What is it really like to breed Cavaliers?
What can go wrong when you try to breed a (carefully planned, greatly desired, and potentially quite valuable) litter of puppies?
Should you plan to breed your Cavalier in the hope of recovering her purchase price?
Ha ha ha. I can tell you very sincerely that you are likely to lose a ton of money if you try, especially if you care about producing beautiful, sound, healthy puppies.
Below I'm going to delineate the points of stress that, for me, attend the breeding of a litter. Some of them -- like problems during the whelping -- are probably quite obvious. Others you may well not have thought of. I'm going to list my litters in chronological order, describe them briefly, and point out the things that you may lose sleep over if you breed your girl. Then I'll briefly explain why breeding a litter is so expensive, because people do ask about that sometimes, and probably lots of people wonder even if they don't ask.
I've had ten litters of puppies so far, encompassing emergency c-sections, scheduled c-sections, a natural birth that went by-the-book, and a natural birth that had complications (a pretty wide range for just ten litters, eh?). Twice I've had bitches conceive but zero puppies live. I have broken even on four litters and lost money, sometimes a lot of money, on the others.
My "A" litter: Anara Adornment (Dora) and Anara Affection (Effie) were delivered by emergency c-section at three in the morning. A third blenheim female puppy had died a couple of days prior to whelping. The (unexplained) prenatal death of this puppy seems to have perhaps caused the problems that led to the emergency c-section. This was very stressful. It was my first litter, but fortunately once they were born, both puppies did fine. I kept them both, so obviously I lost a lot of money on this litter. But I did get two puppies, one very nice, so it was worth it.
My "B" litter: Anara Brilliant (Bree), whom I kept; Anara Beguilement (Lily); and Anara Briar Rose (Lucy). Because this litter was due Christmas Day and because the emergency clinic is a long way away (and I don't trust unknown vets at emergency clinics anyway) and because the puppies looked huge on the pre-whelping x-ray -- for all these reasons, this litter was delivered by scheduled c-section on Christmast Eve. This was not so stressful. All three puppies thrived from the first moment. However, I spayed the mother at that time because my vet told me her uterus had many thin, weak areas and it would be dangerous to breed her again.
My "C" litter: Anara Coriander (Andi); Anara Coralberry (Sarah); Anara Coreopsis (Toby); and a fourth puppy, a male, who lived for four hours and then died. This litter was delivered in the middle of the afternoon with no trouble, four puppies in two hours. They were rather small, but in the normal range for Cavalier puppies (six ounces or so). This was quite stressful, but the puppies did great once they were on the ground. One puppy did inexplicably stop gaining weight when she was about 12 days old and I had to tube-feed her around the clock for a day or two. She recovered and went on to be a perfectly normal puppy and a beautiful girl. (She is nine years old now and in perfect health.) I wish I had kept a puppy from this litter, because their mother developed pyometra a year later. She was very sick. I spayed her to ensure her survival.
My "D" litter: a single huge puppy (Dara) delivered by scheduled section because the x-ray showed how big she was. She was fine, the mother was fine, and I found out how to raise a single puppy, which presents special challenges. Unfortunately I am now an absolute expert at raising single puppies, but Dara was my first.
My "E" litter: Eibhlin (Eve), Eilionoir (Elli) and Myrddin Emrys (Merlin); a natural birth with big puppies, one of which my vet delivered. I could not have gotten her out myself. Luckily, all three puppies lived. The delivery was terribly stressful, but all these puppies thrived as soon as they were safely born. They were total pigs, gained wait super fast, and never gave me any trouble.
My "F" litter: An emergency section, beautiful Adora's much-hoped-for first litter, which yielded two puppies that had died weeks before and one half-sized live puppy who went through a roller coaster (first thriving, then failing, then repeat) and finally, despite round-the-clock care, died after three and a half weeks. Their eyes are open at three weeks, you know, and they look like puppies. This whole three-week-plus period was appallingly, horrifically stressful.
