Our Ethics and Breeding Policy
French Purebred Registry Policy to Date
Our breed club (the BHCF) and parent registry (the SCC) have laws in place to protect the welfare of the dogs it governs. They require that a female not be bred before 15 months of age and be no older than 9 years of age for her final litter. They do permit females to be bred back-to-back with a maximum of 3 litters in a row before she is required to rest. With some breeds, the SCC does not allow a female to be bred for the first time after 3 years of age (recent change to the bylaws). Her first breeding must also be done naturally and not via AI (Artificial Insemination) unless you have a derogation. These laws must be respected if you wish for your puppies to be recorded in their registry and issued official pedigrees.
We used to wait until a female was at least 3 years of age before breeding her (sometimes even 4 years of age if we were titling her). She would generally produce one litter per year up to perhaps 8 years of age and then she would be retired (for a total of 3 or 4 litters max in her lifetime). We were so fixated on a female’s maturity before reproducing her, that it caused us to look past the issues that would arise such as mother / infant bonding disorder (rejection of puppies), dystocia (from slow dilation to “lazy contractions”), and false pregnancy (phantom pregnancies)… the list is long.
Of course, no matter how responsible a breeder is, mistakes can and do happen to even the best of us (an intern forgets to close a park gate all the way, for example, and turns her back to do something else, and voila!)... in which case, derogations may be granted. Despite our own stellar record of ZERO mistake matings, we have only ever had an "oops" litter once (Spring 2023) and you can be sure it will never happen again. However, for the sake of transparency, those puppies were all beautiful and healthy, and the mother did exceptionally well under our very diligent loving care (she was just shy of 15 months of age at the time of the accidental breeding, and she had already been confirmed before a judge with her DNA and health panel complete). In fact, she is still doing fantastically well and bounced back into top physical condition very quickly after weaning her puppies. Registries were notified of the incident, and the puppies were registered and sold with official pedigrees. Why did we choose not to give her the “Mismate” injection (Aglepristone Anti-Progesterone Injection) to abort the pregnancy? Because it was our reproductive specialist who advised against it, as it would have been potentially more harmful to her than to simply give birth and be allowed to raise her babies, all things considered. She knows our dogs well, as do we, and so we went against our own grain and outside of our comfort zone in the hope that we were doing the right thing for her, and it was. We chose to make sure that this was a positive experience for her in every way possible, and it turned out to be the right choice. The birth was quick and smooth, the puppies were in excellent health, and she was an outstanding mother the whole way through. We share this experience with you now because it helped us to evaluate and second-think how we worked and enabled us to see a better perspective that we refused to see before. It helped us to make better decisions for our dogs and for the future of our program. Younger females fare much better than older females as first-time mothers. This is a fact that has been shared with us before by others but that we always shunned until we were forced to experience it ourselves. This “mistake” was actually a small blessing in disguise and led us to make the changes we needed to... as it's the natural order of things in life. To want to change, improve where we can, and evolve for the better.
To be clear, we are in no way promoting that people breed their females so young. Females should be allowed to finish their growth and reach mental and emotional maturity before we ask them to be mothers. That said, with much reflection on our experiences, we decided to amend our breeding policy and begin breeding females younger and retiring them earlier. We find this to be much better for the females and healthier for the puppies. We are now breeding our females as of their third heat cycle or 2nd year of age (whichever comes first), she will only produce one litter a year (as always), and we will retire her from breeding at about 6 years of age (at our discretion, depending on her health and condition). If we feel a female should be retired earlier, she will be. We will also no longer produce winter litters. From now on, puppies will only be on the ground between Spring and Fall. Winter is a time for rest, rejuvenation, and reflection.
As always, we make sure that a female is both a quality candidate for reproduction and in her peak physical condition before breeding her. The first heat cycles for our breed/maternal lines are at about 8 to 9 months of age. As indicated above, we now breed at the 3rd heat (between 21 to 24 months of age) when she has finally finished maturing and passes our prerequisites for breeding such as genetic health screening and temperament/character tests. Is she stable? Is she social? Do we think she would make a good mother? Will she be an asset to our program? Has she been able to reach her physical potential in size and has she passed before a judge and been confirmed for reproduction? Has her DNA and other requirements for registration been completed? Does she have full dentition? What are her strengths? Does she possess any flaws or breed faults that we should eliminate her from our program? Do we have access to the right male to compliment her? Please remember, our dogs are followed closely by our reproductive veterinarian before ever considering breeding them. We always put the dog first. This is not a decision made on a whim. We've bent over the research and involved both our own personal reproductive veterinarian in our decision as well as sought advice from France’s best reproductive clinic in the south of France before moving ahead with this.
Our studs are not bred until at least 24 months of age, have been confirmed before a judge, have been DNA registered, cleared their genetic health panel, and have proven themselves in some capacity such as successfully performing in a discipline in an exemplary way. Such as a sport or conformation exposition or have earned a certification in a real-world work application such as security/police work, search and rescue, mantrailing, detection, or hunting. Our dogs are bred to be versatile, healthy, and stable.