#83 – The 3 Things You Absolutely Need When Starting a Dog Breeding Business

by | Mar 3, 2024 | Business Management, Dog & Puppy Management, Getting Started

Have you ever had to move? I really dislike moving. I’ve had my property for over a decade, so I just like the idea of having a place and continuing to develop it and turn it into an ideal home. However, there was a time in my life when I had 16 addresses in 48 months. That was not the most fun thing in the world. You feel like you’re living out of your suitcase and a few bags.

Anyways, back to moving. Think back to when you last were moving, whether you were relocating for more land, wanted a break from the city, or maybe you were moving for a new opportunity, like college or a job. When you move, you have to find a new place to live. When you’re looking for a place, there are a few things you’ll definitely want to have: you’ll want a sturdy foundation, you’ll want a good roof–as a good roof protects all your valuables–and it’s important to consider the neighborhood where you’re moving to. You don’t have control over your neighbors, so picking a good location will be nice. I remember a new couple moved into our neighborhood last year and I felt a little nervous wondering how they would be, realizing I didn’t have any control of them and what they were like. Turns out they have Pugs, and, well, let’s be honest, their personalities are pretty similar to their dogs, so they’re A-Okay to me!

Okay, well, what does moving have to do with dog breeding? A lot, if you’re moving for more property for your dogs … but that’s a discussion for another day. Rather, it’s more that moving and finding a new place to live is very similar to starting up a dog breeding business. Follow me, if you will, on this analogy.

What you need is a lot like what you’re looking for in a new place to live.

The 3 things you need to start dog breeding are:

  1. You need quality breeding dogs … these are the neighborhood you choose.
  2. You need your family on board … this is like having a great roof over your head.
  3. You need a plan and a goal … this is like having a quality foundation that everything is built upon.

Quality Breeding Dogs

Hands down, the decision of breeding dogs is by far the most crucial decision you will make when starting. Selecting the right breeding dogs is like picking the right neighborhood … sounds crazy, right?

Think about your neighbors. Do you have any control of them? I mean, you could have one of those Nazi HOAs–the Home Owner’s Associations–which, if you aren’t familiar, are these organizations that dictate what is and isn’t acceptable to do with your property. Forget that you might live in America, land of the free, the HOA will be making sure the paint color you choose for your home follows their allowable colors guidelines.

Anyways, sorry, my experience with HOAs hasn’t been the best, so I carry a little resistance to them. Yet, I digress.

They are designed to set the standard for what is and isn’t acceptable in a neighborhood, so there is a reasonable expectation of what your neighbors will take care of and how they will set up their home. Essentially they are designed to control the people in the neighborhood, ideally in the least invasive, yet still manageable way. They are an attempt to control something that is otherwise uncontrollable. They exist because people recognize they don’t have control over their neighborhood, and this is the attempt to make living there more predictable.

In a breeding program, the breeding dogs you choose are a lot like the neighborhood you pick. Other than choosing the neighborhood, you don’t have control over the genes and temperaments of the dogs. They are what they are. Hopefully you chose wisely.

Your foundation dogs really are that. They are the dogs that set the foundation for your bloodlines. Every puppy I send home is related back to Buster, my foundation stud and one of the two foundation females I used. Your foundation dogs are like the central current that runs through your bloodlines. You want that to flow right and give you a quality start.

Choosing the right breeding dogs will generally be your biggest investment expense, and rightfully so. It is the neighborhood you choose and, once it’s chosen, it will be the thing you are looking at and dealing with day in and day out. Changing your foundation dogs, while possible, is considerably difficult and expensive, both in time and money.

While there are always exceptions and diamonds in the rough, these are general guidelines:

  • Don’t Buy an Older Puppy

    The older puppies, especially if they’re last in the litter, are generally not the best pick in the litter … that’s why they’re still available. There are some situations where a breeder will look to keep a dog as a breeder, then later decide against it and advertise a nice puppy. However, this is often a great way to spin selling a less-desirable dog.

  • Don’t Buy From New Breeders

    New breeders simply have not been doing it long enough to know all the things you need them to know about their dogs, and to have the track record to support questions that might arise down the road. This is not meant to disrespect new breeders, but it’s just the truth of it. Without a doubt, the great majority of new breeders generally care and take care of their dogs. But long experience makes it clear to all of us that you get better with every litter, you learn more from each experience.

  • Don’t Buy From Breeders Who Don’t Retain Their Own Dogs

    Consistency comes from selecting the same type of dog to form your new generation. Breeders are always trying to balance selection of the structure and appearance, the drive, and the temperament. It’s a juggling act which is a bit of an art as much as a science. Breeders who select from their dogs to create new generations are honing a bloodline. Yet, many breeders don’t trust their judgment, or, for whatever reason, elect to buy all their breeding dogs. This is a red flag to me. You have very little way to create consistency if you continually add new blood to your program without balancing the retention of your current lines.

