#08 – Should Dog Breeders Make Money?

by | Jul 1, 2021 | Business Management, People Management

I’m not sure where the whole idea of breeders making money meaning they were cutting corners came about. It is really odd if you think about it. Take cattle ranchers for example, they breed cows every year, they raise the babies, then sell them at 16 months of age to be turned into beef. No one questions that, that’s what they do. Yet people question dog breeders for making a profit, and in contrast dog breeders are bringing puppies into their world with the hopes that they will be family members, an emotional support animal, or a solution to difficult problem, like police dogs assisting the men in blue.

When you make a good product, you should make a profit. No one builds a giant manufacturing plant to give away free cars. Farmers don’t spend a ton of money on chicken feed so that they can give away their eggs. It simply doesn’t work that way. When you spend time and money on something, you expect to be compensated for that time and money.

Of course there is an intrinsic reward to breeding dogs. It is beautiful to watch new life be born into the world, it’s also hard to be in a bad mood while watching clumsy puppies running around playing, and my favorite moment is when you had over that beautiful puppy to a family and you get a glimpse of all the beautiful memories that are about to create. It’s why I breed. It’s fun, rewarding, and challenging.

Aside from the passion I have for breeding, I also enjoy getting financially compensated for all the time and effort I have put into the dogs. It’s a lot of time, it’s a lot of poop, and it’s not always sunshine and rainbows. The money makes all that investment of my time possible. Not to mention that it keeps peace in the family because my breeding program is not asking my family to sacrifice time and money for my program.

Money is also one of the gauges on your success as a breeder

You see, if you aren’t making money, then something is missing in your program.

In most businesses, the beginning is where the investment goes, both in time in money. You have the financial threshold of entry, which is basically the amount of money it takes to get the business up and running, in the case of dogs, that would be your breeding female, and potentially your male, as well as the cost to get them tested, and whatever else you need to manage them, like food, vet bills, etc.

You also invest time in educating yourself. You have to learn about the heat cycles, about whelping puppies, raising puppies, and you’ll need to find a way to place your puppies in quality homes.

You’re more likely to have problems in the beginning, too. When I first started breeding, I didn’t know what giardia was, a stupid protozoan infection that my stud dog had came to me with, infected my yard, and got many puppies sick, I lost a few of them in the beginning. It was costly, not just in losing puppies, but in time, worry, anxiety, confidence, facility management, and, of course, vet bills.

The learning curve on breeding is steep. You have to learn a lot, and fast, otherwise you’ll lose too many puppies or struggle to sell them, which leaves you stuck with them. Many breeders step out of breeding at this point, it feels like there isn’t a reward, just heartache and anxiety, coupled with financial loss. With that experience, why would you want to continue being a dog breeder?

If you can get through the steep learning curve, then you should make money.

It’s essentially a formula: the unexpected bills go down, the overhead is reduced, you have more viable puppies, and the price of the dogs is goes up with your reputation and experience. This is how you make profit in honest dog breeding.

It is never about cutting corners. Honestly, cutting corners whether that’s feeding a cheaper food, skimping on vet care, or buying cheaper breeding stock, they all cost you more money in the end and will fail to produce you a breeding program you love. We’ll dive into the many ideas of cutting corners on another episode, but it is never a pathway toward a successful breeding program.

Breeders Need to Make Money

Do you remember at your first place, things didn’t really work as well as you wanted? That silverware drawer in the kitchen might have slipped off the guides? The shower head had that hard water crusted on it and it sprayed in all directions? Maybe you remember how that spring in your mattress like to make itself known to your lower back?

Then when you made a little money you either upgraded places or spent a little money making things better, I’m sure you at least upgraded your shower head, anything I have to do before coffee needs to be quality because my brain just doesn’t work at that hour.

In those first few years as a breeder, things will be a lot like your first place, they won’t be perfect, but they’ll help you get better.

