Karen e-mailed me, ” I want to buy one of your female pups for breeding. I have a male short coat Chihuahua. He is not registered but I was told he is a pure bred and I really don’t think it matters if the pups are registered or not. I think it would be fun to start breeding Chihuahuas and I feel I could support myself with all the money I will make from the pups.”
Sorry Karen, but I feel you need a “reality check” when it comes to breeding dogs. You have seen the beautiful pictures of pups in magazines, the picture-perfect image of a proud mom dog in groomed condition gazing into the camera as her litter of pups suckle on her. Breeding is not for the faint of heart or the faint of pocketbook.
That image is what the photographer wants you to see, but that is not the full picture. Responsible breeding is really not as simple as one may think. It is not as simple as putting two dogs together and magically ending up with healthy, happy puppies.
You cannot advertise that a dog is pure bred if it is not registered with the CKC. If you are going to breed and want to sell the dogs as purebred you must start with registered dogs. They need to be registered with the Canadian Kennel Club, an organization that tracks the lineage of the pet to the third and fourth generation. You must do research on the line the dog comes from to make sure that genetic health issues do not run in the line. If you are a responsible breeder you will care what genetic history your dogs have. But that is not all - read on to find out the real cost and content of breeding.
Dog mating is not easy. It’s exasperating, messy and unpredictable. Even if a pair of dogs is perfectly capable, a breeder has to be there to supervise. You’ll put them together again tomorrow, or the next day, and then the day after that. Then you’ll wait. There’s no way to tell if a bitch is pregnant until about four weeks later. Sometimes mating works and sometimes it doesn’t.
Once your female is pregnant she becomes a bottomless pit. You need to estimate how many puppies she’s having (while agonizing over whether she is or isn’t having any), make sure you have all your tools, set up your whelping box, lots of towels and more. Chihuahuas are not wild dogs and if let to free whelp they may do alright, but if they should have problems, you don’t want to leave it up to nature. A responsible breeder is there at the birth and stays with her female through the whole time no matter how long it takes. A responsible breeder knows how long to wait before the first pup is born and when the female needs to be taken to the vet for an emergency C-section. The need for C-section is a lot higher in toy breed dogs then medium to large breeds.
It takes approximate 63 days before the pups are ready to be born, from the first breeding date. No matter how prepared you are, it typically commences when you least expect it. She may do it according to the book: only it’s the one she wrote, not the one you read. If the pups are born even 3 or 4 days prematurely you can lose all the pups because they may not be developed properly. You must be prepared to hold down a female that has to have a C-section because 95 % of females that have a C-section will not take suckle their pup. You will have to stimulate that pup to go to the washroom, because the female will want nothing to do with it. If the pup won’t nurse off your female, you will have to know how to tub feed the pup and feed around the clock until the pup starts feeding on the female or you will have to slowly start bottle feeding them. The worst feeling is losing a pup that you have carefully and painstakingly nursed. It does happen, and trust me when I say it is heartbreaking.
Whelping is not a pretty picture, but rather bloody, slimy and disgusting. As a doggie mid-wife, you’ll be covered in bodily fluids, watch your dear sweet dog eat the placenta (if the placenta doesn’t come out your female will be at risk for toxemia and she can die or you could ruin her chance at having puppies in the future) Each precious puppy born must have you help take it out of the wet and slimy sack they are born in. You will also have to clamp the umbilical cord and cut it. If you let the female do it “naturally” you are putting not just the pup at risk but the female as well.
Sometimes the sack is very thick and it will take the female too long to rip it open. In this case the pup can drown. The female could rip the umbilical cord and the pup could bleed to death or get an umbilical hernia which requires surgery to fix it. A responsible breeder would never put the pup’s life or the female’s life in jeopardy. The pup must be dried, inspected, weighed (weigh chart must be made to keep track of pups weight so if they aren’t gaining weight you will know something is wrong and you and take action) and identified.
When a pup takes its first breath, its body takes on firmness and is no longer limp. The puppy is alive, wriggling and nursing and now your work will really begin. But don’t spend too long admiring because the next pup is on its way. Meanwhile you have to keep watch of your bitch as she starts to dig and mess up the blankets with the first puppy potentially buried under them in the birthing box. Many hours later you will have a litter of puppies.
You have to watch that your female doesn’t step or lie on a puppy: weigh them every day to ensure each pup is eating and gaining weight: check the temperature so that it isn’t too hot for the bitch or too cold for the pups. Clean the discharge that leaks from the bitch. Make sure your female stays with the pups long enough to feed them and sit and watch each breath and movement with sense of never waning wonder as each puppy lives and grows. Unhealthy puppies are more work and cause more heart break. Remember that at three days old the pups will need their dew claws removed.
