#86 – How Do You Market Your Puppies?

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

Everything is going well. You picked some awesome breeding dogs, you got them on a food you like, they’re healthy. Your family is excited, too, they aren’t sure what to expect, but your family has helped you get a dog room put together. In no time you’ll have puppies! This is the exciting part, the puppies!

But what about marketing them and finding them homes?! Oh wait … how do you do that?!

Many breeders do all the things with their breeding dogs and taking care of the puppies, but they don’t have a plan for marketing them.

I’m going to give you my thoughts on marketing, where to start and where to go from there.

My plan for marketing is designed to build you a long, stable influx of customers eager to buy your puppies. It is not the most ideal if you want to unload puppies quickly and it is more work than you probably want to put in if you have an oops litter and aren’t really breeding, but just have puppies to sell.

If you’re in one of those situations, there are lots of rescues and online communities for rehoming dogs that weren’t intended. These avenues aren’t ideal for honest breeders as intentionally bred dogs aren’t allowed on most of these sites and groups. Go figure.

Where Does Marketing Start?

Identifying Your Ideal Puppy Buyer

Before you dive into any advertisements, you first need to know your Ideal Puppy Buyer. It is the first step, the most critical step, and the most common step that breeders miss.

What is an Ideal Puppy Buyer? Good question. While I have an entire MasterClass inside the Dog Breeder Society that discusses finding your Ideal Puppy Buyer, in quick summary, the Ideal Puppy Buyer is the type of person you would like to sell your puppies to.

Most people discuss demographics and while that’s important to a degree, what’s more important is the lifestyle. Take avid hikers and people who work from their desk all day at home. Those are two very different lifestyles. The type of dog who will be a great hiking companion, may not be the best dog to sleep at your feet by the desk all day. Just the same, the dog sleeping under your desk may have no interest in hiking, and may even struggle to keep up.

This is why the lifestyle is so important: when the dogs integrate into the lifestyle that the buyer wants to have with the dog, then the match is easy, there is less work in managing a puppy, and both the buyer and puppy are happy. When there is a mismatch, then the owner and dog have many more struggles and the relationship isn’t as great as it could be. Think how disappointed the hiker would be with a dog that couldn’t hike, and how frustrated the owner working from home would be when they have to get up 15 times a day to let the dog in and out as they’re trying to get work done. The match matters.

Understanding and marketing your dogs comes down to knowing your Ideal Puppy Buyer and the lifestyle they have, how it works with your dogs, and then selling that lifestyle.

A key thing to remember: we don’t sell dogs, we sell the lifestyle they provide.


Once you know who your Ideal Puppy Buyer is, the next step is to build a brand around that Ideal Puppy Buyer.

Branding, which is the colors, fonts, logo, and overall feel of your business, is the way we convey what our dogs provide. There is a lot of psychology in branding, choosing a blood red color will give an entirely different feel than choosing a light sky blue.

Branding starts with the emotions your buyers want to feel with the puppy, it’s the reason they’re buying a puppy: to feel those emotions. If you build your brand for those emotions, then you’ll start to attract the right people. Remember the emotions and the lifestyle that will evoke those emotions will be different for every single breed and also, further, within a breed.

If you don’t think branding works, then think about stores or restaurants you go to. Notice how similar people will be in those places. The people shopping at Boot Barn, buying cowboy jeans are very different than the people shopping at Banana Republic. If you go into Banana Republic in your dirty jeans and cowboy boots smelling like a horse, you’re probably going to get some awkward glances. Just the same, if you’re all dressed up in business casual dress and heels you’re probably going to get a few confused looks as you try on boots at Boot Barn. Does it mean you can’t shop at both stores? No, not at all, but you’ll probably dress more according to that store if you go there, just to make the process less awkward and easier.

It’s just like going to a nice restaurant. Remember when you had to go to a really nice restaurant when you were a kid and your mom made you dress up? Jeans weren’t allowed and you couldn’t wear your gym shoes? It’s the branding of those businesses that begs you to be a certain way as you interact with them. More so though, they are designed to make you feel like you higher end or classy if you are going to the nice restaurant or Banana Republic. Whereas Boot Barn is all about making sure you have the right clothes for the job; no one wants ripped jeans while you’re moving cows.

Matching Your Brand to Your Ideal Puppy Buyer

It will be really hard to sell your dogs to people who shop at Boot Barn if your branding feels like Banana Republic. You have to build your brand for your Ideal Puppy Buyer and the lifestyle they seek with their dogs.

Branding can be exhausting and very thick, which is why I built a MasterClass on branding. Once you know your Ideal Puppy Buyer, it’s a lot easier to build your brand around them.

A lot of people try and build their website before they have their brand built out and it just really makes it a lot harder and more work to change later. The worst is when a website is built without a brand and it doesn’t speak to anyone. All that work just to have it fall flat. Take the time to build a brand, then build your website with it. You can always adapt it a bit later, but taking the time to build a brand will pay off in professionalism and consistency for your program.

Build Your Website

Once you have your brand in place you can build your website. Building websites is fun. Some of you are probably rolling your eyes at me, it’s okay, I won’t take it personally. Websites are your virtual kennel. Gone are the days where people will visit your kennel before purchasing, rather, today, they visit your virtual kennel—your website—to determine if you’re the right breeder for them.

While there is maintenance for a website just like your actual facilities, there is no poop, so that’s always a positive in my book.

When you build your website I want you to have this idea of it being your virtual kennel. Think about it as though it’s a hired spokesman for your facility, almost like someone you have at your home, ready to do a walkthrough with your buyers, when they arrive.

What a Good Dog Breeder Website Includes

Your website needs to provide a prospective buyer all the information to determine if your dogs are a good match for them. This means they should be able to see pictures of your dogs, your breeding dogs, and available puppies. They should also be able to get an idea of what you breed for, the goals of your breeding program compared with other breeders within the breed.

