By Sandi Wittenberg
We have been breeding bassets for over 30 years. Breeding is not something to be undertaken lightly. There are some things you should consider even before you do the breeding:
First, you should try to be as objective as possible in evaluating your bitch.
■ Is she truly of breeding quality?
■ Is she free of the major hereditary health problems found in bassets: glaucoma, bleeding disorders, hip and elbow dysplasia?
■ Has she been tested for these disorders?
■ Are you familiar with the dogs in at least 3 generations behind her?
■ Are they free of hereditary health problems?
■ Is she in good health herself?
■ Is she free of parasites, skin disorders, allergies, joint problems?
■ Is she at least 2 years old but not more than 5 years old (for a first litter)?
■ Is her temperament wonderful? No shyness? No fearfulness? No aggression??
■ Has she been titled in conformation, obedience, tracking, field work?
■ Finally, is she a good representative of the breed?
There are many, many homeless basset hounds in the world. Those who reproduce should really be only of the best quality.
Are you prepared for the potential expense of producing a litter?
■ Pre-breeding testing: for the bitch to be sure she is healthy, sound and free of parasites. A brucellosis test will likely be required by the owner of the stud. Some may also require testing for bleeding disorders, glaucoma, x-rays, etc.
■ Stud Fees: Stud fees are typically $1000 or more, with the owner of the bitch being responsible for all transportation and medical costs. Stud fees are non-refundable. Most reputable breeders will not allow their studs to be used with un-titled bitches and require assessment of the quality of the bitch before agreeing to breeding.
■ Whelping supplies: You will need to equip your "delivery room" and "nursery". At a minimum you will need a good sturdy whelping box (about $210 to buy. You can build one for about $50), a heat source (heat lamp or better yet a whelp nest [about $250] or heat pad [about $65 plus $25 for a rheostat]), scale ($30), miscellaneous scissors, clamps, sterile gloves, dental floss, betadine, towels, etc., and later a puppy enclosure such as an exercise pen ($80 and up). Don't forget you will need to have a place in the house for all of this to occur.
■ Vet bills: At very least, you will need to get mother and babies in for a check-up and clean-out shot within 24 hours of the birth. The puppies will each need vaccinations every 4 weeks, beginning at about 6 weeks. They will probably need to be wormed several times. Should problems occur (and they often do) the costs go up dramatically. It is not unusual for bassets to require c-sections, often in the middle of the night when emergency fees apply. Should puppies become ill, there are costs of medication, oxygen, and vet check-ups. We have had litters that were to the vet almost daily for over a week because of problems. Mom can develop infections and require additional vet care and medication. We have had vet bills approaching $2,500 from a litter, not counting routine visits and vaccines! Moms often do not have adequate milk and formula is needed (at $17 and up for a large can) plus bottles and/or feeding tubes.
■ Advertising: A first-time breeder will not have the reputation that brings buyers. Some form of advertising will likely be necessary.
■ Dog Food: They start the weaning process at about 3 weeks. By the time they go to their new homes at 14 weeks of age, puppies go through an astounding amount of Puppy Chow!! And basset mothers are very finicky eaters. You will likely need to prepare fancy special concoctions to get her to eat and she will eat 8 to 10 cups of puppy food while she is nursing.
Next comes the problem of actually accomplishing the breeding.
Bassets often require assistance and this is not always easy. First, you need to know when to do the breeding. An experienced male will be able to "tell" you most of the time. An inexperienced male will be too excited from almost day one and useless as an indicator. You will be best off having your vet do a series of vaginal swabs and slides to check for signs of nearing ovulation. Or your vet can do progesterone testing to pinpoint the best day to breed. This is usually on about day 11 - 15, but there is a great deal of variation. Once you know the correct day, you need to get them to "do the deed". We have been breeding bassets for over 20 years and have had ONE male who could breed a bitch unassisted. Don't count on it. We have used artificial insemination for ALL our breedings for the last 20 or so years. Most of our friends with bassets do the same.
If you are unsuccessful in getting the deed done, you will need to do artificial insemination. For this, at least the first few times, you should get professional assistance from a reproduction expert or your veterinarian.
Now, you repeat this process every 2 days for as long as they will allow it. You should be able to get 3 breedings this way. Gestation period averages 63 days. I have had puppies born on day 59 from the first breeding, day 67 from the last breeding, and everything in between.
Be prepared for hundreds of hours of work.
Basset hounds are not easy to raise. The mothers are usually clumsy and can easily lie on and smother puppies. It is customary for the moms and puppies to require CONSTANT supervision for the first 2 weeks. This is 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. This is time off from work. At our house, someone sleeps next to the whelping box at night. During the day we take turns staying home with the babies. If supplemental feedings are needed, it means getting up at least twice a night to bottle or tube feed puppies. If puppies are colicky it means holding them for hours and rubbing tummies.
