Switching wildly from dog topic to dog topic… because that’s the way I roll, baby.
I’m looking at my beautiful corgis sitting on my couch and I’m counting noses. Those noses belong to a host of dogs that have lived with us and have been my hopes for the future of my breeding program.
I’m thinking of Tess, who was my show prospect keeper bitch… until she blew her mouth up (literally; she dug out from under the fence and put her teeth in something mysterious, possibly a pipe bomb or shotgun shell, and destroyed a third of her teeth) and after she recovered I put her in a pet home. Or Mitch, who was my IDEAL show dog conformation-wise but hated the show ring and would drop ten pounds over a weekend from the stress. After three weekends, during which he looked like someone was actively beating him with a stick and still went winners twice and reserve three times, I took him out and never put him back. I used him for a couple of litters but he went to a pet home too. And Maggie, the most beautiful black bitch I ever saw, who was sacrificed to an unexpected pregnancy and postpartum. Pet home.
Clue finished fast but her injury means that one litter is likely to be all we get from her (and everyone knows how likely it is to get that amazing puppy from one litter). Bronte is shouldering a lot of my hopes, but this illness has me spooked. I’m very worried about stressing her by breeding her.
On the one hand, these are not failures. Every single one of the ones I placed went on to thrive in their homes; their owners are some of the very best I have and they love those dogs. The ones that I’ve spayed or neutered and kept as pets have been sources of great joy to us. But I am VERY TIRED of going years and years between litters because my one breeding bitch can’t be bred. I don’t like counting on a single dog or bitch to move my whole program forward. And I am really not comfortable with the compromises I’m tempted to make when it HAS to be this dog or it HAS to be this bitch. For example, I want to make a decision about breeding Bronte, whether she can handle another pregnancy and lactation, without even a hint of “but if I don’t breed her I am stuck without puppies for years.”
I am looking for feedback from more experienced breeders. How do you keep the focus on the dogs and keep their quality of life high, while making sure that you can have at least one litter a year? I’m not looking to have more than two in any year, but it’s starting to feel like I need to have ten dogs around to even get to that point! How fast do you make decisions to cut bait and place a dog or bitch? How many bitches and/or dogs does a breeding program need to be relatively self-sustaining (continuing to use outside dogs, of course, but working toward the goal of at least occasionally breeding my kennel name to my kennel name)?
I think that, making a long story short, I’m ready to move into taking breeding seriously. I want to transition from “I own dogs and if the one dog I keep every two years turns out, I get to have puppies” to “I show and breed dogs.” But I CANNOT lower the dogs’ quality of life to get there. I am thrilled to have a dog room, but I don’t want kennel dogs who don’t live in the house full-time. I want to be able to do stuff with each of them and not have anybody get lost in the shuffle.
So talk to me, spam me, scold me, teach me. Is this even possible to do?