So here comes the question you find on all web sites about dog breeding. To breed or not to breed? Well, I am hoping to break away from what I have read on many web sites over the years. Remember, everyone has their own opinion of safe and responsible breeding. Anyone planning to breed should be willing to do great amounts of research and even more considering what they feel to be right and wrong. The more you learn, the better prepared you are. The advice I give comes from 10 years of breeding and research. I am constantly learning and am proof that it is very unlikely for one to know everything. If after reading my site you desire more than the advice of one breeder, the following link is a forum where you can talk with other breeders.
Ask a Breeder~ Dog Breeding Information & Dog
The first thing to consider, is why you want to breed. Yes, there can be money made, but also money lost. If you are faint of heart and cannot keep a clear head when a puppy is dying in your arms I strongly suggest you leave breeding to others. I would not, necessarily, suggest that you should only breed if you are prepared to care for all your puppies for the rest of their lives. I would say that my idea of a responsible breeder is one who is willing to take over ownership of a puppy when the new owners find that they have made a mistake. How many of you reading this have seen your local dog shelters? Thinking of those dogs living in a kennel rather than a home breaks my heart. The thought of having one of my owners give up their dog to a shelter rather than come to me makes me angry. If you really love what you are doing, you'd better be prepared to take back a puppy you have sold, whether or not you refund their money. Speaking of love, if you don't love what you are doing you should not be doing it. Don't forget to consider the what- ifs before you breed your female. Nature has a very curious way of controlling the animal population and that is with death. An animal is either eaten as part of the food chain, stricken with a natural disease or death due to birthing. I have a friend in California who also breeds Shih Tzu and she had a dog that had great trouble whelping one of her pups and after delivery she took the litter into the vet's. While she was there another breeder, with a Maltese, dictionary in surgery for an emergency C-section. Unfortunately, it turned out the Maltese dam naturally produced too much potassium, a major factor in her death, and the breeder was left with five orphaned puppies. The dam had been perfectly healthy to start and there was no way to foresee this circumstance. Fortunately, death in dams is not common, but it is not really rare either. The possibility is there and you need to be aware of what potential danger your dog may be in. We all take chances everyday and all women take the same chance when we become pregnant; women still die in child birth. Use your heart and instincts to help you decide if you are making the right decision for your dog. Since there is really no way of knowing, every breeder is, obviously, making the same leap.
Where to Start
Regardless of what I have heard others say, you can make money breeding and it should not cost you a large fortune to breed (a small fortune, maybe, but not a large one). First you need to decide if your stud and bitch should be bred and then go shopping for your kennel. I am betting some of you have already chosen your dogs before coming to me so do not be angry at what I am going to say. You should start by making sure you dogs are healthy. Don't breed a dog who has had health problems in the past or has survived a dangerous virus. They have struggled enough trying to beat the illness. They should come from strong lines that have not been crossed. If all sides have no indication of any hereditary health problems and both dogs have a sturdy bone structure, for the breed, you can consider your dogs capable of breeding healthy pups.
The next topic is very controversial. My opinions have come from experience and talking with many other breeders with enough experience to give added proof. There are many terms you may come across when breeding, but when relation is questioned, the most important terms are cross breeding, outcrossing, outbreeding, line breeding and inbreeding. Many breeders are not familiar with all these terms, but learning the difference is worth the education. Do not worry if you need notes on hand to always keep them straight. With my memory I have to work to keep from using the incorrect term. For the definitions of each, click on the term and it will lead you to my dictionary. The back button will bring you back here. The best advice I can give is to stay away from inbreeding. It is not safe, rarely produces healthy puppies and causes genetic disorders in descendants. With so many lines available this is a cheap and irresponsible way to breed. Line breeding walks a very thin line from inbreeding, but has not proven to have the same ill effects. If you wish to line breed I suggest you do not do so as too common a practice. If you have a kennel containing three or more females I would not suggest that all your females be related to your male. Also know that successful line breeding without ill effects has only been shown when the two dogs being mated are related by a common sire and not a common dam. Your reasons should be your own, but be sure you are keeping track of pedigrees and be prepared for criticism. I did warn you it was controversial and I am not one to agree with the practice. I see too many pure breeds with growing lists of genetic problems and it seems to me that it stems from the close parentage breeding practices I just described. I feel more comfortable with outcrossing and outbreeding and have found that my oldest bred puppies have the best of health in their later years. The AKC opinion is that any two dogs of the same breed that are fully registered and follow DNA guidelines may have a registered litter. Nothing else matters. Many top breeders, not all, feel that it is important to keep your breeding lines as pure as possible. And normally it is only the very pure who win in the show ring. I have not been able to find records showing any health problems in descendants of line breeding. What I have found shows that stronger horses and stronger working dogs have come from line breeding. I am not recommending it, in fact I still will not allow this practice with my own dogs since there are still many unexplained early deaths among dog breeds and rising cancer risks. Whether or not you feel comfortable with it is up to you. I am also not saying it is irresponsible. Inbreeding is another matter altogether and can show itself in forms too numerous to list here. Some of them are, missing limbs, blindness, holes in organs, uncontrollable and extreme behaviors, seizures, cancer, tumors, heart attacks, heart/lung/liver disease... Put the health of your dam, sire and puppies first and you can avoid the more disastrous problems from ignorant breeding.
