Preparing the Bitch

 
    What do I need to do before I breed my bitch?
   
      This is really two questions. What should I do before I decide to
      breed my bitch and, then, once that decision is made, what do I do
      next.
     
    _Okay, what do I do before I decide to breed my bitch?_
   
      Before you breed a dog, you need to decide whether or not that dog
      is an appropriate candidate for breeding. First of all, no bitch
      should be bred before the age of 2. They are just not physically
      mature enough yet. Let them grow up and develop before they go
      through the physical strain of breeding, carrying, and whelping
      puppies. This shouldn’t be a problem however, because you’ll be
      plenty busy during those two years. Your dog will be in preparation
      for breeding for the first two years of her life. Everything you do
      for her, including providing quality nutrition and health care,
      obedience training, showing, working, and loving will make her a
      better mother and help her to produce a healthier litter.
     
    _I can see why nutrition and health care are important concerns, but
    how do those other things make her a better brood bitch?_
   
      They are all important in different ways. The most important is
      probably the last one. Pregnancy, delivery, and puppy raising are
      very stressful on a dog and knowing that you love her really does
      make her job easier. For one thing, she’ll trust you to help with
      the puppies, rather than feeling that she needs to defend them. The
      obedience training comes into play in the strangest ways. Sometimes
      a female will get overly anxious when her new puppies start crying:
      being able to put her on a down stay so that she is giving them
      ready access to what they want (food!) will give you great peace of
      mind. These are just a few examples of why all this preparation is
      important.
     
    _Okay, but what about showing and working, how can those have any
    effect on her qualities as a brood bitch?_
   
      There are two reasons why a brood bitch should “get out of the
      house.” First of all, she’ll be a happier dog if she has activities
      in her life and gets to go places with you and do fun things. If
      she’s happier, she’ll be a better mother. It’s that simple.
      Secondly, you need to have some way of knowing that your bitch is
      worthy of breeding. That sounds very judgmental, but I’ll remind
      you that we are discussing responsible breeding here. That means
      that we are breeding to better the breed. The best way to ensure
      that you are improving the breed is to only breed quality animals
      to other quality animals with an eye to minimizing faults and
      strengthening good qualities. We’ll discuss more on choosing a stud
      dog later, however, you also need to choose your brood bitch. If
      you are starting out with your first dog, you’ll need to look long
      and hard at her and decide if she’s worthy of breeding. This has
      nothing to do with how much you love her — obviously you do —
      this has to do with bettering the breed. This can be a difficult
      decision to make when your heart is involved. Hearts tend to fuzz
      up our vision so that faults are minimized and good qualities are
      enhanced. This is where the idea of showing and testing our animals
      originated. These events give us a better idea of whether or not
      our dogs are worthy of breeding. But, keep in mind, everyone has
      their own standards and they won’t all agree. Some people won’t
      breed a bitch until she’s a Champion in the show ring. Some people
      don’t consider a bitch worthy of breeding until she’s got her
      Master Hunter title or her Utility Dog title. You have to make
      these decisions yourself, keeping in mind the idea of bettering the
      breed. At the minimum, you should have her evaluated by another,
      more knowledgeable pair of eyes. Her breeder would be an ideal
      choice, however, that’s not always possible. Any experienced
      breeder in your particular breed should be able to help you
      evaluate your bitch honestly and without the rosy glow of love
      changing your perspective.
     
    _Okay, I’m satisfied that she’s a quality bitch, worthy of breeding,
    what’s the next step?_
   
      Hold on there! Not so fast! This is a long process, remember? There
      is another reason you need to wait until your bitch is over two
      years of age. Health Checks! You’ll need to have various health
      checks done in order to determine whether or not your dog should be
      bred. The necessary health checks vary from breed to breed and you
      should consult a good book on your breed or a knowledgeable breeder
      to determine what tests you’ll need to have done.
     
      The most common tests are:
      _Hip X-rays_: Have a veterinarian x-ray your dog’s hips and submit
      those x-rays to the OFA (Orthopedic Foundation for Animals) for
      evaluation. If your dog’s hips are rated Fair, Good, or Excellent,
      your dog is normal and can be bred. If they are rated dysplastic,
      please discuss this diagnosis with your vet and spay your bitch as
      soon as possible. Hip Dysplasia is an often painful joint disorder
      that can be treated in various ways. It is hereditary and no dog
      that is dysplastic should be bred.
     
      _Elbow X-rays_: Recently, the dog community has become aware that
      elbows are also at risk of becoming dysplastic. Most responsible
      breeders are also having elbow x-rays done and evaluated by the
      OFA.
     
      _Eyes_: In many breeds, a disease called PRA (Progressive Retinal
      Atrophy) is a serious problem. A board-certified veterinary
      ophthalmologist can examine your pets eyes and ensure that they are
      normal. This test must be done on an annual basis. Since PRA is a
      progressive disease, a dog can be fine one year and show symptoms
      the next. Eye examinations can then be sent on to CERF (Canine Eye
      Registry Foundation) for certification which must be renewed
      annually. There are other eye diseases (such as cataracts) common
      to different breeds as well; you will need to research to find out
      what is applicable for your breed.
     
      _Brucellosis_: This is a canine venereal disease that can be
      transmitted in other ways as well. Even virgin dogs or bitches
      should be tested prior to breeding. Most stud dog owners require
      recent brucellosis tests before allowing breeding to occur. They
      will generally have tested their dogs within the last six months.
      If they haven’t tested their dogs in the last six months, ask that
      they do so before breeding to your bitch!
     
      You should require all of the above testing from the stud dog owner
      as well as providing it to them.

Choosing A Stud
     
     

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