You want to breed?

I am regularly asked to provide breeding dogs to people, almost always people who have never owned an Anatolian, let alone bred a litter of any breed of dogs.   It goes like  this:

“I want to buy a female to breed some litters from”.

“I want to breed one litter before I desex her so that she is fulfilled”.

“I want to breed at least one litter to get my money back on my bitch”.

or the best one ….

“I want a female so I can live off the sale of her pups and cut down to part time work”.   If you want to breed, what you’re actually going to need is a full time job that pays REALLY good money – that’s what most of us have.

Simple maths and it looks good – 10 puppies @ $2,000 each = $20,000.   What could be wrong with that?

I’m a bookkeeper so let’s do the not-so-simple but this-is-what-really-happens mathematics.

First of all, an Anatolian can have from 1 to 18 pups (that we know of) in a litter.  If you run your eyes down the database for Australia, there are very few litters with 10 or more pups that have been registered since the breed arrived her in 1985.  The majority of litters are from 1 to 6 pups.   So better bring your average litter size down to say a still very optimistic 5 per litter.

You can only breed 4 registered litters in the lifetime of a bitch, plus 2 if you get vet permission before each mating.  Additionally there are rules about how many litters you can have in an 18 month or 2 year period – forget breeding back to back year after year.  Dogs are protected by laws – if you want babies every year, breed goats.

Since they need to be at least 18 months old before they are bred and since most of them season from 8 to 14 months apart, you get about 72 hours each year when your bitch is fertile and ready to mate.  If you go away for that weekend, you miss out.  If the stud dog is not available you miss out.  If she ovulates early and you take her to the stud late, you miss out.   If you get it all perfect and the stud dog turns out to be infertile (common btw) you miss out again.  If she had a teeny weeny bacterial infection, the eggs die.  If the dog has a teeny weeny bacterial infection, the eggs die.   Sometimes it just all dies and we have no idea why!  Sometimes the pups are there with their heart beats showing and then they start vanishing – something is not right in the bitch’s world so her body has reabsorbed the litter – all gone.  Sometimes she’s 3 days off whelping and miscarries the lot in a big smelly bloody mess.  You’ll usually then be up for a caesarian ($2,000) to get the last few dead bits and pieces out or loose your bitch.

Before you breed of course, you need to become a financial member of your State Kennel Club.  Then you need to obtain a Breeders Prefix – in some States, this is now an 18 month long process and requires written exams undertaken and property inspections.  You must pay all your memberships every year or you can’t register the pups.

If you can’t register the pups, you’re legally not allowed to advertise them for more than $800 each.  Actually if you can’t register the pups, you can’t sell them.  You’ll sell one or two then keep dropping the price until you’re giving them away at five months of age after they’ve well and truly eaten all your “profits”.   We have all seen that happen over the years – watching the prices come down down down  on Gumtree or Trading Post….   Anatolians are neither a well known nor popular breed and if you breed rubbish, you’re competing against a handful of breeders that breed very VERY good dogs so why would anyone buy from you?  Only if they’re $150 each instead of $2,000.

OK, so you paid $2,000 for your bitch.  You’ve fed, house, trained, vaccinated her for 2 years.  You’ve paid your DogsNSW/Vic/Qld memberships and bought prefixes.  Are you adding up the costs so far?

Next thing is you need to do is establish her credibility.

So it’s off to the shows you go.  Unless she’s a knockout and you’re a very good handler, it’s 6 points a show (if you so happen to win – not so easy) and 100 points to become Champion.   How many shows, weekends away, fuel and entry fees is that?

Then there is hip scoring ($500) and Thyroid Testing ($250  per annum for the life of the dog).

Now you need the male.  No good going cheap here or who will buy them?   You could go and buy a pup and start with him – but there’s no guarantee that an 8 week old pup will grow up into a breedable animal.  Or be fertile.

A stud fee is generally the value of one pup – so $2,000.   Plus travel to the stud and accommodation for 2-3 days of mating.  Or you can have the semen collected fresh ($500) and shipped immediately in a cooler via air freight to wherever you are in Australia.  Then you run with the shipping container to the vet and pay to have it inseminated.

