Note from the Moderators: Due to the many questions on breeding and the many excellent replies written over the years which unfortunately get lost in the thousands of threads which are now on the forum, we have asked Tracy to put together an article on breeding which incorporates many of the points which have been made over time. By stickying this thread, it will be easily found for anyone who wants to refer to it.
Chloe, Jane, Kay and Michelle.
Thinking of Breeding?
Breeding should be carefully considered by people who are intent on improving our breed. NOT to be undertaken lightly. Everyone thinks their dog is "cute" and having puppies sounds like it might be fun. But it can be heartbreaking and expensive, even deadly. Research, learn, and arm yourself with knowledge and then make a rational and educated decision on whether breeding is right for you.
Showing your dog:
I believe that only dogs that are going to better our breed should be bred. There are no shortcuts! So how do you know if your dog is going to make a contribution to the breed? I believe you determine breeding quality by showing your dog in conformation at dog shows. If you can't do that, at least get some opinions from show breeders in your area. Chi's are popular. There are reputable show breeders in every state. Go to akc.org and look up Chi Clubs or all-breed clubs. Or if you are in another country, go to your kennel club registry and look up the same information there. Get a referral to a conformation or ringcraft class and get some opinions on your dog. Is it worthy of being bred? Will it improve the breed? Does it MEET THE STANDARD. That means in size, head shape, body conformation, movement, and temperament.
What if you don’t want to show your dog? You don’t have the time or you don’t think it’s necessary. Research the pedigree of your dog. There should be champions throughout it, especially in the first 3 generations. If your dogs pedigree doesn’t have any champions or they are very far back in the line, think again about breeding.
Breeding to the standard:
Why should you breed to the standard? Your dog may be oversized or undersized, have an incorrect bite, maybe its head shape is more “deer” than “apple”. Does that mean you shouldn’t breed? What if it’s a wonderful dog and you think the puppies will be wonderful too? I believe that only the BEST dogs should be bred. Just because you love your dog doesn’t mean you should reproduce it.
Let's be frank. If you end up breeding your deer headed 9 pounder, you have not added anything to the Chihuahua breed. You have produced dogs that do not meet the standard. The standard is the “blueprint” of the breed. It describes what a perfect Chihuahua should look like. Reputable breeders will educate themselves and try to produce the next generation of Chi’s that are better examples of the breed than the parents. Always looking to improve! Not just add more dogs to the world. If everyone starts breeding non-standard Chihuahua’s, the breed will deteriorate and no longer be the recognizable tiny dogs that we love! Think about why you chose a Chihuahua in the first place. If you wanted a 10 pound dog, you wouldn’t have bought a Chihuahua, would you?
Here’s the AKC standard for Chihuahua’s. Other countries have similar standards you can reference.
An Experts evaluation:
Again, just reading the standard is a good starting point – but I recommend you have your dog evaluated by a judge or by an expert in the breed before you even consider going any farther in the breeding arena. Knowing the standard isn’t enough. You have to be able to compare dogs to each other and see where individual dogs fall short. Educate yourself! You will need a mentor if you want to breed.
Choosing a stud dog:
Then the matter of the stud dog comes up. Where are you going to find one? You will want a dog that has proved itself in the show ring, a champion, if you want to find a good market for puppies. That means finding a dog that compliments your bitch. He should be a champion with a track record of producing quality puppies. A reputable stud dog owner should also be able to evaluate your bitch and let you know if she is breeding quality or not. That is another avenue to investigate and pursue. A reputable stud dog owner will require, at the very least, a brucellosis test on any bitch bred to her dog. This is another cost to factor in.
The same goes for dogs. A bitch owner can go to any number of dogs for stud service. What makes yours worthy of being bred? Is it a champion? Health tested? What does he contribute to the breed? Just having the anatomy to reproduce does NOT mean he should be bred!
Then there is the issue of health and testing for inherited diseases and conditions. A reputable breeder will attain certification on eyes, hearts, and patellas and breed from a line that is seizure and hydrocephalus free. The Chihuahua Club of America recommends that these tests be done before breeding: CERF test for eye diseases, CARDIAC certification to test for heart disease, and PATELLAS (checking knees for luxation which is a genetic disease). These health certifications should be done not just on the breeding pair, but back in the pedigree as far as you can trace. We don't need more Chihuahua’s with seizures or hydrocephalus, eye problems/blindness, heart failure, or sloppy knees that cause lameness.
Breeding is expensive! Raising a litter involves a considerable investment in time and money - money that you aren’t likely to get back in profit. Costs can run several hundred dollars if everything goes RIGHT. An unexpected c-section can cost $500. One sick puppy can end up costing hundreds of dollars to treat and there goes any profit you might have made. Usually things go wrong in the middle of the night, or on a weekend. Emergency vets are VERY expensive. Can you take off several weeks from work to hand feed a litter if the mother can't or won't take care of the pups?
Breeding doesn't make money. To do it right costs money.
By the time your bitch is old enough to have puppies, you’ll have a large investment in her. Purchase price, quality food & upkeep, vaccinations, dog shows, and the medical tests & certifications to prove her suitability for breeding. In order to produce quality puppies, you’ll need to use a stud dog that’s as good or better than she is. Good stud dogs require a hefty fee. Most professional breeders won’t be interested in taking a puppy in exchange nor are they interested in breeding to just any bitch.
There will be pre-whelping exams and x-rays, post-whelping exams and shots, dewclaw removal, puppy shots (two sets for each pup before they’re sold), worming medication, extra food for dam & pups, equipment like whelping boxes, heating pads, puppy playpens, crates, etc. Problem pregnancies are common.
You’ll be taking time off work to help whelp the litter and make sure all is well the first few days, especially if this is your bitch’s first litter. Dogs don’t always know what to do and can accidentally kill their puppies. A problem during whelping can cost your bitch her life! Are you ready to take the risk of losing your dog? You can depend on a 25% mortality rate for newborn puppies no matter how well you care for them.
Then there will be advertising costs to help sell your puppies. Depending on your location, it can take up to 4 months or even longer to find proper homes for your whole litter. Even breeders of top quality show dogs rarely break even on their expenses.
Remember that toy breed puppies like Chihuahua’s need to stay with their mom and littermates for at least 10 weeks and preferably 12 weeks. Puppies are a tremendous amount of work as they grow as mom is no longer cleaning up after them. Budget in the extra time and expense for caring for the litter until they are 3 months old.
So let’s say that you have determined that your dog meets the standard. It is from a long line of champions and has passed it’s health testing. Now can you breed?
Reputable breeders have contracts. They specify that they will guarantee the health of the puppies they produce for at least a year and usually longer. Are you prepared to take back a 10 month old puppy you produced that has luxating patella’s? Refund the buyer, have surgery on the dog and find it a new home or keep it? Are you prepared to refund a buyers money or replace their dog years later? Responsible breeders know that they are responsible for the dogs they produce for the rest of their lives. Do you have the space and ability to take back a dog you produced years ago and either keep it or find it another home? In the US, some states are now passing “puppy lemon laws” that would require a breeder to refund up to three times the purchase price of a defective puppy or pay for its medical bills.
There are many things to consider when deciding whether or not to breed. Make sure that you breed for the right reasons and arm yourself with knowledge before undertaking this enormous responsibility! In most cases, it just doesn’t make sense to breed our pets. Breeding can be rewarding, if done right, or it can be an emotional roller coaster of heartbreak. Go into breeding with your eyes open and armed with information. Be prepared. Most of the time, opting NOT to breed your pet is the best and most loving decision you could make.