It’s a very common misconception that a female dog should have one litter before being spayed (neutered). Not only is it an out-dated concept, with no evidence to support that breeding a litter is either physically or psychologically beneficial to a dog. But breeding is not an innocuous process, it carries inherent risks that can cause distress and discomfort to her. 

Your dog is not human

Unlike us humans, our pets don’t harbour the emotional tendencies that we may have towards forming a family unit and having children. Any concerns over whether a dog will miss being able to have puppies once spayed, or that she won’t be fully mature until she’s had a litter, are inappropriate and unfounded. Furthermore, the breeding of privately owned dogs isn’t necessary for the survival of the species or an individual breed. Breeding should ideally be left to experienced, responsible breeders committed to improving a breed’s condition and overall health. 

There are risks and costs involved in having a litter

Breeding from your dog first of all means having her in tip-top condition. This means at least a check-up with your veterinarian beforehand; ensuring her vaccinations and worming are all up to date, and possibly testing to assess her fertility and the ideal times to mate. She’ll need further veterinary assessment around 1 month after mating to do an ultrasound scan. It’s a good idea to have her checked before whelping to see if she needs further worming. And get your vet’s advice on how to approach the birth. 

It can be a very costly process. You’ll also have to prepare for the possibility of her needing a caesarean if the birth doesn’t go as planned. You need to be well informed about the birthing process, because delays in getting help can be disastrous for both the puppies and mother. Even once the puppies are born, there’s the possibility they will need veterinary care. Or that your bitch may suffer problems such as mastitis or a retained placenta (among other problems). A sick dam or one who won’t adapt to life as a mum, can mean a long road ahead of hand-rearing a demanding litter of puppies. 

Having a litter from your dog can also mean waiting until later to neuter her. Which can be problematic because neutering early reduces the risk of mammary tumours developing. Whereas waiting too long means that this protective action is lost.  

What are the wider impacts of breeding your dog?

If you’re still thinking your dog should have a litter, then you need to be aware of the impact this can have socially and economically on society. With rescue centres overbooked and their economic budgets saturated by dogs needing rehoming or that have been abandoned for a multitude of reasons, any breeding needs to be done responsibly. The sad reality of many of these dogs is a life penned-in or even humane euthanasia. Even before breeding, appropriate, life-long homes need to be sought out for any puppies; to avoid complicating this already dreadful situation any further. You also need to consider whether your dog (and the mate) is really appropriate for breeding. This includes a frank assessment of their temperament, physical health and conformation. This should be done in conjunction with your veterinarian who can advise about the heritability of various conditions. 

Please don’t rush into having a litter from your dog. From the point of view of her health and welfare it really isn’t necessary, and in the worst-case scenario could lead to heartache. If you are going to do it then get the advice of your veterinarian, get searching for homes for the puppies as soon as possible, and do plenty of reading around the subject beforehand. 

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