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First Time Breeders

by Ralph Carson

Some have asked about the cost of having a litter of Beardies, the risk of not being able to place the puppies, and what percentage of puppies may result in returns. There are no pat answers to any of these questions. 

The cost of breeding a litter is dependent on whether you do the breeding PROPERLY or not, which stud dog you use, any complications you encounter, how long you keep the puppies before placing them, etc., etc. 

Before breeding, you should have the bitch thoroughly examined by a vet to insure that she is in satisfactory condition to whelp a litter, have her hips x-rayed to be sure she is free of hip dysplasia (an inheritable trait), have her tested for brucellosis (a highly infectious venereal disease), have her thyroid checked, and have her eyes checked by a canine ophthalmologist. (Obtain OFA and CERF registrations.) The same should be done for the stud dog, of course.  

Selection of the stud dog to use is a subject for a rather lengthy discussion in itself. Suffice it to say here that you select the best stud you can for your particular bitch --- and not simply the least expensive or most easily available one. Stud fees can be significant, and if the stud you choose to use is half way across the country, are you going to drive or fly your bitch back and forth or try the even more expensive "chilled semen" route? 

Are you going to try to judge for yourself when the actual breeding should be done, let the stud dog decide for you, or use a vet to determine the proper timing? (We have had bitches successfully bred as early as the 7th day and as late as the 17th day of their season.) 

The first time you breed, there are the one time expenses of a whelping box, heating pads, hot water bottles, etc., etc., etc. With each litter, wife Irene seems to accumulate more (you should see our puppy mini-agility course with see-saw, tunnel, etc.).  

First time breeders assume the whelping of the puppies is going to proceed normally, and they usually do, but not always. There can be mad rushes to the vet in the middle of the night to have a caesarean done because the bitch can't whelp the puppies by herself, and if too long a delay occurs, you may lose some puppies and possibly even the bitch herself. Although we thankfully have never lost a bitch this way, we know some breeders who very sadly have. (We have learned to alert our vet beforehand as to when we expect the whelping to occur, and we alert him again when labour starts. We want to know if he is going to be available or not if we should need him in a hurry.) 

How many puppies are you likely to have? Who knows? (We have had litters as small as 1 and as large as 11.) The average for Beardies is probably about 6 or 7. 

Is the bitch going to be able to adequately nurse her puppies? If not, you have to take over the task, and it is both time consuming and tiring. (We have had to bottle nurse a litter of seven puppies every three hours for several weeks using heated goat's milk --- and goat's milk is expensive and not all that easy to find in quantity.) In any case, you will need the necessary milk substitute, etc. to wean the puppies to regular dog food.  

How long are you going to keep the puppies before you release them to go to their new homes --- 8 weeks, 9 weeks, 12 weeks, longer? The longer you keep them, the more shots they require, the more food they consume, and the more attention they require. Are you going to have your vet remove their dew claws? There is also the possibility of additional vet fees for puppies with special problems (it once cost us almost $1,000 to discover that a puppy had a milk intolerance). 

The risk of not being able to PROPERLY place the puppies is dependent on a lot of things --- and I emphasize PROPERLY. It can be affected by your reputation as a breeder, the quality of the sire and dam, the area you live in, referrals you get from kennel clubs and other Beardie owners, the price you ask for your puppies, the appearance and condition of the puppies, the ads you run, etc. (We try to get the word out to our friends who are Beardie owners that we are expecting a litter, and then hopefully get a waiting list of prospective new owners before the litter is even whelped.) In my opinion, newspaper ads are not a very effective way to find GOOD homes for your puppies. 

Very careful screening of potential puppy buyers can greatly reduce the number of returns. Some questions to ask are: Why do they want a puppy? Do they have adequate facilities for a Beardie, such as a fenced yard, etc.? Are they aware of the grooming, exercise, cost, etc. required to properly maintain a Beardie? Do they have enough time to devote to the puppy (e.g. socialize it, play with it, take it to obedience, etc.)? Alarm bells go off for us when a prospective buyer says they want a dog for the children --- well, the children are rarely the ones who will end up taking care of the dog. We like to see the lady of the house be enthusiastic about the puppy because she is usually the one who ends up feeding, grooming, and generally caring for the dog. If she is overly concerned about shedding, chewing, housebreaking, etc. --- look out!! (The only puppy we've had returned over the years was one sold to a potential show home where the new owner's vet convinced him the puppy had a bad bite that wouldn't correct naturally --- the puppy's bite did correct, and it earned its championship with a new owner. Also out of 12 litters over 18 years, we have had to place three adult Beardies previously sold as puppies because of divorce in two cases and because of a wife returning to work in the other.) Generally, the only reason we breed in the first place is with the intent of keeping one of the puppies. 

The other expense we have is that wife Irene never completely turns loose of the puppies --- she wants to carry on as a Godmother forever. So costs for long distance telephone calls and birthday cards and gifts continue to mount for years and add to our total cost. 

I haven't really answered the question completely, but maybe I've given you some things to think about. There are many other types of expenses I've neglected to mention, but perhaps others will elaborate on those. We personally feel very fortunate if we break even financially on a litter.

Copyright © 1997 [Ralph Carson]
All rights reserved.

 
 
 
 
 
 
   


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Last revised: November 11, 2010