Deciding to breed your male or female dog is not a decision that should be taken lightly. There are many different considerations that owners need to put thought into before making this decision. Key factors will include the health of your dog, risks and associated problems with breeding and whelping, as well as caring for and eventually having to find good, loving homes for the puppies.
Once you do make the decision to breed your dog, it is important to select the best possible mate. This is essential in ensuring that the puppies will be healthy and have good temperaments and that there will be as few risks as possible to the breeding pair. These factors are essential whether you are breeding purebreds for show or breeding pet quality puppies of either purebred or hybrid lineage.
Selecting The Best Male
Selecting an appropriate male dog is critical in developing the best possible genetic combination. Since puppies will inherit one half of their genetic material from the male, the lineage, physical characteristics as well as temperament of the male is equally as important as that of the female.
The lineage of the male, which is actually his pedigree, is important if you are breeding either show dogs or working dogs. The reason it is so essential for both of these groups is because physical traits, including the adherence to the breed standard in show dogs and the natural abilities of the working dogs are all inherited traits. Typically show lines and working or field lines will be slightly different with regards to size, natural aptitude and ability as well as physical characteristics. In some of the breeds, especially the sporting dogs, personality traits and temperament will be different between the two lines. In general hunting or working lines tend to be slightly more independent and may be more excitable or high strung. Show lines tend to be calmer and more companion dog oriented, however either group with proper obedience and socialization can make an excellent all purpose dog or pet.
The temperament of the male is just as important as the temperament of the female, regardless of the breed. An aggressive male is likely to produce aggressive offspring, just as a calmer, friendlier male tends to pass on these types of temperaments. If you are breeding a dog that is already an aggressive or dominant type of breed the selection of a calm and non-aggressive male is even more critical.
Just like the female the male dog in the breeding pair should be checked for genetic problems prior to breeding. For most purebred dog breeds this will include eye tests for PRA (progressive retinal atrophy) as well as tests for CHD or canine hip dysplasia. Specific breeds may also have other additional genetic tests for blood, heart, neurological and metabolic disorders that can be passed on through recessive genes.
The size of the male dog is an essential consideration for the health of the female and in preventing any problems during whelping and subsequent nursing of puppies. The male dog should never be significantly larger than the female, especially in breeds that have known whelping and gestation problems. In hybrid breeding it is important to not breed any dog with a wide or large head with a female that is much smaller or has known birthing problems within the breed. This almost always results in the necessity for a cesarean birth or even possible death of puppies or the female due to complications.
Selecting The Right Female
As with the male the female dogs health, size, pedigree and temperament are all important factors in making the best selection. The size of the female needs to be about the same as that of the male, however you can also cross a larger female with a smaller male without complications. This is often used in the hybrid breeds, ensuring that there will be few if any whelping problems due to large puppies and a small mother. If you are breeding within a given breed some males may be naturally slightly larger than the females, but try to avoid too great of a difference.
Just like the males, the pedigree or ancestory of the female is important in ensuring the best possible physical appearance of the puppies. If you are breeding for show quality dogs look for females that exemplify the breed standard. Avoid breeding substandard females or females with faults or disqualifications from the show ring as these traits may be passed on to one or more of the puppies. Working dogs likewise need to have a mother that has the best natural abilities to have the edge in learning and picking up on the breed characteristics.
The temperament of the female is perhaps even more important than that of the male since she will be responsible for the earliest socialization and training of the puppies. If the mother dog is very aloof and independent or is aggressive or negligent when it comes to interacting with the puppies, they miss out on this early training. The puppies are more likely to become either aggressive or timid as they mature, plus they may have more difficulties in interacting with other dogs or responding to humans and training. Females that are aggressive or avoidant of the puppies also don't nurse the puppies properly, often resulting in health problems that can cause serious concerns as the puppies grow and mature.
Females should be thoroughly checked for all genetic conditions that may exist within the breed, plus they should also have a complete vet check several weeks before they are going to be bred. This allows the owner to adjust the females weight to optimum levels, as well as address any worming, vaccination or other health issues before she goes into heat. By having the female in top condition before breeding there is much less likelihood she will develop a problem during the gestation or during the 6 to 12 weeks after whelping where she will be nursing the puppies.
Selecting the best male and female dog for your breeding program takes time and research. Always spend time learning about the known genetic and health conditions in the breed prior to making the decision to breed. Once you have done the research, start looking around for the healthiest and best match mate for your male or female dog.