Don’t you love getting little care packages? I secretly didn’t mind going to the dentist as a kid because not only did you get a sticker when you were done, but you got a little care package. I always got a super basic toothbrush, but I got to pick the sparkling purple one. I got that tiny tube of toothpaste which was just mine, that box of floss that I never used, and sometimes a little toy or a ring. I would actually be excited to brush my teeth the next time because of that little care package. It made me feel special and helped with the idea of going to the dentist.
I’m not going to lie. I truly enjoy putting together puppy packs—and I have to admit—mine are a bit cooler than the dentist ones, sorry if you’re a dentist, know that I do appreciate your skills like you wouldn’t believe. With my puppy packs, I love going to the store picking things out, searching online for deals to get the items I want to add. I love seeing the family’s face light up as I show them the puppy pack and all its contents. Sometimes I feel like I’m on QVC, am I dating myself? Should I refer to it as the YouTuber doing an ‘unboxing?’
I’ll also admit that I’ve gotten a little carried away with puppy packs, while other times they were a little lack-luster, sometimes those eight weeks came a little faster than I anticipated and I wasn’t ready with all the cool stuff.
In today’s episode, I want to discuss the purpose of puppy packs, once you know why you are making a puppy pack, you’ll choose better items for it.
Set Them Up for Success
Setting your buyer up for success is a major drive behind the design of your puppy pack. This means you should give your buyers the things they need as a minimum. For example, the health and vaccination record should be standard for a puppy pack.
Remember, the transition is a lot on a little puppy: the new home from your home, away from littermates, with new bacteria, and a new schedule, new faces, new routine. It makes sense that this would be the time where the puppy would endure the most stress. Stress can lead to an immune system drop, so you want to do the best you can to make the transition as smooth as possible.
A simple thing you can do is to provide the new family with a little bit of dog food they can take. My nine-year-old daughter, Dakotah, helps me do this. She mixes up five ziplock bags for each puppy, portioned for a day of dog food. She adds in some additional ingredients we use to make the transition easier, like an herbal toner, and some pumpkin fiber. This gives the families time to get the dog food in case they forgot to and more importantly gives the dog a good transition, reducing the stress on the puppy.
Often people are driving long distances to get to you, this means they have a bit of a drive with the new puppy. As such, it helps to provide treats that can occupy the puppy on the drive home so the buyers aren’t losing their minds with a puppy crawling all over them on the way home. The longer lasting and super tasty items are great here. I often grab them in bulk and pull out one or two for each puppy pack.
These items are great to show new owners what your dogs like and to give them ideas. Sometimes I give them a variety to see what their individual puppy gravitates to.
Sometimes you can find items in trial size that will show the owner products that have worked for you, think like a mini shampoo bottle that would fit in a stocking for Christmas. The nice thing about these little trial sizes is that they have the branding from the company on them and that allows the buyer to more easily recognize the product when they are at the store or shopping online. Sometimes the companies will offer you free sample of products for your puppy pack. This is often available for food samples of the food you feed. I greatly appreciate companies that offer these sort of things.
One mistake I see a lot of breeders make is to find the companies that offer free items to breeders for their puppy packs, and the breeders sign up to get these things, regardless if they are beneficial to their puppies or not. For example, if your dogs don’t like a certain chew toy or maybe they’re particularly destructive with that chew toy, then don’t add it to the puppy pack, this doesn’t set your buyers up for success. Your puppy pack items lead them to believe these are ideal items for the dogs, so we really need to keep that in mind. More items is not better. I would rather have you put fewer items that are specialized into your puppy pack instead of a lot of things that may or may not be helpful.
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Give the Puppy More Value
You ever borrow your friend’s truck? It seems to be a truck thing, people who own trucks and have friends who don’t, tend to get asked a lot to borrow the truck. There aren’t too many sedans that can tote a new refrigerator home. Regardless, if your friend lends you his truck to borrow and it’s spotless, the outside is clean, the cupholders have no coffee stains, and there aren’t any cracker crumbs on the seat, then you’re going to be very careful with that truck, you’re going to gently stop at every light, you’re going to use two hands when you steer, and you aren’t going to bring that thing back to him dirty. He places obvious value in his vehicle and, therefore, you do, too.