My second "F" litter: Adora this time had two perfectly nice healthy puppies that thrived from birth, Frivolity (Folly) and Fiddlesticks (Benji), plus unfortunately one puppy that had died probably less than a day before birth. In retrospect I'm sure that both Adora and her mother had problems with premature labor. I never got the chance to try again with Adora, though, because she developed pyometra six months later and I spayed her.
My "G" litter: Kenya had a sudden emergency c-section five days early; one very premature puppy (Giedre) was still alive and to my astonishment actually survived. This was tremendously stressful for the first week, but the puppy thrived with only a modicum of extra help, even though her bones were not fully calcified and she had to be prevented from lying on her chest because her chest started to flatten out.
At this point I figured out that the premature puppy and dead puppy problems were probably being caused by premature labor, so I started working with Whelpwise, a uterine-monitoring service where you get your bitch to lie on a uterine monitor, send the data over the phone line, and thus get information about whether your girl is having contractions and how serious they look.
My "H" litter -- Kenya certainly was having premature labor problems. She sure was. It turned out that Kenya was already having three or four hard contractions every hour a month before she was due. It was very difficult to get her preterm labor stopped. Despite Whelpwise, Honey (Honeysuckle Rose) was the only surviving puppy in this litter.
My "I" litter -- With Whelpwise's help, Gierdre carried three puppies to term. However one faded over ten days - he might have had hydrocephalus -- and then a second perfectly beautiful girl puppy died very suddenly at fourteen days. It was awful and I quit breeding and placed my younger girls out as pets, including Giedre. However, the surviving puppy, Ishmael, was really beautiful despite a slight underbite and I wound up breeding him back to Kenya to see if I could get a really excellent male with a good bite.
My "J" litter -- Kenya conceived three puppies, lost one very early, and produced two living puppies. One appeared to have had a poor placental attachment, probably due to the premature labor issues which were again very difficult to control. He died after 24 hours. The other, Justinian (Jos) was a healthy male puppy who unfortunately, though cute, did not match his father for glamour.
My "K" litter -- which brings us up to the present. As Kenya's daughter, I expected Honey to have trouble with preterm labor. She did. But with help from Whelpwise, she made it to her due date and produced three lovely puppies who all did fine. I'm looking forward to showing Kimberlyn Rose (Kimmie) and Konstantine (Conner). And that's where I am now.
Now let's go back and look just at what breeding costs you in stress:
First Stress Point -- When to breed in order to maximize the chance of getting your girl pregnant?
If you don't really care whether your bitch gets pregnant, the stress level would be a zero or one.
If you have the stud dog on the premises, then the stress level would probably be about a one. You could simply breed the girl as soon as she was willing to stand and then every other day after that until she quit standing. Your chances that she would get pregnant would be really good, assuming that the dog was capable and the bitch normally fertile. Of course things can go wrong. A bigger dog may not be able to successfully breed a smaller girl, or he may not be interested in her -- that does happen. But you should be able to arrange an appointment with a reproductive specialist at the appropriate times if necessary -- that's why you do progesterone tests, to make sure you know when the appropriate times are.
If the stud dog is a ten-hour drive away, everything is harder. You don't want to arrange a candlelight dinner with romantic music for two and then find you are actually three days too early or (worse) too late. Depending on the progress of the season and what the progesterone tests tell you, you may be rearranging your schedule (and the stud owner's schedule) three or four times before the big day.
If you are going to try to do a natural breeding, it looks like this: Take a girl who's just come into season. Do the brucellosis. Notify the stud owner and make sure she'll be at home on the appropriate days. Collect the paperwork required by the CKCSC. Get a DNA collection kit, because her DNA profile will need to be on file with the CKCSC before her puppies can be registered. Guess when to do the first progesterone test, trying to do it right before the LH spike -- the second progesterone hopefully will catch the initial rise in progesterone. Make sure the heart and eye clearances are current and put all the health clearances in a folder, along with directions to the stud dog's home! There's quite a bit to arrange, but if you're organized, everything will be in order.
