How Dog Breeding Works – All You Need to Know

How Dog Breeding Works – All You Need to Know

Puppies are nature’s wonders. But they are also a lot of work. Dog breeding can be exciting and rewarding but you also need to understand responsible and ethical dog breeding.

In this guide, we cover the topic of how dog breeding works. We will briefly discuss the history of dog breeding and the steps involved in the process – including selecting the breeding stock, genetic and health testing, mating, and whelping. We will also briefly cover the after-birth care for the dam and puppies.

Let’s dive right into it.

History of Dog Breeding

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The history of dog breeding is a tale as old as our human-canine companionship. It traces back thousands of years to the very dawn of domestication, when early humans selectively bred dogs for specific traits like hunting or herding abilities.

Over time, this practice evolved into a sophisticated art, giving rise to the diverse array of dog breeds we cherish today. Early dog breeding practices were rooted in necessity, with humans selectively breeding dogs for their functional roles in society. Ancient civilisations, such as the Egyptians and Romans, bred dogs for tasks like hunting, guarding, and herding.

Over the centuries, dog breeding gave rise to distinct breeds, each honed for its own unique purpose. These early practices laid the foundation for the rich tapestry of dog breeds we cherish today.

Evolution of Dog Breeds

From their wolf ancestors, humans selectively bred dogs for various roles, leading to the emergence of distinct breeds. By the 19th century, there was a formalisation of breed standards and the establishment of kennel clubs, which further shaped the modern concept of dog breeds.

Today, there are more than 300 accepted and recognised dog breeds in the world, each with unique traits and characteristics. Many dog breeds today are specially used as companions, protectors, guards, herders, and service dogs.

Responsible Dog Breeding

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Responsible dog breeding prioritises the welfare of the dogs and the preservation of breed standards. To avoid overbreeding and inbreeding, breeders should limit the number of litters per dam and also prioritise her health and longevity.

Conducting genetic testing and seeking diverse bloodlines is essential for reducing inbreeding risks. Breeders must strictly adhere to the breed standards and guidelines established by various dog breed clubs and organisations. This can ensure the continuation of the desired traits and characteristics and also maintain the breed’s health.

Responsible breeders also prioritise the well-being of both parent dogs and puppies and do not breed just for profit.

Challenges in Responsible Breeding

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Puppy Mills and Backyard Breeders

Puppy mills are commercial breeding facilities that prioritise profit over the well-being of dogs. They often subject dogs to inhumane conditions and disregard genetic health. Pups born in puppy mills are often known to have health and behavioural issues.

Backyard breeders are hobby breeders who breed for profit often without any scientific know-how or adherence to breed standards.

Cost of breeding dogs

There are significant costs to consider before embarking on bringing a litter of puppies into the world. Breeding dogs can be a costly exercise involving unexpected costs such as emergency caesareans.

Designer Breeds

Designer breeds are intentionally bred hybrids, often combining two purebred dogs to create unique traits. While some argue this increases genetic diversity, critics are concerned about potential health risks and the exploitation of trends over the well-being of dogs.

Selecting The Breeding Candidates

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This is the most important step in dog breeding. After all, the careful selection of breeding candidates, considering their health and temperament, is essential for ethical and successful dog breeding practices.

  • Age – Good breeders only breed dogs that are over 2 years old. The dam should have had at least 3 or 4 heat cycles.
  • Health assessment – Responsible breeders conduct thorough health assessments, including genetic testing for common breed-specific ailments. This can reduce the risk of passing on hereditary diseases to offspring, promoting overall canine health.
  • Temperaments – Breeders should also evaluate the dogs’ behaviours, temperaments, and dispositions. It is crucial to select dogs with stable, friendly, and balanced personalities. This will contribute to well-adjusted puppies, making them better companions for future owners.
  • Breeding soundness – it is essential to have a vet perform semen analysis on the stud dog and monitor the progesterone levels in the female. This is important to ensure that the animals are sound enough for breeding.

Since the dam can pass on worms like roundworms, hookworms, etc. to the puppies, it is important to place the mating dogs on a deworming schedule.

The Breeding Process

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The breeding process in dogs involves several essential stages, starting with understanding the female dog’s oestrus cycle.

Heat Cycle in Female Dogs – female dog’s reproduction cycles

The oestrus cycle, commonly known as the heat cycle, is the period during which a female dog is receptive to the stud dog for mating. This cycle varies among individual dogs but typically occurs twice a year. Recognising the signs of the oestrus cycle, such as swelling of the vulva and a bloody discharge, helps determine the optimal time for breeding.

Timing of Mating

Timing is crucial when it comes to mating. The female is most fertile during the oestrous phase, which is the most fertile part of the cycle, lasting around 7-10 days. It is vital to plan the mating during this window to maximise the chances of successful conception. Some animal hospitals offer progesterone-level monitoring to improve breeding efficiency instead of counting days.

Monitoring For Pregnancy

Once the mating has taken place, breeders must monitor the female for signs of pregnancy. Early detection is necessary for prenatal care and preparing for the arrival of puppies.

Some common signs of pregnancy in dogs include changes in appetite, weight gain, and behavioural changes. However, it is best to confirm the pregnancy via a veterinary examination, an ultrasound, or hormone testing.

Pregnancy and Whelping

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The pregnant dam will carry her puppies for about 63 days. During this period, breeders must provide her with proper nutrition, regular exercise, and a calm environment. The vet might recommend some nutritional supplements to maintain her health.

Breeders must conduct regular veterinary check-ups to monitor her health and the developing puppies.

This is also a good time to start preparing a whelping area and stocking up on some necessary supplies for the upcoming birth.

Items to Keep Handy

  • A whelping box
  • Plenty of absorbent materials like old towels, blankets, and newspapers
  • Clean towels and tissue papers
  • Towels to dry the puppies
  • sterilised scissors to cut the cord
  • Heating pad
  • Scales for weighing puppies
  • Clean bedding for afterwards
  • Milk supplements for puppies and feeding bottles
  • ID tags and collars for pups (different colours)

Stages of Labour

Canine labour typically occurs in three stages:

  • Early Labour: The dam may become restless, pant, and exhibit nesting behaviour. This stage can last up to 24 hours.
  • Active Labour: Contractions intensify, leading to visible straining and the birth of puppies. This stage can last up to 12 hours but it varies.
  • Afterbirth: The dam will expel the placenta after each puppy’s birth. It is important to monitor the dam, as this stage makes her susceptible to infections.

Breeders should be aware of these stages of labour so they can take the necessary steps and provide assistance to the dam as needed.


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Breeders must commit to providing meticulous care, clean bedding, and proper nutrition for the puppies. The dam must also receive postpartum attention, with nutritious meals and a calm environment. Conduct regular veterinary check-ups for both to monitor their health and well-being.

Early Enrichment

Good breeders raise the puppies at home, where they are exposed to everyday noises like doorbells, vacuums, blenders, etc. The pups also get to interact with the breeder’s family members and other dogs and pets. This is crucial for their early enrichment.

Finding Homes for Puppies

A responsible breeder will make the effort to find loving homes for the puppies. She/he must screen all of the potential owners to ensure a suitable match for each puppy and provide information on breed characteristics and care. The breeder must maintain a lifelong relationship with puppy buyers and offer guidance and support.

Lifelong Commitment to Ethical Breeding

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Ethical breeding should extend beyond the whelping box. It is a lifelong dedication to the welfare of the breed, the dogs’ health, and their genetic diversity. It is a commitment to improving the breed standards and also ensuring that each puppy finds a loving, forever home.

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