Should I breed?
Having seen an increase in the rise of people asking if they should breed their pet Cockapoo we thought it would be appropriate to write an article on reasons to breed and the considerations and factors that have to be made prior to breeding for the novice breeder. As a club who is trying to help promote only responsible breeding, and therefore protect the future of our beloved cockapoos,we have our "standards" of what we feel a breeder should provide.
Cockapoos are normally breed as pets although some do go on to make great service dogs. However there are many factors to take into consideration before wanting to breed and the first thing you should be asking yourself is the reasons why?
The reason to breed
You have experience and prior knowledge of Cockapoos (including the parent breeds), having gained an insight from owning them, or being closely involved with them. After lots of research you have decided you wish to produce the healthiest puppies you can by careful selection of the parents in respect of temperament, age, health tests and whether they are a good example of the breed/cross.
You will also have potential suitable homes lined up or understand the need for good advertising and selection process of prospective owners and that the dogs will be much sought after, and that you would not struggle to sell them. You have thought about the after care, time, costs, stud fees, vet bills and complications should they arise and you will have a mentor on hand to help you through the process if a first time breeder, as well as a vet on hand to call .
Some reasons NOT to breed
You want to produce cute puppies as their mum or dad is so cute
There is no guarantee that the puppies will take after their mum or dad as they will inherit genes from both of parents. They could take after their mum more but equally so their dad, it is a 50:50 chance of taking after the other parent instead. Do not expect to duplicate you dog but realise it will inherit some traits but not all. Many of the qualities that make your dog so adorable are also down to traits that are learnt and developed and not just inherited.
You want to make money
If done properly breeding is expensive and can result in no profit or very little. There are lots of costs involved from Health tests and care, whelping equipment, vaccinations and worming, extra food, facilities, cleaning supplies, stud fees which could include travelling and accommodation costs if the stud is far away ,vet fees, advertising fees and the cost of having an unexpected c-section or a pup or pups requiring emergency vet care will be very costly. Also factor in your time which could include taking time off work to look after mum or when she goes into labour. It doesn't just end once the pups are born,what if they need hand rearing for example? Pups will need daily monitoring, weighing etc and mum will also need extra care too.
Your family or friends have asked you to
Whilst they may want to have a puppy, people often say these things at the time and then later change their minds, leaving you with puppies on your hands; what if you can't sell them? Especially in these poor economic times where many dogs are being abandoned or given up for rehoming, and unethical breeders are offloading unsold litters onto rescue organisations. Also, are all your friends and family wanting these pups able to provide the best homes, suitable for owning a puppy? Have you assessed them on an unbiased level? Or will you find it difficult for a family member NOT to have one of your pups. What if they only want a particular colour? or sex? and you only have so many of these what then do you do with the others? Sell them on?
You want your dog to have a litter before being spayed
Pregnancy is quite dangerous for bitches and unfortunately can result in death of both bitch and pups. Some pups are born with deformities or unforeseen illnesses, and some may require euthanasia because of their condition, often there are also stillborn pup(s) in a litter. There is no reason relating to health or emotional for a bitch to have a litter prior to spaying.
We want to get back some of the money we paid out for the dog
As previously mentioned breeding dogs if done right is costly. A dog brings so much to an owner in the form of companionship and love. If you think for example you paid £850 for your cockapoo and it lives for 15 years that' s only £70.83 a year. Do you really need to breed her to recoup that initial cost?
Other factors and considerations
Are you the right type of person to breed?
Not everyone is cut out to make a breeder. It's not just the risks to the dogs themselves and costs involved but the emotions that go with it. Will you be able to cope if your dog needs "hands on " help with mating? or help with the delivery of pups? or if things sadly go wrong? Could you cope with being able to give up the pups? Are you able to take back pups if the need arises? Can you make assessments on whom should be the right owner for your pups and be able to turn people away who don't fit your criteria? Are you happy to have strangers come into your home? Would you be able to hand rear if the situation arose? help with puppy socialisation? be able to devote time and patience and commitment to raising a litter? be available to provide information and advice?
