Breeding is Risky Business
Today Jack Russell Terriers are hot! Tomorrow, those of us who are truly devoted to the breed will be paying the price for this surge in popularity with greatly increased use of our rescue system, as much of America finds out that our Jack Russells are a bit more dog than they want to handle. Right now, people aren't thinking about the future, and many novice breeders are anxious to try to supply the demand for puppies that the public currently has. A recent first time breeder was so impressed with the ease of selling her first litter, that she has purchased two more bitches with intent to breed. It's true, if you had two dozen puppies, you could sell them all in a weekend, if you weren't particular about who bought them. The novice breeder is blissfully ignorant of the fact that she may find half the litter dumped on her doorstep in a few months if she's not careful about who the puppies are sold to. If you think that your Jack Russell Terrier bitch is going to be a cash cow for you, you'd better read on. I'm afraid we're going to have to disillusion you.
Breeding is risky business, whether you do it for love or money. If you're doing it for love, you risk losing your bitch and her puppies. If you're doing it for money, you stand to lose a bundle. Talk to a few breeders with experience. They'll be able to tell you their personal stories of disasters. If you've ever read a book on Canine Reproduction you'll notice that there's 54 pages on what can go wrong, and only one page on what it's like if everything goes well. The risks are very real, and even if everything goes well initially, there are defects that can show up later, causing the eventual death of the puppies. And then there's the minor defects that won't affect the puppy's chance for a happy life, but will cause a financial loss to the breeder, as a refund or replacement will need to be given to the buyer.
Why do you want to breed?
"Because it would be good for the children to watch a birth, and to play with the puppies as they grow."
If you want them to watch a litter being born, it's better and easier to find a breeder who will let them get up in the middle of the night to come over and watch the litter being born. However, most children are repulsed by the gory parts of the whelping process, and are all too anxious to avoid watching the miracle of birth you planned for them to see. A litter growing up is often too rowdy for most small children, who are disinterested, or terrified of the leaping creatures with sharp nails and teeth.
"Because we love our bitch, and want another one just like her."
The chances that you'll get one "just like her" are slim, indeed! Just because an animal is beautiful doesn't mean that it will produce another beautiful animal.
"Because everyone who comes to the house sees our bitch, and wants a puppy from her."
Just wait till your litter of 5 is ready to go to their new homes; watch all those people back out -- with a myriad of excuses like;
"The kids aren't old enough yet."
"The kids are too old now to be bothered taking care of a dog."
"We're going to have a baby."
"We'll be moving in 3 months -- wait till then."
"The rug is too new."
"Because we really love little puppies"
You'd better be sure you really love them, because until you have them, you can't fully imagine how much is involved, such as:
The mess a litter makes. Can you put up with the cleaning that is constantly involved in caring for a litter? There's no way to explain how tired you'll get of scrubbing up after the puppies, their whelping box, the yard, the kennel, or wherever they're kept. They dump their food and water the minute you put it down, step in it, roll in it, and drag it through whatever else may be in the puppy box. With 4 or 5 puppies, there's always something else to be cleaned up, too!
The responsibility you'll have with a litter. It's not as easy as having the bitch whelp the litter and take care of them until they're ready to go. Much of it is up to you, and you're tied to the litter like any new mother.
Now that you've some idea of what's involved with raising a litter, there's still plenty of other things to be considered.
Is your bitch breeding quality?
Is she JRTCA registered? Always register your bitch before breeding. To not do so is much like locking the barn door after the horse has escaped. Do you know her faults as well as her virtues? Is she of desirable temperament?
Are you prepared for the difficulty of placing Jack Russell puppies? Are you prepared to keep them as long as necessary - maybe even 4-6 months?
If you can answer "yes" to the above, and haven't lost the determination to try your hand at raising a litter, then read on.
"You think you can make money raising Jack Russell Terriers."
Before you breed there's a few things that should be done to prevent trouble. These things will add to the expense of breeding a litter, but are very necessary. A prospective brood bitch should be in top physical condition. An overweight bitch lacking in exercise tolerance may have trouble whelping. If your bitch isn't in top shape, skip the next heat and get her in shape before you breed. Once you decide to breed, take her to your veterinarian for a physical check up before she comes in heat. This is a good time to have her registration exam done, if you haven't already done it! Her physical exam should also include a test for heartworms in areas where this is a problem. She should be given all her booster shots at this time too. Because of an increase in the incidence of brucellosis in dogs, a serum agglutination test should be done before mating. This test is available in veterinary clinics and can be run from a blood sample in minutes. Also, before mating, the bitch should be checked for worms. Round worms are difficult to avoid in puppies. Other parasites should also be vigorously treated. A bitch with an active parasite infestation is less likely to whelp healthy puppies.
