Why Most Families Should Not Breed Dogs

mommy-misha2During my feverish four years as a veterinary student, unexpected nontraditional lessons occasionally came my way and left an everlasting effect on me and how I practice my profession. One especially shocking lesson that still sticks out in my mind hit me during my final year.

It was during internal medicine rotation when a prominent veterinary reproduction specialist spoke his words of wisdom.
Out of the blue he said, “Instead of breeding their pets, people who want their children to witness the miracle of life should have another child, then they can invite their children and the neighborhood kids to witness the birth.”

Sounds like a joke but he was dead serious, and rightly so. He’d just received a call from an owner whose pregnant dog had consumed one of its newly born pups. The family kids and their friends had eagerly taken their front row seats around the dog’s make-shift birthing box several hours earlier. The promised event never came to pass though, as the female Fido’s stage fright helped to abnormally lengthen her labor. Finding the suspense too long to bear, the kids were sent home and to bed just in time to miss the birth and post-birthing mishap.

The Miracle of Life May Teach an Unexpectedly Dark Lesson
Every year pet owners breed their dogs, cats, rats, mice—whatever animal is at hand— in the name of educating their children about the miracle of life. What they don’t realize is that not only can they be contributing to pet overpopulation, but the lessons their kids might be learning could be much darker than anything they imagined.

For instance, they might learn that not all animal moms make good mothers. For some females the maternal instincts don’t kick in the first year. These young moms don’t recognize the offspring as being related to them any more than you’d recognize a coconut as your cousin. Some are even afraid of the little youngsters and flee as if running from a fire. Others are openly aggressive to the surprise intruders treating them as if they are there to steal their babies instead of be their babies. This twist in maternal instincts may last just the first year or may be that particular mom’s modus operandi. In any case, it means that humans will have to provide intensive nursing care, which, let me tell you, is only fun for about the first half hour.

Lesson two might be about infanticide. Sometimes animal moms made nervous by a hoard of watchful human eyes respond by killing their infant. In other cases this murderous trait may be a special characteristic of the species. Lions have long been known to kill their own kind. When a gang of males overthrows the reigning royalty, they eventually knock-off all existing cubs. This brings the lionesses back into breeding season so that the murderous males can mate, producing offspring of their own. In domestic cats a similar sight has been recorded by researchers, at least once or twice. In one case an unfamiliar tomcat made a visit to a nest shared by four female cats. Like a hired gun, he silently shook six kittens by the back of the neck and would have killed more if the mothers hadn’t driven him away.

Lesson three might be that while the breeding may be free, the veterinary care is not. This is no problem if all goes unusually well. In the perfect scenario, veterinary pre-pregnancy exams, radiographs or ultrasounds, and then examination and vaccination for youngsters before they go to their homes would be the only veterinary fees to pay. But if your pug or Persian needs a C-section or a litter of pups gets parvovirus, animals may die and you may be out the cost equivalent of several wide screen TVs. Even without one of the common catastrophes, minor problems, such as skin rashes or upper respiratory disease can cause bills to quickly add up too as can prescreening tests for common hereditary diseases that you would not want to pass on to an unsuspecting adopter.

Birth is a Miracle but What’s the Value on Life?
Perhaps the most troubling lesson the kids might learn is about what happens to the youngsters that are produced. With 3-4 million dogs and cats euthanized in animal shelters a year (ASPCA) finding a home for randomly bred pets can be a serious task. Should you give them away like hand-me-down clothes to anyone who can pay a few bucks, or can you take the time to screen potential owners as if they’re adopting a precious life? Have you done your homework and checked both parents beforehand for common hereditary diseases so you are providing healthy pets? If the pups or kittens crop up with congenital or hereditary diseases the new owners may be heartbroken or they may expect you to take responsibility by refunding their money and replacing their new pet. And what if you can’t find homes or the new owner-animal pair is a poor match? Will the puppy or kitten go to the pound where it is likely to meet a sorry fate?

With all of the things that could go wrong, if you’re unprepared or you choose the easy and inexpensive solution, by breeding your pet you may be teaching your kids the wrong lesson. You may be teaching them that birth is a miracle but life after birth is cheap.

My recommendations is that if you want your kids to witness the miracle of birth, either adopt a pregnant cat or dog into your home from the shelter and then view the entire event by web cam or go to Netflix and download a video.

To see the type of socialization, care, and training that goes into raising a puppy or kitten before and after it's adopted out, read Perfect Puppy in 7 Days.

