Are you thinking of raising puppies?
We often hear from people that say they would like to breed dogs for a variety of reasons. The main reasons seem to be:
- To earn money
- To repay them for their puppy
- Because they have friends who want a puppy
- Because it would be fun, especially for children
There is a lot of thought that should go into this before
you decide that breeding dogs is a viable option for you.
It's easy to just think of the fun and good aspects of
breeding and raising puppies. But the path isn't always
filled with happy events. There can be setbacks along the
way. Breeding ethically is a lot harder and a lot more work than
you think. If you can't breed ethically, please don't.
There are TONS of bloodhound breeders out there, some with little regard for the health of their bloodhounds, the welfare of their puppies, and the feelings of their customers, looking to make a quick buck. Despite what you think, bloodhound puppies and bloodhound breeders are not rare ANYWHERE. Don't get caught up in the backyard breeder pyramid scheme! Before you decide to breed bloodhounds please search the Internet for bloodhound rescues. If you don't screen your potential puppy owners you could be contributing to the problem of unwanted bloodhounds in rescue.
Breeding for money is not a good reason.
It takes a lot of money upfront to prepare for this. Facilities, breeding stock, and health care are just a few things you need to prepare for. Unless you plan to raise puppies for 10 weeks in your house you will need proper facilities. Your puppy house must be sanitary, insulated, heated, and air conditioned or you will lose puppies. You will need separate facilities for breeding, your males, the females you do not plan to breed, etc. Putting up a proper kennel can cost thousands. If you plan to breed for money, and if you plan to treat your dogs well with nice facilities and good health care it will take years to return your investment. Breeding for money is not a good reason to breed bloodhounds.
Are you set up and knowledgeable enough to raise healthy puppies?
How are you going to choose your breeding stock? For show? For trailing? For temperament? For color? Or just any two bloodhounds? How will you prove your breeding stock? What will you do if one of your adults develops health or temperament issues - breed it anyway? Will you notify your puppy owners? If not, is that ethical?
Having a female dog in your home that is in heat for 3 weeks with a smelly and colored discharge is nasty. Females are in heat twice per year, and during this 6 weeks (3 to 4 weeks each time), your female will have a bloody or colored discharge that will stain your carpet and furniture.
Even worse is the discharge that occurs after she has her puppies that can last for 2 to 3 months! And believe me, it stinks! I've been to multiple homes where puppies are raised in the house and allowed to potty on the floor (carpet). I'm sorry but that is disgusting and is not healthy for the puppies or the humans that reside there. Worse, you cannot get that smell out of the carpet!
You might think, "I'll just house my female outside". However, you risk neighboring dogs jumping your fence to breed her...and therefore, you may end up with puppies of unknown parentage. If you plan to house your female and puppies outside you will need a proper and safe facility that is clean and climate controlled. As I said, it take a lot of money upfront to do this properly.
If your puppies or their mother roam your property, you can just about guarantee yourself of a litter that comes into contact with parvo, coccidia and/or giardia, fleas, ear mites, and a host of other health issues. How will you ensure that your puppies leave you healthy, and not infested with bugs, bacteria, and protozoa that will immediately cause its new owners to incur vet bills?
Are you squeamish? First time moms or even tired experienced moms may not take care of their puppies when they are born. Sometimes we have to break the sack so the puppy can take its first breath. Sometimes we have to remove mucus from their noses and mouths. Sometimes we have to clean them completely. Sometimes we have to help the placenta. Sometimes we have to check for puppies in the birth canal. Sometimes a c-section is necessary. In many cases you will be part of the operation, cleaning puppies as fast as the veterinarian removes them from your dog's uterus. All of these things take a strong stomach and willingness to do them on a moment's notice.
How will you protect your adults and puppies from theft? Or poisoning? Don't think it doesn't happen because it does. I just learned of a breeder in Illinois whose puppies were deliberately poisoned!
Even with excellent care and facilities, these things can still be a problem. Just allowing the mother dog to be in the yard for a potty break or to go for a walk creates the opportunity for her to bring germs and protozoa back to her puppies. If you don't have a clean, protected place for your puppies and their mother, and a good health care program, you should not breed.
Do you have an excellent
veterinarian close by to assist
with emergencies (and the money to pay him/her)?
Health care for dogs, puppies and pregnant/lactating bitches can be costly. If you scrimp on health care, you are opening up a terrible set of potential events...sick puppies, unhappy customers, etc. If you can't afford or dedicate yourself to providing GOOD health care for your adults and your puppies, you should not breed.
Some of the basic health care expenses you should be prepared for if you raise puppies include:
- Health clearances for your breeding adults filed with OFA (DM, heart echo, hips, elbows, thyroid, etc.). Another is brucellosis, a venereal disease that can cause abortion, fading puppy syndrome, etc. Brucellosis affects around 10% of all dogs in the US.
