There are some very strong opinions around when it comes to breeding dogs.
There are debates about who should be breeding, what they should be breeding, how they should be breeding and even whether breeding dogs should be permitted at all.
Do we need more dogs?
Some people think that we should stop breeding dogs altogether, at least for long enough to reduce the numbers of dogs in rescue homes or shelters.
Dog’s Today magazine is currently campaigning for a moratorium on breeding Staffordshire Bull Terriers, so overwhelmed are Staffie rescues at the moment.
Whilst it is arguably unethical to bring more dogs into the world when there are dogs in animal shelters waiting for homes, many would argue that buying a puppy gives them a better chance of getting the dog that they want than adopting an older dog.
Do we have the right to take away people’s choices in this matter, or to set dogs apart from all the other animals that people keep as pets and breed from?
Whatever our views on this issue, it seems unlikely that dog breeding will be stopped anytime soon. So if dogs are going to continue to be bred from, who should be doing the breeding?
Who should be breeding dogs?
This is another question that arouses strong feelings. Undoubtedly some think that breeding should be left to breeders. But of course, there is no ‘school’ for breeders, no ‘breeder training’ programme.
Dog breeders are just people that breed dogs. And they all had to start somewhere. Perhaps what is more important, is how dogs are bred. If we get that right, perhaps it doesn’t much matter who is doing the breeding.
How should dogs be bred?
Here is an area where there is much more agreement. Most of us dislike the idea of dogs being bred on puppy farms, or vast commercial kennels where breeding bitches get little attention and are treated more like farm animals than pet dogs.
Virtually all of us would agree that dogs being bred from and their puppies, should be properly fed, exercised, and socialised. And should receive proper veterinary attention whenever it is needed.
Beyond this it all gets a little murky again. Especially when it comes to the breeder’s motivation for breeding.
Reasons for breeding
Here are some popular reasons for breeding (though not everyone admits to them)
For financial gain
To better the breed
To get another dog like mine
My bitch would love puppies
There are those that firmly object to dogs being bred for financial gain. And whilst I sympathise, I do not entirely agree. To me, the welfare of the dog should be the yardstick and if someone can make money from breeding a litter or offering their dog at stud, whilst maintaining exemplary welfare standards, I do not think the issue of financial reward is relevant.
However, the fact is, it is not easy to make money from breeding dogs if standards are high and proper health tests carried out, in fact most people breeding a single litter will lose money if they do it properly.
Bettering the breed
Many times I have heard breeders state that dogs should only ever be bred to ‘better the breed’. These tend to be breeders of pedigree dogs that use the results of competitive dog showing as their ‘standard’ for determining the quality of the dogs that they hope to better.
Unfortunately with so many breeds under the microscope due to massive failures by some breed clubs to ensure that their standards are acceptable, this means of measurement is now mistrusted by many members of the public.
Indeed it is arguable that some of the top breeders in the UK should not be breeding from their stock due to inherently unhealthy conformation of the breed as a whole. Check out Breeding dogs with disabilities for a look at this issue
Essentially, betterment is a completely subjective issue. What I think is a better spaniel for example, would be a very different dog than the spaniel which might do well at Crufts.
Of all the reasons for breeding puppies, some are based on myths, and some are founded in fact. If you are thinking of breeding your own bitch, you might be interested to read an article I wrote for the Labrador site called “should you let your dog have puppies” which looks at these issues in more detail
And then of course there is the issue of cross-breeds. This is another hot potato, especially when cross-breeds are deliberately created to fulfil the market for so called ‘designer dogs’.
Breeders of pure bred dogs may object to designer breeds such as labradoodles, on a number of grounds. Especially if health tests are neglected. Yet not everyone agrees that purity of breed is essential or even desirable in dog breeding. Nor do breeders of purebred pedigree dogs have a monopoly on health testing and good welfare standards.
Legislation or education?
It is a complex issue. Sadly, irresponsible breeders who care nothing for their dogs and have no interest in anything other than making a few pounds out of puppies, are unlikely to be reading this article. And they are just as likely to be breeding purebred dogs as they are to be breeding cross-breeds or mongrels.
So what is the best way to go about improving standards in welfare for breeding dogs, and to reduce the numbers of dogs in rescue homes? Is it legislation we need? Or education?
What do you think?