Consider Breeding Philosophy First
There are many factors I consider before I choose to ever enter a German shepherd dog into my program. First and foremost, GSD’s (males OR females) are not chosen unless I believe they will produce puppies that meet the requirements of my breeding philosophy. They must be AKC registered, have relatively straight backs, hocks that do not touch when they move, have the right drive (not so much that she is high strung and not so little that she has no desire), and be easily taught to follow basic commands. Those are just a few of the criteria met before the dog is even considered for my breeding program. There are other considerations as well, some that I cannot seem to describe effectively in words, as experience teaches me a certain instinct to determine if I think a bitch or dam is worthy of breeding. Then, the dog must be healthy, pass OFA inspection, and be free of parasites.
Breeding German Shepherd Dogs – Scientific Research
Once a dam has passed my initial requirements and is entered into my program, it has always been my instinct to breed her ‘back-to-back’ through each heat cycle, with the occasional skip for whatever reasons I deemed necessary at the time. My own experience has guided this practice for years and my thoughts have always been that if my dams are healthy and happily raising their litters then I was fulfilling my job as their owner; People who viewed this practice as sub-standard didn’t really know what the breeding process was all about. There is resistance to this method of breeding and often inexperienced or non-breeders profess that it is not healthy to allow a dog to have more than one litter a year, without specific data to back up their self-righteous position. The scientific data, though, proves that skipping a heat is actually DETRIMENTAL to the dam’s health! In an AKC Breeder Symposium with keynote speaker Dr. Claudia Orlandi Ph.D, it was revealed that scientific studies have proven that a dam’s health is better served by breeding her for every heat cycle. Studies were done on Labrador bitches in which half were bred every other heat and the other half were bred every heat. They were all spayed at the same age and the removed uteri were dissected. The findings were that the females that had skipped heats had noticeable damage to their uteri and the other dogs’ were normal and healthy. The reasoning is that the dog’s body operates as if it were pregnant after a heat even if the bitch was never bred and the hormones released can cause considerable damage to a uterus without puppies. In nature a dog would be pregnant every heat. This is what their bodies were designed to do.
Spay/Neuter Pet-Quality Dogs
As with any rule, there are exceptions, of course. Some dogs are not good mothers. Some are not breed worthy. These dogs are considered pet-quality, and could be the best family pets known to man! However, pet-quality dogs should not be bred at all, and to avoid health issues, the scientific evidence supports the fact that they should be spayed. But the breed-worthy females are healthiest and happiest breeding every heat cycle until the female is too old or no longer shows interest in her puppies. A breed-worthy female ADORES her puppies. They care, protect, and nurture with such devotion it is obvious they love what they are doing.
Skipping Heat Cycles
There are times in which a GSD breeding female should not be bred – they should have a skipped heat. Examples are injuries, illness, or maybe an indication of a lack of nutrition like hair-loss or fatigue. My experience, however, proves that when large breeds like German Shepherds are fed a natural raw diet and very little preservatives, they are in such good health that illness almost never occurs, and if the bitch is strong and healthy, and I have the right mate for her, I breed her. Other breeders have similar views, for example the breeder from Kreative Kennels said “after all, that’s what breeders do, they breed!”
Debate: Domesticated vs Wild
Another argument I’ve seen that supports the notion that GSD’s should skip a heat is that apparently, wolves and wild dogs have a heat once a year to every other year and so the argument speculates that because wolves have puppies so much less often than domesticated dogs, that dogs should have the same breeding schedule. I have a theory though. Relying on my years of experience, I believe that possibly a wild dog or wolf cycle may evolve around their food supply. It’s entirely feasible to consider that if wild dogs and wolves had an abundance of high-quality nutrition, shelter when it rains, heat when it’s cold, and a cool place to sleep when it’s warm, that they would evolve closer heat cycles as well. Their bodies would be more fertile based on the nutrition and other environmental factors received.
Debate: Dogs vs Humans
Perhaps the most absurd theory I’ve read goes something like this: ‘How would you like to be forced to have a baby every year?’. It is a ridiculous notion that we would compare humans to dogs, especially when discussing reproduction. Dogs are not humans, they don’t think or feel the same way humans do, and comparing their reproductive patterns to ourselves is not only silly, it is completely inaccurate. It’s no different than trying to compare ducks to elephants! It is this concept of comparing a German shepherd dog’s nature (or any other breed of dog, for that matter) to humans that also gets owners into trouble during training. To train a GSD, you must think like a dog, not a human. You must consider yourself the leader of their pack and treat them as your subordinate. Being a responsible breeder is no different. If you want to breed German shepherds or any other breed of dogs, you must consider the animal that will be reproducing and not your own personal feelings.
Inexperience and Fear of Puppy-Mill Stigma
It is my belief that many breeders are afraid of “back-to-back” breeding because of the stigma of being considered a puppy mill, which is one reason I’ve written this article. Breeders should not be afraid to use scientific research combined with their own gut instincts to determine when their bitches should be bred. Besides, when visiting a breeding facility, if it were a puppy mill, there would be true signs. In fact, one of the tell-tale signs of a puppy mill is their unwillingness to let you see their kennels. If they do let you see their facilities, a puppy mill will probably have many different breeds, cages might be stacked on top of each other, dogs would all be caged and none or only a select few allowed to roam, and many more signs – a topic for a different article! Responsible breeders should not be questioned for their breeding frequency, it’s as ridiculous as telling a seasoned ranch owner how often he is allowed to breed his livestock.
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