Sleep is something you’ll learn to value since you will get very little of it. Most breeders sleep in the same room as the puppies or in the room next to the pups and keep one eye open all night long for the first week or so.
While taking care of puppies you’ll also be taking care of puppy purchasers. One of the most time consuming but important things a responsible breeder does is educate people about their breed, which means never ending phone calls and e-mails. In between sleeping and phone (e-mail) conversations you’ll keep an eagle eye on every vital sign of the whole family and take endless pictures.
At 14 to 18 days, a pup’s eyes and ears will open, legs will start working better and little bumps will protrude on the gums. The little slugs have turned into little seals and begin traveling around more. Pups wander around aimlessly and fall on their faces and tumble into each other. Your bitch will clean up anything the puppies eliminate, which is handy and gross at the same time. You will do the rest: clean up the bedding, cut puppy nails, feed your female continually and talk on the phone/e-mail some more.
The first three weeks are the lull before the storm. The work really starts when the pups are four weeks old and older. The pups need to start eating puppy duel (grown puppy food and goats milk mixed together). Puppies will walk through the food, lie down and pee in it, and your bitch will eat it if she can get to it. She will also clean the food off the puppies, but not very well, so you’ll have to clean them up.
When the pups start eating puppy food, the females will stop cleaning up after them when they have to go to the washroom. Poo and pee will have to be cleaned up by you, not their mom. That is when you must start paper training them, to make your job a bit easier. You will need lots of newspaper and hot soapy pails of water with bleach in it to wash the floor behind the pups until they get the hang of using the papers and paper box.
In between cleaning you’ll weigh each puppy a couple of times a week, take pictures, talk to potential new owners and start to enrich the puppy’s world. Pups need to be stimulated, socialized and handled. They need toys, noises and places to explore. Watching puppies discover the world is a delight. Sitting in a whelping box with one to three pups at five weeks old is a trial. They pull on shoelaces, pounce on toes, scratch faces and get close enough to bite your nose (their teeth are like razor blades). You will have by now clipped the pup’s nails once every week from birth so that their nails are not catching on the bedding.
The weeks pass and before you know it, the time will have come to say goodbye to the little fur-balls and send them off to their selected, screened and approved homes. You’ve done your best to find good homes and owners where the puppies are going to be happy. In some ways you can’t wait to be rid of the little monsters but it will pull at your heartstrings every time a puppy leaves. But at least you will get paid, right?
Just don’t do the math and you’ll be happy with the cash! If you add it up you can make a little money breeding dogs, but you can’t make very much. Breeding is a passion, you won’t get rich in the monetary sense, but you will be rich in dogs and friends. I miss every pup/dog I sell and try to keep in contact through the years with the new owners. It is like having a part of you go every time a pup leaves your home. Remember during that through the four months; first breeding through to the pups birth and growing up and leaving you will have also to live your regular life (job, family, friends, taking care of your other dogs, house work, etc.)
Remember to feed your dog a good dog food, with no animal by-produces or fillers or corn. Pup should never leave your home to go to their new home until the pup is at least nine weeks old and fully weaned from their mother. Vet checks are a must and pups should have at least one set of shots before going to their new homes. Between six and seven weeks old the pups should be tattooed and or micro chipped. You will have worked over 500 hours before you sell a pup. It has to be a labor of love.
Some pups are sold right away when they are old enough to go to their new homes. But sometimes you will have a pup that no one is interested in even though it is a beautiful intelligent pup. You will have to make sure that the immunization shots are up to date and if they are over 6 months old you will have to think about spaying & neutering the pup before the hormones kick in and males start to mark and females come into their first heat.
Veterinarian bills are very costly. For example in 2009 my vet bill was $17,000 for the year and in 2010 my vet bill was $13,000 for the year. When added to the other costs that I have, I don’t understand how anyone would think that breeding dogs is a money making business. If you do it right, breeding can never be lucrative. If your breeding dogs are first and foremost family members, there is little if any money to be made. Unfortunately in 2010, due to improvements in my kennel, supplies for the dogs and unexpected vet bills, my expenses far exceeded my gross income. 2013 it cost me in Veterinarian bills $18,000. In the end of 2013, I lost over $15,000.00 not because I don’t manage my money properly, but because of the cost of the Vet, Spaying/neutering, dental cleaning, food, Registering each pup and other cost involved with breeding has gone up. I love Chihuahuas, that is why I also board toy breed dogs and do custom sewing to of set the loss in money I have with breeding quality, healthy Chihuahuas to the breed standard.
Visit You Tube to watch our birth videos. Because Chihuahuas are a toy breed dog, they always need someone there with them when they deliver their pups. Not all labours go smoothly. You must know what to do to help your female if she has a difficult labour & delivery. Sometimes there is no time to go to the Vet. You need to know what to do.
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