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Positively Expert: Sophia Yin

Dr. Yin is an internationally-acclaimed veterinarian and applied animal behaviorist who lectures and teaches workshops to dog trainers, shelter workers, and veterinary staff, and is the author of three books including a veterinary textbook and DVD set on behavior. Her "pet-friendly" techniques have set the standard of care for veterinarians.


29 thoughts on “Why Most Families Should Not Breed Dogs

  1. Suzanne Feld

    Awesome. I will be passing this along everywhere I can. So long as we keep spreading the word there's hope that more and more people will spay/neuter their pets.

  2. Sara

    If you want to breed, connect with a responsible breeder and first assist with one of their dogs. Nicely tempermented, healthy dogs are important to breed. One tragedy these days is that the compassion and ease of adopting a shelter dog is often not an easy thing. With a responsibly bred dog, you know the medical history of generations, you know the behavioral state of the dog because most responsible breeders will match you to the appropriate dog for your lifestyle, and the responsible breeder will be available for the dog's lifetime, with a lifetime commitment to you and to the dog.

  3. Jette

    Wow, this article moved me so much, made me a bit sad too 🙁 This is a very important message to get out there. Most people just think it's fun and cute to make puppies.

  4. KathyMc

    Very true! We've spayed & neutered every animal we've ever had, and we've been fortunate tp have most of our babies until they're very old. I dread spring & summer for the probability that I will see wandering tiny pups & kittens, hungry, thirsty, sick, looking for a home. FREE KITTENS signs are extremely numerous, and FREE PUPPIES signs are almost as bad. Thanks for this article. I'm betting you're a wonderful veteranarian!

  5. Christina

    There are so many breeders these days who do webcams for births, it's just silly to justify the "miracle of life" argument. I'm so glad my parents told me if I wanted to see the miracle of life, I could grow up and have a baby of my own!

  6. Pingback: Why Most Families Should Not Breed Dogs - YorkieTalk.com Forums - Yorkshire Terrier Community

  7. D

    It breaks my heart when I read this - because "backyard breeders" and puppy mills are still in full force. And whatever reasons they give to bread, ie; to continue the good bloodline, etc... they still can't grasp the fact that over 4 million dogs and cats are put in rescue shelters every year. 10s of 1,000s of them are eventually eutthanized because of being un-adoptable or because the shelters are running out of room. Highway workers are cleaning the dead bodies continuously from the roads. No matter what the proven consequences, they (the breeders and puppy mills) continue to INSIST they are doing nothing wrong. They treat animals as if they were property and not like living and breathing animals that have feelings and pain. I know someone who is a breeder, and because the dogs are AKC registered, she feels that it's okay to breed and sell the puppies to anyone that has the money. She DOES get the puppies medically ready for their new home by taking them in to get their first shots - and she DOES socialize them by keeping them with their litter-mates the full 8 weeks, however, she does NOT do any research of the potential owners. Nor does she follow up on any of the adopters once the puppies have been sold. Any or all of these puppies could be in shelters as far as she knows, or dead from something. They could be in an abuse situation. She has no idea, nor does she act like she cares. I've discussed this matter with her many times, but she believes that reading a book about the breed, gives her all lthe information she needs to be a responsible breeder. Not true. Being a responsible breeder means not only having the knowledge about the breed, but knowing where the offspring is going, and who they're going with. Following up with the adopters isn't a hard thing to do. I'm sure, if you love your dogs, that you would hate to learn that one of the people you gave/sold a puppy to couldn't deal and took it to a shelter, or gave it to someone else that you have even less information about. Obviously this article really touched me - and I wish ALL breeders would read it and take it to heart.

  8. lori

    I am not against breeders etc that are well and loving for those they breed but still find it very sad that a they're not thinking to clearly as this article states. Most free kittens, puppies and I see them makes me angry that these really aren't free unless they don't take care of them and leave them to defend for themselves. The doga, cats are usually sick or hurt and those that have them don't get them treated at all, they shouldn't even have pets of any kind. But this article is any eye opner. There aren't enough good loving forever home as it is and where there are people having to give up their beloved pets because they can no longer afford to keep them as times are tough. Thanks for this

  9. Animal Shelter employee

    Just to add to Sara's comment:

    Many animal shelters use the "Safer" system - tests for food, resource guarding, general comfort with handling as well as dog to dog behavior. In addition there is a system called "Meet your Match" that was developed by the ASPCA. It includes extensive behavioral testing in order to match a dog to an appropriate family. read more here: http://www.aspca.org/adoption/meet-your-match/

    Although you may not know the ENTIRE history behind a dog at a shelter, with these tests, you can have a good idea of what to expect in the home with your new pet and to also gain some tools on how to be successful with that particular dog. Most shelters also offer support in way of training and advice to their adopters throughout the life of the dog. Spay or neuter, all vaccines + micro-chipping is also part of the adoption fee at a lot of shelters.

