Introduction to breeding

Group of Labrador puppies sat together

Today's dog breeders have a number of different things to consider when choosing dogs to use for breeding, including:

  • temperament
  • breed type and characteristics
  • health test results
  • genetic diversity
  • general health of the sire and dam

Responsible breeders will consider the health of their puppies to be a priority, which increases the probability that they will go on to live long and happy lives.

Thinking of breeding from your bitch? 

Ask yourself these questions first.
  • Is the bitch fit, healthy and does she have a good temperament?
  • Can you afford to pay for the recommended health tests for the bitch prior to mating her and, where necessary, for her litter?
  • Do you know enough to help the bitch during the whelping, if necessary?
  • Can you afford to pay for a caesarean should the dam have difficulty whelping the litter?
  • Could you cope with a very large litter of, say, 10 or 12 puppies?
  • Do you have sufficient knowledge to rear the litter correctly, including worming, vaccinations and socialisation?
  • Do you have the time to devote to a litter until the puppies are old enough to go to their new homes, which is usually around 8 weeks?
  • Are you knowledgeable enough to advise new owners about caring for their puppies, including rearing, diet, training and health problems?
  • Would you be able to find good homes for the puppies?
  • Are you in a position to take back or rehome any puppies if it becomes necessary?

If you have not been able to say yes to the questions above, then breeding may not be for you. If you decide not to breed from your bitch, then you may wish to consider having her spayed to prevent unwanted or unplanned pregnancies.

Please also keep these points in mind.

Responsible breeders:

  • give careful consideration to health issues, temperament and the look of the dog
  • plan ahead of each mating to ensure that each puppy produced will be bred in the best possible environment
  • accept responsibility for a puppy which they have bred, and make themselves available to give advice, help and information to new owners

Where can I find out more?

You can find out more about breeding, pregnancy and raising puppies in a number of films available on The Kennel Club Academy.

The Kennel Club's rules in regards to registration

Before thinking about breeding from your bitch, you should read the below information.

It is important that you ensure that your bitch is registered in your own name and that the stud dog is also registered with The Kennel Club and that the owner’s details are correct.

Sometimes The Kennel Club will not accept an application to register a litter.

This will happen if any of the following circumstances apply:

  1. The dam has already whelped four litters, save in exceptional circumstances, and only provided the application is made prior to the mating and with veterinary evidence as to the suitability of the bitch involved in the proposed whelping and permission has been received, or
  2. The dam has already reached the age of 8 years at the date of whelping, save in exceptional circumstances, and only provided the application is made prior to the mating, and the proposed dam has previously whelped at least one other registered litter and permission has been received. Any such application must be supported by veterinary evidence as to the suitability of the bitch involved in the proposed whelping, or,
  3. The dam was under 1 year old at the time of mating, or
  4. The offspring are the result of any mating between father and daughter, mother and son or brother and sister, save in exceptional circumstances or for scientifically proven welfare reasons and permission has been received, or
  5. The dam has already had two litters delivered by caesarean section, save for scientifically proven welfare reasons, and only provided the application is made prior to the mating


You will also need to ensure that your bitch’s registration with The Kennel Club does not carry any breeding restrictions (otherwise known as endorsements). If there are any, the breeding restriction will need to be removed before we can register your litter. Therefore you will need to discuss this with the person from whom you obtained the bitch. The only person who can remove an endorsement is the person(s) who placed it, and we require written confirmation with all relevant signatures to be able to action this. This also applies to the sire of the litter, so we would recommend keeping this in mind when selecting the stud dog.

Colour and registration

When you register your puppies with The Kennel Club you must specify their colour. Each puppy is likely to be either a breed standard colour or a non-breed standard colour. You can find out more about what these are and check the lists of these colours on our Breeds A-Z.

If you can’t find your a dogs colour on either of these lists then you can find out what you should do on our ‘other’ colours page.

Next step - When you are ready for your first litter