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Breeding Dogs 

There are enough websites on breeding dogs and I did not intend to write on this subject; however I woke up late this morning after a nightmare about breeding dogs. Last week I passed a car with a bumper sticker that read, “People who love their pets, don’t breed them”. My immediate reaction was in 10 years there will be no more dogs if people do not breed them and I love my dogs which I breed. All three of my dogs sleep next to me on my bed at the moment while I sit here propped up against pillows, snug and warm, typing. They follow me everywhere in our house and while I work from home they sleep under my desk.

However my nightmare was about being on holidays and someone else finding a litter of puppies which Gracie had given birth to in a caravan. They brought them back to where I was and started burying what look like to them thick German sausages. I noticed one of them move and realised there was about nine puppies still in their sacks. My daughter and I immediately started to open the sacks to let them breathe and they came alive but some of them did not look well. I knew in my mind that this was totally unrealistic and apart from one they would all be dead. It was a horrible thought, which is why I am going to write about breeding dogs.

The problems with breeding puppies:
. You must be there when your dog gives birth, if you love your dog.
. You cannot go on holidays when your dog has puppies, unless someone will stay with them and check on them often.
. Your female dog must sleep on your bed when she is due to have puppies if you want to get any sleep. Otherwise you need to get up every hour and check to see if she’s in labour. The reason for this is that if she is in labour for more than an hour and a half with the first puppy you need to race her immediately to the vet for a caesarean. One good thing is that they usually show nesting characteristics close to when they will give birth.
. There is a possibility that your dog may have a puppy while on your doona as happened to me with one litter. To avoid having to clean your doona or replace it when this happens, you need to sleep under a doona which is covered by a plastic tablecloth and then a rug which you are prepared to throw away if your dog gives birth on it. The plastic rustles with every movement.
. The reason you must be there when your dog gives birth if you care about her and her puppies is as follows:
. She will most likely be stressed particularly with her first litter, she will look for your calming presence, and want to be with you.

. She needs to be in a whelping box, which she will get in and out of, if you are not there. A whelping box helps prevent the mother from squashing her puppies to a degree.
. As she gives birth she will keep getting up and down to find a more comfortable position during contractions, which occur for each new puppy. If you are not are there, there is a good chance she will stand on puppies or worse still lie on them and squash them.
. She will also try to keep her puppies warm and you need to be there to turn on the heating so they are warm enough but she is not too hot.
. If the mother is gentle like my dogs and the puppy is still in its sack when it is born, which is quite normal, she will just lick and lick the sack not bite it and open it quickly enough. The puppy, I am told by a vet, needs to be out of the sack within one minute to keep it alive
[1]. The sacks are very hard to tear sometimes you need to very carefully open them with scissors.
. Sometimes in the process of chewing off the sack, which the mother will insist on doing after she realises she has too, the umbilical cord can tear where it joins to the puppy. Supporting the puppy a little so it is not hanging by the cord is sometimes necessary to prevent this tearing. If it does the puppy can bleed out and die. You need to have some sharp scissors nearby as you may have to cut the cord sometimes. You also need to have a reel of cotton nearby which you can use to tie around the umbilical cord if it won’t stop bleeding, to save the puppy.
. You may need to help the puppy start breathing. They usually gulp for air while in their sacks, which is a good sign that they are likely to be healthy, when the sack is open. However sometimes you may need to carefully hold them upside down in the palm of one hand and swing it away from you to help their airways clear and the puppy start breathing. The mother licking the puppy usually helps, if necessary stroking its underside with a warm cloth might also help.
. If the puppy is born looking yellow in its mouth area and does not start to breathe, don’t feel bad you are unlikely to ever have made that puppy come alive. Hide it away from the mum when she has another one to care for to save her some stress from a dead puppy.
. The puppies need to be kept warm and safe while the mother is giving birth to the rest of them. You can only take them away from her for a brief time to put them in a separate container on a hot water bottle that is covered in a towel. She’ll stress over them but ignore them while she removes the sack from the next puppy.
. You need to replace the bedding often during the birth as it will get wet and then go cold.
. She will scratch up the bedding trying to nest in it, tipping puppies off and onto the surface below. The puppies can get lost trying to find their mum if you are not there. They could get too cold and die from this.
. The puppies need to feed from the mum while she is giving birth to others. You will probably want to help them find a nipple so they stop crying.
. She may give birth to more puppies than she has nipples to feed them with. She may have two nipples closest to her front legs that will never produce milk. The little puppies may find it hard to push their way through the heavy puppies to get a drink from their mum. You may need to rearrange the mum and her puppies so they’re all get the milk they need.
. You may need to top up some puppies with a little extra special puppy milk for about a week. If you can avoid this try hard to do so. You won’t like it when they get it down their windpipe instead of their stomach. In this first week I use powdered milk specially designed for newborn animals which tells you how strong to make it on the container. It is really difficult to get the hole in the teat from the bottle just right. A needle through it does not seem to open it up enough for weak puppies to suck the milk out and it can weaken puppies if they have to work excessively hard to do so. Too big a hole and they almost choke on the milk, spluttering it back up and out their noses. You may need a few spare teats for the bottle when you make mistakes with the hole. They do not come pre-punched with a hole. A plastic bottle that you can squeeze a little if necessary and a smaller hole is a less risky combination. The milk needs be made with warm water and can be reheated but be very careful not to overheat it. Less than 10 seconds in a microwave may be enough to warm it up.
. Puppies can be born an hour and 10 minutes apart particularly the first litter. The contractions usually stop for a while between puppies. If a head comes out and the rest is not pushed out within 20 minutes that is probably too late to save that puppy. It is probably stuck because it is too big for the mother to pass and you need to assist it to come out or quickly organise a caesarean to remove it and the rest. Usually the first puppy to be born is the biggest. If it comes out then usually the rest will also follow naturally. You may be successful in helping pull the first puppy out if it is stuck there for too long. If you have to do this it is best to time the pulling with her contraction that pushes the pup. However interfering can open the sack too soon before the mother is able to push it out. The sack does not seem to need to be opened until the puppy is out of the mother.