There is no glory in running a breeding business that is constantly in the red, not only stressing you out, but putting a strain on your family. There isn’t room for martyrdom in breeding, because if it isn’t repeatable and profitable, then something isn’t right.

When you make money as a breeder, you get to make improvements in your breeding program. Let’s go over the ways making money can build a breeding business you love:

1. You get to feed better food to your dogs

Some dogs do better on grain-free, while others rice. Many dogs do well on raw diets. We know that hormones can be affected by cheap ingredients. When you feed the best diet to your dogs that you can, your dogs are healthier, and that doesn’t just mean their coats are prettier and there is less shedding for you to clean. It means their joint health is better, their eyes are clearer, and they are happier dogs because their system is working as it should.

In a breeding program, it means healthier sperm, a female who cycles on the regular, who drops more healthy eggs and who whelps healthier puppies. She will be a better mother because her system isn’t stressed out, which means she will be more patient with her pups and take better care of them. She will have a better milk supply, with higher butterfat, which makes those little babies fat like we like them. She will bounce back within a few weeks post weaning, and will cycle again when she’s supposed to.

With money you can give your dogs the supplements they need, when they need them, further improving health and quality of life.

Better quality feeding means less vet bills, too. Because your dogs are healthier, it will take more to shake their system, they’ll be more resistant to parasites, less prone to injury, and you’ll reduce your odds of costly reproductive problems, like c-sections.

Your dogs will age better, have a higher quality of life, and your mind will be at ease because you know you’re giving them the best.

Want to Get the Roadmap to a Successful Breeding Program?

2. You’ll be able to afford better vet care

When I was still relatively new, I made a pretty big mistake in my exercise pen. I used to work retail and people knew I bred my shorthairs, often I would take a dog up to the shop so people could see them. Someone had requested to meet one of my more seasoned mama dogs, so I brought her to work with me.

I had had more dogs in the exercise pen than I should’ve, taking out my seasoned mom had shifted the pecking order just enough that a fight had broken out.

When I came home that evening, it was late, about dark, and my new little breeding female who was just 6 months old was hiding under the shed that the exercise pen was attached to. I got her out and nearly passed out when I saw that her rear leg was dangling at the hock, clearly both bones were broken.

You guys are probably a bit tougher than me, but man, I get a little queasy when I see that stuff and I’m not anticipating it…I am better now, but yeah, it still makes my stomach turn.

Anyways, we were lucky our local vet was able to operate a day later, he was a bone specialist and amazingly he was able to put her back together, it wasn’t a cheap surgery, even thought they cut me a break because I’m in there enough.

It’s been 5 years and she’s great, you can’t tell from her movement, but her bone is a little thicker where it healed. Having the money from breeding allowed me to pay for that surgery. It allowed me to go the more expensive route and opt to try and save her leg and not just amputate it. She’s a wonderful dog and a great mama. She has produced many great dogs including my most recent stud.

Many breeders are made or broken by their veterinarian care. It is the wild card that can cost you an entire litter, and choosing not to get the right care can cost you your mama dog or your puppies.

When you have the financial resources to cover these emergencies, and quality vet care in general, you no longer consider the financial ramifications of getting a dog checked, you just go and do it, and usually that means the dogs are getting better vet care, sooner.

And, you save yourself the guilt, the what-ifs that your brain rolls through when a dog dies and you didn’t get them to the vet in time.

3. You’ll have better facilities

I believe that facilities will make or break your breeding program. The status of facilities determines if your dogs have enough exercise, a comfortable and safe place to lay for the night, and often dictates if they’ll suffer from parasites, not to mention it keeps your sanity.

Making money allows you to acquire the right facilities. Depending on where you are at in your breeding program, that may mean more exercise pens, or an actual building where your dogs are housed, safely and comfortably.

Before I was good at reading who was coming into heat and such, I had to break up a few dog fights, it sucks. It is hard to do, especially if the dogs rival your own size, and nothing is more embarrassing than having a dog fight break out while you have prospective puppy buyers coming to look at your dogs.

