Know the Facts Before Breeding Your Dog

We think it is extremely important to learn the facts and possible consequences in advance if you are contemplating breeding your dog. In today’s overcrowded world, we, the wardens of our domestic pets, must make responsible decisions for them and for ourselves.

QUALITY: AKC registration is not an indication of quality. Most dogs, even purebred, should not be bred. Many dogs, though wonderful pets, have defects of structure, personality or health that should not be perpetuated. Breeding animals should be proven free of these defects before starting on a reproductive career. Breeding should only be done with the goal of improvement-an honest attempt to create puppies better than their parents. Ignorance is no excuse-once you have created a life, you can’t take it back, even if blind, crippled or a canine psychopath!

COST: Dog breeding is not a money-making proposition, if done correctly. Health care and shots, diagnosis of problems and proof of quality, extra food, facilities, stud fees, advertising, etc. are all costly and must be paid before the pups can be sold. An unexpected Caesarean or emergency intensive care for a sick pup will make a break-even litter become a big liability. And this is IF you can sell the pups. If you are breeding to get another Shih Tzu just like your own, her puppies may be nothing like her, and it would probably be cheaper to simply purchase another puppy that has the qualities you want from a reputable breeder. Even better, consider adopting a rescue Shih Tzu that might otherwise not find a new home.

SALES: First-time breeders have no reputation and no referrals to help them find buyers. Previous promises of "I want a dog just like yours" evaporate. Consider the time and expenses of caring for pups that may not sell until they are four months old, eight months old or more! What would you do if your pups did not sell? Send them to the pound? Dump them in the country? Sell them cheap to a dog broker who may resell them to labs or other unsavory buyers? Veteran breeders with good reputations often don’t consider a breeding unless they have cash deposits in advance for an average-sized litter.

JOY OF BIRTH: If you’re doing it for the children’s education, remember the whelping may be at 3 a.m. or at the vet’s on the surgery table (particularly when we’re speaking of Shih Tzu, small dogs trying to whelp large-headed puppies). Even if the kiddies are present, they may get a chance to see the birth of a monster or a mummy, or watch the bitch scream and bite you as you attempt to deliver a pup that is half out and too large. Some bitches are not natural mothers and either ignore or savage their whelps. A confused Shih Tzu mother with her first litter may "lose" one very young puppy behind her and unknowingly smother it while caring for the other pups. Bitches can have severe delivery problems or even die in whelp-pups can be born dead or with gross deformities that require euthanasia. (Hare lips and/or cleft palates, which are not uncommon in Shih Tzu, result in puppies that cannot nurse and cry incessantly, upsetting their mothers, before they starve to death if you are unwilling to have them euthanized.) Of course there can be joy, but if you can’t deal with the possibility of tragedy, don’t start.

TIME: Veteran breeders of quality dogs state they spend well over 130 hours of labor in raising an average litter. That is over two hours per day, every day! The bitch cannot be left alone while whelping and only for short periods for the first few days after. Be prepared for days off work and sleepless nights. Even after delivery, mom needs care and feeding, puppies need daily checking, weighing, and socialization. Later, grooming and training, and the whelping box needs lots of cleaning. More hours are spent doing paperwork, pedigrees and interviewing buyers. If you have any abnormal conditions, such as sick puppies or a bitch who can’t or won’t care for her babes, count on double the time. (Young Shih Tzu puppies need to be hand-fed every two hours around the clock if they are not getting food from their mother!) If you can’t provide the time, you will either have dead pups or poor ones that are bad tempered, antisocial, dirty and/or sickly-hardly a buyer’s delight.

HUMANE RESPONSIBILITIES: It’s midnight-do you know where your puppies are? There are 3.5 million unwanted dogs put to death in pounds in this country each year, with millions more dying homeless and unwanted through starvation, disease, automobiles, abuse, etc. Nearly a quarter of the victims of this unspeakable tragedy are purebred dogs "with papers." The breeder who creates a life is responsible for that life. Will you carefully screen potential buyers? Or will you just take the money and not worry if the puppy is chained in a junkyard all of its life, lives on chickenwire in its own excrement in a puppy mill, or runs in the street to be killed? Will you turn down a sale to irresponsible owners? Or will you say "yes"and not think about the puppy you held and loved now having a litter of mongrels every time she comes in heat, which fills the pounds with more statistics-your grand-pups? Would you be prepared to take a grown puppy if the owners can no longer care for it? Or can you live with the thought that the baby you helped bring into the world will be destroyed at the pound?

IF YOU ARE CONSIDERING BREEDING YOUR MALE: You, too, have a responsibility only to breed a dog of good quality that has been tested for hereditary health problems (an article on the testing of Shih Tzu breeding stock appears elsewhere on the ASTC web site). You should know that if your male has not proven his quality in the show ring, owners of quality females will not be beating down your door to breed to him. To avoid contributing to the pet overpopulation problem, it is your responsibility to screen any owners of female Shih Tzu who approach you about breeding your dog to be sure that their female is of good quality and that they are responsible and knowledgeable. Also, you should know that your pet male, once bred, may become very territorial and begin marking his property by lifting his leg and urinating on your furniture.

This article was adapted from one written by Bonnie Wilcox, DVM, that appeared in the ASTC Bulletin. We hope that you consider all of the above points carefully before deciding to breed your Shih Tzu. If you wish to have someone evaluate the quality of your Shih Tzu, you can locate a knowledgeable ASTC member in your area through the ASTC Breeder Referral Service. A copy of the breed standard (the description of the ideal Shih Tzu, which should be your breeding goal) is posted on this ASTC web site.