Since there seems to be so much hype everywhere these days about breeding kennels and how dogs are cared for in them, I'd like to give you at least a general idea of what goes into the care of my breeding dogs and my puppies and I'm always happy to answer questions. The information given below will help you understand why puppies bred in kennels are more expensive than puppies bred by your neighbor or purchased through a shelter. I'm state licensed and inspected and also vet inspected annually. The vet inspection includes inspection of the dogs and feeding and health protocols. The state inspection includes inspecting my kennels, a copy of the vet inspection results, and inspecting all my records. State inspectors are not allowed to touch dogs or kennels so as not to spread any disease between kennels they inspect. Kennels are considered biohazard areas.
I'll start with puppies since that's what most people are looking for. I keep a close eye on my females when they are close to whelping. Most litters I am with the female from beginning of labor until whelping is finished. (Occasionally a female manages to show NO signs of close labor and will surprise me with her new family). Many times that means sitting up all night since they don't all do it conveniently during the day. Most times no help is needed, but I'm on watch in case it is. I make sure that all navel cords seal and that all pups are dried, warm and nursing before leaving mom to bond with her babies and get some much-needed rest. The first few days bedding in the whelping box has to be changed 4-5 times a day due to the female's uterus 'cleaning out'.
Pups are checked on several times daily the first 10 days to make sure all are getting enough milk. A pup who starts to dehydrate will fail very quickly so they have to be watched closely and sometimes require supplemental feeding by stomach tube. Room/kennel temps for newborns has to be kept around 85-90 degrees because newborn pups have no body heat of their own and will easily catch pneumonia. The higher temps are usually kept up for the first 2 weeks before gradually being lowered to normal room temperatures of 70-75 degrees.
I don't handle the pups too much the first 2 weeks because that is their mother's time to bond with her babies and handling is kept only to checking sexes and cords when they are born and checking for signs of dehydration. Eyes and ears are both closed at birth and open gradually during the first 2 to 2-1/2 weeks so they get used to light, sights, and sounds a little at a time.
Most pups are dewormed for the first time at 4 weeks. Occasionally they get wormed at 3 weeks if they show signs of needing it. ALL puppies will have some degree of round worms. It's a normal part of being dogs. If they shed only a minimal amount of worms after the intial worming, they are not wormed again for 2 weeks. If they shed a heavier amount, they will be wormed again in 10 days and again in another 10 days. The last worming for round worms is done at 6 weeks of age. They get their first shot at 4 weeks for Distemper/Parvo (the only one they can have earlier than 6 weeks of age). They receive a second shot at 7 1/2 weeks that is a 5 way shot for Distemper, Parvo, 2 types of flu and adenovirus. Puppies require a series of 4 shots and if they are here at 12 and 16 weeks they get each of those here as well. A puppy's immune system does not fully mature until they reach 1 year of age so it's important they get their full series of puppy immunizations.
The puppies start eating at 4 weeks of age and are raised here on Purina Puppy Chow. At 6 weeks, if weather permits, the pups start spending time outdoors. If weather doesn't allow outdoor time, the pups get free playtime running loose in the indoor kennels. They are introduced to toys during playtime and once they are weaned at 7 weeks they get 'safe' toys (the kind they can't chew up) in their kennels. Their mothers will tear up toys so I wait until weaning for the pups to have toys all the time. In warm weather I prop the screen door open for the pups to go in and out while I do paperwork after their kennels are cleaned.
Once the pups begin playing outdoors they get ear mite preventative once a week. Playing outdoors also exposes them to picking up things like hookworms and giardia. At 8 weeks they are treated with panacur which is a gentle, but broad spectrum wormer, that will treat any type of worms they may pick up as well as giardia. They are also given 3 days of Albon just prior to leaving to avoid the possiblility of coccidiosis from stress of leaving the only home they've known since birth.
Because the pups are in and out playing while I clean, they get used to the sound of the shop vac and the music we listen to while I clean. They like to chase the mop and jump on the newspapers as I put them down in the kennels. To them, everything about life is a game. They get all their shots here by me and their first car ride is to the vet for their micro chip and health exam before leaving. Breeders follow this protocol because it's safer than taking pups to the vet where sick dogs go in and out when they don't have fully developed immune systems. By their first trip to the vet they have had their first 2 shots to help protect them. We advise buyers not to expose their puppies to other animals and people too much until they have finished their series of vaccinations to protect them from getting sick.
My breeding females are put on calcium for large litters or if they appear to have a low milk supply. They stay on them until a couple of days after I start adding Puppy Chow to their food. They are put on a mixture of Puppy Chow and Dog Chow when the pups are 3 weeks old so they can be switched all the way to Puppy Chow by the time the pups are 4 weeks old and start eating with their moms. Dog Chow is gradually added back in when the pups are 6 weeks so the moms don't get diarrhea when they are put back on adult food after weaning when the pups are 7 weeks old. Once weaned, the pups go back to all Puppy Chow. Puppy Chow has extra calcium so the supplement is no longer needed for the moms.
All adult dogs eat Purina Dog Chow. They are wormed 2 times a year with panacur and get annual 5 way shots and rabies boosters every 2 years. They have bones in their kennels to help keep their teeth clean. Nails are clipped as needed. They get their teeth brushed when they are bathed and teeth are cleaned by the vet as needed. How often it needs done varies between dogs. Some need it once a year and some can go as long as 4 years before needing scaled.
