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Thinking About Breeding?





While many dog lovers aspire to be breeders, be advised this is a serious undertaking. Your aim should be improvement of the breed.† And your commitment to your puppies should last their entire lives.



†Planning is essential for healthy, beautiful puppies

You will need a thorough understanding of the Shetland Sheepdog Standard, the necessary resources of money, time, and appropriate facilities such as whelping boxes, exercise pens, and other special items particular to raising puppies. Your best tool is knowledge, which can be obtained by joining your local club and reading all the available information you can get your hands on. Approach breeding with a professional attitude and a strong sense of responsibility.

The Goal Is Breed Improvement

Know your genetics. While you are breeding for physical conformation, you also need to breed for temperament and freedom from genetic diseases. Do not contribute to the tragic world of diseased and or/ bad-tempered dogs. Understand the genetic problems found in our breed, test for them, and avoid them in your breedings.

Have a thorough knowledge of your bitch's strong and weak points. Entering her in shows is the best way to assess her qualities and faults. Once you have a detailed knowledge of your dog's traits, look for males that will eliminate or balance those flaws. Get familiar with each of the potential parentsí bloodlines and what they produce.

Understand What Breeding Entails

A puppy is almost as much work as caring for a baby. Imagine having 7 of them! During the first weeks the dam does most of the work but once they are weaned your work greatly increases. Cleaning, grooming, feeding, socialization and veterinary care will take much of your time. The costs of raising puppies both in terms of money and time are most often very high.

Do Pre-Breeding Health Checks

Keep in mind that the best-cared for dogs have the best litters. Regular vet care, current vaccinations, genetic screens, and good nutrition are necessary conditions. Bitches should be in-weight and of sound mind.

A couple of weeks before breeding the bitch should have a pre-breeding check-up that includes current vaccinations, a check for parasites and a brucellosis test. The male stud should also have had a recent brucellosis test.

Breeding a bitch before eighteen months of age is not recommended to avoid the stress of pregnancy and lactation on a young female. It is also customary to avoid breeding in successive heats.

Make Your Arrangements For Mating

After doing your due diligence in checking for all necessary health checks and genetic screening, it is time to work out a contract with the owner of your chosen stud. The contract should be in writing and detailed enough to cover all issues and contingencies. Discuss the contract with the stud owner and be sure that each of you is on the same page. Look at the contract as a communication device, not just as a legal document.

The Pregnant Bitch

Canine gestation takes about 63 days. You will probably notice an increase in appetite and weight along with nipple size after the first month. Pregnancy can be confirmed thirty days after breeding by X-rays or ultrasound.

The bitch can be maintained on her existing diet until she begins to gain weight during the last four weeks. Increase her diet slowly and as you near the end of the gestation feed her more frequent meals to lessen her discomfort. Some breeders like to add protein to the diet (liver, meat, eggs, etc.) during pregnancy but they should never be more than 10% of her daily intake.

Signs of Labor - Managing the Birth

Be sure to have a whelping area prepared well in advance. Locate it in a quiet, warm, draft-free location. Make sure that the bitch is familiar with the whelping box. Many breeders use the bottom of a large crate with clean papers that can be changed when they become soiled. Rails around the side of a whelping box are a good idea to prevent roll-overs.

When her temperature drops to 99 degrees, you can be sure that whelping is imminent. Wash her nipples and trim any coat from her genitals if it is long. Once birth begins, it is important to match the number of placentas delivered to the number of puppies born since retained placentas can be a problem. You must take over quickly if a puppy is not freed from the sac or if the umbilical cord is not severed by the mother. The sac can be torn near the head and the puppy gently extracted. Remove fluids from the puppy's nose and mouth and stimulate it with gentle, yet vigorous rubbing with a towel to encourage breathing. If the umbilical is still attached, tie it off with unwaxed dental floss and cut it with scissors dipped in iodine about 1 inch from the abdomen. Paint the cut end with iodine. Prevent the mother from pulling on the cord.

Be sure that all puppies are suckling. This gives them the all-important colostrum which helps them fight infection.

Once the puppies are born, replacing the papers with soft, clean towels is a good idea as it provides better footing for the puppies.


Don't hesitate to call the veterinarian if there is trouble:

††††††††††† Extreme pain

††††††††††† Trembling, shivering or collapse

††††††††††† More than three hours between puppies

††††††††††† Strong contractions for 45 minutes without delivery

††††††††††† Passing of a dark green or bloody fluid before the first puppy

††††††††††† No signs of labor by the 64th day after the last mating

A checkup of mother and puppies is a good idea within 24 hours of birth.

Keeping Puppies

Newborn puppies needs a warm environment as their body temperature control mechanism is undeveloped. Use a heat lamp or a well-insulated heating pad. Make sure they can crawl to the warm spot. Keep the temperature between 85 and 95 degrees for the first five days of life. From the seventh to the tenth day the temperature can be reduced to 80 degrees. By the end of the fourth week it can be further reduced to 70 degrees.

Maintain sanitary conditions at all times.

Orphaned Puppies

If the mother is unable to feed each puppy, you will have to hand feed. Use a commercial canine milk replacement or fresh, un-pasteurized goat's milk. Use bottles with nipples recommended for puppies.

Newborn puppies must be stimulated to discharge waste by the mother's licking, but orphaned puppies will need you to massage the anal region with a cotton ball soaked in warm water. The best time for this is when they are waking up.

Weaning Puppies

Puppies are ready to wean around 5 weeks of age. Soak premium quality puppy food in warm water until soft or learn more about raw feeding. Be sure to introduce all diet changes gradually.

Finding Homes

These are your puppies and always will be. Be sure that every puppy goes to a new owner with the same attitude about them that you have. You will have to carefully screen each potential owner by developing an application that satisfies your concerns.

You will have to register the litter well in advance of delivery and provide registration papers to the new owners at the time they take their puppy home. Any conditions such as limited registration for companion puppies or co-ownership on show puppies will have to be clearly understood by both parties. Also provide the new owner with the puppy's vaccination and health records, dietary recommendations, genetic testing results, and a copy of the sales agreement.

Encourage ongoing communication from your new owners. Ask for regular email updates and photos to help the new relationship grow.

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