If you are going to do an artificial insemination, everything is the same except you don't need a brucellosis test. But you do need there not to be an ice storm or a major holiday right when the stud dog's contribution is supposed to be winging its way to you through the friendly skies. If the semen arrives at your vet but the sperm is dead, will there be time to do another overnight shipment? Timing is very tricky with fresh chilled semen and VERY tricky with frozen semen.
Until your girl is successfully bred on appropriate days, the stress level can be pretty high, especially if a shipment arrives with dead sperm.
Second Stress Point -- is she or isn't she?
It's going to be a month before you know whether she's pregnant. You really can't tell. Just try to relax. I do an ultrasound after a month so I will know for sure whether the girl is pregnant and if so how many puppies she is carrying. If she's not pregnant, your troubles are over, so that's not stressful at all, although disappointing.
Stress level -- 1. If she's not pregnant, there's nothing you can do about it. If she is, it's still a waiting game for another month. Try to relax. This is a good time to re-read all your books on whelping and raising a litter.
Third Stress Point -- here comes the litter!
A few days before the litter is due, you may want to x-ray to see how many puppies there are and how they are lying and how big they are. It's possible to undercount the puppies, but usually you get them all. You count their skulls and spines. Look at the tooth buds and the digits of the feet -- if you can see those structures, the puppies are probably viable right now. Let's say there are four puppies, average for a Cavalier, and the size looks okay -- not too huge -- and you can see they are about ready to be born. If your girl has had problems with preterm labor, you want to schedule a c-section. Every single contraction she's been having has probably weakened the placental attachments and you do not want to risk labor as all the puppies could detach and suffocate at the last minute.
Suppose your girl has had no issues with preterm labor and you see no other reason to do a section. Great! But plan for an intensely stressful 24 hours.
You start taking the bitch's temperature twice a day, watching for the temperature to drop to 98 degrees and stay there. If you have a reliable thermometer, that is better. An unreliable thermometer can send your stress level soaring (ask me how I know!). Probably the puppies will arrive within 12-24 hours of the temperature drop. Stay home from work. Cancel appointments and parties. You shouldn't have scheduled anything that close to her whelping date, you know. Watch for her to start panting, pacing, nesting, etc. Plan to stay up all night if she starts panting hard at nine pm.
I've never pulled an all-nighter in my LIFE except when expecting and whelping a litter, btw.
All kinds of things could go wrong once she actually goes into labor. Don't think that after all, animals do this all the time in the wild without help. You have no idea how many of those wild animals die in the process. But you do know that toy breed bitches have puppies much bigger for their pelvic size than, say, Labradors. Cavaliers have fairly large heads, and very large puppies for their size. This does not make whelping easier.
Stuff that can go wrong: a placenta could separate too early. You'd see greenish discharge, and the puppy would be dying in there. Or the discharge could be greenish-black, which means a placenta separated days ago and you have at least one dead puppy in there. Why did the placenta separate early? Are the other puppies at risk? Will she be able to deliver the dead puppy or puppies without help?
She could have primary uterine inertia and never go into hard labor. At least she won't be screaming in agony as you drive to the vet. She could have secondary uterine inertia after delivering some of the puppies, and the last puppy or puppies will die if you don't get her started again. You'll be re-reading your whelping books, right? So you'll be able to guess whether to try giving her glucose or calcium or oxytocin. Of course, if you guess wrong about the oxytocin and cause strong uterine contractions around a puppy she really can't deliver, you'll probably kill the puppy. You might cause her uterus to rupture. Are you sure you want to try the oxytocin?
A puppy could present wrong or be too big. That could cause secondary uterine inertia. Or it could cause the puppy to just get stuck. Here's where your bitch could wind up screaming in pain while you try to help her. Yes, I have been there, and no, it is not fun at all. Those books that tell you how to pull puppies are all very well, but what I learned with my first natural delivery is that you better have someone handy to help you because you will not be able to follow those directions if your bitch is whirling in frantic circles and screaming. In my case, my vet was there, thank God. A friend of mine recently had a stuck puppy that was being delivered rear-feet-first, which happens about 40% of the time with dogs. That puppy died because she could not get it out. It was a nightmare. The second puppy was delivered by emergency c-section and lived.
