How to prepare for your first litter of puppies
When dog breeding for the first time, whether as the start of a regular occurrence or simply just as a one off litter, it's difficult to know where to start. How do you need to prepare? And what factors do you need to consider before committing yourself to such a big responsibility?
The average cost of breeding.
It is very easy to look online and see how much a particular breed of pups can be sold for, however, what new breeders can sometimes be unaware of, are all the ‘behind the scenes’ costs that are involved with ethical breeding. Also, if unfortunate events occur along the way (potential emergency c-section), having that leeway of cash flow could save the bitch and her puppies’ lives so it is always best to be prepared for every scenario possible.
Forums are great for research and can be breed-specific as the cost ranges dramatically depending on the price of food/products used and the type of pregnancy mum goes through.
If you would like any advice on the rough costs of breeding a particular dog, speaking to an experienced dog breeder is essential.
Some costs that are associated with breeding that you may not have been aware of are below:
- Breeding Stock - you need to ensure, in order to produce healthy puppies, you have a healthy bitch and stud to breed
- Stud Services - If you are the owner of a healthy bitch, there are fees you will usually need to pay for a pedigree stud who can also produce healthy litters.
- Caring for the parent dog(s) - this includes health tests, vaccinations, food, any extra supplements that may be required and insurance.
- Pre-breeding Health Screenings - veterinary costs
- Whelping (Birth) - this can be a very costly and time-consuming part of the process and is arguably one of the most important. Whelping (birthing) stations, blankets etc are needed but also professional help on hand should a c-section need to take place. This is more common in some breeds as opposed to others but is a cost that you will need to factor in.
- Raising and feeding the puppies - they are hungry little things!
Ensuring the bitch/stud is fit and healthy.
Before choosing to breed dogs you need to ensure the ones you are choosing to breed from are fit and healthy by completing health tests on both parents. Ensuring the bitch is of a mature age and her temperament is suitable for whelping before mating her is also key to preparing her for a successful birthing experience. Talking to the breeder of your bitch may help in order to ensure her mother went through a smooth pregnancy or if there were any complications.
It is advised that you have a clean, sanitised whelping station for when the litter is due, comfortable bedding, lots of knowledge of what's expected of you throughout the birth and your local vet on hand for any questions, queries or concerns you may have at all during the pregnancy. Dogs are pregnant for 63 days (9 weeks) but it is best to prepare for whelping anywhere from 58 days.
The whelping stage (labour time) can last anywhere between 6-12 hours but it has been known to be up to 36 hours, particularly for nervous or first-time mums. Make you sure you have coffee on hand!
Do I have the space to devote to a litter of puppies?
The size of the litter differs depending on the breed of dog, but in some instances, your bitch could have a litter of up to 15 puppies! Therefore you must ensure that you have space around you to accommodate their growth for up to 8 weeks (the minimum rehoming age).
Smaller breeds tend to have smaller litters of pups whereas the larger breed dogs are prone to having more. There are, however, a number of factors, other than breed, that can determine the litter size.
How much time will I need to spend with the pups?
Litters of pups are very similar to newborn babies, except you will have many more of them...all at once! Whilst puppies wean off of mum at around 3-4 weeks of age, this transition can be difficult, time-consuming, and messy! If there is a runt of the litter that needs extra ‘mum time’ this is always a good time to keep them with mum for a while whilst the rest of the pups are moving onto solids.
Bottle feeding puppies is also very common during the first few weeks but also if mum does not produce milk, refuses to feed her pups or pups are very weak and need manual feeding. Manual feeding usually contains supplements and this will need to be done every 2 hours so prepare for some sleepless nights and another set of hands if possible!
A new litter of puppies requires 24-hour attention for the first 8 weeks they are with you so please bear this in mind.
Re-homing the new additions.
It is always good to have an idea or waiting list of potential buyers before you mate your bitch as you then have multiple people you will be able to choose from. You need to feel 100% confident your puppies are going to the correct home and not just necessarily the first one!
As a new breeder, you may be slightly apprehensive about advertising your litter on large sites to complete strangers so potentially start off via neighbours, friends and local vets to see if you can sell the litter via trusted people.
We have a breeder match section on our website where individuals who love what we do, reach out to us looking for ethical, reputable breeders. We can always assist you in the process of finding the perfect home by passing their details over to you.
Knowing what's expected of you as the breeder.
Worms are very common in puppies so keeping up with worming treatment is vital. According to PetPlan, puppies should be wormed at five, eight and 12 weeks old and then at least every three months thereafter to ensure they do not pick up worms. Communication with your new puppy buyer is vital as your pups may be sold at eight weeks so ensure you make them aware if the 8-week worming treatment is their responsibility or not.
Vaccinations are extremely important to a pup's health and, of course, they help build immunity from all the nasty diseases pups can be susceptible to such as Canine Distemper and Canine Parvovirus just to name a couple. Pooches can have their first vaccination between 6-8 weeks old and their second 2-3 weeks after their first. Your vet will be able to tell you the best time frames for your puppies. If you haven't vaccinated your pup before selling them, you will need to ensure you make the new puppy owners aware of this beforehand. It is common that the breeder will do the pups’ first vaccination and the owner the second, but clarity is key.
Socialising your puppies is a vital part of their development and will set them up very well to be confident additions to their new homes. It can be difficult for a breeder to socialise their pups as it is not easy getting them to meet new people, smells and textures all whilst being in the comfort of your own home. Our breeder partner Ewa has shared some top tips on puppy socialisation for pups still at home with the breeder;
‘Walk around town holding your puppy and let it see cars, buses, different people walking past. Bring treats to give to your puppy. Dress up in hats, funny outfits, put your sunglasses on, play music, vacuum clean, have the TV on, sing, dance’
These are all things you can allow your puppies to experience before they are vaccinated and able to go for walks and meet other dogs.
Our puppy therapy events aid in the puppies’ socialisation whilst giving the breeder and mum a well-deserved break for the day. We also contribute to the cost of ethical breeding when we use a litter of puppies for the day, so we are really aiming to help those who do it correctly!
It is advised that, as a breeder, you should allow your puppies to leave for their forever home with 5 weeks of free insurance - offered by the Kennel Club. You may also want to become a KC Assured Breeder.
Lucy's Law was a huge movement passed in government in 2022 and really does highlight the importance of ethical breeding and how vital it is to not cut corners. Knowing what's expected of you as a new breeder, will only aid in the lives of many more healthy puppies!
For more information or questions regarding breeding, have a litter of puppies you would like to socialise or anything related to this topic, please email us at email@example.com.