I look forward to the birth of a German Shepherd litter in California. My own GSD, Zoey, passed away last March, and I’ve been patiently (well, maybe not all patiently!) while waiting for a new puppy. My pup’s father, Dante, belongs to Deborah Stern, a longtime Shepherd source and mentor. Stern is co-owner of last year’s Westminster’s Best in Show, Rumor, which recently got its own litter, and is now proving it can rock the Mom scene as well as the Ring Show!
My pup’s mother, Rhea, also excels in the Mama arena. Dante and Rhea’s previous litter demonstrates well the breed standard for physical and temperamental traits, as well as working abilities. All dogs are individuals, but with such a strong lineage, I can reasonably expect working ability, health, good looks, and a good temperament in my pup. It is then up to me to bring out its potential!
Breeding dogs is a complicated process and also a complicated matter. When choosing a purebred dog, do your research thoroughly and always buy a puppy from a breeder who will take your dog back if the match doesn’t work out. Beware of purchasing from irresponsible backyard breeders who overbreed and do not follow professional breeding guidelines – these breeders contribute to problems such as shelter overcrowding and ultimately euthanasia of healthy dogs.
So what exactly happens during the process of professional and responsible dog breeding? Let’s look at the basics:
How do responsible breeders breed dogs? Lines, inbreeding and more:
True dog breeding requires knowledge, commitment, and to some degree a willingness to take a leap of faith. The goal is to improve a line over generations. Breeders must have a working knowledge of genetics since dog breeding is essentially a genetic restriction to a unifying standard. Professional breeders practice:
- Inbreeding, the mating of rather close relatives
- Linebreeding, when there is at least one dog in the generational pedigree on both sides, but more distant (such as a grandfather on one side and a great-grandfather on the other)
- Outcrossing, the mating of unrelated lines
Sound complicated? He is. Reputable breeders also invest time in conformation and other sports such as agility, herding, obedience and rallying. Titles around a dog’s name are evidence of their adherence to a breed standard, both physically and mentally. “A German Shepherd, for example, needs to have a herd-moving body,” Stern says. “When Judge Westminster Best in Show judged Rumor, he was looking at his nobility and quality, and assessing whether his body was moving to conform to his breed’s work goals.”
Reputable breeders are usually active in breed clubs, dedicated to health education and research, and committed to making their dogs ambassadors for the breed. Professional and responsible breeders will also take their dogs back so that these puppies do not end up in the shelter system.
Puppies from responsible breeders come with genuine certifications and records.
Good breeders socialize their puppies, help them transition to new homes, and are available to answer questions throughout their dogs’ lives. Conscientious breeders also provide health screening records for both sire and dam. For example, my pup’s sire and dam have OFA (Orthopedic Foundation for Animals) certified hips and elbows. Such records mean my pup’s chances of developing dysplasia are pretty slim.
For all these reasons, when it comes to dog breeding, the well-known warning “Do not try this at home!applies in spades. Again, perhaps we should rephrase the phrase to “leave the breeding to the professionals”, as many breeders (often the most wonderful!) raise the litters at home.
How old should a dog be to breed?
Although some dogs (mainly small breeds) reach sexual maturity as early as 6 months, full physical maturity takes some time. In general, females must wait until they have gone through a few heat cycles before breeding. “Most women are considered ready around age 2, but not before,” Stern says. “Before the age of 2, in many breeds, the bones, ligaments and joints have not finished growing.” Also, many health checkups are not completed until age 2. The OFA, for example, will not give approval for hip and elbow certification until the dog is 2 years old. permissions,” Stern says. “Ideally a dog is given a few years before breeding to prove itself, in terms of health, temperament and working ability.”
On the other side of the age equation, females over 6 years old are generally not mated. During their breeding years, most females can safely have 2 or 3 litters. Males, however, can spawn in their oldest years.
When to neuter or neuter?
So if we are not qualified to breed, should we leave our dogs untouched? Now we come across controversy. Interestingly, although these surgeries are common in the United States, spaying and sterilization in much of Europe and Norway, for example, are not performed routinely. However, many of these countries do not have housing overcrowding issues like the United States.
There are medical pros and cons to sterilization. But, unless you are a professional breeder, there is little reason not to neuter or neuter your dog.
Yes, spaying and spaying can be expensive, but there are options for low-cost or even free spaying and spaying clinics or events across the country. With the dozens of homeless dogs in shelters, neutering a dog — even a purebred dog — is the most responsible choice if you’re not a professional breeder.
Learn more about dog breeds on Dogster.com: