Stonebroke Kennels
100% Field Bred English Springer Spaniels

So You Think You Want to Breed Your Dog?

Dollys Pups - August 3  2014 001

I know a lot of people think about breeding their dog, but I’m not sure if most really understand what is involved with the process. I’m not going to try to discourage anyone if they are truly interested in breeding. People who breed quality dogs (I emphasize “quality” here!) are always in demand. Having said that, I’ll try to cover what breeding entails. I grew up with dog breeding…my father bred hounds when I was a kid, so I had an idea of what was involved before I started.

Many people look at the price of a puppy and think the breeder is getting rich and making some easy money, but if they saw what went into it they’d understand that a quality bred pup is really a bargain. There is a lot of time and money involved with producing quality puppies. When I decided to breed I told my wife that I was either going to breed the best dogs possible, or I wasn’t going to do it at all. That philosophy has paid off over the years as we have never had a pup returned and we have received countless compliments on our pups…

The process starts with having a quality dog to breed, of course… Genetic testing needs to be done (hips, eyes, etc.), but that is just the first step. Just because a dog is genetically sound does not mean it is of breeding quality. A breeder needs to evaluate the dog’s temperament, eagerness to please, overall conformation, instincts, etc. By the time all testing is done, a dog is evaluated, etc. well over $2,000 is invested and that does not take into account the time spent training and caring for the dog.

Finding a quality stud dog would be the next step if a person decides to breed. Prior to this step it is very important to study bloodlines, talk with other breeders, etc. to learn what attributes different lines/dogs possess. This can take many hours talking to people, researching the internet, etc. After a stud dog is found there is the cost of the stud service which not only includes the stud fee, but the cost of getting your dog to where the stud dog is, any testing the stud dog owner requires, etc. When I first started breeding I shipped my dogs off to be bred. I shipped dogs to New Hampshire (4 times!) to Illinois, Ohio, Texas (2 times) and Oklahoma. I eventually learned enough about what I wanted in my dogs to feel comfortable with having my own stud dog, but I had 4 stud dogs before I had one I felt was of breeding quality.

So, you have a dog bred and have puppies on the way. Now you will need to be set up for when the puppies arrive. You’ll need a place for your pups when they are first born and you’ll need a place for when they are older and start running around. I use an extra large wire mesh crate I have in the house for when the pups are first born. The crate is cleaned and disinfected twice daily while the pups are in the house. I am here to let the mother out several times a day, so I don’t go very far when we have pups. The mother will stop cleaning up after the pups when they are bout 4 weeks old, so that now becomes my job. The pups are moved out to an indoor/outdoor run. I start feeding “mush” twice a day at this age and gradually increase that as they get older. The puppy facility must be cleaned no less than 3 times a day…… Puppies “go” a lot!!! Your facility does not need to be fancy and elaborate, but it needs to be spotlessly clean, warm in the colder months and cool in the summer. This continues until the pups are 8 weeks old or until they go to their new homes. During this time the pups are wormed at least 3 times and are given any vaccinations that are due. This is also the time they are taken out and about so they can explore their new world. I’d conservatively estimate that between feeding, cleaning their run, taking them for walks, etc. I spend 4 hours a day with the pups during this phase. During this time I’m continually monitoring each pup.. I check to make sure each pups is healthy, of course, but I also monitor their development. If I notice a pup is hanging back and not as bold and outgoing as the other pups, I spend extra time with that pup. It’s amazing how quickly a tentative pup will blossom when given a little extra individual time.

During this time I still have my adult dogs to attend to. They still need their daily exercise, training, etc. along with keeping their kennels cleaned, water buckets washed, etc. The dogs need to be tended to regardless of the weather. It doesn’t matter if it’s -40 degrees and there is 3 feet of snow on the ground.. The dogs need to be taken care of. I currently have 7 dogs and spend anywhere from 2 to 4 hours a day with them depending on the weather, time of year, etc.

The time I spend away from the pups answering phone calls, replying to e-mails, etc. is nearly as much as I spend with the puppies…Ask my wife! I receive phone calls and e-mails pretty much on a daily basis and I try to take the time to reply in detail to each one. I often have people wanting to come see my dogs, so I’m always available for people who want to visit our kennel.

When the pups are ready to go to their new homes there is time spent on the phone with the airlines scheduling flights for pups that need to be shipped and then there is the time to drive them to the airport, scheduling appointments with the vet for the pups’ health exams/certificates, meeting with people who come here to pick up their pups, etc.

When it’s all said and done, there really isn’t much money to be made if any. It’s a labor of love more than anything. A person has to love puppies and dogs and working with people. I’ve actually never figured up all of my expenses….if I did I’d probably have quit a long time ago! I have roughly estimated that I have to place 5 pups/year to cover my expenses. Keep in mind that does not take into account the hours I spend with everything that is involved.

Questions a person should ask themselves before deciding to breed are “Do I have the time”, of course, but there are other factors to consider as well. Do you have a place for puppies that might not sell right away and do you have the time to spend with them? I have a waiting list these day, but when I first started there were times when I was not able to place all of the pups right away, but I was prepared for it and was set up for it and had the time to work with the “leftover” pups. Are you prepared to deal with pups that die? Unfortunately, puppies can get sick. It doesn’t happen often, but we’ve lost pups before and it’s not easy. Are you prepared to deal with a mother dog that becomes sick and unable to nurse her pups? We’ve done that too and bottle feeding or tube feeding every two hours gets old in a hurry. Do you have the money to breed quality dogs and are you prepared to refund money if someone should have a problem with a pup you place with them? Several years ago a fellow stopped by here to see our dogs. He had a nice female and his friends talked him into breeding her. He had a nice litter and had no trouble selling them all… About two years later people started coming back whose pups had gone blind. He later found out that the sire he used, a very well known dog at the time, produced numerous pups with Retinal Dysplasia. He had spent the money from the pups and had to go to the bank to get a loan to give refunds to everyone he’d placed pups with….. a very sad deal to say the least.

The bottom line here is that if you really want to breed, consider everything involved before jumping in. There is a need for well bred Springers from field lines, especially in the NW United States, but there is no lack of “run of the mill” poor quality dogs..

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