#52 – Recession Proofing Your Breeding Program

by | Aug 25, 2022 | Business Management, Dog & Puppy Management, Facilities Management, People Management

Have you felt it? The market has been shifting, it’s like that feeling in the air when summer turns to fall and it smells a little different. If you’ve been watching the economy, fuel prices, and the price of dining at your favorite restaurant you might be wondering how this recession is going to affect your breeding business.

Today’s episode is all about what will be required for your business to not only survive, but thrive during these economic times.

Before we dive into the details, I want you to know that you’re important to me. Your breeding program, its success, and the life you get to lead because of that success are the reason I have this podcast and the reason I created the Dog Breeder Society. I use the Dog Breeder Society to do monthly deep dives into breeding topics that help you move your breeding program forward, so you not only understand what you’re doing and why, but so that you know the next step to take in your breeding business. The information is deep enough that it’s helpful for both new and seasoned breeders, plus we have an amazing community of honest breeders so you can discuss the taboo stuff without the backlash. We are closing the doors at the end of August and I hope you jump so you can benefit from this great community. You can check it out and join here.

Alright, let’s dive in and get your head oriented around this recession and how you may need to make a few pivots in your program.

First off, let’s do a little history lesson.

When covid hit at the beginning of 2020, people were stuck at home. They were bored, they were looking for comfort, they wanted a little control of things and all of that lead them to seize the opportunity to adopt a dog. The shelters were empty, rescues had lines of applicants, and breeders could sell many more puppies than they could produce. I remember being exhausted answering phone calls to see if I had puppies. It was an incredible year for dog sales.

However, over time, things shifted. People who adopted dogs without doing their homework were overwhelmed, over time the misalignment of lifestyle with the dog lead to difficulties and more and more dogs made it into shelters, filling them back up. Same for the rescues and fosters. To add to the chaos, many breeders became breeders because it appeared that it was an opportune time to capitalize on the market and make money with dog breeding. I wouldn’t say they were wrong for seeing the need in the market, but many got in and were over their head with what was involved, they didn’t always produce the best puppies, nor the healthiest ones.

The scarcity of supply of puppies in the market has shifted to a surplus of puppies as buyers have reduced demand. Now here’s where it gets a little confusing. It seems like less people are interested in buying dogs, but what I see is that the many people that were never interested in buying dogs, who decided to buy dogs during covid, are no longer in the market, either they got a dog or they didn’t and are now back to their busy, normal life, that was never designed to have a dog in it. These buyers were a surge to the market, but they are not a part of the normal market.

The normal market has a certain demand, that will vary from breed to breed, and does shift a little over time, but that demand is still there. It’s still solid. People who want a certain breed still want that breed. People who have always lived with a dog, will still get another dog if theirs passes. It’s a lifestyle for them, recession or not.

How will this shakeout in the market? As the supply of breeders increased, those buyers will have their pick, they’ll have many breeders to choose from, it’s definitely a buyers’ market.

This will reduce the number of breeders in the market, as many of the new breeders who were looking for an easy way to make money will drop out of the market. You’ll also see that breeders who didn’t have a solid waitlist and marketing plan will find it harder to sell puppies, so they may reduce the number of breeding dogs in their program or reduce the number of litters they have. Lastly, you’ll start to see many breeders who have been doing this a while, looking for a reason to retire from breeding, whether a conscious thought or not, will find this a good reason to retire from breeding.

This entire shift will be a great shuffling in the market and the breeder world will look pretty different in about two years is my estimate.

So what does it mean for you? Well, it means that you’ll need to figure out where you stand in the market, it simply won’t be enough to breed puppies and post them on the internet, you’ll need a much more focused approach because you are competing in a sea of breeders as all this shakes out and you don’t want to be stuck with older puppies, that hurts, it’s bad for your bottom line, yes, but more importantly it’s bad for the puppies and the owners-to-be who lose that opportunity of bonding with a younger dog.

Are you new, just starting out? You might be thinking this is a bad time, BUT, I think it’s actually a really great time to find your niche in the market. There are going to be lots of quality dogs out there and there’s a good chance you’ll be able to get them at a better price and with less of a waiting period. You’ll also have a lot more puppies to pick from when buying your starting stock. Potentially more importantly, when the market is fluid like this, it’s a great time to jump in, find your spot and claim it.

Think of it this way, every breeder in the breeding world is going to need to make some focused shifts in their program, so everyone will have that hesitation in their gut that says, “I don’t know if this is going to work,” so jumping in during the scramble let’s you have it figured out by the time the more-seasoned breeders have their pivots in place, effectively putting you on the breeder map. I find it’s harder to change the way you’ve always been doing things, than it is to do them right the first time, from the start. This means that it’ll be easier to start the right way, if you have the guidance, than it will be to pivot an existing program that already has “a way we do things.” Use me as a tool, seriously, use me as a roadmap to help you get there faster. There’s an entire portion of my brain that is dedicated to stored memories of everything I’ve screwed up with my breeding program, it’s like a library of things I’m here to help you avoid and do right…the first time.

Anyways, here are four things to think about.

Want to Get the Roadmap to a Successful Breeding Program?

The first is customer service.

It will no longer be acceptable to have poor customer service. People don’t even go to a coffee shop in a new town without first reading the reviews, not to mention they want all the things, they don’t just want to enjoy the coffee in the cup, but they want to enjoy the experience that leads up to that cup while they drink it. If they’ll read the reviews and want an experience for a $5 item, you can bet they’re going to have higher standards for you as the breeder they buy their next dog from, the breeder whose puppy will be a part of their life for the next 12-15 years.

