#31 – Should You Own Your Own Studs?

by | Feb 4, 2022 | Business Management, Dog & Puppy Management

The first goats I ever bought were a tiny little female doeling and a Nanny goat who was bred. I drove four hours to get these goats and thought I would put them in the back of my mid-size SUV. I had a water resistant liner in the back and thought it would be fine.

I swear that goat went to the bathroom every 30 minutes that entire drive home. It took two months for the smell to leave my vehicle after cleaning. Needless to say, I learned a few things that trip. One: Weather Tech liners are your best friend. Two: traveling with goats INSIDE your vehicle is not fun, and that fact led me to number three: I don’t like transporting animals unless I need to. That experience led to me buying my own bucks so I could breed my goats at my house and would never need to put a goat in my SUV again.

My experience with owning my own buck goats went really well. I never missed a heat cycle with a doe and it was as simple as moving him in her pen at that time of year. It sort of felt like a set-it-and-forget-it thing.

When I decided to breed Buster, my first German Shorthair, it made complete sense to me to do what I did with the goats and bring in a new stud dog once Buster had daughters by my females. I never really thought about any other option than owning my own studs.

I had been breeding quite a few years before I made any breeder friends, I guess I just sort of live in my own world sometimes. I’d certainly had it with dog breeders on Facebook. When I finally met some breeders I found it wasn’t necessarily standard to own your own stud. Some people did and some people didn’t. I started hearing about co-owns, which I knew existed, but never to the extent that I see them now. I learned that many people never even considered owning their own stud, let alone two of them. I also found that the trend of owning, co-owning, or using AI tended to follow breeds and regions, as in it was more popular and common in some breeds or locations than others.

Many of you have asked about owning your own studs and many of you have asked about co-owns and guardian homes. Today I want to discuss the pros and cons of owning your own studs so you can see what works best for you.

The cost of owning your own studs

First let’s talk about the cons of owning your own studs.

The first obvious thing is that it limits your genetics to own your own studs. When you can select from a bank of dogs for AI, it seems weird to choose to have one stud that lives in your home and manages your girls. Why would you settle for so few options?

Having one stud can impact your genetic diversity, especially if you are still honing your bloodline and would do well to be in an aggressive breeding program, not a sustainment one.

If you want to learn more about aggressive and sustainment programs, check out episode #23.

The next con is that owning your own stud creates some management issues, especially if you own two. I’ve always thought humans are the only species where two intact males can live relatively harmoniously under the same roof; two stud dogs can be a lot of management, especially if you don’t have the facilities. Breaking up a stud fight is tough and much worse if the dogs are bigger relative to you.

You will also need more facilities to manage studs and if the management fails you can have unplanned litters or breedings with the wrong stud, or need to do DNA tests because you aren’t sure which stud it was.

Beyond having the facilities, a stud is another dog you have to manage. He needs training, enrichment, exercise, and quality time with you and other dogs..

In addition to the time investment, a stud costs money to feed, has his own vet bills, and requires all the other expenses that come with dog ownership.

If you try and have a stud or two before you have facilities, it can be a real burden to you and your family because of the time and financial investment it will involve. Obviously this is easier if you have a smaller breed, but regardless, it still takes thinking, planning, and a latch left open, a crate door not completely locked, or a hole in the fence can create a whole lot of complications in seconds. You’ll often hear trainers say that “management fails sometimes” because it isn’t a perfect solution.

So with all this chaos, why would you ever want to own your own stud — let alone two or more?

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Benefits of owning your own stud

Well, there are a lot of reasons to own your own stud or studs. Let me explain some of the pros of stud ownership.

First, you have complete control over his availability. If you co-own a stud or have him in a guardian home, you don’t always have control of where he’s at and when. Same with using a stud service, and often with AI. Regardless of ownership, if the stud doesn’t live with you then you have to coordinate with the people who have him and get him either to your place or get your girl to his place.

This coordination can open a can of worms: what if the family who has him is going on a camping trip and wants to take him? What if the dog has an event he’s scheduled to attend? What if they have poor communication and coordinating with them is just misery?  What if they feed him a terrible food and you find out he is nowhere near as healthy as you thought?

It comes down to moving pieces. When there are more moving pieces and less things you can control, the harder it will be to get everything in alignment.

When you own your own stud you have none of these issues. When a girl is in heat, you throw him in the pen with her and the rest is done. You never have to worry that the semen isn’t the right temperature or that it was mishandled, and you don’t have to worry about timing. He takes care of it. It’s simple and effective.

If you are new to breeding, progesterone testing can be a pain. Taking the dog to the vet all the time, hoping you’ve got the right timing, finding a good vet with experience in AI… it’s a lot.

Studs — especially experienced ones, which is essentially any stud who has bred 2-3 times — are incredible at detecting fertility. In fact, my stud Rusty is so good at this that he will check out any female I put with him and immediately know if now is the time. He doesn’t get fussy, he doesn’t try anything unless she’s ready. In my opinion he’s more accurate than any test you could perform.

Now the younger studs, they’re helpful, too. While they often try to breed a female the whole heat cycle, they are very helpful early on in detecting a girl coming into heat. For example, it’s nice to know when your female has her first silent heat, which is the first heat that often goes unnoticed as there may not be swelling and there usually isn’t blood. A young stud will notice the change in her scent and that helps me figure out the timing of her heat cycles, which helps my planning. When she’s older, the younger studs will be interested in her for a day or two about four weeks before she comes into heat, which is incredibly helpful if I need to coordinate anything if I were using an outside stud, but also to know for plannings sake that I need to be home at that time.

