do the rest, cleaning up the bedding, cutting puppy nails, feeding mom dog again and again and talking on the phone some more.

At three weeks old you can start introducing food.  Puppies will walk through the food, lie down in the food, pee in the food and your bitch will eat it all.  She will also clean the food off the puppies, but not very well so youíll have to clean them up too. 

Three to four weeks is the adorable stage sitting in the whelping box and having warm puppies climb all over you is so sweet.  Look!  That one is trying to climb over my leg and the one over there is beginning to play with my toes and the one on my lap just peed.  The puppies are sweet and snugly and they havenít got enough strength in their jaws yet to use the teeth that are beginning to grow. 

After they start eating ďrealĒ food comes the never ending supply of puppy poo.  Cleaning up piles of poo will be an all day all consuming task.  You will begin to dread going to sleep because the dear little things will trample through last nightís deposits to be the first to greet you in the morning.  Get the puppies outside and survey the damage.  Run the hot water, get the rubber gloves and the safe disinfectant and the garbage bag and get to work.  Your entire puppy pen will be covered in newspapers and bedding and poop.  Clean everything and then feed the puppies with the food that you have had soaking overnight which will end up all over the floor and all over the puppies and youíll have to clean up again.  Did I mention that youíll need a supply of newspapers?  Stacks and stacks and stacks of newspapers and then more newspapers.

In between cleaning you still weigh each puppy a couple of times a week, take pictures, talk on the phone and start to enrich the puppyís world.  Puppies need to be stimulated, socialized and handled.  They need toys and noises and places to explore.  Watching puppies discover the world is a delight.  Sitting in a whelping box with eight or ten puppies that are five weeks old is a trial.  Puppies pull on shoe laces, pounce on toes and scratch at faces as they try to get close enough to bite your nose.  It is fun Öreally.

The weeks pass and before you know it the time has come to say goodbye to the little fur-balls and send them off to their selected and screened and approved homes.  You know you have done your best to make sure that each puppy owner is a perfect home for one of your precious babies and you know they are going to be good owners and puppies are going to be happy.  In some ways you canít wait to be rid of the little monsters but it will pull at your heart strings every single time a puppy leaves.  But at least you get the money right?  Just donít do the math and then youíll be happy with the cash.  If you add it up and really look at it yes you can make a little money breeding dogs, but you canít make very much.  Breeding is a passion, you wonít get rich in the monetary sense but you will be rich in dogs and friends.


A Typical Day


Wake up

Clean up puppy room

Feed puppies

Sit and play with puppies

Check over mom dog

Eat your own breakfast and feed your other dogs

Clean up puppy room

Play with puppies

Talk on phone to puppy owners

Clean up puppy room

Bring more newspapers into the puppy area

Clean up puppy room

Weigh puppies

Feed puppies this time making sure that their mother doesnít eat all the food

Eat lunch

Clean up puppy room

Play with puppies, cut nails

Take pictures

Feed your other dogs

Talk on the phone

Clean up puppy room

Feed puppies

Eat dinner

Clean up again

Go to sleep but keep one eye and one ear open.


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