#68 – Pause Your Breeding Program?

by | Aug 10, 2023 | Business Management

There’s been a lot of talk recently about pausing your breeding program. As if you can simply push a button on the remote of life and make living things pause, yet I digress, I think they made that into a movie with Adam Sandler, right?

Well, I wanted to chime in on my thoughts regarding this idea of pausing. Yet, before that, I want to talk about three things that have contributed to the current market that are something we should consider when making judgements about our situation and the economics of dog breeding.

Seasonality and puppy buyers

First, July, and essentially the middle of summer, are the least popular time for people to be looking for dogs, but it makes sense, kids are out of school, families are taking trips, going camping, seeing friends and it’s a busy time, it’s not usually a time when people think, “oh yeah, I should buy a puppy.” It usually isn’t a part of what they are thinking about.

You’ll notice people think about getting a puppy when the seasons of life change, when kids go back to school, around Christmas and the holidays, when kids are going on spring break, when summer is on the horizon. All of these are times when people are evaluating their lives and looking for what’s missing. Many times, they conclude their couches are missing dog hair at this point in their life—or they have that thought, cringe, and think Doodle, but hey, the market speaks.

So yes, breeders often feel the pinch during July and mid summer in general.

A normalizing market of dog buyers

Next, we have the fact of normalizing from Covid, yes, I know it’s seems like it’s been a long time, but while it has for us in our lives, economies are like slow moving freighter ships, once they get cruising it takes a lot to slow them down or change course. So it’s happening, don’t worry, there’s no iceberg, it’s just a bit of a process.

Okay, so what does this normalizing from covid mean? Well, it’s about supply and demand, there was a HUGE demand, people were home, bored, lonely, wanted some company that wouldn’t give them covid, and they chose a dog. LOTS of people got dogs, shelters were empty, breeders got so many phone calls we couldn’t keep up. It didn’t matter how many dogs we produced, it was like they all had homes. There were even a ton of people who weren’t dog people who decided they might be dog people.

Dog Breeding was an easy market to capitalize on.

Breeder prices increased, the number of breeders increased, the number of breeding dogs increased in programs, and this surge was tailing the high demand that covid encouraged.

Well, back to our large freight liner ship of economic demand—the dog buyer market—now has the dogs they want to buy, some have dogs they don’t really want and you start to see that ship lose some steam. Some people gave up on their dogs, they were really cat people anyways, those dogs either made it back to the breeder or the shelter where they came from. Other people are satisfied, not interested in another dog. Trying to sell them a dog is akin to trying to sell someone a vehicle who is still upside down on their new ride. They just aren’t in the market to buy.

Then we have this crazy momentum the breeders have built, the second ship trailing the buyer demand ship, the breeders have built up their programs, ramped up dogs, and they’ve gotten used to some great prices.

In ANY industry this will cause a supply and demand freak out moment where there is more supply than demand. Think of it like the supply freight liner is coming up on the demand freight liner and while it isn’t a collision, it does have you biting your lip a little.

This is where the third piece of the puzzle comes in:

Shifts in the economy as a whole

The economy, not just the dog market, but the whole economy, has seen a lot of shifts, prices of fuel soared for a while, diesel went up a lot causing the cost of all shipped items to increase. Have you noticed a lot of items in the grocery store have increased 30-50%, that’s not little. There have been some considerable shifts. So much so that McDonald’s tried to raise prices and their market threw a fit realizing they could get tastier food for the same price at a smaller chain.

As people are feeling the pain that can come with inflation, people in general are trying to see what is something they need to have and what is something they can wait on? Should we add a dog right now? Maybe we should wait six months. So when you combine inflated dog prices with a population of buyers looking to make smarter financial choices, naturally buyers are going to be pickier, more patient, and many will look for value-based decisions in everything from fuel, to groceries, to entertainment, and yes, for some, that’s dogs. Now value based doesn’t mean they are looking for less-quality dogs, but rather, we, as breeders, need to explain why there’s value in our health-tested, well-raised, cultivated bloodlines. We have the value package, I have zero doubt about that, but our buyers don’t always know what makes value in a dog. Much of the time we have to educate them on the differences that come with a well-bred and raised dog.

The impact of it all on your dog breeding program

Okay, so put this all together, July is a busy month for people and they aren’t looking to add a dog, an economy that is normalizing from a surge in demand, followed by a surge in supply, and then add an economic uncertainty and inflation raising people’s cost of living…well, it’s going to feel a bit scary for breeders, no doubt. I personally have noticed a decline in inquires, it’s a sign of less actively-looking buyers.

