Breeding Dogs at Home, or Using Breeding Kennels?

Where to breed dogs? Indoors vs outdoors!

When a novice dog breeders becomes interested into starting his or her own bloodline, there is the affix name to find, and soon after comes a more central question. Should I breed my dogs at home, or should I conduct my dog breeding adventure in outdoor kennels?

A fraction of the dog-loving population may see dog breeding in kennels resembling puppy farming but let’s be clear: breeding dogs outdoors in kennels is NOT puppy farming. Kennels are a homebase for dogs, they are commonly spending most of their day outdoors, at home even. When searching for a puppy with a friend, I first-hand witnessed how home breeding can be disastrous, too. Again, breeding dogs can be done responsibly or not, regardless of where dogs are kept.

Both home and kennel breedings offer pros and cons, there is no perfect situation and it mainly depends on your own situation and ambition. Many breeders start at home but, with sustained growth, shift to more organized kennel runs.

Breeding Dogs at Home

Home breeders can be of two types:

  1. free for all — dogs are allowed to go wherever whenever, generally for family pets being bred once
  2. contained — a more organized breeding with dogs having their own den (crate, gated room, etc.)

Most breeders will start at home, indoors, and offer more or less freedom to their dogs depending on how many dogs there are and how big the accommodation is. Things can become a lot messier with several dogs, and for very active breeds this may turn out to be frustrating.

Advantages

A home breeder has the advantage of being close to the puppies; in total immersion. The dam will have her puppies in an environment she is comfortable with and will be well supervised. A home breeder doesn’t have to go out into the elements or move a dam to a different location when it is time to whelp. A home breeder can intervene quickly in any birth situation, and is there to provide assurance.

Puppies can one by one be checked out for health issues. A litter whelping at night or a surprise early whelping that needs immediate medical attention will more easily be noticed by a home breeder (time can be of the differentiator between life and death in some of these medical emergencies.)

As the puppies grow they get socialized in the breeder’s home environment; it just happens naturally and effortlessly. Such puppies are more often handles, and picked up either by the breeder or by members of the breeder’s family. Other domestic animals come early on in contact with the young puppies.

A kennel would put distance between those puppies and the kind of life they will probably soon be moved into. This need for home socialization is particularly important for those toy breeds and breeds that will become family pets. If a breed is primarily a working one, it isn’t unimportant; just less so.

Inconveniences

A litter of puppies can impose a strain on a family home. A home breeder who does a fair amount of breeding will generally have a dedicated space for the puppies that is separate from the rest of the living area.

If a home breeder does not carefully plan on the puppies there can be a lot of problems especially when those eyes open and they become mobile. Puppies in the wrong place will cause problems. They can wake up family members as they cry and yap for their mother’s attention and milk. The degree the noise bothers someone in the home largely depends on the family members, and how well the space was chosen for having the litter. A home breeder having several puppy litters at the same time will have this problem, of course, magnified.

Dams do a good job cleaning up after puppy waste for a few weeks if the puppies are confined, but there will still be soiled areas that a home breeder will have to clean on more than a daily basis. The fewer the times a home breeder cleans the more likely the smell of growing dogs will start to permeate other parts of the house. This is the time that a home breeder thinks perhaps a kennel would have been a better choice. It isn’t a feasible option to take a hose to a home breeder’s family room now converted to a puppy den.

Home destruction ideally should not appear on a breeder’s line item of expenses. Puppies in crates may preserve parts of the house, but these puppies will need to be cleaned up after religiously. Puppies left unattended in crates too long is not only inhumane, but also, will eventually become a health hazard. Fortunately, most home breeders are responsible and humane. They do frequently clean the trays and take the puppies out for play, socialization, and even potty training.

Ideal for occasional and small breeders

Home breeding is the number one setting of hobby breeders and small breeders. It is fun to raise a litter of puppies right at home, and when done occasionally, it’s not that bothering. The satisfaction of having a litter of puppies at home and being that close to the birth of new dogs is worth the cost.

A home breeder with physical limitations doesn’t have to go a large distance to care for the puppies. Older people who breed dogs on a not regular basis are a group that benefit from breeding puppies inside their homes. Few breeders retire from breeding dogs, and very few want to stop altogether. Breeding at home allows those people to scale down without giving it up.

Also, it may be that having a litter of puppies at home is a way to avoid an extra expense of buying and maintaining outdoor kennels so a small profit is possible. This home breeder may have a lot of expenses and may occasionally breed to supplement an income. This is the group of breeders most likely to get into trouble with accusations of being a “backyard breeder.” It is not a fair accusation in most cases because the premise that a responsible dog breeder can’t operate on a small scale ethically is not a fair one to make.

Remember, a beginner professional breeder may start out with one bitch at home and grow to a larger operation requiring kennels and hiring people to assist in conducting the activity. Everybody started somewhere, and we never know how high they will climb over time.

dog breeding at home
Small-scale and occasional dog breeders often have their breeding program conducted within their own home.

