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Before Breeding

How many puppies do Labradors have? And should you be breeding from your dog at all? This article is part of our series on Labrador breeding , a comprehensive set of resources to help you make excellent breeding choices. Breeding a litter of puppies has huge appeal for many people.

And indeed, absolutely anyone can breed from their Labrador.

Whether or not they should is of course a different matter. And one on which many Labrador lovers have strong feelings. Unfortunately the reaction they get from regular members is often enough to send them scurrying away without further comment. I say unfortunately, because once someone has been driven away, the opportunity to guide or influence them has been lost.


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This is a shame because there is possibly only one thing worse than a completely unprepared person producing a litter of puppies. There are those that believe no-one should breed dogs at all.

How old does a dog have to be to breed?

They feel that there are too many unwanted dogs in the world already, and that no more puppies should be born. The chances are, if you are thinking of breeding, you already know of a family whose girl had a litter with no problems at all. The facts are there are pros and cons to breeding.

Who should breed from their dogs?

You need to consider the age, health and attributes of your female dog, and consider how breeding will affect her. And if you are to go down this route with minimal risk and maximum enjoyment, you need to do so with your eyes wide open, and armed with plenty of information. And we look at the important factors which you need to consider before going ahead with breeding from yours. There are some reasons for breeding from a female Labrador which have no foundation in fact at all. There are reasons for and against spaying at an early age, or even at all. You may wish to consider these before committing your animal to such a major surgical intervention, but that is another subject.

Many dogs grow a little calmer with advancing maturity.

Breeding Responsibly - Finding a responsible breeder - Bringing up puppy

If your dog is a bit excitable and hyperactive before having puppies, she is likely to be so afterwards. And what is more, will have produced half a dozen or more excitable and hyperactive puppies. These three reasons have some foundation in fact, but there are a huge number of influencing factors which could be involved in your case.

One or more of these might mean for you, that breeding from your dog is not such a good idea. There is no doubt that in an ideal world, with a perfect pregnancy and easy labour, and half a dozen or so live healthy puppies, there is some pleasure to be had for all the family in the raising of a litter of puppies.

How Often Should A Dog Be Bred?

However, life is not always that straightforward, and it is important to consider the consequences of a less than happy outcome. Only you can judge the effect that might have on your children. For one or more puppies to be stillborn or die in the first few days of life is more common. A midnight dash to the vets for a caesarean section, and difficulties getting the dog to feed her pups afterwards are a distinct possibility.

A litter of healthy puppies will occupy a lot of your time, for several weeks. Whilst hand-rearing puppies is exhausting, and caring for sickly puppies is gruelling and distressing. Your children will not benefit from your lack of attention or the stress levels in your home during this time. And it is important to take a really objective look at your dog and to try and see her through the eyes of others. Buying a brother or sister, from another litter by the same parents is the best way of getting a dog like her. Of course, it may be that her parents are no longer alive or being bred from.

But another dog from the same line of close relatives bred by a knowledgeable breeder is likely to give you a very similar dog. Breeding your girl to a dog of your choice, without any real knowledge or understanding of his genetic lines, is likely to produce uncertain results. It is something to consider. When we have a really exceptional dog of great quality, it is only natural to want to breed from her. If your female has been winning awards for her appearance and structure on the show bench, or successfully passed her Gundog Grades, if she is doing well in agility or obedience competitions, or succeeding in field trials or working trials, you at least have some measure of her quality as judged by other people.

The principle factor you will need to assess is her temperament. You will need to particularly consider her disposition towards people, especially children, and her trainability. It is these two qualities which she must excel in order to stand a chance of producing good puppies. This is not always a reason that people admit to, but it is certainly a motivating factor for many people in the decision to breed a litter of puppies. Unfortunately, the costs involved in gaining health clearances for a Labrador will often outweigh any income gained from a single litter.

So unless you wish to breed on a regular basis, you are most unlikely to gain any financial benefit at all from breeding from your dog. On the contrary, you stand a good chance of ending up considerably out of pocket as we shall see below. This is an interesting argument and though in principle a fine ethical stance, it is a difficult one to define precisely. Most of us would agree that you should not breed from a substandard animal, but what exactly constitutes a better dog is a very subjective matter.

Indeed the breeding of pedigree dogs by so-called experts has come under a great deal of scrutiny lately. But most people would agree that you have a moral obligation to do your best to ensure that the puppies you produce will be healthy happy puppies that grow into healthy, happy, good-tempered, trainable dogs. There are a number of inherited conditions to which Labradors are susceptible. It is vital that anyone breeding Labradors ensures that both parents of any puppies they produce, have been checked for these conditions before getting their dog pregnant.


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The scientific community is clear and increasingly urgent: generations of breeding to standards based on solely on appearance has allowed bad welfare choices to be made. And now we need to breed for health as well as good looks. Apart from your moral obligation to do so, the consequences of failing in this duty can be serious. Without these clearances, you stand an increased chance of producing unhealthy puppies, of failing to sell your puppies most new owners know to ask for health clearances , of being sued by angry owners of unhealthy puppies that you have sold them, and of having unhealthy puppies being returned to you and the cost of their veterinary treatment being laid at your door.

Many breeders nowadays also test for a range of other disorders, and elbow score their dogs as well. These tests are a crucial part of maintaining and improving the health and happiness of our Labradors. Information on health screening tests for Labradors can be found in our health screening section. Part betterment of the breed and part making healthy Labrador puppies, protecting against inbreeding is an important part of maintaining healthy breeding lines for all pedigree dogs.

Inbreeding occurs when related dogs mate.

Labrador Retriever Dog Breed Guide

Whilst most people will instinctively recoil at mating very closely related Labs, few people realise the damaging effect of mating dogs who share a great- or great-great-grandparent. The average number could be as high as Fortunately, because our genes come in pairs, as long as one copy is correct, we never feel the disadvantages of carrying a faulty copy.

Put simply, the each generation of puppies is being fathered by only a fraction of the male dogs in the previous generation. This leads to homozygosity — puppies begin to be born with two copies of a faulty gene — and this time the disadvantages of that fault are expressed.

Luckily there are a lot of Lab in the world, so protecting against inbreeding is very achievable. These travel costs you make need to make the journey several times also need to be part of your decision making. If you do decide to go ahead and breed from your female dog, you first need to make sure she is ready.

But she should also still be youthful. It is not fair to put an older dog through the stress of pregnancy, whelping, and raising a litter. This means that she should be at least two years old, and probably not more than four when she has her first litter. As you will be acting as midwife when your dog goes into labour, you will need a mentor, someone who has whelped a lot of litters, to advise you. It could be the person who bred your own dog, or just an experienced friend. But you will need someone who can advise you and who is willing to be phoned at 3 in the morning.

And there could be quite a few of them! Many Labradors will have six to eight puppies. Some may have as many as twelve or more. Some as few as one or two. Litters of ten are not at all unusual. The extremes come with their own issues, but even if your girl has an average litter, that will still be half a dozen or so homes for you to find.