Havanese and Pomeranian breeder Terra Penner, owner of TerraMarie Pomeranians in Riley Alberta, got a big surprise this Canada Day from her female Havanese named Arrow; delivery of a whopping 11 puppies.

“In my practice we deal with quite a few breeders and any litters of that size have generally been from larger breed dogs,” said veterinarian Dr. Jim Neufeld of Beaverhill Veterinary in Tofield. “I’ve delivered up to 15 or 16 puppies from one litter but that was a larger size breed of dog. A Havanese is not that large a breed of dog.”

The Havanese, also the national dog of Cuba, is a smaller breed usually reaching an adult weight of 7 – 14lbs. They are slightly longer than they are tall and known as ‘velcro dogs’ due to their love of physical contact. Havanese are likely to carry between one and nine puppies during a pregnancy with an average litter size of four. Although Arrow is slightly larger for her breed, being 14 pounds, she carried and delivered the hefty lot with ease. Needing no additional care during her pregnancy or assistance during her labor, Arrow brought her second litter of puppies into the world in six hours.

Dr. Neufeld went on to explain the odds that a dog the size of Arrow could conceive that many puppies, carry them to term and then successfully deliver them would range from 1 in 10,000 to 1 in 50,000. A healthy, well maintained dog with good nutrition would have the best chance of achieving what Arrow has. In Dr. Neufeld’s 45 years practicing veterinary medicine, this is the first time he has seen it.

“We thought when she had her last litter, that this would be the end of the big litters and her next one would probably be smaller,” said breeder Terra Penner, noting Arrow’s last litter, which was also her first, held nine puppies. “She was larger with this one, but we really thought she was just carrying a bit of extra weight from her last litter a year ago. We had no idea how many puppies there were.”

The Canadian Kennel Club, a non-profit organization who is the primary registry body for purebred dogs in Canada, began keeping records of litter sizes in 1985. Since that time only one other litter of havanese puppies has compared to the size of Penner’s havanese lot. Last September a havanese litter was registered from Edmonton Alberta with a size of 11 puppies as well.

Penner shows and breeds Pomeranians primarily and has only recently begun to include havanese in her breeding program. After parents are carefully selected and health tested, they are then bred to produce dogs that will be healthy and, for some, champions in the show ring. When the pups are born, ones that exhibit promise will be kept back for development into show dogs while others will be placed into carefully chosen pet homes under a strict non breeding contract. Pups are usually spoken for before they are born.

“Once the pups turn seven weeks, they will see the vet for their first round of vaccinations and check ups,” explained Penner. “If the vet gives the ok, the pups will be ready for their new homes at eight weeks.”

Penner said she begins breeding the females at approximately two years of age. They will have between three and four litters in their lifetime with her before they are spayed and placed into pet homes. Although this is only Arrow’s second litter, Penner said she will be spayed as soon as the pups are weaned. Arrow is 3.5 years old.

“Twenty puppies are a lot for one dog to produce,” Penner added. “I would never make her go through another pregnancy.”

People have many reasons for wanting to purchase a purebred puppy versus one from an animal shelter. Their reasons include the extensive genetic testing done on the parents, knowledge of a dog’s lineage, or are looking for certain characteristics that are associated with a specific breed.

Today, there is legitimate fear and concern regarding the purchase of a puppy unknowingly from a back-yard breeder. Also known as puppy mills, these operations have an unreasonable number of canine parents living their entire lives in small unhygienic environments with limited food, health care, or ventilation, and have puppies at every heat cycle in order to maximize profits. While Alberta has some laws protecting these animals, there is still much work to be done.

Dr. Neufeld has some tips on how to ensure you are purchasing your puppy from a responsible breeder.

  • Ask for references from other purchasers.
  • Ask to see the breeding operation. Some less reputable ones will want to meet you in a parking lot somewhere instead of letting you see where your puppy is coming from.
  • Check with the Canadian Kennel Club.
  • Ask for the name of the Kennel’s main veterinarian. Most veterinarians will happily speak to a prospective buyer with permission from the kennel’s owner due to confidentiality agreements.

In addition, according to the Guinness Book of World Records, the largest litter of puppies ever recorded was 24 and born to a Neapolitan Mastiff in the UK in 2004. One of the puppies was still born and three more died the first week.

Written by: Jana Semeniuk

Twitter @jana_semeniuk

news@threesixtyalberta.com