Imagine for a moment that every room in your house is full of dachshund pups. Sounds pretty heavenly, right? That dreamy dachshund land is breeder Sherry Snyder’s reality. After bringing home a dachshund of her own and quickly falling in love with the breed, Sherry realized that one pup wasn’t enough and set off to learn everything she needed to in order to breed doxie pups in the most thoughtful, caring way possible. Below, Sherry shares a behind-the-scenes look at the world of dachshund breeding.
How did you get started breeding dachshunds?
I'm a single mom, and my youngest is autistic. When we got our first dachshund — a smoothhaired — it was the first time I had ever seen my son make a connection to a living creature. Unfortunately, the breeder gave me the dog at five weeks. I didn’t know very much about dachshunds at the time, so I didn’t know any better, but he was way too little to be thrown into a new environment away from his mom. We got a second dachshund shortly after because I wanted him to have a companion for when my son Cole was at school and I was at work, and Cole was just so connected to these dogs. That was when I started thinking about breeding. Ultimately, I wanted to share the joy that we had with dachshunds with other people, but I wanted to do it the right way.
What are the first things to consider if you’re thinking about breeding?
First, it’s important to think about scale. For instance, all of our dogs live in the house with us. We have little packs in different rooms because of personality differences, and so each room is gated off. There's a doxie world in every room of my house. I have whelping tents set up in my bedroom and all the puppies are born, bred, and raised there so that the mama can watch over everybody to make sure all her pups are safe. Personally — though I don’t judge anybody if it’s what works for them — having a kennel of dogs in the back just isn’t for me.
I’m also very adamant about genetics. I think it's the breeders job to understand the genetics of their line, to learn about the health testing, and to keep up with the latest health information. That kind of thing is not up to new puppy parents to keep track of. A puppy parent comes to me because they want a companion — a little buddy for life. They shouldn't have to worry about whether the genetics were correct, if the bite was correct, or whether there’s any history of health issues in the line that they should be concerned about.
I've personally met every breeder — nationally and internationally, except for one — that I've ever done business with so that I could meet their dogs and see where my puppy was coming from. That way, I could see the type of facility they were coming from, and also talk to them about the genetics of their line. A breeder should know to ask about overbite, underbite, cancer, patella issues, and other common dachshund health concerns of anyone that they’re getting a dog from to bring into their program.
Beyond the health and genetics of an animal, what else do you look for in dachshunds that you’re going to breed?
I look for temperament. I want to make sure that a dog is pretty calm and that they get along well with other animals. I want them to be both loving and independent, so that they’re affectionate companions but also not on top of me 24/7. With dachshunds, you could have 10 dachshunds and you're going to have 10 different personalities, but I try to ensure they’re as well-rounded as possible, personality-wise.
In order to give females a full chance to develop, they shouldn't be bred until they're about two. With that said, when I look at breeding a female, I also go by how mature she is. When they’re two, if they're still very puppy-like in terms of temperament, then they're not ready to be a mom yet. I’ll wait a little longer to breed then, even if it means not having as many litters. I also will only breed a maximum of four times, but if delaying her first litter only means two or three litters out of that female, that's okay too. The health of the animal has to come first, not the sale of the puppy.
What happens when a dog is done breeding?
My females are between four and five years old when they retire. I will breed two times, wait a year, and then I'll breed two more times. It’s never any more than four litters for one of my females, and it gives her body plenty of time to recover. As far as the males go, they can technically breed up to age 10 without a DNA test, and the AKC will allow you to breed a male up to age 12 with a DNA test on file. I personally don’t breed my males for that long. In my opinion, at age five, a dog is potty trained and past their chewing and bad behavior phase. They’re past their puppy phase, really, and they’re still young enough that they can adapt to a new home and love a new family without it being detrimental to their emotional well-being. I retire all my males and females around age five and rehome them.
Is there anything that you wish you would have known about breeding before you started?
I wish people would talk more about the day to day of breeding, because you’re not really prepared for it until you experience it. I learn new things every day. People think that I've been breeding for 20 or 30 years when they talk to me, but my first litter just turned four. I haven’t been breeding for forever — I just did a lot of research before I started.
I wish more breeders would go over some of the learning experiences along the way. For instance, my pups now go home litter box trained. Once, when I was delivering a puppy five hours away in West Texas, he kept retching during the car ride. I just thought he was nervous from the trip, until about three hours into the trip he finally threw up and I realized that he had thrown up a two-inch piece of plastic from the back of the pee pad. It could have killed the puppy. After that, I started researching and came across litter box training, which has been incredible. I use grass pellets in the litter box so that the pups are used to the smell of grass and the uneven texture of it when they walk, which means they’re a lot easier to potty train once they get to their homes. I don’t think breeders really talk about those types of things enough.
How would you recommend that someone find a breeder when they’re looking to get a dog of their own?
It’s really hard nowadays because dachshund breeders are on every street corner — they know there’s a market for it. Recommendation by someone that you respect is the only way to go. I can find a breeder online and research them, but unless you know someone who knows that person, you only know what that breeder wants you to see.
What would you want to tell a new dachshund parent before they got their first doxie?
The first thing I tell people about dachshunds is that if you’re looking for a cute dog that’s going to be a pet, don’t get a dachshund. Dachshunds are little people in fur clothing. They’re like toddlers, except they’re like toddlers for their entire lives. Since they’re so smart, you always have to be one step ahead of them. They’ll talk back to you when you tell them no, and then they’ll do it anyway. I always want to make sure that new dachshund parents understand that dachshunds are always looking for ways to outsmart you. But they’re also so addictive. It’s hard not to have at least two!