    Don't shop, ADOPT!!

    if you feel you must have a purebred dog and you cannot find one at a local shelter, do please go to a reputable breeder like Sara described.

    and....to get back on topic....no matter what....


  10. Renata

    Well put...
    This is actually my second favorite excuse that people give me for wanting to breed their pets.

    My favorite is I want another dog like Fluffy or a kitty just like my Boots.
    Ya know I have 2 children and they are total opposites.

    It would be like losing a child and having another to replace them...
    No way they would be exactly like the first one.

    We should compose a top ten list of stupid reasons to increase the pet population.

  11. Daniel

    Sara, I strongly disagree with your statement "the compassion and ease of adopting a shelter dog is often not an easy thing." (That statement doesn't make much sense gramatically, but I think I understand what you're trying to say, and I simply disagree with it.) First, there is no greater compassion than adopting a homeless animal! I can't for the life of me understand why you'd take this forum as an opportunity to discourage people from doing so! What you're saying is used far too often as horribly misinformed justification for NOT adopting! You can get wonderful pets from shelters -- just do your homework. There are numerous *responsible* and *reputable* shelters across the country which will take the time to match you to an appropriate pet, and will do extensive background checks. Quincy Animal Shelter, where we adopted our mutt, has a far more extensive background check process than most breeders! Additionally, I can state both from statistics and from my own personal experience that mutts are simply healthier and more intelligent dogs than "breeds", and although responsible breeders take great effort to breed dogs to minimize genetic defects, the inherent genetic diversity of mutts does a far better job than even the breeders' best efforts to minimize these defects in many breeds! Certainly, responsible breeders can provide a "lifetime support network", but you don't need a breeder to get that, for any animal -- THAT IS WHAT YOUR VET IS FOR!

    Don't get me wrong, I am not attacking responsible breeders here, I am merely taking issue with your use of this forum to essentially "warn people" about the mythical "dangers" of adopting from a shelter. Certainly, take the opportunity to warn people about the dangers of buying from a pet store, but PLEASE do NOT argue (with misinformed and non-factual "feelings") against shelter adoption!!!!!

    Here is a general article about adoption advocacy, including most of the points I made above: http://www.humanesociety.org/issues/adopt/tips/adopting_from_shelter_rescue.html
    And here's a great article citing the advantages of adopting an adult dog:
    An article from Cornell University about the homeless pet problem that explicitly cites the need to increase shelter adoptions and sterilization (enforced by shelters but not by breeders!):

  12. Mary C

    Fantasic article!! What I would like to see is an article on how to tell if you have a good breeder or not. There will always be people who feel the need to get their dog from a breeder and that's their choice. But, I feel like there should be a place for them to go to research how to tell if they are good or possibly puppy millers. Maybe there is and I'm just not aware.

  13. Gwen

    I had a vet once say to a client: You want your children to see the "miracle of birth," fine. But then, be sure to take them down to the shelter to pick out which 8 cats are going to die, so they can also witness the miracle of death.

  14. Ava

    Good article. Let's also not forget about the wealth of nature programs which show the miracle of animal birth. Sara, your comment was dim witted and just plain wrong. Getting a full grown dog from a shelter is so much easier than getting a pure bred puppy. Thank you Daniel for setting the record straight. Mixed breed dogs are more genetically diverse and have a stronger likelihood of being better natured and healthier. The amount of inbreeding involved in kennel club sanctified pedigrees is unsettling. Not all breeders do it, but just because your dog cost more and comes with papers doesn't make it a healthier or better adjusted pet.

  15. Jeanne

    From what I have seen out of Animal Breeders they are idiots that don't actually want to get a real job that requires work. They are looking for what they believe is easy money. And oooooh look at how much money I will make when I selll the babies. They don't look at the big picture of Animal abuse and over population from continuoulsy forcing the animal to give birth and then taking the babies from the mother.