Okay so then that brings us to the question of what to do with our breeding programs. Some people have pitched this idea of pausing your breeding program. I looked into cryogenic freezers like they used for Han Solo, but they were a little out of my budget, plus the custom forms for dogs, it was a lot.

Yet here’s the thing, what does pause mean? The word means to stop activities for suspended time, so you can go pee before the scary scenes. It doesn’t really make sense in a breeding program. Instead of pausing, I want you to consider what is the smart business move for your business. The truth is most of us are moms, we have families, kids, and, of course, the dogs. Making stand on some wing and prayer to have a slight impact on the market, is that the smart move for your family? Do you use your puppy money to buy dog food and cover dog expenses? I do. I know that if I completely ceased my operations, not only would it put a strain on my business finances, but it would have my business professors squinting their eyes and shrugging, wondering, “What is she doing?”

Want to Get the Roadmap to a Successful Breeding Program?

Is dog breeding unethical?

If you decide to quit, pause, downsize, remain status quo, or even, dare I say, increase your dog breeding numbers, then I want you to make that decision because it is the right decision for you. It should be the right decision for your family, for your dogs, for your business.

Don’t make that decision because you’re attempting to manipulate the market. There’s nothing to boycott, you’re not doing anything wrong. Breeding dogs honestly and producing amazing dogs is not unethical ever.

BUT, if you’re unable to sell your pups by the time they’re ready to go home, and this is becoming a thing. And, now, you have four six-month-old puppies terrorizing your house, taking up your time, and driving your family crazy, then maybe now isn’t the time to grow your program. It might actually be time to retire that female you’ve been on the fence about.

The reason you’re retiring her is not to be more ethical or “do the right thing” naw, you’re doing it because it’s stressful on you and your family to have older dogs to manage. And you want to reduce that probability going forward. That’s a business decision.

Some people have worried they’re contributing to an overpopulation problem. I think that’s an incorrect way to look at it. Overpopulation implies a burden on the community, a burden on the system. It sounds to me like a full-shelter problem, not a breeder problem. We have to go back to the statistics that less than 10% of the dogs in shelters were actually intentionally breed purebred dogs. The majority of breeders I’ve talked to never even questioned taking a dog back, rather, they just assumed that was the game: if it doesn’t work out, they will take the dog back.

Now, tell me this…if I have four leftover puppies, and I end up having them until they’re six months old, but I take care of them, I give them love like any other dog I have, they have vet care, they have health, good food, is that unethical? No, it’s not. Is it overpopulation? No, I haven’t impacted the community, except make my feed store a little extra money in dog food sales, now, my husband might give me that look like WE have an overpopulation problem, but I swear that’s a look he gives me nearly every other month anyways. Does it suck, yeah, it sucks having incredible dogs and knowing that there’s a family out there, missing out on that dog. But it’s not unethical, nor is it overpopulation.

You know what it is? It’s a bad business move for me to live in surplus like that, because we don’t sell candles that can sit on the shelf with a little dusting until they’re sold. We sell these things that are really cute and cuddly when they’re small and then they grow, and they eat, and increasingly cost more money, while the world thinks they’re a little less cute.

Let me ask you this…if you had a waitlist that grew as fast as you could produce puppies, so by the time you had a litter of eight pups, another eight buyers jumped on your waitlist, and so it went. People kept coming, wanting your dogs at the pace you produced them. The pups are happy, your buyers are happy, your dogs are happy, and you and your family are happy…would you stop breeding at the pace you’re breeding? Could anyone say what you’re doing is unethical? They couldn’t. It works. It’s good business.

What happens if you pause your breeding program. . .

Here’s another example. Imagine the price of diesel skyrockets again, parking spaces shrink so you can barely fit a small crossover into standard spaces, and the demand for diesel trucks goes way down. Can you imagine Ford, Chevy, and Ram pausing production? They would never cease their production, they may adjust it, but they won’t quit. You know why? Because they’d lose their market, I’m a RAM girl, I’m short, I love my big trucks, it’s a thing. Bill loves Fords, so sometimes he sleeps on the couch, but anyways, could you imagine what would happy if RAM said, I’m not going to contribute to the over supply of trucks, I’m pausing my operations!

Ford and Chevy would nod in confusion, like RAM had lost its mind, and slowly they would look for ways to take the RAM market share. Do you know how hard it would be for RAM to jump back in a year later? It would be awful.