- Health examinations for your breeding adults prior to breeding
- Dew claw removal for every puppy
- Antibiotics for uterine infections
- Antibiotics (oral, injectable, and topical) for injuries and illnesses
- Disinfecting cleaning products
- Caesarian section surgery (can happen at any time, even if the mother has never had a problem whelping before). Are you in a position to be with the mother when she is having puppies regardless of the time of day? Do you have upwards of $1,800 to pay for it?
- Sterile equipment for whelping
- Hernia surgeries
- Medicine to treat/prevent coccidia (60% of all puppies have coccidia)
- Medicine to treat/prevent giardia
- Vaccinations for adult dogs
- Vaccinations for puppies
- Frequent deworming using a rotation of at least 2 different deworming medicines to avoid resistance in the worm population for the adult dogs
- Heartworm medicine for adults
- State licensing fees (not health related, but mandatory in most states for breeding)
- Higher-cost puppy food formulations
- Higher-cost adult dog foods for pregnant and lactating bitches
- Milk replacer, bottles, nipples, for puppies who cannot nurse or are abandoned by their mother. Are you in a position to feed abandoned or orphaned puppies every 3 to 4 hours around the clock?
- Sanitary bedding for the litter that can be cleaned/replaced frequently
- New (not used, to avoid parvo) fencing and weather-ready footing that can be properly cleaned for play areas that is safe
- Health care costs for your aging adults
Despite excellent health care, sometimes puppies do not live. In fact, more often than not, at least one puppy from each litter will die within three days. Expect potential loss of puppies at any time due to accidents, congenital defects, etc. Have a plan for what you will do with the puppy's body in these events.
How will you ensure your puppies go to good homes?
Be aware that people will lie to you. It would be devastating to learn that a puppy you sold ended up in a puppy mill, living life in a tiny cage with several other dogs and never being loved or able to get exercise. What if one of your puppies is surrendered to a kill shelter...or a rescue? How will you prevent this? How can you be sure an adoptive family has the resources to provide your puppy a good home? Do you have space or facilities to take back puppies you bred?
What will you do with puppies that don't sell?
What will you do if you sell a puppy that develops unforeseen health issues?
A simple fact of raising puppies is that this can happen. It doesn't matter if you know that for 4 generations, no dog in the family has ever had a health issue. A crop out problem can and occasionally will occur.
If you learn that one of your puppies has a problem and is determined that the problem is genetic, what will you do with the parents of that puppy? Will you breed them again? Is that ethical? How will you take care of that customer?
If you cannot provide a written health agreement or be there for your customers for the life of the puppy please do not breed.
A lot of things may not manifest in a puppy's first year. A two year agreement better protects your customer. If you can't stand behind your puppies for two years, please do not breed.
What will you do if one of your customers needs to surrender their dog? What if you find out one of your puppies needs rescue or is in a kill shelter?
At some point you will run into this no matter how carefully you screen your customers. In some states you are legally bound to take your puppies back until they are a certain age. Ethically, you should take your puppies back and / or provide re-homing assistance. You will need an area where you can quarantine these puppies / adults until they have been fully vetted so you do not spread disease to your dogs. If you are not willing to take your puppies back or provide re-homing assistance, please do not breed.
Is the whole family on board?
Is everyone ready for the chores, the extra dog poo, the extra noise? Mother dogs, while nursing, eat several times their normal amount of food. All that extra food equates to a tremendous increase in the amount of dog poo that must be cleaned up and disposed of daily.
Who will stay up all night if the mom-to-be begins whelping at 1 a.m.? Will this affect work/school the next day?
What if whelping occurs during the planned family vacation?
What if the puppies need to be fed around the clock with formula if the mother can't or won't nurse them? Or if the mother unexpectedly dies? This could be a few days to a few weeks. Will someone be home to care for the puppies if that happens?
Young children should not be allowed to handle small puppies without supervision. Rules must be followed to keep the puppies safe.
Be prepared for phone calls that come at all hours from people that see your advertisement, or from customers that have a puppy you sold and have questions or emergencies.
Think and Plan Before You Breed
It's so easy to just think of the fun and good aspects of breeding and raising puppies...and there are many. But the truth is the path isn't just filled with happy events. Breeding takes a huge commitment and sacrifice. Have we made mistakes? You bet, we are human...but we are actively trying to improve with each and every breeding. Be sure that you have a plan in place and that you are mentally, physically, and financially capable of dealing with the good, the bad, and the ugly if you decide to breed Bloodhounds.
Thankfully, I have fellow hound breeders and mentors that I can talk to. If you are going to breed, make sure you have a good support network of responsible breeders. The American Bloodhound Club has a mentorship program...a great place to start.