Generally in this day in age when you tell people that you are a breeder, regardless of the breed, they think that you are surrounded by puppies every single day. That couldn’t be further from the truth. Most responsible breeders don’t have puppies around all the time, but for a few brief moments and then devote countless hours planning the next litter and following up with those produced.
My first litter of puppies was not something that I planned fully and just happened. My list of lessons learned is about a mile long. The next litter that I am even considering is 2016, I personally don’t see how a person working 40+ hours a week can breed a litter every year. I need some breathing room. This first litter was highly anticipated just because of the parents alone. So when Alice kept everybody on their toes then it was no surprise to me. Alice has always been a dog that kept everybody guessing. The emergency c-section was a two-fold situation. The first was that Alice’s temperature went from 100.6-98.7 between days 58-63. It is enough to drive any breeder crazy. Between days 60-63, I was having Alice go through an ultrasound to make sure everything was ok. After a solid 24 hours within 98F range and yet no puppy or any sign that she would ever push, I went nuts with my emergency vet who monitored her and then the final ultrasound at the reproductive vet showed signs of fetal distress. So the puppies arrived amid stress and freaking out on my part on May 21, 2014 around 11am. At that point, we realized the issue was a puppy had died around day 56/57 and was mummified.
As soon as Alice and her 4 puppies arrived home, the real work began. The puppies were monitored for weight, ability to nurse and other vital signs. Around day 3, I started the Super Dog program of early neurological stimulation. The Super Dog program lasted until they were 13 days old. It consisted of various movements, stimulation of the feet, and exposure to brief periods of cold. It may seem strange but it really worked, every puppy hit their milestones 2+ days ahead of schedule. All 4 puppies have no issues with any sort of anxiety and all are extremely friendly. After their Super Dog program ended, they were exposed to various people in a controlled environment. As such, these puppies seek out people for comfort and really enjoy the company of people. That is a huge change from their parents who have great temperaments but aren’t very affectionate nor to the truly seek out people for companionship (other than me, they adore me almost to a fault).
After the puppies started walking is when I started instinct testing them. They would be exposed to rabbit scent and pelts. Then they were exposed to fox scent and a fox tail. After they were old enough to run, I would take a rabbit pelt and tie it to a lunge line to see how their natural prey instincts were. During the instinct testing and exposure is when I started housebreaking and leash breaking.
All of these things take time and effort, and that is the main reason I do not breed that often. I am devoted to each and every puppy, not just the pick of the litter or the one I am planning on keeping. I make sure that each puppy is well rounded, healthy (both mentally and physically), and ready to leave before their new owners come and pick them up. Also, I have to think about every single time I breed that complications could happen. I want to have Alice with me as long as possible and to lose her while producing a litter of puppies seems very selfish. As such, Alice will only be bred one more time and then that’s it. Her daughters will never be breeding machines either, they will only be bred 1-2 times total. I don’t believe in repeat breedings (Rolo is a product of one, which I am glad but they aren’t for me). I believe in the Swedish model which is making sure that genes do not become too prevalent within a population and cause a bottleneck.
Breeding is a joy in that I get to mold the next generation of Hamiltonstovare in America. It isn't for everybody because if you think of things in a financial speak, you will lose money almost every single time. However, when you breed you can honestly see the future of the breed right in front of you. I want what is best for them and care deeply about how they impact the breed as a whole.