Intact males are so good at noticing these things that cattle ranchers will give a bull a vasectomy so he can live among the cows and let the rancher know which cow is in estrus. It’s incredible, they actually have this thing called a chin ball and it’s like a collar that the bull wears, and it has a ball of paint under the chin. If you’ve ever been lucky enough to see that act, you’ll know that the bull hugs her in a way that his chin rubs her back. With this chin ball, he will actually paint her back. If he’s an intact bull, the rancher will know she’s been bred, but if he’s had a vasectomy, the rancher will know she’s ready for AI.

Between a rancher spending 30 minutes evaluating his cows and a bull living with them 24 hours a day, the rancher noted 74% of the cows in estrus and the bulls averaged 97-100% accuracy in detecting estrus.

It’s hard to fight those numbers, they’re just good at what they do. These teaser bulls are still the most cost effective way to annotate cows in estrus.

It’s the same with dogs, you can’t beat the accuracy. Accuracy in detecting heats means an improved probability you’d have puppies when you want them.

As your program grows you know the timing of your females, when they cycle, about how many puppies to expect, and you’ll be better able to convey that information to your buyers, helping them understand when they can expect to get a puppy. My breeding program is pretty well tracked. I know about how many puppies I will have and when and I can share this with my buyers. I simply couldn’t have this predictability and consistency if I didn’t own my studs. It gives me peace of mind to know I won’t miss any heat cycles.

So aside from convenience and predictability, why else might you want to own your own studs?

Because you intimately know them.

I know everything about my studs, their health, their structure, the things they are good at, what they struggle with. I know their temperaments and how they manage different situations. I know how much drive they have, what their natural abilities are.  And I know all their quirks.

This is simply something you can’t get with a dog who doesn’t live with you. He may have all the titles, the best health testing records, and the owner may rave about him, but you just won’t know him in the same way.

Temperament and drive are so genetic, and what makes a dog is so dynamic, that it almost feels reckless to choose a dog from a picture, a written blurb, a title, or a pedigree. I love getting my hands on a dog, knowing his personality in and out. It gives me so much more information that I couldn’t get any other way.

Beyond the benefit of intimately knowing my studs, I love that I can show them to my potential buyers. They can meet him and see how he interacts with them. I have a stud Boot, he’s a total goofball. Naming him after a shoe was a great pick by Bill, it really fits him. He was supposed to be about 55-60 lbs and through some hidden gene anomaly he ended up at about 80 lbs.

He has become a very popular stud in my breeding program. Anyways, everyone who meets Boot loves him, he’s his own best ambassador. He is always in a good mood, he’s funny, and best of all, when I let him out to meet potential buyers he’s always excited to meet them and usually ends up doing the lean on their leg. He has a quirk where he just has to be touching you at all times and that usually means his butt is leaning on your leg, just enough so that if you moved fast enough, he’d fall over.

This personality quirk is very genetic, like many personality quirks, and if you experienced this you’d fall in love with him, too.

It’s just one small thing of many, but it means a lot to buyers when they can meet both parents of the pups.

So how do you figure out what’s right for you?

Well first I want you to think of the level of additional management and financial cost as a slider that represents a burden or improvement to you and your family.

What do I mean by level of management? Well, it’s how many systems and rules everyone in the household has to follow and adapt to in order for it to work with a stud or multiple studs.

If you have multiple exercise pens that are secure and you can leave the studs outside all day, and leave your house to go to work, go shopping, or whatever, how worried would you be? Do you trust the dogs will be safe? Are you not even thinking about it? Or are you in the middle of Target, nauseous, worried about what you’ll come home to?

When you get to the place where you can be comfortable leaving the dogs for an extended period of time, or not worried your 3-year-old will accidentally open the wrong door and a fight could ensue, then that’s when owning your own studs pays off in spades.

If you aren’t at a sustainment level in your program, then owning a dog you won’t be using isn’t super helpful for you, and therefore the cost to manage that dog is more of a burden to the family finances than it is helpful.

When you get a new stud puppy, make sure to spend some money and time building your facilities that first year, so it is easier to manage him once he realizes he’s a male at around a year old.

Studs are just as fun and loving as the girls, but they can be a little bit more to manage. We just want to make sure we are set up to take them on, especially a second one. Most people, not just breeders, can manage a single intact dog. It’s when you add that second dog that things become more complicated. So we just need to do our due diligence and plan correctly so we aren’t burdening our loved ones, our dogs, or ourselves.

As far as finances, consider how much more money you’ll save and how much easier your program will be to run when you have your own stud. If you’ve ever missed a heat cycle and have disappointed buyers, just one litter with your stud will recuperate his cost. Most of the time, studs more than make up for their expense.

Owning a stud can be an incredibly rewarding endeavor, one I’m very fond of. I’m excited for you to have the stud or studs of your dreams and I hope this helps you prepare for it.

In the next few weeks we will open the doors to Dog Breeding 101, a comprehensive course to help you confidently breed, whelp, raise, and home your first few litters to quality homes.

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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!