#87 – Are you Justifying Your Breeding Program?

by | Apr 3, 2024 | Business Management, Getting Started

I remember in the beginning, when someone would ask what I do, back when I first started breeding dogs as a full-time thing, I’d get a look. Sometimes the look was one of confusion, as though I were using dog breeding as a way to look like I had a job, when I was really a bum. The other look I would get was one where they looked at me like I was a terrible person. How dare I breed dogs for income when there were all those helpless dogs in shelters and rescues?

I remember thinking to myself, “Okay, it’s not like I just said I’m a drug dealer … what gives?” Why are people so weirded out by dog breeding, and was I really that terrible for breeding dogs and then making money?

I work with a lot of new breeders. They are so excited to breed dogs and—contrary to popular belief—while money plays a role, rarely is it the only reason someone is getting into dog breeding. As I often tell people, it’s way too much poop to work with if you don’t like dogs.

Just the same, you can’t be expected to do all this work for free; you’d have to be crazy.

Yet, I see a lot of breeders in this headspace; wondering how they can justify that they breed dogs. Anything to get those awkward looks from people to go away.

What’s interesting is how when I tell people now that I breed dogs, I don’t get these same looks. If anything, I now get intrigued looks. I analyzed what was different and I realized it really came down to my confidence. I am confident in my program. I am confident that I am doing what needs to be done to produce great dogs and place them in great homes. I’m not sending people home with problems, and if problems do arise, well, I am there to help my people. They can contact me and I’ll help them the best I can to figure things out.

Confidence is what changes how you talk about your program; and I’m not talking about the groomed confidence that comes from standing in the mirror practicing how to confidently say you’re a dog breeder. It comes from real confidence in your program.

Where Does Confidence Come From?

It comes from having answers to questions. I’m not talking about memorization; but more so, asking yourself the questions, mulling over the possible answers and solutions, making a decision that’s right for you and your breeding program, and then standing behind that decision.

Some of these questions will pop up from your own musings about your program. For example, a common one is when to retire a mama dog. There is no simple answer. I have an entire MasterClass with flow chart on how to figure this out.

Other questions will pop up when things arise and you have to figure them out, like when my kennel was hit hard with giardia back in my first year of breeding, or when I had my first dog returned. How do you handle that? You do the best you can with the resources you have. But, don’t stop there. Mull over the situation after it’s over, too. Review what went well, what didn’t, and how you’d do it differently if it happened again—or when it happens again.

If I can caution you about anything, it’s that there is no “one” way to breed dogs. There is no “only” way to breed dogs. What is right for you may be a terrible decision for the next breeder. To be a great breeder, a confident breeder, you need to figure out what’s right for you. That comes from an intelligent reflection on the options, and making a thoughtful decision after considering those options.

This is a little exhausting because there are so many ways to do things! I don’t expect you’ll be able to make all these decisions right from the start. It would be overwhelming. Rather, try a method, then be open to changing it if it doesn’t work for you or your dogs. This is the process. I have been breeding for over a decade and I still try new things each litter. My changes are smaller now, but I’m always experimenting.

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What about Breeding Courses, Certificates, and Badges?

I see a lot of breeders overwhelmed by the options, and they’re afraid to fail or to do things wrong. In an effort to hedge against making mistakes, a lot of breeders will start to collect courses and badges. They’ll often display these on their website or such.

Here’s my hesitation with that. I see a lot of breeders taking these courses and collecting these as a way to justify their choice to breed, or in an effort to prove they are a good breeder or an ethical breeder. It’s a way to feel confident when you aren’t confident.

Let me clarify, because I’m sure someone will interpret this as me saying not to take those courses or be a part of those organizations. That’s NOT what I’m suggesting. Rather, I’m suggesting that you take those courses and join those organizations to learn and network, not because you can put a badge on your website.

Just the same, when you take that course, learn from it. Decide if it makes sense to make some adjustments in your program because of what you learned. Then implement it, try it, take feedback from buyers on it. That’s the goal.

Showing those badges and certificates shows that you’re involved in learning more and you have an interest in being better. Maintain your integrity by learning and implementing what you learned.

There’s a big difference between someone who is taking those courses to learn and someone who is taking those courses to get a badge they can put on their website. The latter situation is someone in search of confidence. There is no shortcut to confidence. It’s a journey of a thousand decisions, trials, errors, and trying again.

To summarize, you don’t need badges and certificates, you need to know WHY you’re doing what you’re doing, and you have to be willing to change it when you realize it isn’t working for you. You also have to be comfortable trying new things and making mistakes.

“You never lose, you either win or you learn”

I heard a great quote the other day. The guy said, “You never lose, you either win or you learn.”

I think that’s the best way to look at your breeding program failures: the opportunity to learn and get better.