Of course to make sure it works, you’ll be progesterone testing (@$65 a time) in the week leading up to the mating as using frozen or chilled semen requires it be inseminated at exactly the right time.

If it’s frozen semen, it requires surgery to inseminate – say goodbye to a minimum of $1,000 – giant breed anaesthetic.

Of course if you own your own stud, it’s free right??  Well he cost you to buy, feed, vaccinate, show, hip score and thyroid test so yes if you call that free.   For me, I’m still driving to the nearest Vet that does 1 hour progesterone testing which is a 200 km trip, $65 for the test and $10 in tolls.   Usually 4-8 trips depending on how the season progresses.  Then there is the semen test (no point doing this if he’s gone sterile since last time) at $60.  So around $1,000 to get her pregnant for sure at the right time (don’t want a tiny litter) even when I own the stud!!!

Why progesterone test?  It’s a very good thing to know exactly when she ovulated so you know exactly when the pups are due.  A couple of days early or late and you get it wrong and you can quickly lose the lot at whelping time.

Anyway…..  So she’s pregnant! Awesome!

Now build a whelping box, buy puppy milk just in case, scales, collars, and lots of towels and blankets.  All ready!

Ideally, she’ll whelp them all herself one night and you’ll come downstairs after a good night’s sleep to find 10 healthy pups all nursing.    OK, that never EVER happens so wipe that bit of fantasy.

First you’ll need to stay awake to make sure she whelps in your $500 whelping box.  If you don’t, she’ll whelp under the chicken pen, or in a hole behind the compost heap and then it will rain and they’ll all drown during the night without you waking or they’ll simply die in a few hours of ground chill.

Most Anatolian bitches are very good mothers as far as cleaning up the placentas and getting things done, goes.  But some aren’t built for whelping (get the vet to check hip/pelvis shape) and so they go to start whelping and the pup gets stuck.  So you wait and wait and unseen to you, each pup lets go and travels down the birth canal to pile up behind the stuck one and while you wait anxiously they all suffocate and die inside her in around 30-40 mins each.  When you eventually take her to the vet, he will remove all your perfect but now dead pups for you.   I know this feeling personally and it’s the sort of sickening experience you don’t want to wish on anyone.

Oh, btw an emergency caesarean will set you back about $1,600 to $2,000.  Another nasty side effect with a caesarean is often no milk.  Lacking the natural oxytocin from labour and sucking pups and the pups hoiked out of her body before all the natural hormonal changes have occurred can have the unfortunate effect of shutting down the milk supply.  Hello to 2 hourly bottle feeds around the clock for the next 3 weeks at least.

OK, so say we’ve got our litter average of 5 healthy living pups – yippee.  They’re about 500 grams born.   Since we’re not breeding Schnauzers here, these little 500 gram mites need to gain from 10 to 14 kilos in the next 8 weeks – EACH.  How much food is required to pass through a pup for 14 kilos to build on it’s body?   I’ll tell you now – make sure your credit card is working because you will be feeding an army, and it costs.

Then we have microchipping ($30), vaccinations ($70) and pedigree registrations ($50).  Also the joy of a few hours filling out all those forms.

You will have also spent hours on the following:

  • Advertising – free on Gumtree.
  • Building a website  $400
  • Dogzonline membership (the bomb for advertising puppies!) $50 But you MUST be ANKC registered.
  • Talking to potential owners, 90% of whom will never buy a pup but will waste hours of your time.

Don’t think for one moment you can work full time and raise a litter of pups this size!  Don’t even try to breed if you are working 40 hours a week.   This is 3 months out of your life and unless you don’t need to sleep at all, you will be working around the clock – mixing milk, meat, kibble, cleaning up pooh, washing blankets, killing fleas, worming, running running running….

You will also be assessing puppy temperaments, writing down owner requirements and taking photos as everyone wants to see photos of their new family members.

You will then be contacted by a growing data base of puppy buyers with their photos, joys, problems, etc.   Are you willing to take back a pup, offer a refund, rehome an adult pup, drive 1,000 km to retrieve an adult pup in trouble?  Do you have the time and funds to do this?  If you love your breed, love your dogs and are passionate about your hobby, this is all part of it, and in the main, most enjoyable.

But if you are breeding just to make money, you won’t last.   Try goats. Or rabbits.