  • Don’t Look For a Deal, Look for the Right Dog

    Often breeders are looking for a deal when they first start out. They are shocked by prices of established breeders, or they are looking for an older dog to start sooner. Your breeding dogs are everything. If they have problems, your program has problems. It’s worth the wait to do it right. And, when you find the right dogs, don’t be that guy who tries to negotiate a better deal, that burns the bridge with the breeder. You want to keep that line of communication open. It pairs that, if you don’t know what you want, you won’t know it when you find it. You need to figure out what you want, what is your ideal breeding dog. Then that’ll make it really easy to decide if you want to buy a dog or not.

Want to Get the Roadmap to a Successful Breeding Program?

You Need Your Family On Board

Oh, is this one ever overlooked!

In this day and age, who is anyone to tell anyone else who they can and can’t be, or what they can and can’t do? We are able to do pretty much whatever we want so long as we put our mind to it. Yet, here’s the thing. We live with other people most of the time. And dog breeding is a lifestyle sort of thing. You don’t get to have a day where you can sort of forget you’re a dog breeder. You’ll still be getting up and managing dogs, … unlike working at a store where you can sort of forget your job when you come home. With dog breeding, generally speaking, your dogs are at your house and a part of the normal day-in and day-out of your life.

It’s near impossible to breed dogs without impacting the other people in your family.

Have you ever noticed how you sort of have an opinion about everything with your significant other, your mom, your kids, your friends? For example, I have an opinion about Bill and his toothbrushing habit—I like it, in case you were worried. I have an opinion on the way he drives, how he cooks, and how he keeps the house clean. Just the same, he has an opinion about how I parent, the shoes I choose, and the time I spend with him and how. Obviously we work because our opinions of each other are generally positive about one another’s choices, however we don’t always agree, and wouldn’t you know it? That’s where the relationship has its quirks that need a little working out.

With a lot of that stuff, the opinion we have is rather inconsequential. Bill likes a different toothpaste than I do. Does it matter? No. Do I have an opinion about it? Yes, of course I do. Clearly mine is better. Again, though, it doesn’t really matter. However, he’s really good to my kids, which aren’t his biological kids, but that’s something that really matters. Bill would lose his mind if I didn’t clean the house regularly. It’s really important to him to come home to a fairly chaos-free home, a place where he can decompress from the day and relax. I like that, too.

Yet, … dogs. Dogs can really change that up. Bill has lots of opinions about my dogs. It’s not necessarily bad, but it is a part of our regular conversation. I had a lot of dogs before, when we met. It was too many dogs. I couldn’t give them the quality of life they deserved, and I didn’t have the exercise pens and facilities to balance out my lack of time. Bill’s opinions helped me see that I needed to do better; and then his opinions and thoughts on how that could be better were what helped me build my facilities.

At the same time, Bill has been there supporting me when bad things happened. He was there for emotional support when I had a litter fall ill with Parvo. He has been there when I have felt down because I had a dog returned. He encouraged me when I had a large litter and not enough reservations, and I was worried. He’s helped me brainstorm solutions, listened to me when I was sorting out my breeding program, who I would breed to who, and when I was dead broke and we were first dating, he understood I needed a new stud, … and he gave me the money to buy the dog I had been waiting two years to buy.

In contrast, my ex-husband wasn’t always so supportive. He found the dogs to be irritating, and they would commonly be blamed for our problems. We didn’t have enough money for this, so he’d blame the cost of the dogs. If he wanted to take a trip, and I had puppies on the ground or couldn’t find someone to feed the dogs, it would be my fault we couldn’t go.

It wasn’t always the dogs’ fault, but, in fairness, they rarely made things less complicated.

Ultimately, his opinion was that the dogs were bad and took away from our life. It left me alone to make decisions, alone through the hardship of losing puppies, alone when making breeding decisions. It also made it hard to discuss spending money on things for the dogs, and I always felt like I couldn’t share the whole experience with him.

Obviously we had our differences. We are friends now, but better as such. To be fair, looking at the two situations, a major difference between the two situations is that, when I got together with my ex, dog breeding was not a part of that picture. It came later. In a way, it wasn’t what he signed up for. With Bill, I was already a breeder, with dogs, and a business. Dogs were part of the original picture; signing up for Julie meant signing up for Julie, her two kids, and the dogs.

Having your family on board is like having a great roof over your head. When you move your stuff into a new place, you want to know it’s safe, that you can work with it without there being problems or a chance a rainy day will ruin it.

When your family is on board, you have people in your corner, rooting for you and your success. In many instances, but not all, families will be a big part of helping you with your dogs.

I will make a note: you have to be careful how you look at your breeding business with your family. Support from the family will range a lot. I see all sorts of involvement in families, and also the absence of it. Yes, there are some couples that are building their businesses together–he takes on one part and she leads the other. However, this isn’t the norm. When it happens, it’s wonderful; but you have to consider that it might not be how it works for you and your family—and that’s okay!