If you think about it, I would have a terrible podcast if everything I ever did with my breeding program worked out perfectly. How could I help you if my dogs never had parasites, if they always were sold with little effort, if I never had a returned dog, or if I never screwed up with my buyers? It wouldn’t be the honest dog breeder podcast, it would be the wasting your time podcast.

If you never make mistakes, you’re probably not trying anything new. Courses and MasterClasses, like what I’ve created inside the Dog Breeder Society, are designed to help you understand all the things you need to know so that you can bypass the excessive mistakes and failures and move into success more quickly, with less damage. There isn’t one way to breed, which is why I try and address the things you should consider when deciding how to do something, rather than telling you what to do—which is different for everyone.

Why are Breeders Mean to Each Other?

This brings me to a last thought: why are breeders often so mean to each other? It’s not always, but it’s very common. It reminds me of those popular girls in high school. Remember the movie “Mean Girls” where the girls are just straight mean to be mean? It doesn’t really benefit them, but they just say some nasty things.

When you look at mean girls in high school, they’re usually sweet when they say terrible things, right? “Oh honey, it’s not that your makeup is bad because you don’t know how to use it, it’s because your eyes are too narrow and it makes your face look funny.”

It’s so terrible because comments like those do two things: their tone deflects how rude it is, as if they are somehow being kind and understanding, rather than their true intent, which is designed to make you feel terrible about yourself. It would be akin to a breeder telling another breeder that if they knew more about breeding they wouldn’t have made such a rookie mistake.

The other side of the comment is that they are cutting you down for something in a way that you can’t recover from. Note how you can’t change where your eyes sit on your face. It would be like telling a breeder that if they had better breeding dogs, this wouldn’t be a problem.

While sometimes you do need to change your breeding dogs, there are so many variables in breeding that it’s nearly impossible for someone reading a Facebook post to make that determination.

Criticism is Often Born of Insecurity

Why were the popular girls in high school so mean? Because they were insecure. They felt judged, so they judged others. They brought others down because they didn’t know how to bring themselves up.

Breeders who bring other breeders down are doing so because they feel insecure about their own breeding program. So, here’s the question: if you catch yourself about to judge another breeder—even if in your mind!—then ask yourself, what about this is bringing up an insecurity for me? You’ll notice that if you don’t have an insecurity there, you won’t feel inclined to judge.

Don’t be mad at yourself for having the judgmental thought. That’s useless. But instead approach it with curiosity and ask what it triggered inside of you?

I’ll give you an example from my life. I remember running into someone years ago at the park and they had a little puppy. I asked about it, making small talk and they said they had bought the dog from a breeder. The dog was one of the smaller breeds and they had explained they purchased the dog and the amount they said was twice what my dogs were selling for at the time. This little dog had a pretty bad underbite, to the point where it might need to have dental work done to eat properly. I felt my blood pressure rise up, ready to judge this other breeder for creating a dog with an underbite. Yet it had nothing to do with the underbite. Sometimes that happens. Instead, it was that I was insecure about the price of my dogs. I was frustrated that my dogs didn’t sell for that price and I was trying to blame the injustice of the world that little dogs with underbites would sell for more than my bird dogs with great bites.

It was ridiculous, really. That guy was never going to be a candidate for a bird dog. He had a cane! He would hate having one of my dogs. It’s funny that I wasn’t even bothered he bought a dog from another breeder, because he wouldn’t have done well with my dogs. I understood that and wasn’t insecure about it.

I was confident about the type of home that would do well with my dogs and insecure about their price. Both of those were reflected in how I felt inclined to judge and not judge the situation. Don’t you hate it when you are reminded you’re not perfect?! 😉

Going back to the breeder community—especially on Facebook …

I was so floored by the rudeness within the breeder community that I checked out of it for 7 years. It was easier to pour over the internet and make mistakes than waste my time with the useless Facebook posts. I had ONE breeder friend. She was my friend prior to breeding, but we weren’t even close, and we certainly didn’t chat about breeding.

Anyway, here I am now. I have a podcast for dog breeders and an educational community to help them. My hope is to make it easier for you, save you time, make you more money, and most importantly, to have the dogs be the bringer of good things for your family, not something that sends you to therapy.

I’m glad you’re here. I’m glad you’re a part of the honest dog breeder community because you’re going to meet some amazing breeders. Working with breeders in this community has been so refreshing and, dare I say, healing for me. You all care so much and it is beautiful watching you grow your programs into what you know they can be. I’m excited to be a part of it, however small my role.

Thank you for joining me for another episode of the Honest Dog Breeder Podcast, with me, your host, Julie Swan. Thank you for taking time out of your day to join me, it means the world to me. I can’t wait to see you in the next episode!

Show Notes

Referenced Links
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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!