#81 – How To Have Confidence In Your Puppy Pricing

by | Feb 15, 2024 | Business Management, People Management

Have you ever caught yourself thinking about your pricing? If it’s right or not? Maybe you’re driving down the road and are wondering if you lost that last sale because your price was a bit too high? Maybe you’re wondering if your price is too low? Did they think your dogs were good enough?

Pricing is something that I work with all the time, not just with coaching clients, but with my own breeding program and products. What’s interesting is that, all in all, pricing is a fluid thing, it’s something that needs to be evaluated and tossed around on the regular.

It’s what you say AND how you say it

What’s more interesting is that confidence often plays into it. It plays into how your pricing is conveyed. I’m not going to deep-dive into how to practice your tone and voice, but just for fun, listen to these two sentences and tell me which sounds more confident.

  1. “Our price is $2000.” (voice gets higher when stating $2000)
  2. “Our price is $2000.” (voice is consistent through the entire statement).

You can see how the first one sounds like there is potentially room for negotiation, but, at the very least, it doesn’t sound confident. The second is stated in a more matter of fact way. Simply you’re stating your price without room for negotiation.

Often our tone conveys the wrong thing, yes. Truth is, with email and text message, we are having the pricing discussion less and less over the phone, making your tone less and less important. However, sometimes it’s our word choice that does us in. Listen to the difference in these two sentences:

  1. “Our price is $2000.”
  2. “We are asking $2000.”

See how they both state the same price, but convey an entirely different meaning? The first states your price as a fact, but the second suggests you’re willing to entertain offers. If you pair that with the tone, you can create an entirely different set of impressions with potential buyers; some will obviously work better for you than others.

Okay, so that’s some small, nitty-gritty stuff. There are tons of YouTube videos on how to speak more confidently and have better word choice. In my experience, a few other things play into how well your pricing goes over with your potential buyers; that is, if it conveys confidence in that price or if it strikes them a little funny.

Know Your Numbers

First, I want you to know your numbers. I want you to know how much it costs you to produce a puppy and find him a wonderful home. I want you to know your monthly overhead. I want you to know your average or anticipated puppies sold over the year: the conservative projection, using minimum litter size, and the average projection, if you had a few litters of normal size.

For example, in my breeding program, my puppies are about $200 to produce and send home, while my breeding program runs about $1200-$1500 per month, with most of that being dog food. My facilities are low cost to keep up, but I will often take a large chunk of money from a litter and use it to improve my facilities, like the block wall I recently put up for my exercise pens.

Because I know my numbers, I know what I absolutely need to make off of a puppy. I know where I will be stressing my financial situation out, and I know where I will have excess.

Know the Market & Where You Fit In

You also need to know the market. This is easier said than done, I get that. It’s not a magical formula to keep a beat on the market. However, do what you already do. For example, we have two grocery stores in town. I know who carries the good sweet potatoes. I know who has the better price on bacon, and I know when they restock so I don’t have crappy pickings for vegetables. I notice when cucumbers go up in price. I know to check if the apples in the bag are better than selecting off the shelf or not. It changes here and there. It’s always great to have the kids’ do the math to see what’s a better deal.

I noticed when the grocery store tried to pull a fast one with the string cheese. It used to be $2.99 for a pack, then they were often on sale for 2/$5. Then…they dropped the sale, so they were always $2.99, then–and this was funny to me–they made the $2.99 a sale by pricing them at $3.50 then putting them on sale for 2/$6! Because I keep tabs on ridiculous things like this, I saw what they did there.

Being in the breeding market is similar to what you already do at the grocery store. You keep tabs on what’s happening and how much your buyers know about it. I found out that while the market felt saturated with puppies to breeders, I had several people contact me and say, “I’m so glad I found you, it’s so hard to find a GSP breeder in Arizona.” Which is funny to me, because they’re everywhere here. However, it means my advertising was working, it was in places they were looking and, apparently, in places where other breeders weren’t. I find many breeders stick solely to social media and don’t use an email list, nor work to make their website show up in multiple places. You end up losing the whole demographic of buyers who don’t use social media.

Not only are you paying attention to who else is breeding, but you are aware of where you fit in with the whole picture. Let me be clear. I’m not suggesting you are constantly checking other breeders for their pricing. That’s kinda lame and boring. It’s more that I want you to have a general pulse on it. You want to know which third you’re in. Are you in the bottom third of pricing for your breed in the area? Are you in the middle? The top? Then you need to know why you’re in that pricing. Are you there because you’re new and you are building experience and because you don’t yet have a name? Are you in the middle because you know you have good dogs, but you don’t want to deal with the high-end buyers.

People’s expectations will change based on which tier you’re in, especially if they are also partially price shopping. If they are getting a dog in the lower tier, they won’t expect much from you. However, if you’re in the top third for the breed, they’re going to want a lot more support and handholding. Neither situation is better or worse, but there will be a group that will feel better to you.

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Know Your Why & How Price Plays In

Do you know why you’re breeding? The end result you’re going for? Even if you love what you’re doing, you can’t do it for free. That’s a quick recipe for resentment. For me, I know that I love that moment when I hand a dog to a buyer. That moment when potential is handed to the owner and their journey is about to embark. However, I also love my kids. I like going out for a good burger with Bill. I like to take trips and I like to get coffee with friends. Dog breeding has to fit into that picture. It has to work with it. Not only will that play into the time invested in breeding, but the money plays in, too.