Would you be emotionally prepared if the worst happened and you lost your bitch? Could you cope with a litter of dead puppies?
Do you have the space to breed?
Do you have enough space in your home to accommodate both mum and puppies? Do you have a quiet area for the mum to have pups and a rest area? Somewhere for them to play and interact with each other?
Do you have the time to breed?
You will need lots of time to be able to look after the mum and then another 8-12 weeks to help look after the puppies until they go to their new homes. Also mum can have her litter any time-so are you prepared for that? How would this fit into you lifestyle and work commitments for example? Looking after mum and her litter is very tiring, are you prepared for this?
Would you be able to take back any pups and re-home or keep them?
Anyone who decides to breed are responsible for the lives they bring into the world. A responsible breeder will have thought about providing a home or having the facility to re-home any pups not sold or returned due to unforeseen circumstances. It is not morally right that a breeder should dump unwanted or unsold pups onto rescues. At all times carefully consideration should be given to finding the right home for the puppies and this includes careful vetting of any prospective owners.
How old is your bitch?
It is best to make sure your girl has had at least two seasons and be as close to 2 years as possible. Cocker Spaniels mature slowly and therefore being as close to 2 ensures the best chance of the bitch being fully mature before breeding. She should be fit and healthy and at a good weight neither fat or too thin.
Will your bitch make a good Mother?
Not all bitches make good mums. Some don't want nothing to do with their litter which means you will have to take over the role. Some bitches cannot produce enough milk so again this will mean you will have to take on the role of hand feeding them.
Have you had her health tested for the genetic diseases that the Cocker Spaniel and Poodle carry?
Ensure you have the relevant health tests done for both the cocker and poodle (please refer to our health section). Your chosen stud dog should also have paperwork to prove he has been health tested too.
Do you know what type of Cockapoo you wish to breed?
You need to decide whether you are going to be doing a first generation cross (F1) which is a Cocker Spaniel X Poodle or whether a F1b which is a Cockapoo mated back with either a Cocker Spaniel or Poodle or a second generation cross F2 which is a Cockapoo x Cockapoo. Then you will need to know which type: An English Cross or American? Are you going to use a Toy Poodle or a Miniature Poodle?
Is your bitch/dog 100% sound in temperament?
Any litter bred from nervous, snappy, aggressive dogs have the potential to carry the same characteristics as the parent dogs. Always ensure that dogs are carefully selected for the temperament : Calm, happy and well adjusted.
Do you have traceable lineage in your dogs family tree and that of the stud?
If you are going to be doing second or third generation crosses , then you must be aware of the family tree so that you have knowledge of what dogs have been used to prevent inbreeding and to know what genetic conditions there are in the dogs background. . Inbreeding is the mating of close siblings so a brother with a sister or dad with a daughter for example. You will also need to be aware of the studs ancestry as some Poodle studs are used by many and so there is a greater chance that you could mate your dog with a relative of the stud.
Can you afford to breed?
Costs involved are not just for material things but also time spent as looking after the mum and her litter is a full time job and once puppies are weaned it involves even more time for the breeder as the pups will need caring, feeding, cleaning up poo and wee, weighing, cleaning bedding etc.
Things to consider and to have funds for:
DNA PRA eye test
KC/BVA/ISDS eye test
HIp score (cost is for vet taking X-rays, and fee to BVA to score them and results given back to you vet too)
Test for FN ( English Cocker Spaniels)
Test for PFK ( American Cockers)
Stud fees - Anything from £200-450 ( if having to stay in accommodation if stud not local more ££££ )
Fuel Costs - For travel to stud and vets etc
Whelping equipment - this includes Whelping box, heat lamps, heat mats, vet bedding, play pen etc..
Electricity for heating and lighting and cleaning materials
Pregnancy health check
Scan to confirm pregnancy
Whelping health check
Premium food for bitch
Premium food for puppies
Health check for Puppies
Ist vaccinations for pups if required (vet may do a deal with vacs and health check at same time)
Puppy Packs: Cost depends on what you are supplying
Advertising fees: Cost depends on where you will be advertising litter
Contingency needed incase of c-section and any emergency vet bills or out of hours etc.
