If you’re thinking of breeding, either from your male (sire) or female dog (dam), for the first time, then, before you decide to mate them, there are some important considerations you need to think about. For many people, breeding dogs is a rewarding, meaningful passion that brings them a huge amount of joy, but it can also be expensive, time consuming and, sometimes, even heart-breaking. Choosing to produce a litter of puppies is a big responsibility and not a decision that should ever be taken lightly. It’s crucial that you take the time to think about if breeding is right for you, your dog and the puppies that you may potentially produce.
Why are you thinking of breeding?
It’s important that you have good reasons to breed because putting your pet dog through mating and pregnancy can be unkind and unethical, especially if it’s not done responsibly. Think about why you want to breed a litter of puppies rather than buying or rescuing one instead.
What are the correct reasons for breeding?
Whether you sell your puppies, give them to friends, or keep them for yourself, remember that a responsible breeder’s goal should always be to help improve the breed.
Breeding should not be about you, or making money, but should be about the dogs. Take your time to think it through, and do what’s best for you, your family and, most of all, your dog.
We think good reasons to breed are because:
- You believe that your dog has a good pedigree (family tree) and has good genes that are worth being passed on
- You want to produce puppies that will improve the breed, whether that’s that they are healthier, have an outstanding personality (known as temperament) or look a certain way (known as conformation) and meet the breed standard
- You want to make a positive difference to the breed
- To continue your line of pedigree dogs
Is my dog suitable for breeding?
Breeding is about getting the right balance, so it’s important to weigh up their health, temperament and how they look. No dog is perfect, so if you do decide to breed from them, try to find a mate that complements their good points and balances out any flaws.
To get advice on whether your dog is suitable for mating, try:
Is my dog healthy enough?
Do I need to health screen my dog?
Certain health conditions can’t always be tested for, so if your dog has any health issues, or issues because of the way they look, then always speak to your vet for advice on breeding.
Is my dog’s temperament suitable?
Does my dog meet the breed standard?
Find out more about breed standards.
Is my dog the right age for breeding?
Some breeders prefer to let their dogs have a few heat cycles, or seasons, before being mated to check for any obvious issues. Once a female dog is eight years old, or over, she is considered too old for breeding. Pregnancy in older dogs is linked to a higher risk of health problems and may be too much for an older dog to cope with.
How will my dog cope with mating, pregnancy and whelping?
Not all dogs are suited to breeding, so it’s essential to think about how your dog would cope with being mated, being pregnant, and also caring for their puppies. If your dog is nervous, aggressive, unpredictable, or if they have any health conditions that might make it difficult for them to whelp a litter, then discuss it with your vet, breeder or an experienced stud dog owner.
Can I afford it?
- Health tests and screening to see if your dog has any genetic conditions. This is done before mating, but, in a few breeds, some tests may also need to be carried out on the puppies too (e.g., Dalmatians)
- A fee for the stud dog
- Veterinary check-ups throughout the pregnancy
- Equipment for whelping (e.g., a whelping box)
- Food for your dog and her puppies, as they grow older
- Vaccinations, worming treatments, microchipping and veterinary check-ups for the puppies
- Emergency veterinary care, such as c-sections, looking after sick puppies or pregnancy complications
- Breeding licence (only if you intend to breed three or more litters in a year)
- Toys for puppies
- Puppy packs for the new owners
- Registration documents and certificates
Do I have enough time?
Having a litter of puppies is hard work and takes a considerable amount of time. Before you breed your dog, think about whether you will have enough time to:
- Be with your dog while she is in labour? Labour can start at any time of the day or night and can last for many hours
- Take time off work to care for the puppies? To start with, they will need to be checked continually to ensure they’re all thriving and feeding well from the mother
- Care for your dog after labour and make sure she is recovering and eating?
- Groom, train, socialise and clean up after all of your puppies? It’s lots of fun to have puppies, but it’s hard work, especially if your dog has a large litter (some litters in certain breeds can include 10 to 12 puppies). Puppies usually go to their new homes after eight weeks so that they will be with you for quite some time
- Take your puppies to the vets for their vaccinations, microchipping and worming advice?
- Organise selling your puppies? You may need to advertise, talk to prospective owners, interview them, introduce them to your puppies and answer all their questions
- Be there should something go wrong, such as hand feeding the puppies if your dog has problems producing milk?
Do I know enough?
Breeding dogs is a big responsibility, so it’s crucial that all the choices you make are well informed. This requires a lot of time, effort and research, but if you’re going to breed dogs, you should do it responsibly. To help you learn more about dog breeding, there are many good books, social media groups, podcasts and videos to help you.
One of the best ways to learn about dog breeding is from a mentor or someone who can guide you along the way. Speak to your dog’s breeder first to find out if they have any advice, or try contacting your local breed club. Your vet may also know someone who has bred puppies and can guide you.
Will I be able to sell my puppies?
When selling your puppies, it’s important that you screen anyone who’s interested in buying them, making sure that they can provide your puppies with a loving and caring home. This means taking the time to find out about their lifestyle, home set-up, whether they have a garden, what their working arrangements are and whether they will have the patience to be able to care for your puppy as it grows older.
You can find a step-by-step guide to selling puppies or you can advertise to sell your puppies on our Find a Puppy webpages.
Will I be able to care for my puppies if things go wrong?
Being a good breeder means that you do all you can to help your puppies, sometimes even after they’ve gone to their new homes. If one of your new owners could no longer look after their puppy, would you have the time and resources to be able to take them back or help find them another home?
Will I be able to register my puppies with you?
If you plan to register your puppies with us, both parents must be Kennel Club registered and must meet our criteria. It’s important that you ensure that your bitch is registered in your own name and that the stud dog is also registered with us and that their owner details are correct. You will need to ensure that there are no breeding restrictions on either parent’s registration records.
For health and welfare reasons we will refuse to register puppies if:
- The bitch has already whelped four litters
- The dam is aged over eight years old at the date of whelping
- The dam is under one year old at the date of mating
- The offspring are produced through mating a father and daughter, son and mother or sister and brother
- The dam has already had two litters by caesarean section
There may also be some additional breeding restrictions for certain breeds, and these can be found in your breeds entry on our Breeds A-Z.
We may not be able to register your litter if your dog’s breeder has placed a breeding endorsement on your dog. Some breeders will ask their puppy buyers to sign a contract or endorsement notice that says that you agree not to breed from your dog. If you have signed an endorsement notice and want to breed from your dog, you will need to speak to the person that placed the endorsement to have it lifted.
Do I need a breeder licence?
Initially, no. You only need a breeding licence if you breed three or more litters a year or if you advertise as a business that breeds or sells puppies. If you intend to breed more often, you should look into whether you need a licence – you may need to contact your local council about this as they issue licences for dog breeders.
What should I do if breeding is not for me?
If you have not been able to answer positively 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. Having your dog spayed can have an impact on them and their health, so it should always be considered carefully.