PROPER AGE FOR BREEDING BULL TERRIERS
This is a topic in which many breeders will have different opinions so keep in mind that the information provided here is based off my opinion from experience and knowledge on breeding Bull Terriers.
Most Canine Registries allow for VERY early ages for breeding dogs which shocks me. I am using the American Kennel Club (AKC) as an example because this is the Canine Registry I utilize and have the most familiarity with. AKC is our National Canine Registry and certainly the most reputable and recommended Registry in the United States. Their regulations on the breeding ages on dogs are as follows:
AKC REGULATIONS ON BREEDING AGES
MALES: 7 months old – 12 years old.
FEMALES: 8 months old – 12 years old.
AKC will also allow Males and Females to be bred at younger or older ages if breeding is witnessed and an affidavit or evidence is provided. Due to these regulations it’s easy to see how dogs of any age are allowed to be bred and provided registration papers for the litters produced. Although AKC may not recommend breeding so early in age or late in age they certainly do not apply appropriate restrictions for registering a litter of puppies. Additionally, there are no restrictions on the maximum number of litters a Dam can produce. With this said, it’s easy to see how puppymills are able to start breeding a female on her first heat cycle and continue breeding her on every heat cycle until she is 12 years old. Again, this may not be something AKC recommends but it is within their acceptable policies for registering litters.
Now, just because a breeder can get away with breeding their 7 month old puppy on it’s first heat cycle does this make it right? AKC may allow it but this does not mean it’s of ethical breeding practices.
Here’s my opinion as a breeder of Bull Terriers for many years:
FEMALES: I am completely aware of the physical makeup and health aspects to breeding a female at young age. I will even share an informative article that supports breeding at early ages due to the bitch’s pelvis development – Best Age To Breed. On a medical stand point I can understand how it would be better to breed a younger female vice waiting until she is 3 years or older. However, with Bull Terriers I know it to be very important to ensure the female is fully matured both physically and mentally. I do NOT recommend breeding a female on her first cycle because she would not have the mental maturity to safely whelp a litter of puppies and the physical and chemical changes would cause significant stress and anxiety which could prevent her from proper care and attention to her pups. It is not rare that a litter of Bull Terriers requires had raising due to the Dam becoming a bad mother. I feel that the best time frame to breed a female Bull Terrier is based on the individuals dog maturity both physically and mentality. Ideally this is during the females 3rd heat cycle and closer to the 2 year old mark. Yes, there are some which may be perfectly fine to breed during their 2nd heat cycle when they are around 1.5 years old but even at that age the female may very well still be in the puppy phase herself. Now due to the fact that I would not wish to breed a female more than 4 times (3 litters is our normal amount before we retire a female from breeding) I can’t possibly see how anyone would wish to breed a female beyond 6 years old. If you were to breed a female Bull Terrier starting at the age of 2 and skip a heat cycle between litters she would only be 4 – 4 1/2 years old by the time she had 3 litters which in my opinion is a good limit of litters for any female dog. I think it’s important to skip a cycle before breeding the female again in order to allow sufficient time for the Dam to return back to excellent physical shape prior to whelping another litter. I realize that a female may have the capabilities to rear a dozen or more litters between 8 months and 12 years old but common sense should tell you how bad this would be for any dog regardless if AKC or any other canine registry would continue to allow the breeder to register litter after litter from the same female.
MALES: When it comes to the proper age for studding a male dog there aren’t many health concerns to consider since breeding him at any age would not be detrimental to his health or well being. However, there are many factors that should be considered prior to breeding a male dog as well as continued studding of a male dog. I provided a lot of information in regard to stud service in a couple of my previous blog topics so I’m not going to discuss in detail the difference between a male dog and stud dog. However, I will touch on the proper requirements for any male dogs that are planning on becoming a stud dog because it has a lot to do with the best age for breeding one.
Unlike many other breeds, Bull Terriers are known to lose sperm counts rapidly as they age especially if they are not bred or purged on a routine basis. With this said, the chances of having a productive stud dog after the age of 10 are extremely slim. Prior to using a male for stud service they should have a DNA test to ensure their bloodline is correct per their registry and pedigree. The rapid slide agglutination test (RSAT) is highly recommended to ensure the stud is free from the bacterial disease brucellosis. A sperm count should be performed in order to ensure the dog is fertile with high enough sperm count to be a productive stud dog.
There’s nothing wrong about initiating stud services at an early age if pertinent tests have been completed and verification of health and qualities is evident. Most studs start their breeding careers around the age of 12 months old and continue for as long as their fertility remains productive based on annual sperm count analysis.
IMPORTANT NOTE FOR BOTH MALES AND FEMALES: Prior to breeding ANY dog full genetic tests should be conducted to verify the dog it within proper health standards for producing puppies. A veterinarian health check is NOT genetic testing. Specific tests are recommended for every breed of canine to ensure the dog does not carry a genetic health trait that can passed down to future puppies. Within the Bull Terrier breed the main concentration of genetic testing should be:
- Heart – Echocardiogram with Doppler (ECHO).
- Kidney – Symmetric Dimethylarginine (SDMA) Test.
- Hearing – Brainstem Auditory Evoked Response (BAER) Test.
- Luxating Patella – A physical examination combined with radiography.
- Primary Lens Luxation – (Miniature Bull Terriers only) DNA testing for Primary Lens Luxation (PLL)
Besides the appropriate genetic testing that should be conducting for all Bull Terriers being considered for breeding it is important to ensure the overall qualities of the dogs being bred possess the proper structure and conformation that emulates the Breed Standard. Just because you have a registered pure bred Bull Terrier does not mean it has the qualities to be bred in order to do justice for the future progression of the breed. The objective of breeding should always be to better the breed by utilizing breeding dogs that have exemplary qualities. It is important for breeders to study the Breed Standards and gain thorough knowledge in recognizing faults as well positive traits. Additionally, it is vital to ensure the dog you plan on breeding has sound temperament which is expected within the breed. Proper health is not defined simply by receiving positive results from the expected genetic tests pertinent to the breed. Many Bull Terriers may prove to be good in those areas but suffer from skin allergies, aggression, Obsessive Compulsive Disorders (OCD), and other negative faults that may have been inherited through bad genetics.
As a breeder I can honestly say there is an abundance of pride and joy in producing puppies but my pride comes from knowing the production of my puppies are resulting in healthy Bull Terrier puppies that emulate the qualities within the breed standards. This is, and always will be, the overall goal of any responsible breeder.