Suppose a puppy is born weak, flaccid, cool, gasping? That describes the puppy from my "C" litter that lived for four hours and then died. Probably he had a congenital heart or lung defect. But sometimes normal puppies are born weak after a hard delivery. You'll need to try to clear their lungs, get them breathing well, warm them up. You read that part of your whelping books, right? (You HAVE read at least two or three books about whelping, right?)
Stress level -- 10, even on a perfectly normal whelping. Until all the puppies have been delivered, it's a 10 because something could go wrong and cause your poor bitch terrible pain, even kill her, and it would be your fault. Once the puppies are all out, even if a puppy is weak, maybe dying, the stress level falls to about an 8 or less. At least your bitch is okay. If the puppies are all vigorous and nursing, getting the necessary colostrum, and the bitch is fine, then the stress level would fall to about a 5 or even lower as you recover and catch your breath and decide that really everything is fine. If your bitch is an experienced mother and you know she can take care of her puppies, your stress level will drop to about a 2 because once they're out everything should be safe.
If you do a c-section -- well, if you do it in the middle of the night as an emergency, the stress level would be an 8 to a 10, depending on whether your bitch is screaming or whether only the puppies are at risk and not her. If the puppies seem vigorous after a few minutes of work on each one, if their lungs have been cleared and they're crying and you're prepared and have a warm place to put them and a warm box to carry them home in, then the stress level would fall to about a 6 after you're done, and about a 2 once they're all nursing and look normal and healthy. It's perfectly normal for puppies to take up to 12 hours or more to start nursing. Of course it's very reassuring if they nurse immediately.
If you do a scheduled c-section, the bitch is very likely to be fine and there should be plenty of staff to help with the puppies as they're delivered and nobody should have forgotten necessary equipment such as warming boxes. Stress level for a scheduled c-section, about a 4 or so. It's nothing like as stressful (for the breeder) as a normal delivery. But the bitch does have quite a bit of pain from the surgery for four or so days -- more pain and for longer if she is spayed at the time of the section. And she is likely not to really accept her puppies for a while, especially if it was her first litter. It took my Kerah 72 hours to accept her puppies after her first c-section. It is a lot of work for the breeder if the mom is not doing her job, but not too super-stressful as long as the puppies are thriving and the mother is more or less willing to nurse them.
Fourth Stress Point -- Raising the neonatal litter
Newborn puppies are very fragile. If they get chilled, they will die. If you find them in time and warm them up, they may still get pneumonia and die. Most puppies that thrive initially but then die, die of chilling. Many of the rest die of trauma. If the mother steps or lies on them, they could die. Chilling and trauma are the two biggest killers of puppies. Chilling is a big, big threat for the first week, a big threat the second weak, a threat the third week, and after that the puppies are safe. Trauma is also a threat that declines because as the puppies grow and get more vigorous, it gets harder for the mother to lie on one without noticing.
During my most recent litter, when the puppies were three or four days old, one of them had crawled up on her mother. Honey then leaped to her feet, flinging the puppy entirely out of the whelping box onto the cold tile floor. This was a very unlikely event, but if I hadn't been right there, the puppy would certainly have died. Another breeder I know had a newborn puppy crawl up on the mother, slide off her, and fall into a tall, heavy water dish that should have been perfectly safe. The puppy drowned.
This is why I hover so obsessively for the first ten or fourteen days of the puppies' lives. I don't leave new puppies unattended, ever. If I go to take a shower, I put the puppies in a warming box so I can be sure the mother won't lie or step on one. I sleep right next to the whelping box. "Sleep" is a strong term, since really I catnap with a flashlight handy, so I can check immediately if a puppy cries.
Breeders who say that if a puppy dies, it's nature's way of weeding out the unfit or it just 'wasn't meant to be' strike me as nuts. There's nothing wrong with a puppy that got chilled or stepped on. That could have been the best and strongest puppy of the litter. Maybe with a litter of twelve Labradors, they feel it's okay to lose one. Or if they just bred their pet girl to the boy down the block and didn't really plan the litter or care about the puppies? I don't understand breeders who don't hover.