If breeding took away from my kids or Bill, it wouldn’t work. It wouldn’t be a net positive. I need to make a certain amount of money to tip that scale. It’s reasonable to breed if I make a certain amount of money and it’s no longer balanced at a certain price. If I were only making a net of $500 per dog, I wouldn’t breed. The work would be way too much for the gain. There are other things I could do with my time that would give me better return on my invested time, money, and energy.

Why does this play into confidence in pricing? Well, because understanding the line between positive experience and resentment will help you say no when people offer you less than you know you need to make.

I know that if someone offered me $700 for a dog, and I didn’t make the money I needed to feel good about things, I would be angry. I would take the anger home. It would sit inside me and fester. I would feel taken advantage of, and, I would be worried that those people wouldn’t take care of the dog. By holding my price, I retain my value. I retain my sanity. I retain the lifestyle I want. I know what my dogs are worth, and I work to convey that value.

It allows me to smile when someone offers a lower price and kindly tell them no, they’re more than that.

I don’t even defend it and say they’re worth more than that. I simply state that they cost more.

Are You Offering Enough to Justify Your Price?

This is another question you have to ask yourself: is what you’re offering worth the price you’re asking?

Sometimes, going back to the tone of voice, you’ll see that you’re hesitating when you state your price, or, even if you’re confident in tone, your word choice suggests otherwise. There are many reasons this could be. It might be simply because you’re insecure asking for money. Yet, it might also be because you aren’t confident in your product.

The ultimate way to be confident in your price is to be confident in your product.

I am confident in my dogs. I know they’ll hunt. I know they won’t have hip or elbow problems. I know they won’t have allergies. I know they will be gentle with kids and I know they want to work for you. I know that I have consistency with my dogs, and so much consistency that I feel confident selling their puppies before they’re born, explaining what the family will get with one of my dogs.

Sure, we do the temperament testing and figure out who will be best for who, but often it’s splitting hairs. They’re all good.

If you are hesitant in your pricing, then ask yourself: is there something I am insecure about? Something I am unsure about with my product, my process, or what I offer?

Where do you need to step up your game?

This will open the door to invaluable insight as to where you need to step up your game. Maybe you often struggle with giardia or coccidia during weaning and struggle through weeks 5-7, only having a few good days of stool before the pups go home. Maybe buyers often complain that their dog has loose stool after the stress of the move. They’re frustrated, they have vet bills, and they’re taking it out on you. You might be thinking about that when you state your price. That little twinge in your gut when you say your price and then feel a little guilty because you know so many may have vet bills in the first few weeks.

How would your confidence change if you didn’t have to worry about the loose stool? How would it change if you knew all the dogs would be able to be trained to do certain tasks and live in a certain lifestyle? How would your confidence change if you knew your dogs were all going to amazing homes who cherished them?

What little asterisk pops up in your mind when you state your price? That’s the thing to focus on. It’s probably the next step to building confidence.

Avoid Having a Gap in Your Pricing

Lastly, you might have a gap in your pricing. This is often seen in products where the entry-level product is $20 and the mid-level is $500, it feels like something is missing in the middle. It makes you question if the $500 is worth it, might be overpriced, while the $20 item may be complete junk for being that far off from the mid-tier product.

This can happen with your dogs. You don’t want to have too much of a gap in pricing. I always recommend your puppies are the same price once you have consistency. Exceptions can be made for pups with defects and such, of course. However, I don’t like charging a different price for sex or color. I think it devalues the other pups. But that’s just me. I know it works for a lot of breeders, so cheers to capitalism.

However, imagine this: you have an older puppy and a new litter of puppies just born. You want to sell the 16-week old puppy, but since you have puppies, you’re worried the older pup is not desirable. You opt to discount him. Imagining your price for a puppy is $2000, what is a good discount on the older pup? If you have done training with him and he’s ahead of the power curve, you could potentially charge more. However, you may not have time for this. Instead, you may opt to make him a little lower in price.

You’ll want to keep him at $1500 or more. Any less and the gap will be too much. If people see that the dog is $1000 for example, then not only will he look like a bad value, but it makes your current puppies look like they’re overpriced because they’re only worth half the value eight weeks after they’re picked up. You want to keep the gaps small. This creates consistency and doesn’t make people question your pricing. We all know how that goes when someone says, “Why is your price that much?” It sort of catches us off guard and can make us defensive. Saying, “because I can” is usually frowned upon, even if it is the truth. Oh, and if you do get that question, you can always say, “I believe it’s a fair price for the value I offer.”

5 Steps to Get you to Confidence in Pricing Your Dogs

In the end, confidence in your pricing is something that we develop over time, as our experience grows, and we get more confidence in our dogs and program, as well as our ability to communicate our dogs’ value to buyers. To summarize, five steps that will get you there a little quicker are:

  1. Know Your Numbers
  2. Know Where You Fall in the Market and How You’re Different
  3. Know Your WHY and How Price Plays into Meeting Your WHY
  4. Make Sure to Fix the Things that Cause You to Hesitate, so your price is justified
  5. Avoid Having a Gap in Your Pricing

Pricing, and confidence in it, is one of those sticky things, but it’s something that you can work out with a little diligence. If you can whelp puppies and clean that much puppy poop, this really is small potatoes.

If you liked this episode, we recently released a MasterClass on Knowing Your Numbers inside the Dog Breeder Society, it focuses on profit and cash flow, how to build your emergency fund and what it should be, how to manage and track expenses, and it discusses ways to use a credit card to organize expenses without carrying a balance.

Thank you for listening to another episode of the Honest Dog Breeder Podcast, with me, your host, Julie Swan. Thank you for spending some precious time with me, I’m really grateful we get to spend this time together! See you in the next episode!

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!