#82 – Is Dog Breeding Profitable?

by | Feb 23, 2024 | Business Management, Getting Started

Recently I was doing some keyword research and I saw that many potential breeders are checking to see if breeding is profitable. This seems to be a big concern, so, naturally, being me, I wanted to discuss it with you.

However, I hate leaving you hanging, so the answer is:

Yes. Breeding dogs is profitable and it should be.

It turns out there are a slew of articles on the internet that will tell you the opposite. You’ve probably read a few yourself. I was lucky in the beginning to never read these articles! They make it sound impossible to make money, or they accuse those who are making money of cutting corners.

Let me summarize one of the articles on this I recently read…

“We tried to breed dogs. We were so excited. Bringing new puppies into the world is so beautiful. We paid all this money. We thought it would be easy. It was a lot of cleaning. There were only two puppies. We had a ton of veterinary costs. It was hard to find buyers. There is no way people could ever make money doing this. It was awful. We are done breeding.”

Hopefully, since you’re smart, you saw some of the holes in their story. Let’s briefly go over them:

The holes in the “dog breeding isn’t profitable” story

#1 – They paid a lot for their breeding dogs.

Okay, that’s not terrible, but it might not be great because we can see there were a lot of veterinary costs. So it might be in part because they bought inferior breeding dogs. But we’ll get to that in a second.

#2 – They had lots of veterinary costs and only two puppies.

In most breeds, having two puppies is unusual. She didn’t clarify if she only had two puppies or if only two survived. She also had a c-section, which really adds to the cost of things, especially when it’s uncommon in the breed. A lot of times there are other reasons for high vet bills, too. They might have had an outbreak of coccidia or giardia, which can be costly to diagnose if you have never experienced it. Having a lot of unanticipated veterinary costs should be interpreted as something is wrong, not the norm. I find it unfortunate that the author of this article had a bad situation and, instead of interpreting it as a bad situation and unusual, she suggested it was the industry norm.

#3 – She had a difficult time finding good buyers.

Finding good buyers and marketing is one of the hardest things to break into with breeding. You first need to find your Ideal Puppy Buyer, the ideal person or family you’d love to sell your dogs to, and then you need to market to them.

It takes planning, a bit of thought, effort in doing the market research, understanding their needs, and then showing them that your dogs are the solution. It’s not an overnight thing. Don’t be fooled by “puppies are cute, so they will be easy to sell.” That’s not the truth. Good buyers, the people you want to sell your puppies to, will not buy your puppies merely because they’re cute. They’ll buy your puppies because they are a solution for them, they fill a void the buyer feels they have.

To think that your marketing will be quick, or that it won’t take a little trial and error, is where this girl gets it wrong. You have to dial in your marketing, and it takes a few litters and sometimes changing a few breeding decisions to pivot into the right market. Now that I’ve been doing this a decade, I know my buyers, my market, what they need, how my dogs uniquely fill that need, and now my marketing is not so much work.

#4 – They thought it would be easy.

I think this is such a difficult thing to describe. Easy is a weird word, it’s often confused for simple. While simple is often confused as easy. In some ways breeding is easy. If you have good breeders and whelpers, then yes, the production of puppies, getting puppies on the ground, that’s easy, it’s also simple.

If you know how to do something, to you it might be simple, regardless of how many steps are involved. If you know how to do something, those steps might be easy to you because you’ve done them so many times. Take driving for example, driving is easy and simple for me now. So much so, that occasionally I’ll do my mascara while driving … don’t tell anyone, our secret. Yet, go back to when you first learned how to drive, did you find it easy? I didn’t. I struggled to get the right pressure on the pedals, I struggled to remember all the things you need to do, like remembering my turn signal, slowing down before the turn, and accelerating to the speed of traffic. Not to mention the situational awareness. That took a long time to build up and make into a habit I didn’t need to think about. Yet, today, it’s easy. It’s simple. I can carry on a coaching call when driving or come up with my next podcast outline.

Maybe it’s more appropriate to say that breeding—or maybe anything—is simple when you know what to do and easy when you get good at it. This girl tried breeding one time. She didn’t have any experience. It didn’t go well and she decided that it was too much and she was done.

Instead of reflecting on the situation and seeing where she could get better, she decided to blame the industry. She didn’t think that maybe she had more to learn, that maybe she should recognize she could’ve done things better, that it was a bad luck situation with the breeding dogs she had, or it was an unusual series of vet instances. She just decided it wasn’t a her-situation thing, it was an industry thing. I wonder sometimes. How many things do you do that work well the first time? It’s not many for me. If something is worth doing and not everyone is doing it, it’s usually a little complicated. Complicated is good. It means there’s money to be made.