"Imperial" vs Standard
First of all, there is no such thing as an "Imperial" Shih Tzu. This is a name breeders have come up with so they can sell their dogs for more or to make them more desirable. It is possible to come across a new breeder who has mistaken the meaning of the term or has not yet realized the dangers of breeding so tiny.... so please do not judge without proof and cause. Secondly, yes the size and weight of your dogs does matter. It makes a very big difference. Following the AKC guidelines of a show quality dog is the best way to start. Whether you want to breed a bitch you already own or you are planning on buying one please keep track of those guidelines. Breeding a show quality bitch will save you the heartache from results like a sagging back during pregnancy because it is too long or not being able to whelp without help because she is too small. I have seen ads selling Imperial Shih Tzus and I bought one myself. The biggest mistake I ever made. There is a reason they are not within showing guidelines. The smaller bred a breed, the more risks you take with their health and the more delicate they become. Responsible breeding means supplying your new owners with the healthiest puppies you can provide in order to allow them to enjoy a long, happy life. Breeding small will significantly decrease the life of the puppies. Why sell high priced miniatures who will only live 8-10 years when you can bless your buyers with a dog that can live to be 16 years old? I talked with a gentleman who had lost his dog which lived to be 17 years and a friend of mine spoke with another whose dog lived to be 20 yrs. Should a kennel manage to produce a new and healthy breed and have all the background, characteristics, successive lines of similar puppies and all the other proof the professional dog world needs to accept the new imperial breed, then all this changes. Even then it will still be required that both parents of a puppy/ litter be registered under this new breed before it is accepted and they can only be registered if they are direct descendants of the dogs used to create this new breed. Just because it is given a name does not change it's parentage, it requires time patience, care and a great deal of paperwork. I am unaware if there is a dedicated kennel or kennels working together to create a new imperial breed, but if so years are still required to show that the new breed is consecutively producing puppies with the traits originally desired when started. Size alone is not good enough and only one breeder's work will be recognized and only their puppies will carry the required paperwork.
You have a well-bred bitch, now what? Not so fast. You need to keep in mind that just because she looks like she is capable of breeding and your vet has approved her and you have run what ever tests you decide to put her through doesn't mean she will breed well. There are still many obstacles you need to keep in mind. I don't mean to discourage, only warn. Think about the human race when you breed her. Some mothers never produce eggs, or they consistently miscarry without medical reason. They could have an unaccounted for medical problem that is only detected while pregnant. These are only a few and they pertain to dogs just as they do humans. Unfortunately, there is only one way to find out. At least, now you are starting with your eyes wide open.
If you are ready to breed, I will do the best I can to guide you along. Females go into heat every 6-9 months. If you are waiting for your puppy to mature, keep a few things in mind. The first heat can come anytime between 3 months and 2 years. Always skip the first heat. If she is still under a year when she reaches her second, or third heat, be patient and wait until she has reached her first birthday. If her first heat does not come until after her first birthday, always skip the first heat. If you have a puppy that is small and should be and has the signs of becoming normal sized, keep skipping until she is has reached her ideal weight. She may be as old as 2 years when this happens. Not all dogs grow at the same rate and it is possible to have a female or male that is slow to completely mature. Otherwise, her second heat, you may have her mated. Keep track of her heats and document the dates, as you will need to discontinue all chemical treatments including shots, ALL flea and tick treatments (topical too), heart-worm and other worm medications, and any pills your dog may be on. If you cannot safely take your dog off these pills you cannot breed her; it is time to set an appointment to have her spayed. If she is on any chemical anything during pregnancy, whelping or raising you will disfigure or kill the puppies.