They’ll also want to know how the process works. Remember, with the Adopt-Don’t-Shop Movement, there are a lot of people who have never bought from a breeder before, they often don’t know how the process works. Tell them how it works, make everything simple. The goal is simplicity.

I have a free checklist for the 5 pages every breeder website needs. Learn more about it and grab your copy here, or you can get it in the show notes for this episode. To find the show notes for any episode, just type in honestdogbreeder.com/ and the number of the episode.

The goal of the website is to be the net that catches buyers in tandem with your email list—we’ll get to that in a second. All social media, advertisements, and anywhere else you list your dogs and program, it should all send buyers to your website. It should catch all initial inquiry. Once they’re there, they can read through the website and see if you’re a good fit.

Not only is your website the receiver of all your advertisements, but it is a sorting mechanism that will attract or repel people to your program. If they aren’t a good fit, then the website should make that clear. They’ll move on and you’ll never have to deal with them. This is how the work that you put into the website will eventually save you time and make you more money.

A well-organized and designed website, with the right information on it, will direct people, just like a hired employee at your gate welcoming people in.

Get the 5 Pages Every Dog Breeder Website Needs Checklist!

Email Newsletter

While they are there on your website, you want to capture the lead; the best and least invasive way to do this is through using an email list. The email newsletter is a way to capture a buyer when they’re on your site. Not all buyers are ready to buy when they first land on your site. By putting themselves on an email list, you can nurture them with news from your breeding program and they can take action when they’re ready.

I recommend using ConvertKit for this service, we have a MasterClass inside the Dog Breeder Society that’ll help you get started with ConvertKit and use it for your breeding program. The great news is that ConvertKit has a free plan that’s adequate for most breeders. It makes it easy to get started and get traction!

Imagine that you build your website, and 1000 people go to your website over 5 months, not bad, like 200 people per month. Imagine that you were able to collect a mere 10% of their email addresses. That would be 100 email addresses. Now, when you have your first litter, you’ll have 100 people to tell about it, what’s better? They gave you their email address! Which means they were interested at a point in time in learning more and getting notified. It makes them warm leads. Even if that email list of 100 people only leads to 3 sales, that’s 3 sales you barely had to work for. It only gets better.

Send People to Your Website through Social Media & Advertisements

At this point you’ve figured out your Ideal Puppy Buyer, your brand, you’ve built a website, and have an email list integrated to collect warm leads, so what’s next?

Sending people to your website and collecting email addresses is the next step and an on-going marketing step along the way. Naturally, social media is one of the best ways to do this. The organic traffic from social media is wonderful and helpful.

Social media is all about meeting people where they are. It’s sort of like the virtual equivalent of having a stand at a farmer’s market. You are there, you share a little of your product offering, but the goal is often to build awareness that you exist, and to get people to go to your website or jump on your email list so they can continue to get things from you later on, well past the farm stand.

Social media allows you to go where they are and make them aware of your product, in our case, our puppies.

Social media is one of the biggest time-sucks in breeding. The better your website, the less you’ll need social media, yet you generally need a presence there.

I recommend you make a plan for social media. Our team created the Breeder Copy Hub, complete with social media templates to help you do your social media each month, saving you time and getting you results.

Another thing about social media, it should start to sort people. You want to repel some people on your social media, if they aren’t a good fit for buying one of your puppies, then having them there can hurt you in the algorithm. Don’t be afraid to have a small, very engaged following, those are the money makers.

What about Brokerage Services?

There are lots of brokerage services and websites. Everything from other people selling your dogs on your behalf (I do not recommend this, you have very little control of where your dogs are going) to websites like Good Dog or AKC Marketplace who aim to align you with interested buyers. I think these brokerage websites are a great place to advertise, but they should never be the only place to advertise. Don’t rely on any third party service to sell your dogs. Have a website and use these sites to build traffic to your website.

Back in the day I used Gundogbreeders.com to list my dogs. It had a lot more traffic per month than I was getting on my website. Through filtering, mostly by location, people began to find my breeding program. Many contacted me through Gun Dog Breeders, while others contacted me through my website following the link from the listing. It brought a good amount of traffic to my site and eventually more and more people were finding me directly through Google searches.

In summary, leverage these sites, but don’t rely on them for consistent sales, build your website and email list, then rely on those. They’re much more consistent and can never randomly kick you off to be politically correct.

Where Else Can You Advertise?

There are a few other options to advertise when you first get started. Local feed stores are great, they usually have boards where you can post animals. These boards also often exist at coffee shops and other local favorites. You’ll want to make some form of poster or similar, give a little summary of what they are, size, etc. that way people know what they’re contacting you about.

The most ideal thing is to use a QR code to send them to your website. There are lots of free QR code generators out there, you can always make one yourself and add the graphic to it.

There are also Facebook groups and similar where people have dogs and puppies. These are great places for research. When listing, make sure to follow the group rules so that you don’t get kicked out or flagged. They can be real sticky, but also a great opportunity to meet good buyers.

There you go! The way to market your dogs. Start with your Ideal Puppy Buyer, build your brand, build your website, integrate an email list, then use social media and advertisements to send people to your website, where you collect email addresses.

It feels complicated, but it’s not too bad in practice. Have patience with yourself, these things take time.

If you’d like to learn more about the Dog Breeder Society, Breeder Copy Hub, and our services in general, please check them out using the links in the show note below.

Thank you for joining me for another episode of the Honest Dog Breeder Podcast, with me, your host, Julie Swan. I know you’re busy, but I greatly appreciate you taking time out of your day to spend with me. Thanks again and I’ll see you in the next episode!

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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!