As a veterinarian, dog sport enthusiast, and breeder, I am always interested in what it takes to breed a quality animal. I have known many breeders over the years, most of them Labrador breeders as that is my breed, but also other breeds and even species (horse and cat). I have attended seminars from both the veterinary and sport aspects of breeding. I have a pretty good handle on what breeders want in their puppies. I don’t always agree with how they go about producing those results.
Show breeders want a beautiful dog. Working dog breeders want dogs with drive and intelligence. Puppy producers want puppies……period. Most puppies from any breeder will grow up to be family pets. As I see it, all breeders should be striving for long term health. Most quality breeders perform health screening tests appropriate for the breed. If they don’t, shame on them. What many do not do, is take into consideration overall health, the more common ailments, including allergies, ear infections, etc. If we breed dogs with chronic issues like recurrent hot spots, we can expect to get puppies with the same.
I have attended lectures by reproduction specialists in veterinary medicine that encourage breeding young bitches to make the most of a healthy uterus. Younger males are likely to have higher sperm counts and better fertility. What we don’t know when breeding these young dogs, is the long term health of these dogs! Are they going to live free of allergies, tumors and seizures? Some breeds have such a problem that it is rare to see a specimen over seven years of age!
Veterinarian Ian Dunbar, PhD, BVetMed MRCVS , feels bitch owners should be looking for males that are at least ten years old, so health can be evaluated at a later age. Ideally, an older dog should be free of chronic diseases including arthritis at this age to be considered worthy of breeding. Dr Dunbar, a behaviorist and leader in the dog training community, also feels that while bitches have to be bred at a comparatively young age, breeders should wait longer than they currently do to ensure overall health.
I am in the middle of these two opinions. I understand the need to breed bitches at a younger age. I do think many people breed too young. Not too young for the bitch’s health, but too young for health and soundness to truly be evaluated. I think the idea of using an older male is a good one. Waiting until ten may be extreme, but I think the goal is clear.
I do feel breeders tend to overlook what they consider to be minor problems that are in actuality not minor problems. When looking into breeding my lovely chocolate champion to a beautiful, winning male that had produced a number of puppies, I questioned owners of previous litters sired by this dog about their puppies. The answers were very positive. I bred to this dog and my litter produced one puppy with an over bite and two with elbow dysplasia. I later learned that one breeder had had one puppy from each of her two litters by this male with an over bite. This well meaning breeder did not believe that this was a big deal. In my book, it is a big deal. It can affect the dog’s comfort and dental maintenance issues for the future owner. The elbow issues are disappointing. Both parents are screened for elbow disease, but still produced it. I initially kept a gorgeous girl from this litter. She had no health issues, but I placed her in a pet home due to my reluctance to breed her since her litter mates had problems.
There are no guarantees with any adventure into the breeding world. Breeders must concentrate on overall quality, not just a winner, worker, or cute pet.
photo of Jubilee by RoxAnne Franklin