By Richard Whorton

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This pamphlet is written to guide Border Collie owners who are considering breeding their dogs. It contains important questions that should be addressed in making the decision to breed, information on breeding, and references for further reading. It is relevant not only to first time breeders but to Border Collie owners who have previously bred litters.

The first and foremost reason for breeding a Border Collie must be to improve the breed. Above all, the breeder should place primary emphasis on herding qualities, health, sound structure, and good temperament. Given that there are simply too many Border Collies being produced, breeding average or good dogs is not acceptable. They must be excellent representatives of the breed.

Breeding dogs so that the kids can see the miracle of birth, to make money, to produce a puppy for Aunt Sue, etc., is both unethical and has led to many of the problems facing Border Collies today. In an attempt to breed excellent dogs, both the sire and the dam should have distinguished themselves in some way, that is, they should have excelled in their given field of endeavor be it herding, obedience, agility, etc. However, since Border Collies are herding dogs, obedience titles, agility titles, etc. are not a sufficient reason for breeding. The dogs must also have demonstrated that they can perform as a herding dog. It is important to only mate dogs that have herding instinct, are intelligent, and are enthusiastic workers. Dogs which are fearful, shy, aggressive; dogs which have mellow temperaments, are sluggish or lazy, are less than eager workers; or dogs which have no herding instinct should never be bred.

Before any breeding is considered, the owner of the bitch should make sure she and her mate are clear of potential genetic diseases. Of principle concern are canine hip dysplasia (CHD), collie eye anomaly (CEA), and progressive retinal atrophy (PRA). At two years of age or older, dogs can be examined by x-ray (taken by your veterinarian) and evaluated by the Orthopedic Foundation of America (OFA). If the dog's hips are normal, OFA will issue a rating of fair, good, or excellent. If not rated, the dog is dysplastic and must not be bred. A rating will not be issued unless the dog is two years of age or older. Breeding younger stock that cannot be tested is irresponsible. In addition to evaluating the dog's x-ray, careful attention should be paid to both the dam's and the sire's litter mates. Having siblings that have normal hips is reassuring, while having siblings which are dysplastic makes the breeding risky. In addition, the health of any litters previously produced must be considered. All breeding stock should be evaluated annually by a veterinarian who is qualified to issue certification of normal eye physiology. A current CERF evaluation is necessary for both the sire and dam. As epilepsy is on the increase in Border Collies, any dogs with a history of epilepsy should not be bred. Finally, any dog that has any other disease which might be genetic, should not be bred. It is extremely important to consult your veterinarian, consult other breeders, and search the literature so that breeding a litter of unsound puppies can be avoided. All breeders should strive to be brutally honest with themselves and protect potential owners from the agony of a crippled, blind or epileptic puppy.

Examination of breeding stock by your veterinarian is a necessary cost of breeding. Having the dam's hips and eyes evaluated will cost money. In addition, both the sire and dam need to be checked for brucellosis, a bacterium sometimes found in the urogenital tract of both males and females. Brucellosis can be transmitted during breeding and can be potentially lethal to the unborn puppies. It is prudent to consult your veterinarian before the bitch comes into season to have her general health evaluated and again when the bitch comes in season to have her progress followed by taking vaginal smears. Further, a veterinarian may be necessary if the breeding is not successful and artificial insemination is required. You should arrange to have your veterinarian on call at the time of delivery in case difficulties arise. It is not uncommon to have puppies delivered by Cesarian section. Finally, you will need to have the puppies' dew claws removed, the puppies checked for parasites (worms), and have their initial vaccinations. Each puppy should be sent to their new homes with a vaccination and care schedule provided by your veterinarian. All of this costs money and is rarely completely recovered in the sale price of the puppies.

You should be very concerned that every puppy you produce finds a home where it will be cared for and trained. All of us would like to find experienced Border Collie owners whom we can trust with our special puppies. First time owners should be made well aware of what a Border Collie in the family means. Homes for puppies must be arranged before the breeding. After 6 - 8 puppies arrive, it is too late, and you might find you have to place these dogs in less than desirable situations.

The owner of the dam usually arranges the breeding and thus is usually considered the breeder. However, the owner of the sire shares equally in the responsibility of producing Border Collies of excellent quality. Thus, it is imperative that all statements made pertaining to the bitch or the breeder be applied to the sire and owner of the sire. As a partner in producing puppies, the owner of the sire must be truthful and willing to provide the required documentation. The owner of the sire must keep in mind that the quality of puppies reflects on both the sire and the dam.

RESPONSIBILITIES OF THE BREEDER: The breeder should be prepared to offer guarantees in the form of a written contract regarding the health of the puppies. Puppies which are sold and develop genetic diseases, including hip dysplasia, CEA, PRA, familial epilepsy, etc should be replaced or the cost of the puppy refunded. Breeders should sell dogs with spay/neuter contracts to pet homes. Responsible breeders should keep track of their puppies, encourage the owners to have the dogs evaluated in terms of hips and eyes, and offer help in finding appropriate outlets for training. The breeder should maintain careful, complete records of the progress of each puppy. Evaluation of the puppies' progress and their health is the only true measure of a good breeding program. It is critical to consider that the best way to evaluate a particular breeding is to examine the offspring when they are old enough - two years after the breeding. A repeat breeding before this can be done is not responsible breeding. Responsible breeders should require fenced in areas for dogs going to homes in urban areas.

We strongly recommend that Border Collies sold to pet homes be sold with spay/neuter contracts specifying that the dog(s) be altered between 6 months and 1 year of age. In most cases, pet owners are simply not committed to, or knowledgeable enough about the breed to make wise decisions regarding breeding. Spaying or neutering should also be considered for dogs that are not breedable quality owned by more experienced Border Collie enthusiasts. There are many benefits to spaying or neutering including eliminating the possibility of accidental breedings. Bitches that are spayed early (about 6 months) have a reduced risk of mammary tumors and males that are neutered early are less aggressive and less likely to roam. Finally, spaying/neutering does not affect your dog's trainability. Altered dogs make excellent competition dogs in any sport.

It should be pointed out that some registries (see registration information) offer limited registration status. Puppies sold with limited registration privileges, cannot produce registerable litters unless the original breeder requests a change in registration status. This provides the original breeder control over future litters from their puppies.

A simple diagram is given below. You should seriously consider all the questions and only breed your dog if you can answer yes in all cases. It is your responsibility to be an ethical Border Collie breeder. The future of the breed rests in your hands. If you are not familiar with breeding and would like to learn more, several references are listed below.  Remember you should be an informed breeder.

1.  Malcolm B. Willis, Genetics of the Dog, Howell Books
2.  Malcolm B. Willis, Practical Genetics for Dog Breeders, Howell Books.
3.  Phyllis A. Holst, Canine Reproduction: A Breeder's Guide, Alpine Books.
4.  Fred Lanting, Canine Hip Dysplasia, Alpine Books.
5.  ACVO, Ocular Disorders Proven or Suspected to be Hereditary in Dogs, American College of Veterinary Opthamologists.
6.  Phyllis Croft, The Management of Epilepsy in Dogs, Henston Books.

Page Updated 12/18/2010

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The Border Collie Society of America, Inc. was founded in April 1993.  This site is owned by the Border Collie Society of America, Inc. and was established 12.94.