You’re going to need to build a relationship with your buyers. You’ll need to anticipate their needs and meet them with education, but also through the dogs you put in their hands. They will want to know they can contact you throughout the life of the dog and not dread your judgment of them. They want to know that you’ve thought out this whole breeding thing and are giving them the best possible puppy. They want you stable and very invested in your program and the success of the buyer with their puppy. No puppy pack, discount code, or pretty website will make up for bad customer service. They can certainly help you build a relationship, but they aren’t THE relationship. That is something you’ll need to work to cultivate. Don’t worry though, I got you, this is all inside the Society.

Speaking of the relationship with your buyers…this brings me to my second point.

Know your market, the niche you fill

You have to know your market, the niche you fill, and the ideal puppy buyer that’s in that niche. This is a key to building quality relationships, finding people who will mesh well with your dogs, the lifestyle the dogs are bred to thrive in, and you. When you have the ideal puppy buyer dialed in, you’ll find that the majority of people you attract are good fits for your program. They are people you enjoy working with and you’ll feel good sending puppies home with them because the puppies will bring them joy and in exchange they’ll provide the puppy a wonderful life.

A lot of this finding your market will be about your marketing tactics, your branding, how everything speaks to your potential customers so that you can attract the right people, while also repelling and moving along those who won’t be a good fit for your program. It seems scary to push people away, especially in a market like this, but if they won’t thrive with your dogs, then it’s no good for anyone. You need that good fit to ensure the quality of life for your puppies, the owners who will provide that quality of life, and also for yourself. The most needy buyers are those who are struggling, they struggle because they aren’t a good fit, if they are a good fit, then the struggles will be a part of the process, expected and respected by the buyer. A challenge to overcome, not a reason to see a therapist.

We dive deep into the ideal puppy buyer and how to find them inside the Dog Breeder Society, once you’re clear on who they are, everything becomes so much easier.

Third thing to consider:

Culling Some Breeders

You have to cull your bad stock, you have to make the hard decisions and get rid of breeders that are not helping your program. Deep down you know the dogs I’m talking about, the ones that you hesitate for a second when asked why you love them. The ones where you struggle to really beam about how much you love the puppies in this litter. The ones who you know will throw you a few problems you’ll have to manage, whether that’s a health thing or a temperament thing. The ones you know your buyers struggle with the most.

It isn’t an easy decision, I get it. I read an article recently where the woman, a dairy farmer, said the cow that isn’t producing as well, the one you know you need to get take off your books, she’s also always the one who has the sweetest temperament or is your kids’ favorite, if she were easy to get rid of, you’d just do it. The decision to cull breeders from your breeding program is never easy, especially after you’ve had them a while, invested your time in them, and they are a part of your flow. Yet, it’s these breeders, who aren’t bad dogs, but maybe just aren’t dogs that need to be breeders, they’ll really hurt you in a time like this. Right now the focus needs to be on quality. I want you to be thrilled about every puppy you’re producing and if you’re not, it’s worth taking the time to understand why and then make the necessary change.

When you have the right dogs in your program, producing the puppies you’re excited about, for the people you want to sell your puppies to, you’ll feel excited about breeding, you’ll look forward to it, it’ll feel like a pleasure, and that’ll reflect in your bank account. Your entire program rests on the dogs you produce, so don’t skimp here, make sure you have the right dogs…and if you don’t, make it better by removing the less-than-ideals and take this shifting economy as an opportunity to bring in the right blood to your program.

Lastly, the fourth consideration,

Reflect on Your Non-Monetary Assets.

Are there things that might be harder to get that you can buy now, so you have them? Are there objects you can buy in bulk to get a discount to hedge your money against the inflating prices? For example, microchips might go up in price, but you can buy them right now, and they aren’t going to go bad.

What about dog food? Is it worth getting a few months of dog food before the prices rise? As the cost of fuel goes up, so will the cost of everything that has to be transported.

Maybe, as the price of items increases, it makes sense to buy the assets you need now, so your money doesn’t lose value sitting in the bank, being less than you need in a few months or next year. Does it make sense to buy the pens you want now? Hire the concrete contractor before the cost of a yard of concrete goes up 20%? I don’t think you should rush to do something without planning, but understanding that your money may take you a little further with your goals if you capitalize on things now. It may make your breeding program that much easier to manage, saving puppies or saving you time, something you can use to further build your breeding business in a positive way.

So, to recap, the four things to mull over in your brain are:

Customer Service, are you providing the best customer service and how can you improve it to better serve your buyers? Understanding and marketing to your ideal puppy buyer. Finding those people who want your dogs and letting them know that you have the dog for them will build your waitlist and make breeding better, less stressful for you, and more profitable. Culling breeders. Are the breeding dogs you have the right dogs, would it be better if you had different blood in your kennel, if so, what would it look like? What would be the impact of removing breeders, replacing them with better breeders, and making your puppies more in alignment with your goals and your ideal puppy buyers? Reflecting on non-monetary assets. Does it make sense to stock up or make purchases now, before prices rise? Can these items save you money or stress later on? Are there items that you need and can get now to make your program run smoother? Better?

Thanks for joining me on this discussion, as you know, breeding isn’t always roses and sunshine, but preemptively looking at these shifts in the breeding world will make it easier for you to build or pivot your program in a way that will make your business recession proof and ready to thrive in the new economy.

If this is all resonating with you, I would love to take the discussion deeper with you inside the Dog Breeder Society. I want to see your program be one of the ones that comes out of this recession stronger and more robust, with a killer waitlist. You should have that. You should have a life you love, and if I can help make that journey a little easier, it would be an honor.

Show Notes

Referenced Links
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!