I weigh the puppies twice a day. It seems to me that some Cavalier puppies aren't strong enough or big enough to nurse vigorously enough at first. It takes a certain amount of strength to nurse effectively and the mother may not have enough milk at first if she had a c-section. I've had a puppy that cried and cried even though she seemed to be nursing strongly. Starting on the second day, I tube-fed her, using the directions in my books. She was immediately quiet and happy. I calculated the proper amount to feed an orphan her size and gave her half that amount every four hours for twelve hours, then a quarter of that amount every four hours for twelve hours. After that she was fine. A perfectly good, vigorous puppy with no problems. These days I routinely tube-feed puppies that are noisy or that aren't gaining weight.
I had one puppy who quit gaining weight at twelve days old. I don't know why. Something had weakened her and she couldn't nurse effectively, though she was still trying. Nothing seemed to be wrong with her, she was just weak. I did the same kind of tube-feeding for twenty-four hours, and she was fine after that. A little pig, in fact. A lovely puppy. I can't imagine saying she 'wasn't meant to live' and letting her die. Absolutely nuts.
You've got a book that tells you how to calculate the right amount of formula to give a puppy, right? And you have formula on hand, yes? And tubes? Because a puppy that can't suckle strongly enough from a nipple won't be able to suckle strongly enough from a bottle. And if you feed her from a syringe, you are asking for aspiration pneumonia. If you are not prepared, you will be very stressed if this situation comes up!
Tube feeding for the first time via written directions -- stress level -- 8. Luckily, tube feeding is just as easy as everybody says. Tube feeding the second time -- stress level about a 2. If you have more than one litter, you will soon become an expert at tube-feeding and it won't be stressful at all.
Having a puppy suddenly weaken for no discernable reason -- stress level -- 9. What if she has some kind of infectious disease? What if she has canine herpes? The whole litter could die, one at a time, over the next few days! Until it's clear the puppy is actually fine, the stress level stays sky-high.
Infectious diseases are scary, scary, scary. Reading all your books and all about the possible things that could kill your puppies will punch your stress level up to about a constant level of 7 until the puppies are old enough to be safe. Or at least, that's what happens to me. But you have to read about them so you have a chance of recognizing the symptoms. When I had my first litter, I made a list of all the diseases that can kill puppies and crossed them off as the puppies aged out of the danger zone for each one. That was a little too obsessive even for me, and it made me too tense. I don't plan to look at the list again unless a puppy looks sick.
Fifth Stress Point -- How about the health of the mother?
Associated with the above. Metritis and mastitis could be dangerous both to the bitch and the puppies. Not too stressful, though, unless you have some reason to suspect that either is a problem. Nipples do harden up if the puppies don't nurse from them. The back nipples have plenty of milk, but they're awfully big for a newborn puppy. If those breasts harden and redden, you need to notice and milk them down a little by hand. Also you need to check and make sure the milk from hard, red breasts looks normal, like milk. If there's any sign of blood or pus, that's an emergency and above all keep the puppies away from that breast until you've called your vet and figured out what else to do. But if you check your bitch regularly you should catch potential problems fast, and I can't see how you could avoid checking her all the time, aren't you always hovering over the puppies? Stress about the mother's health hovers about a 2 unless it looks like something is going wrong (never happened to me so far).
Sixth Stress Point -- Selling puppies.
You need enough homes. And they need to be good homes. No selling one of my precious babies to some slick guy fronting for a puppy mill! Or to somebody who will keep it crated all the time! Or to somebody so ignorant she still thinks whapping a puppy with a newspaper is a fine idea! Nope, a buyer needs to seem literate, informed and like she cares about quality as well as price, or I'm pretty suspicious about what kind of home she would provide.
There is stress as long as the last puppy that's for sale hasn't sold, and the stress gets worse as the puppy gets older and less cute. As potential homes fall through or fail to materialize, the stress level tops out at, I don't know, about a 4? Nobody's dying, nobody's in pain, Cavaliers are small and don't cost all that much to feed; now and then somebody is looking for an older puppy, so you'll sell that little guy eventually. True, housetraining three or more puppies at a time is hard because you can only carry one puppy in each hand. But maybe the puppy that doesn't sell will suddenly trot across the yard, you'll glance his way, and WOW he is a LOOKER! Then, even if you didn't plan to keep a boy, maybe you'll decide he doesn't need a new home anyway, at least not until you see how he grows up.
