Breeding for Pet Owners: The Pros and Cons of Breeding Dogs

By Courtney Barnes, BSc, DVM; Krista Williams, BSc, DVM, CCRP; Ernest Ward, DVM

Should I breed my dog?

Many owners find the companionship of their dog so rewarding that they want to breed their dog to continue the bloodline and/or to keep a puppy. Others acquire a female dog with the intent to breed her when she is old enough.

Whatever the reason, there are important things to consider before you begin a breeding program. This handout outlines some of these considerations.

I obtained my dog from a rescue organization, but he is so lovely, I would like a puppy from him. How do I go about it?

Before going into the details of breeding, it is important to point out that five to ten million pets are euthanized in shelters nationwide each year. A dog usually has several puppies at one time, and each puppy can then breed within the year.

With the abundance of homeless pets needing good homes, you will have no difficulty adopting a pet with similar, wonderful qualities as your own when you decide to add a new dog to your family. However, you may have trouble finding good homes for the remaining puppies in a litter from your dog.

If you are intent on mating your dog, here are some considerations.

No guarantee of temperament: Remember that dogs are individuals, just like people, and there is no guarantee that you will get the puppy of your dreams, no matter how careful you are in selecting a mate.

High cost: There is tremendous cost involved when breeding your dog responsibly.

  • Your dog will need to be screened for hereditary diseases to try to prevent puppies with lifelong medical conditions.
  • You must be financially prepared for a veterinary emergency during birth, or potentially death.
  • You must provide initial veterinary care for the puppies, such as vaccinations and deworming.

Time commitment: There is a significant time commitment involved with breeding. 

  • You must be available 24 hours a day for at least the first three weeks after birth to monitor the puppies and provide nursing care if needed. 
  • You must care for and socialize the puppies until you have found good homes for them.
  • You must ensure the puppies are provided with appropriate veterinary care until they go to their homes.

Homes for the puppies: You must also consider how you will find good homes for the other pups in the litter. The owner of the female dog will have primary responsibility for finding homes for the puppies. Unfortunately, it is not always easy to find them homes, as evidenced by the large number of unwanted dogs in animal shelters.

Will you be comfortable if some, or all, of the rest of the litter ends up in an animal shelter, puppy mill, or other unhappy home? This is a serious decision with the future puppy's life potentially at risk.

If I decide to breed my dog, is it likely that the offspring will have the same desirable traits?

The odds are against it, although training and environment helps mold puppies, just like people. It is rare that puppies will be identical to either parent, especially in terms of behavior or personality.

If I breed my dog, will it reduce his sexual activities?

Mating your dog may make these sexual behaviors worse. If your intent is to control or curtail your dog's sexual behaviors or proclivities, breeding him will not solve that problem.

"Neutering will only make your pet healthier - and may even save his life."

Neutering your dog will reduce some unwanted behaviors, such as roaming to find a mate. The advantages of neutering far outweigh the disadvantages. Neutering your pet eliminates his risk of developing testicular cancer and reduces his chances of developing prostate disease. It is well proven that neutering does not cause negative behavioral changes in your pet. Neutering will only make your pet healthier - and may even save his life.

If I do not breed my dog, how can I get another dog with similar characteristics?

Start by contacting the person or organization where you obtained your dog. There is a good possibility that they have a similar pet that would make an excellent addition to your family.

Alternatively, visit a local animal shelter and rescue or foster a homeless pet. You may be pleasantly surprised by what you find. Finally, talk with your veterinarian. They can direct your search and help you find the perfect pet partner.

How can I mate my female dog, short of letting her run with any dog in the local park?

Inquire at your local dog club or breed society, or contact the secretary of the appropriate breed club. This information is available on the American Kennel Club and Canadian Kennel Clubs websites. Both breeding parents should have all recommended health screening tests to minimize health issues in their puppies.

I am a member of a dog-training club and there are many people who would like a puppy from my female dog. Why wouldn't breeding my dog be a reasonable course of action?

Unfortunately, there is a great difference between initial enthusiasm and final acceptance of the puppy. Many people change their minds in the period between birth and weaning, and even more lose their enthusiasm when they must deal with house training a puppy. This is the primary reason there are so many puppies and young adult dogs in animal shelters everywhere.

If I want another dog just like the one I have, what should I do?

Have your dog spayed or neutered and select a similar type of puppy from your local animal shelter or reputable breeder. It is the right decision for you, your dog, and the millions of dogs in desperate need of adoption. You may also consider adopting a service dog that has finished its service time, as these dogs are often in need of homes.

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