Many dog owners start fantasizing about what it might be like to have a puppy again. I've had many inquiries over the years on this very topic. People will ask me about breeding at the Basset Hound Picnic almost every year and I've had many emails from basset hound owners who want to know if breeding a basset hound is easy.
The question of breeding when it comes to basset hounds is not one to be taken lightly. It's much more difficult than some breeds. You need to be ready to provide areas for puppies, to commit vast amounts of time to this endeavor, be willing to deal with noise and mess, be willing to pay any vet bills, and realize that some might not make it. There's more to the story than simply wanting another puppy in the house. As a friend used to tell parents when they wanted their children to see the miracle of birth, "Get a guppy." Breeding basset hounds is a BIG commitment.
Find a Mentor
This is perhaps the very best advice that I can give someone about to venture into the realm of breeding a basset hound litter. Find a mentor. Even more than one would be recommended. You will need someone who can guide you through the process and be there for ANY questions. No matter how much preparation you do or how well things go during the process having a mentor available for your questions and to guide you through the process is very valuable. Having a second one available if your first choice suddenlly can't be reached would be a good idea.
Do your Homework on your Bitch and Sire
Before even contemplating breeding a basset hound litter you need to evaluate your bitch and possible sires. There is an AKC Standard for Basset Hounds that all breeders should use as a guideline for their bitch and possible sires. While some will tell you that this is only for show dogs that is just an excuse they use because they don't want to take the time and money necessary to prove the quality of their basset hounds. All bassets that are bred should be as close to the Standard for the breed as possible.
When selecting a sire look for one that complements your bitch. He may have qualities that that equal qualities that your bitch has as well as some that your bitch may be lacking. The idea here is to produce puppies that better meet the Standard than what you start with.
After a sire is selected both he and your bitch need to pass some health testing. The Basset Hound Club of America has some guidelines for this testing. You should also consult with your veterinarian and a canine reproduction specialist for more on this aspect of breeding.
Find a Good Reproduction Specialist
Most veterinarians have no idea about breeding and puppies. They rarely perform breedings, see very few pregnant bitches and deliver very few litters. Some are somewhat experienced in doing c-sections because some people do run into unexpected problems and have their local vet perform a c-section.
A canine reproduction specialist is your best resource for the whole experience of having a litter. This is true if everything goes well and even more importent if there are any complications. These vets are known by many breeders through their reputations. If you need any references check with your local basset hound club. Their breeders should know which reproduction specialists are close to your home. Currently ours is more than an hour away with light traffic. It's worth going to her because she knows what she's doing.
It stands to reason that you will need a place for the breeding to take place. This is simple enough. You just need to set aside an area in your home for the magic to happen. A close friend uses a small bathroom in her home. Over the years, due to various issues, all our breedings have been conducted by a veterinarian. Yes, most have been AIs. Others were bred by the sire's owner.
Create a Place
For a litter you need a place for mom and puppies. Most of us use a whelping box for this. There are several sources of these boxes available. To find out more about them and the advantages of each style/manufacturer you can conduct some Internet searches. This is one place where I can't help because our whelping box was custom made for us by a friend.
When we bought our home we looked for one that had a room attached to the master bed room where we could have puppies. One of us can actually sleep in our bed at night and still be available for emergencies. You may not be as fortunate. Whatever your situation you need to decide where the whelping box will go and make sure it is set up in plenty of time for the puppies. If possible you also need a spot close by where one person can sleep while the other watches the litter.
Make The Time
Breeding basset hounds is an extremely time consuming undertaking. Once you have a litter you need to have at least one person to watch them at all times. That means every second 24/7 for at least the first 2 - 3 weeks. From care to playtime, newborn basset hounds require pretty much round the clock attention. This is not only a question of taking up your free time but your work schedule as well. With everything that can and will happen, you need to be there to clean it up. You'll also have to make sure you know where ALL the puppies are all the time that they are with their mother. Basset hound mothers, due to their size can easily turn over on a puppy and suffocate it.