I now have various pens, separate kennel lanes for each dog so they can be fed separately, I have pens I can use to show people individual dogs, away from the other dogs. It makes it so much easier.

In addition to pens, you can put more money into a whelping area. For me this means much easier cleaning. I like to have a whelping pen that I can easily mop each day, I mean it’s not that puppies are messy, okay, wait, yeah, they are totally messy. Part of making things easier to clean means that you’ll have less issues with parasites or transmission of protozoan infections to your puppies, this leads to less vet bills again, as well as reduced odds of losing a puppy.

With more money you can even do great things like have a separate room or building for dog supplies. It is nice to keep the dog stuff organized and in its own spot. That way you aren’t putting dog dewormer next to your kids’ cereal in the pantry.

I also get to keep more inventory with dog supplies because of money, so I buy microchips 25 at a time, I buy flats of vaccinations, I buy dog food by the pallet. I also have a plethora of wound care items so I can quickly manage anything—we do live in the desert, and I’m not sure if you’ve been to the high desert recently, but everything her tries to kill you, lots of sharp plants, fire ants, rattlesnakes, and black widows.

4. You can buy better breeding stock

One of the best things you can do for your program is buy great breeding dogs. In the beginning this is so key because those first few dogs are your whole foundation, but later on, when you need to add genetic diversity, you’ll want to spend some money on better dogs.

Making money allows you to not only afford these better lines, but also to go as crazy as to import two littermates from across the world, so you can keep the best one for your program.

Not to mention being able to health test all your dogs early. If you have a dog that doesn’t pass health testing, and you waited two years to test, then you’ve lost quite an investment in your program.

5. You’ll have more time

Time. The idea of having more time is as sweet as drinking sweet tea, cruising a boat, in the lake, in the summer. Life is so busy, but imagine if you not only had to manage your whole breeding program and THEN you had to work a full time job to support your breeding program—what a nightmare.

In the beginning—aside from the cost of building facilities or large, unexpected vet bills—your puppy sales should cover your breeding costs, including the cost of dog food, general, anticipated vet care, and raising puppies. If it’s not, it’s worth checking out where your program is leaking funds.

When your breeding program is in profit, you don’t need to take time away from your dogs, rather you’ll have more time to work with your dogs. This does so many things.

You’ll know your dogs better, you’ll see little issues here and there before they become problems. You’ll be able to spend time petting and playing with each dog, engaging with them in their favorite activities, for mine that’s often fetch or the flirt pole.

With more time, you’re not cutting corner with cleaning because you’re exhausted from work. You can clean puppy pens twice a day and it doesn’t feel like all you do is clean.

You can spend more time talking with buyers, both new, prospective buyers, but also buyers who already have your dogs and have questions. And if you’ve been catching my other episodes you know that I think keeping that relationship with your buyers to learn about their success with your dogs is so paramount to building a great breeding program. If you haven’t heard about it, be sure to check out Episode #6, Why You Need to Build a Quality Relationship with Your Puppy Buyers.

You’ll also have time to put more information on your website to better educate your buyers, new and old, which in turn saves you even more time.

You see, as a breeder, people think we just roll around in the grass with puppies climbing all over us. That just really isn’t the case. There is a lot of stuff to do as breeders, so when we make money, we get our time back.

And let’s not forget that we do need a little personal time for ourselves, I do love me a good Netflix episode from time to time.

Well there you have it, dog breeders absolutely should make money. Making money allows us to create an honest dog breeding program that produces healthy dogs who succeed in the life they were bred for, while keeping the sanity in our homes.

Want to Get the Roadmap to a Successful Breeding Program?

Hey! I’m Julie Swan! I’m here to help you build a breeding business that you love, one that produces amazing dogs, places them in wonderful homes, gives you the life you want, also pays the bills!