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Should I Breed My Female?

You do realize ANY time you breed your girl you are risking her life...granted, with vet care that it is today you have someone to turn to (hopefully) if things go wrong, but the risk is always there (plus, after what's happened to us, I don't have too high an opinion of your average "pet" vet - if you do it, PLEASE find a good reproduction specialist vet just in case you need it ahead of time!).  Also, keeping your bitch intact increases her risk of developing pyometra -- a heartbreaking and horrible infection only intact bitches can get. 

Before any reputable breeder will let you use their male, you will have to have your bitch OFA, CERF and CHD certified (hips, eyes and dwarfism) - and you will probably have to do a brucellosis test, and quite possibly, if her seasons are not regular or you don't have a stud on your premises to tell you "when" - progesterone testing (which must be done every other day until she ovulates - that can be 5 or more visits to the vet at $30+ a visit here in the midwest - more elsewhere).

No stud owner is going to want to board your bitch for two weeks (at your expense) driving her male bonkers until she's "ready" so you will need to time it as closely as possible which means several progesterone tests at $50 a pop!

Then there is the stud fee...depending on who you decide to go to it can be a little or allot.  If you pay a little or just use the dog next door - don't expect to get much for the puppies - but you'll still be expected to guarantee them for every health problem under the sun regardless so yo better know what's back there. 

If you pay allot, you can ask more for the puppies but often there are  "conditions" such as a puppy goes to the stud owner for free BESIDES the stud fee!  (and is this someone you'd really want to give one of your beloved puppies?  I guarantee by 8 weeks you will be in love with them all and won't want to give one to your MOTHER - so think carefully - maybe ...maybe not). 

The typical cost of a stud fee is about the price of a pet or show puppy - depending on the stud owner - and most stud owners will guarantee you get at least a puppy or two or will give a repeat service.  Of course, before you even breed her, you better have some good homes lined up.  (and get a deposit - because all those people that told you they wanted one will disappear as soon as they are born!) As you talk to people you will discover most homes are really unprepared for a Malamute!  You will spend tons of time talking to unsuitable homes, and educating the educatable ones, and maybe 1 out of 10 would be suitable for your puppies if you're lucky and not too picky. 

Statistics have shown that almost 60% of Malamute puppies are rehomed within the first 2 years - often without the breeder's knowledge.  If you counted everyone out there breeding - the stats would be MUCH higher.  If a typical breeder is careful it can be as low as 20% (or 1 puppy per litter average litter).  We've been quite lucky and have about a 10% return rate which is excellent. 

Raising a Litter...Hi Ho, Hi Ho, Off to the Poorhouse we go...(feel free to whistle along)

Lets say you've found the perfect stud dog - reasonable stud fee, and he's a champion and a nice one at that.  The stud fee is only the beginning. You will pay MUCH more than that to whelp and raise the puppies even if everything goes smoothly  (and if she needs a c-section because something goes wrong you can end up with 1 or 2 puppies and thousands in vet bills to show for the litter). 

Ok, you luck out and everything goes smoothly - you now have about 5 nice puppies (a typical sized Malamute litter).  Make a place for yourself to sleep by the whelping box for about a week to make sure everything goes well - Mom can easily step on or neglect a puppy.  If a puppy gets chilled it will die.  If it doesn't suck well it will die.  If Mom steps on it or is a bad Mom, they may all die.  Mom won't be able to be left alone for any length of time so plan to use your two weeks of vacation now. 

If there are complications - sick puppies, the need to be bottle fed, or stimulated to poop (they can't do it on their own for several days) you may need to take longer off of work.  Hopefully your boss will be sympathetic to this.  And there's nothing like holding a newborn puppy under warm running water at 3 am because he won't poop and is crying.  At about 3 weeks they begin eating solid food and will need to be fed a high quality food several times a day. 

A litter of puppies will go through about a 40 lb. bag in approximately a week once they begin eating solid food and are weaned.  Until they are weaned, you feed the Mom the 40 lb. bag of food every week so she can make milk - along with eggs, cottage cheese, hamburger and vitamins.  She SHOULD eat better than you - she's feeding a half dozen babies. 

Some Moms will wean on their own, others need to be encouraged with creative "clothing" to prevent the puppies from nursing. Plan on coming home at lunchtime to feed puppies and clean up poop.  LOTS of poop. More poop than you can imagine right now!

This is about the time Mom says enough and stops cleaning up after them so it will become your job.  Once they can walk and track it all over the floor you will need to mop a couple of times a day with bleach or another disinfectant.  If you are fortunate they won't contract coccidia or any other kinds of illnesses that require an extra vet visit.  Our vet charges per puppy for a well- puppy check up though I've heard some will charge by the litter - that's a lucky breeder! 

During this time you will probably be interviewing prospective homes and allowing them into your home to play with the puppies and advertising for the homes you need in the newspaper and elsewhere.  At 6 weeks it's a vet appointment for the first round of shots and again at 8 weeks before they go to their new homes - then there are the optional expenses such as tattoos or micro chipping, collars and leashes, toys and extra food to send home with the new owner.

Finally, at 8-9 weeks they are ready to go to their new homes.  If you're lucky they haven't torn the wallpaper off the walls or chewed on the phone cord by then (though they always get SOMETHING). Congratulations, you've made it through the easy part!

Then comes the hard part.  The hardest part of all is crying for two weeks after they leave because you worry if you chosen the homes well!  Also, statistics show even with carefully-placed puppies from breeders that will take them back wihtout question - there is a 20% return rate - so out of those 5 or 6 expect one or even two homes to change their mind about the puppy in the coming weeks and return it to you (it IS your responsibility to take it back - no one else's!) - and the home that  underfed and screwed up your puppy will be expecting a full refund of course! 

It's your choice whether to give it or not but a 15 week old puppy is not easy to place - and is worth less than half of what a young 8 week old puppy is worth - so you may have him awhile.  I hope you have the space for this since your own dogs may not be too thrilled with his return. 

What are the options?

Spaying before she has any pups at all gives her lifelong protection against all kinds of uterine and mammary cancers - so why do you feel you need to breed her?  All it's going to do is set you back a few thousand dollars, risk her life, and keep you up nights worrying even if all goes well.  Health has become a major issue in Malamutes.  A few sloppy breeders have changed things forever - spreading their problems across the country. 

Malamutes are having terrible problems with things like coat funk (all their hair falls out), polyneuropathy (a crippling neurological disease), cataracts (blindness) and of course thyroid and epilepsy which apparently are VERY common.  It's a minefield out there.  Not knowing what you might be doubling up on can be scary - you could luck out and have the healthiest pups out there - or a whole litter of problems.  Could you put them down if they have serious problems but "look" ok? 

That also doesn't address even if you have homes for them all, a responsible breeder is responsible for what they  breed for the lifetime of the dogs.  If someone had to give one of the pups back - even years later - do you have somewhere you could house the dog until you found another home for it? 

These are all things to think about - especially when you would be endangering your bitch for $50 puppies.  There are a lot of SHOW breeders out there that shouldn't be breeding either, so I'm not saying this just because your beautiful Stud and Lovely Bitch aren't registered or you don't show them.  Actually, I would rather have a healthy, well socialized puppy from a backyard breeder that did all the health checks (like you've done - right?) than certain show breeders...but if you really love your pet, you need to find out what is behind her  before you do ANYTHING. 

Do you have any kind of a pedigree at all? If you do, maybe a seasoned breeder you can trust will take a look to see if anything looks familiar...if you don't have one, personally, I don't know if I'd risk it with all the stuff turning up out there. 

Moral of story? Do your homework and if you get A's - it's ok to breed - CAREFULLY!