Breeding Dogs in Kennels

Unlike home breeding, sheltering your dogs in outdoor kennels is for bigger packs of dogs. Indeed, it would be counter-intuitive to keep a single dog in an outdoor kennel, and isn’t very beneficial to either you or the dog. Instead, kennel runs shine when there are many dogs in the breeding program.

Generally, the breeder will spend hours everyday with his or her dogs by opening the doors, so dogs can exercise and have fun throughout the day. They shall return inside their kennels overnight. Because they are not kept at home under your nose, it’s easy to leave these dogs in questionable conditions—even unintentionally! Make sure you have a clear schedule set in your calendar for regular cleaning of all dog areas!

Advantages

Outdoor kennels allow a dog breeder to work with larger breeds of dogs, and a lot more dogs at the same time. Kennels, also, will expand the number of bitches that are bred at one time. It is the goal for the professional breeder to increase the number of puppies offered for sale without sacrificing the health or quality of the puppies.

Kennel breeders range from a few built as outbuildings in a farm complex, to separate facilities solely designed and dedicated to the breeding of dogs from different bloodlines. In any situation the dog breeder has the advantage of increasing the possibility of profit by having the space and layout ready to welcome more puppies in great conditions.

Kennels do not subject the family home to the noise of yapping puppies and barking dogs. They put at distance the smells of urine and feces that are part of breeding dogs. This separation will be particularly necessary if a home has a someone sensitive to these kinds of noises and smells. It is true that not every family member may be on board with the family-run breeding business.

Inconveniences

Kennels do require the dog breeder to leave the house in order to manage and assist with whelping dams and growing puppies. Whelping dams and newborn puppies may have to do it alone for awhile. Still, most breeders will want to be on hand for the event or as close to it as possible. Births can happen at all times of the day or nights. While a home breeder may be able to attend to a whelping dam in pajamas, it is less likely that a kennel breeder will do so.

Depending on the number of dogs and the size of the business (i.e. number of kennels and dogs) a breeder may have to pay for help in cleaning and managing the dogs. More than a couple litters of puppies at a time may need more than one person to care for them properly. Additional costs for electricity, water, and waste disposal will be more than an indoor breeder. Large kennels (and what counts as large varies from place to place) will have to have additional licenses for operation. For these reasons and more, kennels can be more expensive, in monetary and time terms, than home breeding.

Of course, it would be expected that a breeder would have all the dogs in the kennel properly vaccinated to prevent common kennel diseases like bordetella (kennel cough) and parvo. Any strange virus or bacteria could threaten the lives of puppies. Prior to weaning, the puppies will get some immunity from their mothers, but young weaned puppies are a particularly vulnerable to infections; and it is known that diseases do spread like wildfire in kennel conditions.

The cold and rainy weather is extremely problematic for most dog breeds kept in outdoor kennels; unless the breeder invests in high quality dog house heaters. Even then, the coldest days of winter may be too harsh to keep puppies warm enough.

Kennels are also more visible to the public; and they can bother your neighborhood. This visibility in certain areas especially can invite local interests and questions. It is important for the professional breeder to know the laws and follow them scrupulously. Some can be very strict about how kennels are operated. Some states, for example, regulate dimensions of kennels and temperatures. Large kennel businesses will come under the regulations of the Animal Welfare Act. While the home breeder may be slurred with the term “backyard breeder”, the kennel breeder because of the visibility of the kennels may be tarred with the label “puppy mill.” The only way to minimize these kinds of accusations is to ethically breed your dogs and have empathy for your neighborhood by keeping your operations clean and organized.

different types of dog kennels
Differences between kennel runs, boxed kennels, and dog cages.

Ideal for Professional Dog Breeders

A successful breeding program may have more than one litter of puppies a year, or even at a time. It takes a lot of time to breed show dogs, and having several dams bred at a time makes it easier to achieve that “perfect” show specimen. Since genetics can be sometimes more of a crap shoot than a science experiment, a professional dog breeder will want to have as many chances as possible to meet his goals.

Kennels allow professional dog breeders do just that. It would be a very rare home that could accommodate more than one or two litters of Great Danes at a time. At some point, the home would become a kennel itself. For example, Winifred Stout, the winner of AKC’s 2013 Breeder of the Year Award (for her smooth Fox Terriers) started out with a single litter and grew to eight dogs. (Stout’s Sweetmont kennels, though, are conveniently attached to her residence so perhaps she does come out in her pajamas from time to time to tend her dogs, ha!)

A professional breeder will most likely not only breed dogs, but offer other services in the kennel. A kennel allows for an expansion of the business year round! Kennels will frequently include services like boarding, obedience training, and other kinds of specialized training. For example, service training, therapy dog courses, retrieving, herding are often offered through a kennel. The money made in these things help the bottom line. A full time commitment to breeding dogs and offering healthy puppies for sale is expensive and requires some hard work; that’s the cost of dog breeding.

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