Become a Hermit
While this sounds strange it's partly true. Count on not seeing most friends and family for at least the first few weeks. Since sudden appearance of parvo in the United States breeders have had to protect litters from this devistating disease. I understand from friends that when it first appeared that parvo wiped out hundreds of litters before they could determine what was happening. At our home only the closest friends and family are allowed to visit our home until the puppies get their first round of immunizations. Even those who do visit must dip their shoes in bleach before entering the property. We even have to do the same when one of us has to leave our property and return home for any reason. At our home, since Pam does most of the shopping for groceries and other necessities, I rarely get out of the house for the first two to three months after the puppies are born.
Lots of Cleaning and Noise
You have to clean up after puppies and there will be plenty of puppies to clean up after. Many would argue that one puppy is enough to have your hands full. Now imagine a litter. The cleaning is constant. Just imaging waking up every morning to the spell of dog poop! A litter of puppies also generates a great deal of noise. Initially, it may be delightful to hear these new lives speaking to you, but there may come a day when incessant noise gets a little old.
Thinking Outside the Box
Once the puppies are old enough to go outside you'll need a safe place for them. Exercise pens provide a great way to separate puppies from the rest of your yard and other dogs. At our house our puppy yard is connected to the room where we have the whelping box. In our area when the puppies are outside they must be protected from the local wildlife. We've had hawks and owls check them out closely while they are out in their ex-pen. For protection of the puppies someone is outside with the puppies all the time and we also put up a canopy over the ex-pen. We're especially on alert if their are any hawks in the area. You may not have that problem but it's important to consider the possibility.
By this time the puppies will most likely be geting too big for your whelping box too. Ypu'll need a place for them to be inside where they have more room to roam and play. An ex-pen inside can also serve this purpose. Check with other breeders for ideas on what they do. We have our puppy room all set up for an ex-pen when the puppies are too big for our whelping box. We put them outside in their yard while we make the swap between whelping box and ex-pen.
Pay The Bills
Vet bills can be very high. Initially there are health checks and necessary health testing for the sire and dam. Once the "right" pair is chosen for the breeding progesterone testing is done to figure out the best time to breed one of our girls. In most cases, as mentioned above we add in the cost of an AI breeding. Once a bitch is bred there is an ultrasound at four weeks to verify the success of the breeding. If the bitch is pregnant then the real wait and sometimes sleepless nights begins. Toward the end of the gestation period we start having reverse progesterone tests done to make sure the bitch is maintaining the puppies and to better pinpoint when the puppies are ready. In our case we've had complications with almost every litter so we add in the cost of a planned c-section rather than end up having to do one as an emergency. Emergency c-sections can be tripple the cost of a planned one. Once the puppies are born there is still the vet bills before the puppies go off to their new homes. If you have ever paid vet bills before for a sick dog you know that they can add up fast. In some cases it could mean hundreds or even thousands of dollars. Just be ready for this to happen or possibly the one thing that could be worse.
Prepare For The Worst
Not all puppies survive. It's not fair that something so cute and vulnerable doesn't always grow up healthy and strong, but sadly, that's just how it works. We lost our whole first litter of five and three of the five in our second litter. Since then, partly due to the introduction of the reverse progesterone testing, we have only lost two puppies. One was deformed with a possible cleft palate and didn't make it after a c-section. Another passed at the age of five weeks. Upon examination the vet found severe internal problems that prevented her from growing properly. He was surprised that she survived that long. It's best to prepare yourself as best you can for this eventuality before you risk facing it. There is a lot to keep in mind when thinking about breeding basset hounds.
Dog breeding is an involved, complicated, and often rewarding process that should be thoroughly investigated before you proceed. Basset hounds, in the course of breeding, will demand of you a seemingly endless time commitment, a lot of cleanup, possibly large vet bills, and maybe even facing the fact that not all will make it. It may seem like a lot but when it's right, it's right, and it's worth it to bring more love into the world.
I still can't get over the thrill when I look at our adult bassets and think of holding each one in the palm of my hand. The thrill of producing wonderful puppies that make us and others happy is very rewarding. Seeing some excell in the show ring verifies all our hard work and countless hours taking care of puppies. It's an experience that is very difficult to describe but very rewarding.