Even so, there is some stress as long as puppies that are for sale haven't sold. You have incurred pretty serious expenses breeding this litter, and it would be nice to clear the expenses. Good luck with that! But every now and then you do manage to break even.
What are those expenses?
1. Buying your first Cavalier. $2500 or so. Do not expect to make this purchase price back by breeding your Cavalier. You probably won't. Just let it be the price for a lovely, sweet pet. Figured over 14 years or so, it's not that much.
2. Normal pet expenses. I don't keep track of those, though I estimate I pay about $1000 / year on food for all my guys put together, and probably something close to that for treats. Normal veterinary care is probably something like $300 / year per dog, not counting puppy vaccinations, but assuming a couple extra vet visits for random things per year. I had three of mine have anal gland abscesses one year, poor guys. Three times I've had to have dogs anesthetized so remarkable grass stem debris could be removed from deep, deep, deep in their ears. Pippa had corneal abrasions about a zillion times one year; I don't know what she was running into, but eventually she stopped running into it, I guess, because she hasn't had an eye injury for a good while now. One year a puppy got really sick and spent a day at the vet for supportive care. Then he got better. It was all very mysterious -- probably some kind of virus. So I figure on two or three unexpected vet visits per year.
3. Normal show expenses. I don't keep track of those either. It costs about $25 per dog per day to enter a show. There's also money for gas and food and, for a more distant show, hotels.
4. Breeding expenses are huge.
4a) Prebreeding health checks. You will need a heart clearance from a board-certified cardiologist. If she hears nothing during normal auscultation, this will cost about $45. If she does hear something, you will need an echocardiogram. This will cost $450 or so. If you decide to get a second opinion (sometimes it's worthwhile), that will cost another $450. Eye clearances will cost less, maybe about $100. Hip clearances are about $200, probably, but at least you only have to do that once instead of every year. If you decide to do an MRI for syringomyelia, that will cost a minimum of $800. If you are using your own stud dog, double all these expenses since you will need to pay for both bitch and dog clearances. If your dog fails an important health check, all expenses so far are a total loss, obviously.
4b) Progesterone tests are about $100. I do the first progesterone at about Day 8 of the season, earlier if I suspect the bitch might be moving through her season faster than average. You try to do the first progesterone early and then repeat progesterones until you catch the initial rise of the hormone. From that information you can pretty well pin down the date of ovulation and plan breeding and whelping dates. Usually you will wind up doing three or four progesterones, for a total cost of something like $300-$400.
4c) If you are using someone else's stud dog, the stud fee will probably be somewhere from $1200 to $2000. Ask what the plan is if your girl fails to get pregnant. Do you get a return service? What if the girl develops pyometra and can't be bred again; can you bring a different girl to that dog instead? What if the dog is not suitable for the other girl; can you use a different stud dog? Work all this out ahead of time because complications do come up.
4d) If you are doing an artificial insemination, you, as the bitch owner, will pay all associated expenses, which means collection, shipping, and insemination. If you do two inseminations, this will cost at least $500 and maybe more.
4e) If you are doing a natural breeding, travel expenses will certainly add up to that much, plus you may wind up doing artificial insemination anyway if there is a problem.
4f) An ultrasound to confirm pregnancy will cost about $140.
4g) If you suspect your girl will have trouble with preterm labor, Whelpwise will hopefully have a monitor available for your use. Their services will cost somewhere between $600 to $800, probably.
4h) If you decide to deliver your puppies via a c-section, that will cost between $400 and $1000 depending on your vet. If your vet is competent, sections are much safer for the puppies than natural deliveries. (If your vet is not competent, seriously, you should switch vets.) If you do a natural delivery and lose one puppy because it gets stuck, you will wish you'd done a c-section. If the first puppy gets stuck and you lose two more while rushing to the vet, you will *really* wish you'd done a c-section. (That's never happened to me, but it's happened to people I know.)
