written by Winnie Vogel
submitted with permission by Marj Brooks
with thanks to Kevin & Donna Frizzell of DeSaix St. Bernards for generously allowing us to use many of their superb array of articles
Why do you want to breed your bitch?… If the answer you gave yourself was anything other than to produce a better Saint Bernard you had better think again. Becoming a breeder isn’t for everyone and we urge you to think long and hard before taking the next step.
If you have now made the decision to plunge into the world of “wee ones” at least we can aid you in making a good breeding decision. Let’s look at your bitch.
- Is she of breeding quality?
- How is breeding quality established?
It started at the time of her purchase over eighteen months ago. Was she bought for breeding? If you bought her as a pet ~ please let her remain as such. If her breeder was reputable, and is breeding to produce dogs that conform to our written standard and sold her as show and breeding stock please have the breeder reaffirm her quality. (Sometimes pups do not reach the expectations of their breeders, sometimes they surpass them.)
Finishing her championship is another indication of your bitches quality.
Now comes the hard part, (because most owners think their bitch is perfect), you must evaluate your bitch. List her strong points, and then list what you want to improve on her. Again, if the improvement list, contains a note that the bitch lacks in type, has severe structural faults, or her ‘fault’ list is longer than her ‘outstanding’ list, you might be better off buying a bitch of greater quality to begin your breeding program as your starting point will be that much closer to perfection.
Take her to a few different breeders and ask them to evaluate her. You will be surprised at the different opinions they will have, especially if they use different deviations of type (lines).
Besides evaluating structure there are other genetic considerations which must be faced in a matter of fact way. Temperament in your bitch must be saintly, no excuses! Temperament is largely inherited and if she shows any overt, aggressive action towards a person, she should not be bred.
Neuromuscular problems (fits, seizures, wobblers etc.), severe hip and elbow problems, if present, should exclude your bitch from a breeding program. Eye problems, thyroid, conception and whelping problems must also be taken into consideration, for these too will be passed on in her offspring and we urge you not to breed a bitch exhibiting any of these problems.
So you say we just knocked off a great number of the existing bitches – you’re right – very few bitches should be bred and even fewer males should be used at stud. (they can pass their genes to many more offspring than a bitch can). After weighing the data on your bitch, only you can make the decision and then, be willing to stand behind it. Choose wisely and intelligently. Emotions must not have a say here.
If your bitch is still in the running you must now do two things; one is hard and the other is monumental. That list of faults you compiled earlier must be examined and you must choose which fault you most want to correct. Trying to correct more than one problem at a time will prove frustrating and in most cases is unrealistic.