You know what else the truck manufacturers would do? They would get creative and look for ways to improve their trucks, add new features, make them more comfortable, more quiet. They would look for ways to attract new buyers with their new design and features. They would serve their customers better. Their focus isn’t on stopping, it’s on being better.

Have you ever stopped going on Instagram for a few months? I have. I go to get back on it and there are so many new features and things to know, I’m like, whoa, what the heck happened? It’s like trying to learn a new language. Not to mention people like to work with businesses they can rely on. Part of being reliable is being there, showing up.

Imagine if you decided to pause your breeding program, everything, stopped breeding, just paid for dog food out of pocket, told any inquiries you were in a pause, and they were out of luck. You stopped posting on Instagram for a year.

Then, a year later, you notice your girl is coming in heat. You decide to come out of the shadows and like you’re poking your head out of the bushes to scope out the scene, you think, “Hmmm, maybe there are buyers ready for my dogs…”

Imagine trying to build up the momentum you already have right now, again. Logging into Instagram and realizing you now have to speak a new language, Instragramonian. You think you’ll have those buyers that were semi interested eight months ago, only to find out they already bought a dog from someone else.

Consciously adjusting your breeding program for the market

Don’t shoot yourself in the foot, or really anywhere for that matter. If you’re going to adjust your program and the number of dogs you produce, let’s make that decision consciously, from a business perspective, choose it because it benefits your family, because it’s what feels right for you, what feels less stressful for you, more in alignment with you and your breeding goals.

In the next two podcasts, I’ll discuss the difference between ethical and unethical breeding and how they are unrelated to supply and demand. I’ll have another podcast on ways to downsize your program to meet the demand you’re encountering. It’s a lot easier than you think. It doesn’t require you to give up breeding or lose momentum, in fact I’ll even give you techniques on how to make your program better while you have a little extra time to dedicate to it! It’s personal because it’s your personal drives and ambitions, hopes and desires, but the techniques are just business and adapting to supply and demand shifts in the market.

I have a last nugget to share.

Nearly every great mind, inventor, influencer, or person you admire, became that person because they suffered a major trauma, setback, or failure. Many experienced all three. They took that moment, or series of moments, in their life and instead of being defined by them, they grew inspiration from, creating a new idea, solution, or process all together.

A great example is Netflix. They saw the overhead of videos stores was killing video stores. They developed a DVD mailer, where you could make a list of movies and they’d send them to you. Well they offered some easy streaming movies to tide you over in between DVDs. Well then the streaming became more and more popular, so much so they nearly split off from the DVDs.

They essentially put Blockbuster out of business.

As streaming grew, all these amazing shows were on Netflix. Well the networks were losing viewers as the viewers were watching the shows on Netflix instead of their channels, affecting revenue from advertisers and paid subscriptions. Within short order many networks created their own streaming platforms for their shows. They didn’t want to compete with Netflix with their owns shows so they pulled their shows from Netflix, making it exclusive to their apps.

For a while Netflix was a bit of a dud, not many new juicy shows were on there. Then Netflix did something incredible: they created their own shows, no longer were they the broker of shows, they were the producer. They had exclusive shows you could only watch there and there were so good. They made a point to hire the best writers they could find and it showed.

In a twist, they actually began to buy shows that the networks had cancelled, using their writing staff to juice up the story. Longmire is a great example, the first three seasons were written for the networks, then they cancelled the show and Netflix bought it, finished the story in a few seasons and it was a nail biter.

Netflix didn’t collapse when they were challenged, especially when the problem of competing streaming was a thing they started! They keep adapting and creating, solving problems, making them opportunities.

If people were lining up at your kennel doors trying to buy dogs from you, money in hand, taking whatever you produced, would you have any drive or need to be better? Seems like the market is telling you that you’re good enough. When things are comfortable, we have no need to be creative.

Let these somewhat uncomfortable times inspire you to be a better dog breeder. You’re already great, you’re here! You care. But we can always get better, serve our buyers better, work on our processes and bloodlines. What a beautiful opportunity this market gives us to be creative and make us better, helping to grow us into the breeder everyone—within our ideal puppy buyer niche, of course—wants to buy a dog from.

This next time in your breeding program has the ability to turn you into such an evolved version of what you already are. I’m so excited for you, and I’ll be here to help you as you grow, creating resources, giving you ideas, I care about you.

Thank you for joking me for another episode of the honest dog breeder podcast with me, your host, Julie Swan. I feel honored that you’re here and that I get to be a small part of your breeding journey. Here’s a toast to the new breeding program you’re going to evolve to!

Thank you again, and I can’t wait to see you in the next episode!!

Show Notes

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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!