4i) You will need a whelping box, maybe a whelping nest (a round heated inset for your whelping box), formula, tubes and syringes, whelping pads, whatever. Lots of this stuff only has to be bought once (the whelping box) or is inexpensive (puppy formula).
4j) Puppy vaccinations, puppy microchips, puppy pads, whatever. I don't really keep track of those expenses, since I kind of think of them as "ordinary pet expenses."
You can assume that if you use a good stud dog that someone else owns, you will be paying about $3000 - $5000 depending on whether your bitch needs help from Whelpwise and whether she successfully delivers naturally. Are you using your own stud dog (Are you sure he is suitable? Do you plan to produce mediocre puppies for undiscerning puppy buyers or are you aiming for top-quality puppies? Are you SURE he is worth using? Do you plan to use him again on his own daughters? If not, will you buy another male?)? Anyway, if you do use your own dog, you can assume you will be paying about $2000 - $3000. If you only get one or two puppies, you will lose money unless you sell them both. If you get three puppies, you might break even if you keep one.
The average litter size in Cavaliers is supposed to be four puppies, but in twelve litters I have never had that many living puppies from a litter. Twice I have had zero living puppies from a litter. My average litter size is less than two. You cannot count on five puppies, or four, or three -- or any. You can't count on an easy, successful natural delivery; you may be looking at an emergency c-section to deliver one live puppy -- or remove one dead puppy. I've been there, paying for all the expenses of a litter and getting absolutely nothing when the single puppy conceived died two days before his due date.
Unless you are prepared to eat a *big* financial loss and deal with a *lot* of stress, you are far better off buying a nice puppy from a reputable breeder.
Whelping is not a recreational experience for a bitch. Unless you are prepared to deal with your girl suffering pain, possibly even dying, you are better off spaying her. To reduce the risk to her, you really ought to read about whelping so you will recognize emergencies like eclampsia. Also, all intact bitches are at risk from pyometra. Usually this is a concern for older bitches, but I have had a bitch get pyo at three years and one at five years. Pyo is an emergency. Bitches die of pyo. It's hard to diagnose, but you should watch for any signs of your bitch feeling sick a month after any season, whether she has been bred or not.
Puppies die, sometimes at birth, which is not so bad, but sometimes when they are several weeks old. This is just as heartbreaking as it sounds. Unless you are okay with your children witnessing not only the miracle of birth, but also the crushing sadness of death, you are better off spaying your girl.
There's no rush to spay a girl, incidentally. There are health benefits to letting her go through one or two seasons first. I recommend waiting till she's 18 months or so. She will be less prone to UTI issues and because she's been allowed to mature, less prone to joint problems. Just thought I'd mention that while on the topic.
Why breed at all if it's so stressful and expensive?
1. To try to contribute to the general improvement of the breed. No, really. I can't help it if that sounds corny. With every litter, you hope for a puppy what will go beyond cute to true greatness.
2. To create beautiful, healthy dogs for yourself and others to love as pets and show off in the ring.
3. Because it's a tremendous lift when a puppy buyer calls you three weeks after buying a puppy and tells you how wonderful the puppy is and how the whole family loves him and they're so glad they bought him and he's just lovely and everyone admires him. Or when you get a Christmas card a year after you sell the puppy and the buyers rave like that. No one holds this out as a reason to breed, and I didn't expect it, but it's a great feeling, believe me. Thank you for telling me you love your puppy! It means a lot!
4. Because when I look at my Adora or Ish or one of my other babies, I sometimes find myself thinking, I created this dog. Without me, she wouldn't exist. The world is just objectively a better place because Dora exists, and I created her.
It is hard to describe the feeling this realization gives me. Proud and possessive and smug and maternal and humble all at once. I know that some of those feelings seem like they should be mutually exclusive. I can't help that.
This feeling is an even less expected and even more powerful lift than hearing great things from puppy buyers.
I don't know why other people breed their dogs. But that's why I breed mine.