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The role of supply and demand in profitability

This also plays into economics and supply and demand. If something is difficult and people are not able to make money on it, then the price goes up to cover the cost. In our example, if the price of puppies is not covering the expenses, then the price of puppies will go up. This is the natural shift in business and pricing. Pricing will increase to ensure the business can make money, otherwise the business would not be able to fulfill its obligations.

If the business is unable to secure clients at the higher price, then they will leave the industry. Sometimes this happens when a business’s model is to deliver a lower price. If the only reason their product stands out against competitors is that it’s cheaper, well, then you lose your entire marketing plan when you need to raise your price to keep your business going. Price should be involved in your market placement and overall business model, but it shouldn’t be your main marketing tactic. It’s a recipe for disaster.

Businesses that rely on price marketing will often exit the market when the industry calls for a price increase and their customers won’t increase with them.

When these businesses leave the market, the supply for the service or industry reduces. We saw this in the Fall of 2023 when the dog breeding market was normalizing after the bubble that hit during COVID. Essentially COVID caused a bump in demand, which allowed many new breeders to enter the market and make money. Then the supply for the market caught up and then surpassed demand, causing the market to normalize and reduce the demand. There was more work in selling puppies, they weren’t always going for as much, and therefore, a lot of breeders exited the market because they didn’t have a breeding business and plan supporting their program. They were just producing dogs.

This exit of breeders will bring the supply of puppies down. For the breeders who stayed in the market, they’ve gotten more savvy with their breeding business, they’re better at marketing, better at customer service, and they’ve probably improved their puppy rearing, creating a better experience and puppy overall. This allowed them to continue to sell puppies and, as the supply of puppies goes down, the market will be willing to pay more for these puppies in the coming months and years.

The business market is never stagnant. It’s like a river ebbing and flowing, and we need to ride the waves and pivot as necessary.

All of this economics talk is mostly to point out that, if breeding were something that didn’t make money, then the price would increase until it did make money.

You can be ethical AND make money as a dog breeder

People often hear this and say that breeders are making money, but they’re being unethical in order to make money. That’s simply not the case. Honest breeders, to my estimate, make up the vast majority of breeders. They care about their dogs and their buyers. They’re doing their best to do the right thing. Between the dogs, the buyers, and the breeders, in my experience, I’ve seen most breeders will sacrifice their own finances or time with their family in order to give their dogs or buyers the best. They are trying to do the right thing.

The crazy thing about breeding is that each part of it is not particularly complicated IF you know what to do AND you have the resources to do it. You don’t need to be a master of a special skillset to be a breeder; but instead, you really need to be relatively good at a handful of things, then strategically improve what you do, making each part of breeding better and better.

I’ll dive deeper into that with another episode–understanding the skillsets you need as a dog breeder in order to be successful. It isn’t too bad, I promise!

Why making money as a dog breeder is important

Going back to making money. It’s important. You need to make money. If you aren’t making a profit, then how are you going to feed your dogs a high quality dog food? How are you going to give them quality vet care? How are you going to be home from work during the whelping, unless puppies are helping pay the bills?

It’s unreasonable to think that, with the number of people who want high-quality dogs, that breeders would be asked to breed them and not be compensated for their time, effort, and investment. It’s also unreasonable to think that, with our love for dogs in the world, that the entire industry would be operating in a subpar way and that customers wouldn’t be willing to pay a reasonable amount to have an ethically raised dog. Although the more you study the shelter and rescue world, your opinion on what people get away with in the world of dog sales may change.

In the end, breeding can be done profitably and ethically. You have to learn the process, you have to learn when to cut your losses on dogs that aren’t producing for you or who have issues. But this aligns with good breeding practices anyways; breeding healthy dogs who recover well is part of vetting whether or not a breeder is of quality to breed.

My whole goal in developing the Honest Dog Breeder Podcast and founding the Dog Breeder Society, an educational and safe, supportive community for dog breeders, is to help you understand all the little ins and outs of this business so that you can run it honestly and profitably. Profit allows us to give our dogs and buyers the best, while not cutting ourselves short. You don’t need to compromise; you need to learn how and then implement it. If you’re just getting started in dogs, I’d love for you to join us. Save yourself time and heartache, so you don’t feel like the girl who wrote the article blaming the industry so she didn’t have to feel like a failure.

Thank you for joining me for another episode of the Honest Dog Breeder Podcast, with me, your host, Julie Swan. Dog breeding can change your life. Make it work for you, your dogs, and your family. Thanks again and I’ll see you in the next episode.

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!