Sometimes, because breeding is integrated with your home, it feels like cleaning up and managing the dogs is a family task, one that should be distributed amongst the family in the same way as cooking, cleaning, and house maintenance is distributed. That’s a mistake. Don’t expect your family to help out with the dogs unless it’s something you’ve specifically talked about. I work with a lot of breeders, and I frequently hear complaints that a husband doesn’t help with the breeding program. But that’s not fair. It’s not their breeding program in most cases, it’s just yours.

Imagine your husband was a plumber. I don’t know why I always use plumber examples; I guess they’re just easy to understand. With his business, you’re supportive, but it’s not yours. He didn’t have a bad night sleeping and then would ask you to go out and do the repairs on his schedule today; nor would he ask you to handle calls or invoices without you being a part of the business. Of course it’s a different story if you’re in the business with him and you’ve delegated that you take the calls and do the invoicing while he goes to the customer and does the work. But, in that instance, you’re in the business.

Now there are exceptions, right? Sometimes he’ll have a situation at work where he would really benefit from you running to the plumbing store to grab a few fixtures and parts so that he can get both jobs done that day. You might do that as a favor for him. He’d call the plumbing store, have everything set aside with the cashier, and you were just running in, paying, and picking it up, then bringing it to him.

In relationships we want to help each other. We want to support one another. But he would never ask you to leave your job at work to go pick up parts. He would just take a little longer to do what he was doing.

In essence, when I say your family needs to be on board, I’m looking for their general support, as in emotional support, and a belief that you can do this, you’ll be successful, and they’re on your side in the process.

Sure, they may pick up the slack for you when you’re sick or if you have a double conflict, similar to how my kids will feed the dogs for me if I have to go out of town and they aren’t coming, or when my daughter whelped half a litter for me because that was the very last day that a female I was contracted to do stud service was in season and they needed my stud at the clinic within the next three hours. However, there will never be a time that they’re doing something with the dogs for me and I’m just sitting there watching. It’s my business, I need to be there.

If your husband is the plumber in our situation, you’d of course be there to listen when he’s struggling with a client who is irritated, if he’s having a problem because he’s not sure if he should take a job, or if he wants to work with another contractor. He’s not asking you to fix those problems, but you are his sounding board. It helps to have your family be your sounding board.

And by golly, when your dogs make some money, spend some of it on your family, even if it’s just 10% or your profit! You want your family to see breeding as the bringer of good things. Breeding will take you away from your family time in some capacity, so make sure to compensate the family for that time lost with you.

You Need a Plan, Your WHY, & a Goal

You need a plan and a goal. If you have no plan, then it’s hard to get much accomplished with breeding. There are too many distractions to pull you off course. You also need to know what success is for you. Why are you breeding? What do you hope to accomplish?

Many new breeders want to breed, but they don’t really know why. They don’t know what they’re trying to accomplish with their dogs. The funny thing is it isn’t always about the dogs. Sometimes that etches itself out later. Sometimes it starts with a way to work from home or to be able to do homeschool with your kids, or to add a little extra money to the family’s bottom line. It’s okay if your why is not 100% about dogs.

You do have to love the dogs, though. It is way too much poop to clean if you don’t love the dog part of it. There are other ways to make money that would be better suited for you and your goals if you don’t love the dogs.

How do you tackle this? First, start with your WHY. Why is it that you’ve started breeding? For me, I wanted to give other families what Buster gave our family. He was an awesome family dog, adventure buddy, and amazing hunting dog. He created so many memories for us. That’s what had me interested in breeding. Then, when I realized I could stay at home and live off my dog income and be available to my kids, that’s when I really knew my personal WHY for breeding.

That became the goal. I would breed dogs and use the income to help support the family, allowing me to be home with my kids and homeschool them when they came of age.

The goal for the breeding program was therefore a combination of the two: produce amazing dogs, place them in wonderful families who would appreciate them for what they are, and then take the profit from the breeding program to supplant my income and stay home.

With the goal in mind, I set to work building out a plan. There aren’t a whole bunch of resources on what you need to do to make that happen. They are mostly implied: breed dogs, sell puppies, and repeat.

I know this designing a plan is easier said than done, but I’ve taken my process, my business background, and I’ve built a roadmap to a successful breeding program. It’s a free PDF download. You can get it using the form in the Show Notes below.

I started this podcast and the Dog Breeder Society to help you, the honest dog breeders, build a breeding business you love. It’s a lot to figure out and learn, but this is where it starts: a good set of foundation breeding dogs, a family that is supportive, and a goal to derive a plan from.

This podcast is brought to you by the Dog Breeder Society, an educational and support community for honest dog breeders who want to produce amazing dogs, place them in wonderful families, and make a profit when it’s all said and done. It’s possible, and inside the Dog Breeder Society we give you all the secrets and background you need to make a breeding program customized to your dogs, your life, and you.

Thank you for joining me for another episode of the Honest Dog Breeder Podcast, with me, your host, Julie Swan. I know your time is valuable, and it means the world to me that you take a few minutes to spend time with me each week. Thank you again, and I’ll see you in the next episode where we’ll discuss the skills you need to be a dog breeder, and what to do if you don’t quite have them figured out.

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!