After about 3 weeks when mom decides she has had enough of cleaning up after them, you will feel like all you do is change poopy puppy papers. Once weaned, puppies need to be fed 3-4 times a day. They get filthy and need to be cleaned up, also at least 3 or 4 times a day. They need lots of bedding laundered … you can count on at least 2 or 3 loads of puppy laundry each day. They need to be played with, cuddled and socialized. They need to be taken to the vet.
Also, don’t forget the hours on the phone with potential puppy buyers, their visits to see the puppies, preparing purchasing contracts, checking out their vet references, and making a home visit to their home. We spend about 20 hours with each puppy buyer.
Brace yourself for unfathomable heartbreak.
There are few things worse than watching a puppy die, gasping and crying. And puppies do die. At a seminar for breeders, we were told that on an average, 30% of puppies die. In 20 years of breeding, we have seen many puppies die. We have held puppies born dead who cannot be revived. We have seen puppies with birth defects born and had to have them put to sleep. We have seen puppies smothered by their mothers. We have seen a whole litter die over a ten day period. We have had a litter born pre-maturely and could not get the puppies breathing on their own. We have poured hundreds of dollars and countless hours into saving a puppy, only to have it die anyway. We have had a mother die three days after whelping, leaving us with eight hungry mouths to feed and huge hole in our hearts. Whenever we expect a litter, we are sick to our stomachs for weeks before they are due and usually for weeks after they are born, because of worry and fear over what might happen.
Then there is the matter of homes
Do you have enough homes?? Statistically, basset litters average 6.8 puppies. In our experience, we have had litters ranging from 1 puppy to 13. We know a woman whose basset had 18 puppies and all of them lived. (Mom had no milk so all 18 had to be hand-raised!!) If you have 10 or 12 puppies, are you prepared to keep and nurture each and every one of them until you find them appropriate homes?
To appropriately place puppies, you must spend time getting to know the puppy buyers. This involves lengthy phone conversations, emails, visits to your home, checking of vet references and a home visit.
A spay/neuter contract should be developed and signed. The contract should also include your expectations for how the puppy will be cared for, where it will live and sleep, fencing, vet care, and return policies if the family cannot keep the puppy for any reason.
Finally, providing life-time security for the puppies
Whether you are the owner of the sire or dam, you have a responsibility to the puppies’ health, safety and well-being for the length of their lives. The first step in this life-time commitment is spending countless hours on the phone interviewing prospective puppy buyers, verifying references and doing home visits. You should have puppy buyers and their children and spouse visit you and the puppies in your home to watch their interaction with the adult dogs and puppies. Make sure EVERYONE in the family is committed to this puppy.
You also need to develop a contract that specifies what your expectations are for the living conditions, veterinary care, health, weight, and care of the puppy. You need to be willing to take back any puppy (or adult) at any age, for any reason. You have brought these puppies into this world and you are ultimately responsible for them. We only sell our puppies on a spay/neuter contract with limited registration, that is not transferred until we are provided proof from a veterinarian of spaying/neutering. If we are selling a show dog, we retain co-ownership with the buyer. Our contract also specifies that dogs must be “house dogs” (not kennel or outside dogs), provided appropriate veterinary care, must be spayed/neutered by 12 months of age (except for show dogs), have a fenced yard, have adequate exercise, not have an in-ground pool that is accessible by the dog, be kept in good weight, be fed a high quality dog food and provided training in basic obedience and socialization. We have a “right to return” clause in our contract that states that if the buyer must relinquish the dog for any reason, we must be notified and we will take the dog back. You must also have the puppies microchipped with you as the primary contact for each puppy. Microchipping costs about $40 per dog and requires annual renewal of the registry contract.
Once the puppy is sold, you must maintain contact with the buyer and be sure that he/she is adhering to the contract. This may require more home visits, veterinary contacts, and vigilance. Is the contract enforceable? … yes! Do we follow up? … absolutely! Was it friendly and fun? … no, but it was necessary. We have removed dogs from homes that were not holding up their end of the contract. We have mandated weight loss for dogs and followed up with veterinarians to monitor the weight. We have taken dogs back when people could no longer keep them because of family upheaval, financial crisis, health problems, and disenchantment with the dog.
Please give this all some serious thought. If you then feel you want to go through with having a litter, get some good books on breeding and puppy rearing. I would especially recommend CARE OF THE BROOD BITCH AND WHELPING (available from the BHCA Country Store on the BHCA web site), and Successful Dog Breeding by Walkowic & Wilcox. If you feel you are really ready to get into this, visit the Basset Hound Club of America website for a listing of breeders in your area you can contact. Be aware they will want to be able to evaluate your girl or boy - be leery of anyone who says yes without asking questions.
Sandi Wittenberg - Red Bay Bassets
© Red Bay Bassets 2014
Permission Granted to Michigan Basset Rescue, Droopy Basset Rescue, Basset Rescue Network, Inc. at Daphneyland, Basset Hound Club of Southern California and Basset Hound Club of Western Pennsylvania to reprint and distribute in print and digitally with proper reference.
We have been breeding bassets for over 30 years. Breeding is not something to be undertaken lightly.