Is Your Bitch Top Notch?
Most breeders start off by owning a bitch they plan to breed. Before you even head out to check out the stud dogs available, you need to very objectively evaluate your bitch. She should be purebred and pedigreed through a reputable registry. The pedigree information helps you to avoid close breedings and any known health problems in the breed.
At a minimum, you need a three-generation pedigree on your bitch and the stud dog to plan a breeding. A three-generation pedigree will show your dog's parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents. Think of these as architectural plans!
A bitch used for breeding should be at least two years old so that permanent health screenings can be done. Virtually every dog used for breeding needs to have orthopedic clearances, up-to-date eye checks, and a current thyroid level evaluation. Different breed clubs stress different clearances, so be sure you are familiar with the genetic problems in your breed. For example, responsible Dalmatian breeders evaluate their breeding dogs and any puppies they produce for deafness, a genetic defect in this breed. Basic responsible breeding means trying to minimize the chances that you might produce an unhealthy pup.
Before your bitch goes into heat, you should double-check to be sure her vaccinations are up to date. A fecal check and preventive wormings should be done now as well. You want her pups to start life with good maternal immunity and to be as free from parasites as possible.
Vaccinating a pregnant bitch, especially with a modified live vaccine, could lead to birth defects in the puppies. Always vaccinate your bitch well ahead of time, after discussing all options with your veterinarian.
Structure and Temperament
As well as being healthy, you want your bitch to be a good representative of the breed both in structure and in temperament. If possible, have a respected mentor in your chosen breed objectively evaluate her — this is often the person who bred her in the first place. Dog shows are another way to get an evaluation of your dog. Has she earned a conformation championship? In many breeds, it is also expected that your bitch has shown she is a competent example of her breed. For herding dogs, that means competing in herding trials, while sporting dogs are expected to compete in field trials or hunt tests, sight hounds are expected to do lure coursing, and terriers should have been in earthdog trials. All breeds should be capable of earning obedience titles and possibly doing some agility. There are plenty of homeless dogs out there, so if you are going to breed a litter, you want to produce only the best!