Breeding Italian Greyhounds


Are you thinking of breeding your Italian Greyhound? Here are a few things that you should consider:

1. Is the animal free of inherited defects? No dog or bitch should be bred before the age of two years. Early detection of potential genetic problems is often impossible. Conditions such as progressive retinal atrophy (PRA), luxated patellas, thyroid problems, and epileptic seizures typically do not appear early in the animal's lifespan. They can also go unnoticed by the owner. Some will eventually be detected through a special examination done by a vet. If you breed early and neglect to have your animal tested, a more severe form of some of these diseases can appear in puppies. This causes heartache for both you and the new owners of your puppies. Two deadly diseases that are associated with breeding dogs are pyrometria and brucellosis. A brucellosis test should be run before breeding your dogs. This is a sexually transmitted infectious disease that can deform puppies, abort puppies, sterilize males and if left untreated... kill. Brucellosis is incurable and dogs with this disease should be altered. Pyrometria affects females. This disease causes an infection in the uterus that can go undetected until too late. It is commonly seen after a bitch has puppies, but can appear at anytime in an unspayed bitch.

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Izat Reddy When You Are: photo by Pet Action Shots

2. Why do you want to breed? The novelty of having a cute litter of puppies can wear off very quickly when the reality of extra work begins to intrude. Breeding is not a financially profitable venture. Breeding, whelping, raising and selling a litter is a serious committment that requires a great deal of time, work and worry. Being a breeder can mean making life and death decisions for and about the animals you love.

3. Are you ready for the change in lifestyle? There will be much more of your time involved with animal care and as a consequence less time for other people. You can also count on extra trips to the vet for pre and post-natal care. There will be frequent trips outside for your bitch (her bladder will hold less because of puppy pressure) and extra feeding. Dogs generally whelp puppies in the middle of the night. It is NOT uncommon for IG's to need C-Sections and a trip to the emergency vet can prove very costly. After the puppies' birth more of your time will be needed in monitoring their health and the health of the mother. Eclampsia is the dreaded fear of all breeders and a bitch can develop this overnight. If, as the breeder, you are unaware of the signs, death will inevitably result. Be prepared for your bitch to be sick after whelping and she won't be particular about where she chooses to vomit. An expensive new couch may well be the chosen spot! The first two weeks after birth involve extra precautions in the monitoring of both mother and pups. You may need to interrupt your own sleep many times during the night in order to make sure all is well. Once the litter is up and running a lot of your time will be spent cleaning the house (after they redecorate), cleaning their whelping box, socializing them and experiencing the joy of listening to them whine at 2 a.m. for attention. As puppies enter the weaning stage you are needed more than ever! Pups need to be fed a special blend of dog food 4 times daily. Pups being weaned make huge messes and more time than ever will be needed in order to keep them clean. You'll need an hour from start to finish for each feeding alone, as you won't believe the chaos!

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Ch. Izat Good Will Hunting - photo by pet action shots

4. What about facilities? Where will you whelp your puppies? Italian Greyhounds (IGs) are not a hardy breed that can be whelped in the garage or outside. Your house will become a nursery for at least 8 weeks and the noise and odor level will persist during this time. Some bitches are not good mothers and will abandon their pups. Your time will then be needed in the hand-feeding of these pups. Occasionally there is a bitch who needs exceptionally careful monitoring as some have been known to kill puppies. Post-whelping discharge on the mother can stain any kind of carpet. Furthermore, puppies need lots of contact with people. Someone needs to be home full-time during the 8 weeks of their infancy. Failure to do this can result in temperament problems and hard-to-place puppies.

5. Can you afford it? At least $1,000.00 is necessary to cover the basic costs of having a litter. Stud fees, veterinary care (which includes shots, litter care, pre and post-natal care) feeding, advertising, etc. can add up fast. Should the mother or babies develop serious problems you will need to spend even more money. It is not uncommon for an Italian Greyhound mother to have just two puppies. IG's are not an easy breed to sell. People may tell you that they desperately want a puppy but disappear when it's time to actually buy. In an average 2 week-running ad you may expect about 4 phone calls, three of which are just people calling to ask questions. As a result you may have puppies in your home much longer than you originally intended and the costs keep mounting. If you're not a good financial planner and neglect to anticipate the $1,000.00 up-front investment then you will find that creeping costs play havoc with your budget and perhaps even put you in the hole. Are you able and willing to underwrite such costs without the guarantee that your puppies will sell?

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Ch. Izat Good Will Hunting - photo by Pet Action Shots

6. Are you ready to select homes? After spending weeks with your puppies, you may find that when it's time to let go there will be an emotional price to pay. It's easy to get attached to these little critters. Interviewing new potential owners can be a less than delightful experience also. People need to be carefully screened and educated. Not everyone is suited for IGs. Interviewing and making wise choices for your babies can be stressful. There is nothing more devastating than to have someone you have carefully chosen call to tell you that the puppy died when it was hit by a car. As a breeder you have the further obligation and sometimes legal responsibility of guaranteeing your pups. Many states have puppy "lemon laws". If you are not prepared for the costs of a lawsuit you might find yourself in jail. It is also possible, a few years down the road, to receive a phone call asking you to take the puppy (now adult dog) back. This type of phone call is preferable to hearing that the cute bundle you sold is now in the local pound and/or was put to sleep because the owner didn't want it any more.

7. Are you prepared for the personality changes in your dogs? Breeding may bring about some personality changes in your dog. Some females become extremely protective of their pups and a neighborhood kid can be bitten as a result. Lawsuits are NOT FUN! (They are also not cheap.) Some bitches go through a post-partum depression after the puppies have been taken away. This may even get to the point of destructive behavior. Males can undergo personality changes after being bred. Whereas a male may have never lifted his leg in the house he may decide to begin this behavior after breeding. Weight gain can occur in both males and females after being bred and the sleek look that you one loved so much can suddenly disappear - sometimes never to be seen again.

8. How important is pedigree and structure? Pedigrees are an asset and can help you make decisions on how to breed. Making the right choices in breeding can be hard, even if that choice is not to breed. Temperament and health considerations are important but so is structure. Each breed has a standard of perfection and dogs should be bred for that standard. It is what makes an IG an IG. If not carefully bred, it is possible to end up with giant IGs or midgets. Pedigrees alone cannot tell the whole story. A good mentor or knowledgeable person can tell you the history of your dog's ancestors. You need to find out about seizures, leg problems, temperament weaknesses, etc. This information cannot be found by merely glancing over a pedigree. Structure is extremely important. Weak fronts or spindly legs increase the likelihood of leg breaks. Breeding extremely tiny IGs opens another whole range of associated health problems such as bug-eyes, open fontanelles, patella problems, and an increasing number of C-Sections. A basic understanding of genetics, a sense of responsibility, a commitment to the endeavor and a little luck are involved in breeding dogs of outstanding quality.
While this article did not cover all the details of breeding, whelping and rearing a litter of puppies, it does give you some idea of the time, expense and emotional input that is needed. Put simply, the message is : BETTER THINK TWICE!