This page is about dog breeding for beginners because we know there are many of you. Many soon-to-be dog breeders who want to start breeding dogs but do not necessarily know what are the focus points. The good news is that if you are looking at how to breed dogs, you want to do it well and not just breed dogs for profit.
Dog Breeding for Beginners?
We’ve written several articles on how to start a kennel, how to understand the dog heat cycle and even wrote a bestseller of ours — The Dog Breeder’s Handbook. Obviously, all these previous links are some of our most read pages and you should read them all, now or later. My point is that I don’t want to write an article that just paraphrases all these posts.
Dog breeding for beginners can be scary:
- Is my dog good enough to be bred?
- Should I invest in a great founding stock?
- Do I need to partake in dog shows to be a good breeder?
- When can I breed my bitch for the first time?
- How much does dog breeding cost?
- Is dog breeding even ethical when so many pets are not rehomed yet?
- Do I need to incorporate a breeding business?
- What about dog breeding taxes?
- What should I start with?
And these questions aren’t even touching the meat and potatoes that dog breeding really is about: canine genetics and heredity. So yes, breeding dogs is far from being easy and although it can be done seamlessly for a one-off breeder, doing it as a long-term project will require a lot of effort and knowledge.
Be Expert In Your Own Breed
Dog breeding for beginners should start by not breeding at all but rather reading, understanding and fine-tuning your knowledge. Participate in online and offline communities. Speak to breed experts such as judges, fellow breeders, and committee members of your breed clubs.
Dog breeding mechanisms rely on genetics and are the same for pretty much all dog breeds. But your efforts have to be laser focused on your particular breed:
- What defines your breed — understand the standard and look at the differences with other close breeds
- What health issues affect your breed — email your local and national breed clubs as well as fellow breeders
- What my breed is not good at — a chihuahua is not an athletic dog, a border collie isn’t good at being at home all day, etc.
- What are the best bloodlines — breeding means you have to better the breed so learn first about the best existing bloodlines
- What can I add on top — now you know what others do, how can you improve the quality of dogs produced?
- What is the plan to get there — once you know what you want to do, figure out how to do it
The last point is where dog breeding comes to play because in order to improve a breed, you must select a mother and a father carefully so they fit your ideal model, and then allow canine genetics to do their work. Dog genetics are both complicated and straightforward at the same time. You need to be clear on your objective first; and then figure out the path to get there.
Your objective has to be precise, detailed and measurable:
- breeding smaller Corgis — bad (too vague)
- breeding faster Greyhounds — bad (too vague)
- breeding Greyhounds with a 30% faster acceleration — good (precise)
Always quantify your ambition for the breed so you can then check with specialists whether it’s realistic or not. With a clear objective, you can easily benchmark your results once your start your breeding program. It also gives you focus.
Understand Canine Genetics Mechanisms
Let’s say y0u love Greyhounds and realized you wanted to breed more powerful Greyhounds so they can accelerate much faster than most Greyhounds nowadays.
The next step is to reverse-engineer this final ambition back to the mechanisms that will make it happen. Because you aren’t a geneticist or biologist, you won’t know everything by heart so you’ll have to ask on message boards, read dozens of Wikipedia articles and even more studies on your particular subject (canine acceleration mechanisms.)
Then, classify your findings in two distinct categories:
- Inherited attributes — ie. two blue-eyed parents will make the offset blue-eyed
- Acquired attributes — ie. working out at the gym will make you more muscular
See, we’re moving the needle forward but in real life, most traits you will be after are given an inherited potential but it needs a lot of work in order to be expressed.
For example, your Greyhound Sarah could be a very good at accelerating because you got two powerful parents who had the right genetic material in place. But with no training and conditioning, Sarah won’t actually be a good accelerator amongst her breed.
This example shows you that you cannot just rely on two great parents (whatever that means) in order to just pump out puppies and be successful. Everything requires a lot of brain-work before the breeding, and hard-work after the puppies are born. Additionally, two parents often have several puppies, not all will be born with the same qualities because some parents can be genetic carriers.
See, canine genetics get complicated but we’ve got several sections in our dog breeding guide to explain you genetics from scratch (really.)
Beginners Should Be Transparent
Potential clients are tired of breeders constantly lying and stating how great and wonderful their bloodline is. Be honest and set up your kennel blog where you will share your adventure, successes and challenges. You will receive valuable feedbacks and obviously, grow a following.
That way, the day you plan your first breeding, you will have a waiting list ready to buy your puppies. That’s how you avoid having to lower your prices in order to sell puppies nobody wants.
Being transparent also means sharing your findings and milestones. Let’s take our Greyhound example: we wanted our bloodline to be known for it’s faster accelerations. Since then, we had two litters of five puppies each, we placed all these puppies to Greyhound trainers who have great experience with k9 conditioning.
Out of our ten puppies only two have had a significant acceleration improvement; eight did not really show any amelioration in that area. Share this data and don’t be ashamed than most puppies haven’t succeeded in your program, be thrilled two have. Excellence is rare and spend an equal amount of time figuring out why 8 did not succeed, and why 2 did.
Rinse and repeat until you nail it down.
Dogs Are Beings, Not Commodities
Now, the problem dog breeders often face without even realizing is that dogs are living creatures and not objects we can dispose of. What are you going to do with the puppies born that are not good fits for your breeding program? It’s one thing being extremely demanding and strict with what dogs can be part of your breeding program and what dogs cannot; but you should never love them differently.
I want to insist on this because the truth of being a dog breeder is that most puppies you will give birth to won’t be allowed in your breeding program. On average, only one or two puppies per litter will be good candidates for continuing your bloodline.
Therefore, you should always prepare a contingency plan for the pups that won’t be part of your breeding program:
- Keeping them at home with you
- Selling them as family pets
- Showing them in the ring
Please, just don’t look at them like they are second-class citizens because you made everything happen, now it’s your duty to be there for them.
Dog breeding is emotionally hard and it will break your heart repeatedly. However, when doing it for the good reasons and not just for cosmetics and profits (extreme breeding) will allow your to keep on breeding healthier and better dogs, and that’s very fulfilling.
Dog breeding for beginners is a wonderful adventure that started now but will need you to persevere for several years. And you know when you should start breeding? When you don’t think of yourself as a beginner.