  16. Selena

    I am a qualified animal care worker and this is an excellent article and I too promote and agree with the "Don't Shop, Adopt" approach to pet ownership, there are far too many animals in shelter worldwide and they NEED a home desperately

    As for breeders, while I have nothing against the registered, responsible and ethical ones who breed for the right reasons and no just for money or show, they are overall adding to the pet overpopulation issue and there needs to be stricter regulations on companion animal breeding and I certainly think that petshops should be stopped from selling pets and instead have adoption programs like the shelters do and all kitten/puppy mills need to be shut down as they have no place in society period!!


  17. Amanda

    While I wholeheartedly agree with much of what is said, and I'm surprised to learn that so many people apparently breed to show their children the 'miracle of birth'. In my experience a large majority of people breed from their pets for no other reason than financial gain. I was quite horrified when I met a woman a few years back who said "I hope she has at least six pups, I'm relying on that to pay for my cruise". I think just about sums the situation up perfectly. I would also add to the comment made by the Vet that the world is also populated with humans so perhaps we should hold fire on having more babies for our children to witness birth too 🙂

  18. Shut up and read

    Maybe they should teach them abstinence instead of the beauty of birth. Then there would be a lot less babies having babies.

  19. Amby Duncan-Carr

    I heartily agree with you on VIRTUALLY everything. Hopefully the local shelter will do any a late-term emergency spay INSTEAD of allowing the pregnant dog or cat to contribute to the heart-breaking over-population problem, rather than allowing a pregnant animal to leave the shelter. Plenty of HUMANS now have video of the birth of their OWN off-spring. Let the kids watch THAT, instead (maybe there will be a fewer unplanned teen pregnancies...).

  20. Zadi

    Teaching your kids lessons of life can be done without ruining the lives of others.. You're still missing the point, that in order to teach your kids the meaning of life, you must also teach them that by willingly creating more lives, you are killing those that have already been born. You might created a geneticist, but you are creating geneticist that views other living creatures as objects, items for their own purposes - which is a terrifying creature in itself. As a parent, you should be teaching your kids responsibility for their actions and respect for things other than themselves - both people and animals. But instead you are teaching them to care about neither - neither the animals that are dying because you'd rather have a fleeting "miracle" that cann be achieved in a much more productive way, nor about the people that cry themselves to sleep every night because they are desperately trying to pick up the mess you created and can't. That is the ultimate selfishness, not the lesson we need to be teaching our kids.

  21. Elaine Caroll

    A good friend of mine who works in rescue with me is the puppy momma. She and her family will take a pregnant female for foster every time! It saves the moms and the pups.. She was foster of the year last year!

  22. Cat Foster Mom

    Fostering is a wonderful way to take care of animals and nurture them. When my son was young we took in a pregnant foster cat and ended up falling in love with her first, adopting her and then two of her kittens who were closely bonded. Animals benefit from the love and attention so much that it really helps them in getting adopted into their forever homes. (We ended up fostering for 5 years and loved it so much... all for motherless kittens) Too many kittens and cats out there fall through the cracks. I think we need to take care of all those in need.

  23. sarahb

    You are so missing the point here - this is about the welfare of the dogs - not human beings. As a registered breeder myself I sell my puppies desexed so there are NO unwanted animals ending up in any pound/shelter as if they need to be rehomed they come back to ME. The cost of a litter is huge as well as the time and effort that goes into it. Clearly you are not experienced in this area at all (as well as dog ownership)! Also I am sick of seeing animals put to sleep because people cannot afford the vet care to make them well again! We don't to do that to kids why should animals be any different!!!

  24. Amie

    Statistic:Teens who take the abstinence pledge are just as likely to have sex as teens who do not. However, teens who take the abstinence pledge who do decide to have sex are more likely to NOT use protection than those who do not take the pledge in turn these teens have a higher rate in pregnancy and contracting STDs or STIs. You could show that abstinence as an option but teaching safe sex AND abstinence is a great idea. Maybe you should do your research just saying

  25. Amie

    They could ask a farm to track a pregnancy of a farm animal instead they are always having baby cows at the local farms here. I'm sure if you politely ask you could watch. Idk how it is where you live though

  26. HarveMorgan

    Why not breed? No Kill's Nathan Winograd states there are plenty of homes. That gives credibility to breeding doesn't it? Make more to fill all those homes just waiting for your puppy or kitten. Even HSUS is jumping on that bandwagon of plenty of homes. So why discouraging people from breeding more, the demand is there according to those two organizations?

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