Interested in breeding your Saint Bernard? Before you make the monetary commitment, check out this page and make sure you can afford the money, the heartbreak, and the health considerations you need to make.
This is quite lengthy, but we wanted to get you lots of information! It sounds like you would like to begin a breeding program and want to breed your first litter.
The first step is to gather as much information about the breed as you possibly can through a) The Saint Bernard Standard b) the Saint E-mail List c) The Saint Bernard Fancier (the publication of the Saint Bernard club of America) d) Saint Bernard Breed Clubs in your area e) Dog shows and other breeders f) AKC Gazette g) the Saint Bernard Illustrated Commentary.
PLEASE, JOIN THE SAINT E-MAIL LIST! – They will be able to help you through this time. The directions on how to join can be found at: http://pets.groups.yahoo.com/group/saint_bernard-l/
Go to a meeting of a local Saint Bernard Club. The geographic listing of the clubs can be found at http://www.saintbernardclub.org/2008Redesign/NewToSaints/local_clubs.htm
The Saint Bernard Standard is a written document stating what each dog in the breed should be like (ie the standard that breeders are striving for). Each breed has its own standard. Do you have a copy of the Standard? You can find it by clicking The Standard under the St. Bernard Info menu at the top of this page.
As I am sure you know, Saint Bernards have many potential physical problems that need to be considered. (hip dysplasia, entropia, ectropia, epilepsy etc). What are your health guarantees? Are you x-raying your breeding stock? If yes, OFA registry or Penn Hip? Hip Dysplasia is a major problem in our breed. We have personally had a puppy we purchased lame by 6 months with the prospect of putting her down or spending $2,500 per hip to have her hips replaced. Unfortunately, that is not as uncommon as we would hope.
Are the animals you are breeding compatible in type and temperament? What are the faults? What are their strengths? How do they compare to the standard? You need to have lists about what you are trying to improve and why. No dog is perfect, but don’t let yourself be kennel blind and produce unsound dogs that are not better than both parents.
Have you looked at their pedigrees? Are you familiar with the breeder and the lines you are breeding too? Many lines are producing dogs that carry the epileptic genes even though they don’t show it in the individual dogs. What will you do if you have produced 180 pound dogs out there with epilepsy and it bites someone? Your name goes on as the breeder. How do you handle that? How do you handle the liability?
Has your dog been evaluated by reputable breeders? Has your dog been shown and evaluated by judges? What are you going to do if a family can’t keep your puppy they bought (bothered by slobber, size, or whatever). What if your puppies have bad temperaments? Typical Saint Bernard litters run from 6 to 15 puppies. What will you do if you can’t find homes?
Make sure you have written up your guarantees (your contract) before breeding your bitch so you know what you expect from your buyers and they know what to expect from you. For example, say you sell a puppy and at 2 years old, the owners decide to move and they don’t want it anymore. They take it to the pound and have it put down. What is your recourse? A reputable breeder is responsible for the lives of the puppies he or she produces. You NEED to have a written contract and YOU ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR EVERY DOG YOU PRODUCE FOR AS LONG AS THEY LIVE. You are also responsible for offspring if you sell to a home without a spay/neuter contract.
Consider the age of your bitch. Saint Bernard Bitches should not be bred until they are 2 years old and stopped when they are 5-6, depending on her condition. They should not be bred every season. Deviations from that can seriously endanger the life of the bitch as well as the litter.
Typically, C-Sections cost around $2,000 if the bitch needs one (many do) and a litter (just shots, dewclaws, health checks, etc) can easily run up to $1,000.
Due to the size of the Bitch and the smallness of the puppies, they typically need 24 hour per day care for the first 2 to 3 weeks as the momma will accidentally roll over or step on the puppies and kill them. It’s pretty tough to get that much time off from your job if you work.
You need to be considering these questions, the cost, and what it is you are going to do with your puppies. These are questions that the informed buyers are going to be asking you. There are a lot of dogs going to rescue. Are you ready to help the rescue organizations?
Here is a general philosophy about breeding purebred dogs:
GOLDEN RULES FOR BREEDING
- The only reason to be breeding purebred dogs is to preserve the best qualities of the breed. Breeding to supply any market is not a justification.
- You need to do all of your breeding with the best interests of the breed in mind. Never your pocket book.
- For this you need to be a serious student of the breed and devote years of your life to it. Not “in one day, out the other”.
- As a beginner you need to engross yourself in the breed as much as possible and ideally find a suitable mentor.
- In order to be a serious breeder, you must show and compete.
- You need to keep track of all puppies you produce, whether pet or show, to know how your breeding program is working.
- All pet dogs need to go on a spay/neuter contracts.
- All show puppies need to go on a contract that will not allow breeding unless the dog lives up to the quality intended and passes all health checks and certification necessary for that breed. If a prospective breeder does not want to do this, then I am sorry but they will have to mess with someone else’s dogs not mine!! Co-ownerships allow you a certain amount of control in this regard because they require your signature in order that puppies be registered. The latest news from the AKC is that there is a pending change to the rules that will not allow registration unless all papers are properly signed. If you have a difference with your co-owner it will need to be settled in court before the AKC will register litters or puppies. This is new and still pending, but a step in the right direction.
- Every breeder owes to the breed and to themselves to be involved with rescue.
- Every breeder should be prepared to take any dog back for whatever reason. If they do not have the space, then they need to be prepared to make other arrangements. But take them back they must!
What we find is that there was a lot more to breeding dogs than met the eye. We got into breeding to produce a quality type and temperament. We would love to talk Saints with you. Please feel free to contact us!
We hope to see you on the Saint E-mail List or talk to you soon!