Points to consider before breeding your Bonaforte Wolfhound

We are occasionally asked  by owners about breeding, so we have decided to lay out a few points for you to consider.  

Firstly it can be fraught with difficulties and Irish Wolfhounds are not the easiest to mate or whelp, or rear pups.   If you overcome all the hurdles set before you,  you then need to be in a position to offer help and advice to owners, especially those who are new to the breed, as living with a giant hunting hound can throw up some challenges!  

There is a need  for health conscientious Irish Wolfhound breeders out there, but starting can be very frustrating.  It took me 4 years to have my first litter, and then 3 came along all at once!  What a nightmare!  

Research has also shown that maximum fertility is reached around the age of 3, and I feel this is especially true for our breed.  Some bitches tend to physically and mentally mature late and it is nice to allow them time to enjoy the energy and vitality they have reaching their maturity.  In addition this allows time to check for any health issues which may ensue, plus it gives you time to heart test.  My preferred option if you are going to breed is to heart test every 6 months, and this applies to both dogs and bitches.  Sometimes you may have to acknowledge that you will be unable to breed with your beloved hound for whatever reason.  However sad or frustrated this makes you, you should never love them any less, and this should make you appreciate the one you have, because breeding isn't easy.

At Bonaforte, we may make it look so, but the truth is there is a lot of background preparation work which takes place, ensuring we have  fit and healthy hounds.  Many of my girls, and boys will never have a litter, and  sometimes that decision is made for us.  You need to understand your hound, and their needs and most of all you need to accept the outcome.  When you eventually get your bitch in whelp, you must remember, you are her "Doula".  This involves you being with her at all times, she will look to you for 24hr assistance, to feed her, to ensure her pups are feeding, to clean her and her brood, to protect them in sickness and in health.  Breeding is a massive commitment, do not enter into this lightly and certainly do do not enter into this unless you can give 100% of your time for 10 weeks minimum. 

Guidelines of our Breeding Protocol

There are many things to consider and take into account when contemplating breeding a dog such as an Irish Wolfhound. The following list is by no means exhaustive, but all the points are crucial and should be examined in great detail before proceeding: 

Experience – what experience do you have of breeding dogs and whelping and rearing puppies? Breeding any type of dog can have pitfalls and Wolfhounds are renowned for being one, if not THE trickiest breeds on the planet. They do not make a good breed to be a starting point as every stage from mating and conception through to the birth of the puppies and their upbringing is fraught with difficulties. Even Wolfhound breeders with years of experience often still face huge setbacks and lose entire litters of puppies. 

Facilities – is it essential to have the room, equipment, time and people to breed and rear a Wolfhound litter and an experienced vet on standby. The bitch will need a clean, quiet and separate place for whelping and you will also need to have separate areas for her and the puppies at various times of the day and night, away from all other dogs in the household, visitors and family members. Having a litter of puppies will seriously impact upon your life and you will be greatly restricted for the whole  10 weeks the puppies are at home, plus at least a week to 10 days before they are born. 

For the first 3 weeks minimum, the puppies and their mum cannot be left alone for a second and must be watched constantly, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. This typically means that at least 2 people will have a full time job just puppy sitting and when they are not watching the puppies that person will be sleeping! 

Breeders will go through an enormous amount of bedding materials, disinfectant, food of various descriptions, worming products, antibiotics................................and many other items. 

Finance – there is no getting away from the fact that breeding a litter of Wolfhounds is an expensive business and breeders must have a financial buffer in case of complications, as well as the anticipated costs. Most people contemplating breeding a litter expect costs such as the stud dog fee, some puppy food and perhaps some bedding material, but there are many other hidden costs which can quickly mount up, not to mention unexpected vet bills if the bitch or the puppies has complications at any point. A bitch that we bred ended up having a Caesarean after getting into difficulty during whelping and 2 weeks after the puppies were born she also developed serious mastitis, that not even the vet could keep it under control. She had to be hospitalised and undergo emergency surgery; the resulting vet bill was over £4000. 

Health – any bitch or dog, which is being considered for breeding, must be in optimum health and fitness. The bitch must be over 2 and half, ideally 3 and be considered to be mature. All our puppies are endorsed when sold as “progeny not eligible for registration” and your puppy contract will outline the requirements for this endorsement to be lifted. Essentially the bitch/dog must pass a veterinary inspection and be given a clean bill of health in a written report, plus she/he must also undergo a 3 stage heart test (within the last 12 months) carried out by a veterinary cardiologist and be tested clear/normal on both aspects. The reasons for such stringent testing are obvious; you must ensure that the Wolfhound does not display any defects or illnesses which could be passed onto the puppies. In addition, a fit and healthy hound will cope with the stress of mating and rigours of whelping much better than one that is unfit. However, please be aware that pregnancy in dogs has many of the same hazards as pregnancy in humans and there is always the possibility that the bitch may die during whelping or afterwards! As well as the health of the parents, the puppies state of health must also be taken into account and puppies must be liver shunt tested before they can go to new homes, vet checked, wormed from 2 weeks of age and then every 2 weeks after that and ideally at least first vaccinations completed before they leave you. 

You will need to have a good vet, who can help from start to finish, and also be there to health check the puppies before they leave for their new homes.  If in any doubt during the breeding process and especially during whelping you must contact your vet.  Never as a breeder adopt the wait and see approach in an attempt to save money. 

Owners – if all goes well and a beautiful litter of puppies are reared then obviously the majority,  (as we would hope that the reason for breeding was you were going to keep one of these puppies) will go to new homes. Whilst the breed is highly sought after due to the small amount of puppies produced each year, finding good homes for them is never easy. As a breeder (because that’s what you become when you breed a litter) you have a huge responsibility to find suitable homes for the puppies and also you must be prepared to have puppies come back to you at any point. Could you accommodate one or even several puppies coming back to you at 10 weeks onwards?

The same restrictions and conditions  apply for the males too.  We need to ensure they are fit along with their heart health, as once the restriction is lifted they can go on to sire 100's of puppies in their life time.   If they have inherited problems later in life, this can affect the health of the many hounds he sired. 

We support owners who wish to breed, but please do not be shocked if we won't lift breeding restrictions, it's because we care about the future of the breed, not because we don't want you to breed!