My dogs get out of their kennels every day. I have outdoor kennels for warm weather and indoor kennels for the winter. The entire kennel area is enclosed with fence where the dogs can run around and play in their 'yard'. The outdoor kennels are 5'x10' and have metal roofing. They have large barrels to sleep in. I personally don't care for concrete, so my kennels are lined with mats that are easily cleaned and comfortable for the dogs to walk on. They are cleaned once a day. The indoor kennels are approximately half the size of the outdoor kennels. Indoor kennels are cleaned every morning and again in the afternoon if needed. Because of the smaller kennel size indoors, the dogs go out to their yard twice a day when they are indoors for the winter.
All dishes are cleaned daily. Indoor kennels are disinfected daily and outdoor kennels are hosed daily and bleached twice a month. All puppies are born indoors. My kennel yard is treated to keep fleas and ticks out as is my yard surrounding the dog yard. Each time the dogs are bathed, their ears are cleaned and are treated with tresaderm/ivomec to keep them from getting ear mites. The dogs get a bacon treat and a milkbone treat every day. I keep the indoor kennel at 55 degrees in the winter so the dogs don't get sick when they go outdoors. It's also a comfortable temperature for me to clean kennels. The whelping kennels each have heat lamps to keep them as warm as they need to be for pups.
Besides all of the above, I have to keep records updated. As a breeder I have to keep records of ownership, breeding, health, sales, litters, etc. Updating records is an ongoing job. Because of all the hype about breeders, the 2 most common things that surprise visitors is that my kennels don't smell of feces and ammonia and that my adults who live in the kennels are as happy as the 5 who live in my house. It's not where they live that makes them happy, but the care and attention they receive. I work hard to keep my kennels clean and my dogs happy.
I raise and sell puppies to help pay my bills. It's my job. I enjoy my dogs and aside from all the paperwork, which I hate, I love what I do. Like anyone else who works at any small business, I expect to make at least some profit. I do not get government funding or donations. Everything that goes into caring for my dogs comes from my own pocket. I had to make a choice 6 years ago when health issues forced me to retire. I could either find something I was able to do or waste away doing nothing and collect disability. I chose to remain a productive citizen. I raise 5-11 litters a year and do everything humanly possible to make sure my puppies go to good homes. When you hear someone comment that dog breeders get rich from their dogs, I hope you will correct them from what you've read here. 98% of my pups go to homes as spayed or neutered pets. Example: $400 per pup x 4 pups only equals $1600 before you figure in the cost of food, dewormer, shots, cleaning supplies, dog shampoo, supplements, vet bills, toys, treats, electricity, heat, water, bedding, repairs, upkeep of kennels, etc.
I hope you will also consider this when you hear the phrase, "When you buy, a shelter dogs dies": Only some areas have shelters who are overcrowded. Many shelters import dogs from those shelters because they don't have enough to meet demand. The past few years the CDC had tracked about 300,000 dogs per year being imported from other countries to US shelters. The 2009 report released recently show that number had increased to almost 500,000 imported last year. The CDC concern with these imported dogs is that they have been bringing in Parvo and Rabies. The most recent I read about was a load of 222 dogs and puppies who landed in FL for a layover on their way to an adoption day in the North East. Upon arrival to the layover shelter in FL, it was discovered they had Parvo and infected all the dogs in the FL shelter as well. Many of the imports and shelter animals had to be put down to contain the outbreak. Rabies is more serious because imported dogs are only quarantined for 2 weeks and Rabies can incubate for up to 8 months before symptoms show. This is all information that can be researched online.
I have always advocated for people to have the choice of where their pet comes from and I still do. For some people a pet from a shelter is the right choice. For others being able to know the history, size, energy level and the common temperament type of a given purebred breed is the right choice. I have owned good dogs from both sources over the years. I have friends and family who have one or the other and some who have both. The ability should always remain available for everyone to have the choice of what pet/s will be best for their family.
I also advocate donating time, money, food, leashes or whatever you can to help your local shelter animals. But I encourage those who wish to donate to do it locally. Big organizations like HSUS and ASPCA who have hundreds of millions of dollars are not umbrella groups for local shelters and very little of the money donated to them goes to local shelters who really need it. 100% donated locally goes to help the animals in those small shelters and they are the ones who need it most. In this tough economy, the small shelters need your help more than ever!
Excerpt from above article: Meanwhile, shelter euthanasia rates have plummeted to a fraction of their former highs in most parts of the country as fewer dogs enter shelters and shelter personnel have become skilled at marketing their adoptable dogs to the public.
Yet broad-brush anti-dog breeding campaigns to end dog overpopulation continue unabated, reducing the number of good breeders and well-bred dogs right along with the bad, so there are fewer American-bred puppies for sale -- and even fewer adoptable dogs available at shelters.
Consequently, when consumers want more dogs than American sources can supply, legal and illegal importation of foreign dogs rises dramatically.
These imported dogs displace higher quality American dogs. Because imported dogs are poorly screened or smuggled in without screening, they also bring zoonotic (animal-to-human) diseases such as rabies, and potentially expose the U.S. pet, livestock and wildlife populations to diseases and parasites that are not present here.
In the face of ongoing "overpopulation" campaigns, smugglers run black market operations to meet puppy shortages. European commercial breeding for export to the U.S. is exploding and some enterprising American shelters and national humane organizations have begun importing foreign street dogs to meet demand.