Temperament and Breeding

By Sharyn Hutchens, Timbreblue Whippets

Ruby and Phoebe, November 26, 2005Temperament is absolutely hereditary. If you breed a bitch with an undesirable temperament, you're going to end up with puppies who act just like her. There are a number of pretty serious issues to think about along those lines.

First is the male. Unfortunately, a bitch with an undesirable temperament might very well hurt the male, and badly. Girls who act badly are not usually happy about being bred, and not only the male, but also any humans who happen to be close by might be bitten. Even if the bitch is small, this could be a dangerous situation. If she hurts the male, you'll probably be asked to pay his vet bills. The last dog fight bill we paid, several years ago, was upwards of $400! If he is a dog who is often used for stud, his "career" could very well be ended by an experience like this. People have been sued for less!

Second, temperament is definitely hereditary. She's going to have puppies who act just like her, and a dog or bitch with a bad temperament is not a dog many people would want to live with.

One thing we always advise people looking for a puppy is to meet the mother. If she isn't friendly, happy, and the kind of dog you want, don't even consider buying one of her puppies. This is a basic rule of puppy buying and one of the main reasons people should never buy from a pet shop. If you can't meet the mother, you don't know what kind of temperament you'll be getting.

A temperamental bitch is likely to be either a negligent mother or an overprotective one. If she's negligent, you'll have to raise the puppies by hand. That's a very difficult job and often heartbreaking. (I remember the litter of eight I had to hand-raise. We lost all but one over a period of a week. Most depressing week I ever went through!) If she's overprotective, she's not going to let you near the puppies. You*need* to be able to handle those pups safely, and if you have to fight her every time, it will be very difficult, not to mention dangerous.

Fourth, the puppies learn behavior from the mother while they're still in the whelping box. If there are any who don't inherit her temperament genetically, they're going to learn it from her.

Girl and sleeping puppy Fifth, and maybe most convincing, are the legal issues. Due to pet laws around the country, by selling puppies you know come from a mother who is a known biter, you might very well open yourself up to a lawsuit when one of them hurts someone. I don't think a case like that has come up yet, but it will.

Lawyers advertise regularly for "dog bite victims" and it won't be long before they go after not only the owner of the dog, but the breeder (the owner of the mother). Many states have "puppy lemon laws" which mean the breeder has to refund the purchase price of a puppy who turns out to be unhealthy. Most of these laws include "congenital or hereditary defects," and a puppy who bites and whose mother has a vicious temperament is definitely a puppy who has an inherited condition.

Breeding dogs is serious business. You're bringing little lives into the world and you're responsible for them. A dog cannot control where he lives or who he lives with, so you need to be sure your puppies go to homes where they have a good prospects for happy lives. A puppy starting out with serious health or temperament problems doesn't have a chance these days.

There is also a lot of joy and satisfaction in breeding, if you start out with a healthy, well-adjusted, happy dog. Ideally, she should also be a good representative of the breed (look like what a dog of that kind is supposed to look like). But even the most beautiful showdog, if she snaps, bites, or growls, should be spayed. And I've known of valuable showdogs who *were* spayed for that very reason. A good temperament is absolutely the number one requirement for breeding.

So it comes down to this: Breeding an ill-tempered bitch would be a very, very bad idea. Have her spayed, and if you want to breed, do some studying about genetics, join some breeders' email lists, get a healthy female with a very steady temperament, and start from there. You'll save yourself a whole lot of heartache and expense!

Here are some email lists about breeding, along with their descriptions. These are not primarily show breeder lists, though you might want to join some of those later.

The first two are lists that focus on the basics and include all types of breeders. You'll learn a great deal about the joys and heartaches of breeding simply reading these lists for a month or two. Most of the people on them are pet owners who don't show their dogs but do occasionally breed a litter. You don't have to worry about rude responses on these lists; they are not allowed. Many of the people have bred one or more litters and will give you honest answers based on their own experience.

Pups and Pregnancy -- This list is a place to learn about dog pregnancy and raising puppies, no matter what kind of dogs or pups: AKC, cross breed, rare breeds or unregistered pure-breds, Chihuahua or Great Dane or any dog or puppy in between!
To subscribe, send a blank email to Pregnancy_and_Pups-subscribe@yahoogroups.com

A Wee One -- Care of the newborn puppy from birth to 12 weeks. Discuss the pros and cons of heat lamps and heating pads. Tube feeding, paper training, worming, tail bobing, bathing. How to know if is time to go to vet. Signs of genetic faults. When to give puppy's first shot. All breeds of dogs. Referals to other dog lists when needed.
Subscribe by sending a blank email to: A-Wee-One-subscribe@yahoogroups.com

The following are lists more geared to hobby or show breeding. The discussions are more technical, but you'll learn a lot about the finer points of selecting a dog to breed. For the most part, if you introduce yourself as a novice and ask questions, you'll be treated kindly.

Breeders Only -- A group to discuss breeding of purebred dogs, all breeds. Discussions include health, care of stud dog or bitches, whelping tips, and other useful information for the novice or experienced breeder.
To subscribe, send a blank email to breedersonly-subscribe@yahoogroups.com

JoyBreeding - The Joy Of Breeding Email List -- Purpose: this list was initiated for breeders to discuss issues related to dog breeding. Breeders of all dog breeds are invited and encouraged to participate.
To subscribe, send a blank email to: JoyBreeding-subscribe@yahoogroups.com

Note from ReJoyce: Temperament can be passed to offspring by dam or by sire. Renner's temperament is a carbon copy of the mellow, laid-back, easy-to-love-and-live-with disposition of his father, Nick.

"Temperament and Breeding" Copyright © 2005 Sharyn Hutchens.
All Rights Reserved. Reprinted by permission.

Unless otherwise noted, remainder of ReJoyce web site Copyright © 2000-2012 Guy and Melody Joyce. All Rights Reserved.