When she is in heat her vulva will be enlarged, deep red or purple, and in most cases bleeding. Once she has reached the right heat cycle for breeding, you can wait until she wipes golden before you allow her to mate or, the best way, try her with the stud starting on day 10 of her heat to see if she willingly allows the stud to mate; you will notice she backs up to the stud or allows him to at least mount her. If she is completely unwilling, remember that fighting is normal, it is best to have her wait and try again the next day until she is ready. I recommend at least two matings, preferably three. If possible, let her mate with the stud until he no longer shows interest. A bitch's heat lasts about two weeks. Depending on the dog, this could vary. On the first 9 days there is really not much to worry about. The days in which she will be ready to breed are days 10-14. The best way to check for the right breeding time is to wipe the bitch's vulva and if the cloth comes off red be patient. Keep trying over the next few days and when the cloth wipes a golden color, allowing for a tiny hint of red, then she is ready. Remember, all dogs are different. Note that I said about two weeks. Just like us, they can last longer or not even that long. Some dogs bleed heavily from beginning to end and some do not bleed at all. The only sure fire way of getting your bitch pregnant is to watch her heats and keep records of her characteristics. Also, remember that some studs are not fully aware of when is the right time to mate so keep an eye out. If you are sure she is at the appropriate time to mate then go for it and make sure they tie as much as possible before the time passes. If you need more information about the actual mating process please visit my Studding page. You will find information and helps for both the stud and bitch owners, as well as if you happen to own both.
Now that the mating is over we have, for the next two months, a pregnant bitch to care for. Shih Tzu can carry and birth between 1 and 8 puppies. Normally, you can expect between 3 and 6 puppies. It is easier for a bitch to deliver more than one with the size one pup can reach before birth, though this is not always the case. Without other siblings to share the nutrition it can get pretty large. If there are six or more it may be difficult for the bitch to feed them all. Both overly large litters (7-8) and one pup litters indicate problems that cannot be ignored. Though there are a few litters and mothers that do well with such large litters, it is not common, but these dogs must be bred sparingly as these dogs generally always produce large litters with every pregnancy and each litter seems to shorten their healthy years. Every bitch that has only produced one pup has always developed dangerous problems with continued breeding. Neither scenario are preferable and it would be better for the bitch to be spayed. Other breeds vary in litter size but generally all small breeds will normally have up to 6 pups. Medium breeds may have up to 10 pups and large breeds are capable of having as many as 18 pups. I am not an expert on the litter size of the other breeds this is only to give you an idea! There is really nothing to be done about the amount of puppies she can or will carry so try not to overreact. It is best to stay calm and put your energy into her care and well- being. The use of prenatal vitamins is a practice I strictly refuse for my dogs as there is no sign of their making any difference and they are far from inexpensive. Natural means of adding extra vitamins and minerals are much more likely to be absorbed and are far more affordable. Eggs provide protein, vitamin D and Omega 3 fatty acids. Their shells when rinsed, dried and ground to a powder are full of calcium mixed with many other minerals. These are just three examples and I am sure you get the point.