We breed cavoodle pups and have done so for the last nine years. Holly was desexed at 7 years of age and so we only have one litter per year at the most, from Gracie, who is four years old. She will also retire sometime within the next three years. We have experienced all of what you have read about including puppies getting stuck and caesareans which usually cost more than a thousand dollars. It was easy to plan for the timing of the pups’ birth with Holly. Her second litter was born exactly one year to the day after her first litter was born. However with Gracie, who should come on heat every six months, we missed noticing her being on heat in about July 2014[2].

In my teenage years I bred and showed beagles. These dogs were not allowed to sleep on my bed. I lost half a litter once when they were born a week early on the day I carried the whelping box to the kennel. I found they had been born a few hours before I got home from school.

Be prepared; know what you are letting yourself in for. I work from home therefore I can look after puppies. I initially chose to do so to help cover the cost of keeping the two dogs and because I thought my children would love having puppies around. They did love them but were also distressed like I was when we lost one. I used to find that three puppies covered the cost of two dogs for a year, the fourth covered the cost of the puppies and advertising, the fifth helped us sponsor a child in Ethiopia and more than that was a profit to us. Holly usually had 6-9 puppies in a litter but only a maximum of 8 were ever born alive.

However Gracie has had three litters, the first two litters had only 3 very big puppies in each and she is a much smaller dog than Holly. She had two caesareans and only two puppies survived the first time. The second time I took her to the vet in time to have a caesarean before the first puppy was born after about 50 minutes. The vet helped deliver that, it had a heart beat but would not take a breath. They were going to wait 30 minutes for the next pup then do a caesarean, I asked them to wait one hour but no more. Three hours later they decided it was time to do an emergency caesarean, they believed that Gracie had stopped having contractions for 2.5 hours. I think they just did not look at the right time. Of course they did not save the second pup either only the third. They suggested I leave the waiting room after the first pup was born, as I had playgroup to lead and children to get to school. They also told me the first pup was small. It is my fault the second did not live as I should have asked them to weigh that first pup. Holly’s biggest ever pup was 210 grams with her puppies normally ranging from 110 to 180gms. Gracie’s first ever puppy was 360gms and the others in that litter were 220 and 250 grams. The puppies in her second litter were all around 230gms. If I had asked the weight of the “small puppy” I would have insisted on a caesarean immediately and saved the second as well as the third. I asked the vet to desex her at the time, but they said that was not wise.

Our normal vet said it was possible to do a planned caesarean and she had delivered a very large number of boxer puppies for a breeder who made sure all her boxer mothers gave birth to every litter that way. They had only two sometimes three litters in their life time. I decided to let Gracie have one more litter and to have an ultrasound done on her so that I could see if she was only having three puppies, if so I would expect them to be big and plan a last caesarean. What I did not understand was a planned caesarean could not be carried out before the first contractions started, and the vet believed an ultrasound would not be worth having. Fortunately Gracie had four puppies last time and was able to give birth to them naturally. I should add that I think Rev is too big to pair up with Gracie. So Charlie who belongs to friends and is the same size as Gracie is the dad of most of their puppies. Rev was desexed at about eight years of age hence he is not available as a stud dog.

[1] It feels like it takes Holly more than a minute to open the sack but it would not be as much as three minutes.
[2] I know now I would never have coped with writing the book ‘God Given Wisdom’ and everything else plus found time for the litter of puppies we were planning to have. I have seriously thanked God for “No Puppies” in 2014.

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