You ever let someone borrow your car and it wasn’t spotless when you handed it to them? If you have a cup in the cup holder when you give them the car, there’s a good chance they’ll accidentally leave another cup in the other cup holder when they return it. If the outside is dirty, they’ll forget to tell you if they got a door ding, figuring you probably won’t notice. They won’t respect it because you don’t respect it.
This works similar with our buyers and the puppies. When we take the time to make sure the puppy is clean and smells good, the buyers will respect the puppy and what they are, more, they’ll feel the puppy has more value because WE value the puppy.
The puppy pack is an extension of this concept. It’s like flying first class and getting all the goodies. It shows that you took the time to build a packet to ensure success for the puppy by making the buyer’s job easier. You care to make the buyer’s life easier because that makes it easier for the puppy to get the best treatment. It also shows you respect your buyers and that you’re in it for the long haul, that you care about their long-term success with the dog, you don’t just care to get the money.
Shouldn’t be a way to make money
I remember speaking with a breeder, she’d been breeding a while and she made the comment that her buyers were exhausting her. They didn’t seem to understand that they had to put some work into their dog, it was almost as if the dog was supposed to be perfect at pick up.
I started talking with her some more to better understand what might be happening. After talking with her it became clear what the problem was. She was giving them way too much stuff in the puppy packs. It wasn’t just a lot of stuff, but there were some really expensive items. Like a two-way camera and treat delivery thing so they could check in and treat their dog from work. I don’t have any issues with this sort of item, BUT I don’t think it’s something that should be included in the price of the puppy and here’s why: when you put an item that is easy to price (like something you can price check on amazon) it has a fixed value. If you added a $200 item to the puppy pack, people would look it up and subtract that item from the puppy price, the end result is devaluing the puppy in the buyer’s eyes—something we never want to do.
In addition, it also feels like you sort of wasted their money, especially if they wouldn’t have bought that item, they would’ve instead wanted a better price on the dog.
If you have a retail license, or the ability to buy things at wholesale and sell them for retail prices, then a better alternative is to offer your buyers an a la carte option, meaning they would be able to purchase those items additionally, and ideally, at a discount. This would build rapport and trust with your buyers instead of creating tension and won’t devalue your puppies.
Some breeders try and use their retail license to make money, for example, they’ll increase the price of their puppies to cover items at retail price, but they aren’t paying retail price for the items because they are buying them at wholesale. This will really hurt your relationship with your buyers and make them feel taken advantage of. The little bit of money you make off this practice will be nothing compared to the damage you create in the relationship with your buyer.
Give them confidence
In addition to giving our buyers the things that will set them up for success, we want to give them confidence. It’s the intangible part of the puppy pack. Now I’m not suggesting you sit down with your buyers and give them a pep talk and then a slap them on the shoulder like you’re their coach, but show them that you have faith in them to do this. Remind them that you don’t just sell puppies to anyone, but that you selected them because you feel they are capable of giving this puppy an amazing life.
When you give them confidence, it will help them on the dark days, like when the puppy has just had an accident on their new area rug or when they don’t get a good night’s sleep because the puppy was whining in the crate.
You need to be careful to give them confidence, but be honest, don’t give them so much confidence that they’ll feel like they failed if they have a question. Let them know that things can be crazy sometimes and that’s why you’re available to talk to. Your faith in your buyers to do the right thing and reach out when they need help will really help them to feel like you have their back and they can handle the puppy. This team approach to raising the puppy will produce the most success for your buyers.
I hope that helps give you more direction and purpose with your puppy packs.
Looking for more information on sending your puppies to their new homes and families with everything they both need to be successful? There’s a MasterClass in The Dog Breeder Society on creating your Puppy Guide – enroll today for access to this MasterClass and so much more!