Switch her now to Puppy formula so the puppies are getting a good nutrition to grow on unless you are breeding Great Danes. Unlike the other breeds and mixed breeds, Great Danes do not have the digestive ability to break down the extra protein and fiber and the result is constant diarrhea that can result in dehydration if not dealt with. Puppies can only handle the adult formulas so be careful to read all ingredients as there are many brands that do not have adult/ puppy formulas and these brands tend to be higher in protein and fiber and should be avoided. For all other breeds puppy formulas are higher in fiber and protein and are necessary to litter development, even in the womb. Do not switch food brands during her pregnancy unless her current brand is making her sick or there is not a puppy formula available. Even if she is accustomed to switching between two brands or more and has grown up with the habit she will still become sick and her pups will fail to develop into a healthy litter. If she refuses to eat her original food or if that particular brand fails to make a puppy food equivalent, I would strongly suggest you switch to a different brand of food. I am hoping you are reading this article before you mate her so you have time to switch her before her chances of becoming ill from the switch increase, but if she has become sick with her original, go ahead and make a complete change by the next feeding to Iams All Natural Chicken Puppy. It is the gentlest brand on the market and least likely to make her really sick from switching. A slow change will only continue her digestion of the original, which is making her sick. If you need to switch because your original does not make a puppy equivalent you can safely change her food by mixing the new 50/50 with the old until the old is finished. If you have a large supply of the old, make sure to only mix enough with the new to last for a month or two. After that she will need to be on the puppy brand exclusively. Every time I hear of a female that refuses her food, the owners admit to feeding her table scraps. I cannot stress how dangerous table scraps are. In this instance, it has brought on something like morning sickness and forcing her to eat her food will only make her worse, but she must eat. If she does not, you will have dead or very sickly pups so feed her whatever she will accept. I find that Nutrical, from your vet or online, is a huge help in encouraging your female to eat. I give two large globs on my finger twice a day, less or more, to encourage her appetite and keep up her calories. Be careful not to give her too much or she will have sugar shock. Whether or not you choose to switch back after the puppies have gone home is entirely up to you. If you are going to be continually breeding your female please take her health into a greater consideration and stick with the new brand permanently. After her puppies have gone home you can switch her safely and immediately to the adult formula, should you choose, without the worry of her becoming sick as both formulas are made the same just with different proportions of the ingredients. If you are going to have many breeding dogs, consider a permeant switch to puppy food. It will keep you from having to separate your dogs and helps them to keep up their health between litters. Once your dogs reach retirement, switch them back to adult formula before spay or neutering. The high protein and calorie content in the food makes the surgery dangerous.
Although I say in my puppy guide that you should stay away from people food when feeding your puppy, the rules change with a pregnant bitch. Scrambled eggs and cheese every morning are a great way of adding to the protein and calcium your dog is getting. Do not feed her anything else that you might be accustomed to feeding her as a treat (chicken bones, bacon, etc). Make sure she gets lots of rest. Cages are a great way to calm down an overly active dog who should be getting more rest. Keep watching your dog's water and food intake. She will eat and drink more for the time she is pregnant. Do not try to limit how much she eats and drinks as she knows how much nutrition she needs. Of course, there are always a few odd balls and if you feel she is too fat consult her vet. Be careful not to allow her to over- exert herself. Jumping on and off furniture is a fast way for her and her future litter to get hurt so keep her from jumping, if possible. Finally, be sure she has ample trips outside to relieve herself. As she comes closer to whelping, the strain on her bladder will get worse and she will have to go out more often. During her pregnancy you may bathe her as often as she makes it necessary. I would suggest that you try to keep her from making it necessary to bathe her more often then every other week as frequent bathing will dry out her skin. There is no need to change how you bathe her unless your usual methods may be too hard on her unborn puppies. Feel free to continue to use your groomer only if you are close by the entire process, have made them aware she is pregnant and how far along and you feel they will be extremely careful. If you are not that confident in your groomer then keep her at home and bathe her yourself. You may not be capable of shaving her, if that is her usual style, but at least you won't be worried about her being harmed. Should you have complete faith in another grooming your dog please remember to make that person aware of your dog's condition. Knowing that they are handling a pregnant bitch will make them more mindful of how they groom her and how she is handled. Even if the groomer feels they do not need to change their methods, it is still good to have open communication. If you know your dog needs to have their tummies shaved, for the benefit of the puppies, and you trust your vet be sure it is done within her first week or so of pregnancy or, better, in the first nine days of her heat before mating. Her coat will not grow fast enough in two months to cause problems for the pups.
Below are more sites that you might find helpful before you start breeding your dogs. Take the time to learn all you can so you are prepared for most emergencies and are more confident your dogs will likely produce healthy litters- let's face it, there are no guarantees in nature, but we can certainly help it along.
Pawprints and Purrs on Breeding - At first you may think you are about to read about cats and I have sent you on a goose chase but scroll down just a little and you will see what I am leading to. There are one or two things that I do not agree with as this is a vet based website. Remembering that this is from a veterinarian point of view I think you will find much of this very useful.
a class="link" href="http://www.itb.it/canaan/icdca/Breeders/facts.htm">Breeding Tutorial - This is not a website but rather an online research paper. It is published by the ICDCA which is a UKC parent club for the Cannaan dog breed. Again, I do not agree with everything they say but it is worth your time in order for you to make the best decisions for you and your dog.