Poodle Dreams

Let’s leave dog breeding to the experts.

Once in a while, I lose my mind and dream of breeding standard poodles. Wouldn’t it be fun to pick the right breeding stock, nurture and socialize the puppies, then send them off to wonderful new homes?

No, it just might be an expensive, stress-filled nightmare and I quickly abandon the venture again. Likewise, several times a year clients dream up the same plan, substituting their own breed of dog for poodle. I do my darndest to burst the bubble. The hankering to breed dogs seems common among those of us who love the animals. For most of us, it’s not only foolish, but irresponsible.
Let’s start with foolish. Do you really want to devote a significant portion of your time to feeding, grooming and cleaning-up after a litter of puppies several times a year? Most of this is unpaid labour, but we’ll get to that. How about fielding calls from prospective owners, bringing them into your home and somehow deciding who is worthy of one of your precious pups? I know people who, unable to part with any of the offspring, ended up with a veritable herd of dogs.

Can you handle the stress of watching a favourite companion struggle through a difficult whelping? A caesarean section can cost from $1000 to $3000 depending on the breed, timing and complications.

Speaking of the money side of this, even veterinarians who breed dogs rarely make anything from the endeavour, despite their obvious cost advantages. There are significant costs involved in buying good breeding stock and having all the appropriate tests done on hips, eyes, hearts and other potential problem areas. If you don’t do the tests, you get moved into the category of irresponsible. Once food, parasite control, vaccines and advertising are considered, even a large litter may barely cover the bills. And sometimes you’ll only get one or two pups to sell, especially with small breed dogs.

In the U.S., puppy lemon laws are becoming really popular to deal with people selling badly bred, medically defective dogs. Many of those animals come from nightmarish puppy mills, but the mistakes of misguided backyard breeders are in the mix too.

Breeding dogs takes a huge commitment to studying genetics, hereditary medical problems, nutrition and behaviour. It takes hard work and extreme dedication to make any money from it without cutting corners leading to poor quality pups.

Every couple of months we do duty at the local animal shelter, euthanizing unwanted animals. The majority of them are cats – another tragic problem completely – but we have so many abandoned dogs in Quinte, they get shipped to other shelters to find homes.

Please spay or neuter your pets and leave dog breeding to those who have made it their life’s work. And I promise not to irresponsibly breed poodles, only to dream foolish dreams.

Dr. Fiona Gilchrist
Hillcrest Animal Hospital
October 2012