If you do decide that you are the right person and have the right dogs to breed, The KC and Dogs Trust have a puppy plan that could be useful : http://www.thepuppyplan.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/PP_Brochure_Breeders_online-may12.pdf
Recommended Reading :
Book of the Bitch by J.M Evans & Kay White
Should I use my dog as a stud?
As a club who is trying to help promote only responsible breeding, and therefore protect the future of our beloved cockapoos,we have our "standards" of what we feel a stud owner should provide.
All of this needs careful consideration and knowledge, which should include knowing what health tests should be utilised for the stud and for any bitches to be mated; you should also be aware of the bitches age and have an understanding of the mating process.
A good breeder will take responsibility for the future welfare of all pups born, keeping in touch with owners and ensuring they know to contact them if they can't for any reason, keep the pup/dog. Your dog would need to be a ‘good’ example, both in looks and temperament, as people will want to know why your dog is the right stud for them to use, and the right bitch to allow you to use their dog.
How a dog looks, is referred to as conformation, and this entails having a knowledge of joints and movement, so you don’t inadvertently use dogs in a breeding programme that have poor conformation, that might result in a health problem. Undertake the relevant health tests, don’t skimp on tests, but research and use the ones relevant to the breeds you are using; ensure dogs are also vet checked for overall general health, and also check, particularly with a maiden bitch, that any stud dog you plan to use is proven.
As the stud owner it will be down to you to advise novice breeders when is the right time to mate their bitch, or advise on a premate type of test to use. You may have to assist with the mating in being ‘hands on’, including internal examinations of a bitch, and aiding the stud dog to hit the mark. Not all dogs know what to do, especially if it is there first time and so you would need to be able to intervene if needed. A non receptive bitch may not be ready to be mated and this may result in a bitch showing aggression, possibly resulting in injury, to stud dog owner and dogs. So knowledge of the mating process is vital to protect both stud and bitch. You would need to be clear on whether you would board the bitch, and/or how many times you would offer the stud service and what fee you would charge for this. You would need to have a clear contract in place outlining what your stud service includes, for example of the first mating didn't take would you include a free repeat mating? Would you be able to provide information on whelping and puppy care if a novice bitch breeder asked you?
It is not unusual for a dog used as a stud (particularly a one off, or occasional stud dog) to have a change in personality and this can cause scent marking, eagerness to find bitches and some can get aggressive with other male dogs and become ‘protective’ towards bitches especially those that they live with. These are considerations that need to be carefully thought through.
You should take shared responsibility with the owners of any visiting bitches, and this could include pups being born with deformities and helping with the rehoming of pups if need be. You need to be able to handle conversations with upset, angry owners of bitches, where matings have gone wrong and either resulted without a litter entirely, or with some problems, the stud dog owner is always the first one to be blamed. Your reputation will be built upon the quality, or lack of, any puppies sired.
Hopefully, reading through you can see that deciding to breed dogs takes time and dedication, commitment, money and responsibility for the welfare of the dogs and puppies. To be a responsible breeder takes time to research, to learn about genetics and what hereditary diseases your dogs may carry, and to ensure that at all times the health and welfare of your dogs are you primary concern. Sometimes, the most difficult decision to make, is not to breed, once you have all of the facts in front of you.
So anyone still wanting to breed, please firstly ensure your dogs are suitable and health tested, and ensure all the above considerations have been met. The life of your pet dog and any future puppies are in your hands, that is a huge responsibility that should not be taken lightly. It’s all too easy to think that ‘your’ litter won’t be adding to the problem, because you have homes lined up, the sad fact is that every dog in rescue was once a cute puppy, that someone bred, and never bothered to find out or keep in touch with the owners. Do you want to add to those statistics, or, if you think you still want to breed, will you do it the right way?
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