Before she comes in season is the time to find a stud dog that will enhance your bitch. Get several breeders' opinions of a good choice for a stud dog. If they only recommend dogs owned by themselves, take their opinion with a grain of salt. They may be speaking out of greed rather than a sincere desire to match with the right stud. Once you've narrowed down the field of prospective mates, study their genetic backgrounds. Even if the dog looks perfect, he may have recessive genes for many faults. Studying the background of both your bitch and the prospective stud dog, and making a sound decision based on conformation, pedigree, working ability, and temperament, will help you increase the odds of getting a healthy litter. Once your bitch comes in season, you'll need to contact the stud owner, and you'll be advised when to bring to bring to him. Plan to pay the stud fee at that time. You may also be charged for boarding if your bitch is to stay with the stud dog's owner. The suitable stud for your bitch may be some distance away, necessitating additional travel expense.
Now you have approximately 62 days to worry, get your wits about you, and get ready for the big event. Even if the breeding and pregnancy go smoothly, the pet owner invariably runs into problems with the delivery. Many times these problems are not real, but result from a lack of experience on the part of the owner. The first time, an amateur breeder either rushes to the vet at the first signs of labor, or fails to recognize when the dog is having serious problems and does not seek help in time to save the pups and the mother. Either way, this lack of experience costs money.
Even if all goes smoothly, and the bitch produces a nice litter of puppies, the chances of further problems and complications increase from this point on. For instance, she may not be an adequate mother. She may neglect her puppies or even kill them, have no milk, have a post delivery infection, or the puppies may be weak or get sick. And if your bitch can't or won't take care of her puppies, guess who'll have to do it?!
Every two hour tube feedings, and messy cleanups. Just a few of the joys of breeding! Then the pups have to be cared for, weaned, fed, cleaned, vaccinated and wormed. All time consuming jobs, and additional expense. It is most often the experience of amateur breeders that when they add up their out-of-pocket expenses and deduct the money received from sales, the result will be negative, without even counting the labor they've invested.
Think it's all over now? Not necessarily. A year from now you may get a call from the purchaser of one of the puppies to tell you that the puppy has a genetic defect that has just shown up. Now you'll have to refund part of the money they paid for the pup. You could be paying for the privilege of breeding for months, nay, years to come.
There are other reasons to consider spaying your bitch instead of breeding her. We've all seen the news on Television, where in hopes of shocking the general public into awareness of the pet population problem they film employees of the animal shelter putting a beautiful dog to sleep. Think this isn't a problem with the Jack Russell? Think again! Talk to anyone involved in doing Russell Rescue, Inc. The problem is ever growing; in fact becoming overwhelming. Rescue has a strong devoted group of individuals who go far beyond the call of duty to rescue dogs from the pounds each year. How many others may have slipped by? Many animal shelter employees don't recognize what a Jack Russell looks like, and so they don't inform the proper rescue groups. Some day the dog you see on T.V. being put to sleep may be a Jack Russell. Maybe even one that you bred.
Please don't let some animal pay with its life. If you can't afford to take care of another animal for the rest of its life, think seriously about spaying your bitch. It's simple and cost effective. The money you'll save on the licensing fee alone will probably pay for the operation in just a few years. And there's more good news. A spayed bitch will be less likely to roam, be more sociable with other animals, and it will increase the importance of you in your bitch's life. She be less likely to get mammary tumors, and won't get uterine cancer. She won't have the medical complications due to pregnancy, and she won't aggressively protect her puppies. You won't have the financial burden of food and veterinary care for puppies, nor will you have the worry of finding them good homes.
Weigh the positives and the negatives carefully before you decide to breed. And if you're an amateur get the advise of a good veterinarian before you do anything!
Article posted with permission of the Pacific Northwest Jack Russell Terrier Network
May 1997 Terrier Tails newsletter
Courtesy of Mary Abbott