When I first started planning the Honest Dog Breeder business, I knew I needed to organize the content in a way that was searchable. I knew that if I could help you figure out what part of your breeding business needed more focus, then I could more easily provide you these resources. Isn’t that the quote: “You don’t know what you don’t know.” My goal was to help you figure out what you don’t know, so you can diagnose where you’ll get the best return on your invested time and money.
This is why I created the Breeding Program Assessment Quiz, which helps you sort out where to put your focus and energy in your breeding program. It asks you 12 questions and you select which of the two answers feels more true to you in each question, which answer is more reflective of your program.
Don’t worry if you’re still new in breeding, there’s actually different sets of questions based on what stage in breeding you’re in, whether you’re seasoned, or if you’re just starting out.
There are four different outcomes and these outcomes align with the four pillars of a dog breeding business, which are: Dog & Puppy Management, Facility Management, People Management, and Business Management. These four pillars are how I organize information inside the Dog Breeder Society, so they’re more easily referenced.
If you haven’t had a chance, check out the quiz. You’ll get your results at the end of the quiz and also in an email. I’m not just going to leave you hanging, though. I know you guys, and you like to take action. I know you’ll want to improve this area of your program once you diagnose it, so I made you a mini-course that goes with it.
The mini-course is specific to the outcome you received in the quiz, so for example, if you received business management, then you’ll get a mini-course on business management. BUT, you have to click the link in the email to start the mini-course, I didn’t want to spam you, but there’s some really great stuff in those mini-courses, I think you’ll like them.
Regardless, I wanted to discuss these four pillars of dog breeding to have you get a little more insight into what they are and how they can affect your program.
Dog & Puppy Management
The first pillar is dog & puppy management. It is everything from the process of breeding, whelping, rearing puppies, to keeping adult dogs healthy, living an enriched life. It’s also selecting the right breeding dogs for your program and complementary breeding mates. It’s evaluating puppies, keeping them healthy, and getting your dogs on the right dog food.
When most people think of dog breeding this is the main area they think of. They think about a life of dogs. Which truly, that’s not a lie.
When you first start dog breeding, this is where most people focus, which is good—and important—your whole breeding program rests on the quality and health of your dogs, if you don’t have that, it’s hard to say you have a thriving breeding program.
In fact, if you search for dog breeding information online, the majority of the articles, blogs, and products you see will be for dog & puppy management. There is a whole lot less information about the other pillars online.
The good news is that this pillar becomes easier over time. You sort of build a little bit of spidy sense about your dogs and you’ll notice when they’re off sooner than later. In addition, as you get better, you’ll have less brain work here because things will be routine: you’ll have your favorite dog food, you’ll have your routine for deworming and grooming, your favorite treatments for common issues, and you’ll have your routine for managing teeth and tarter. I don’t feel plagued by dog & puppy management at this stage in my breeding business, but my first few years…well, yeah, definitely different story.
I’m thankful, though, those first few years forced me—for lack of a better term—to learn how to manage these issues. The worst of which, for me, being giardia. It is the driving force behind my natural giardia treatment, which can also be used preventatively, which is MOOM, my magic oregano oil mix. The recipe is right there, along with how to use it. There’s also a video in the Society for those of you who are members.
The funny thing about dog & puppy management is that sometimes we miss the forest for the trees, meaning we think we have a dog & puppy management problem when, in fact, we have a facility management problem.
Sometimes our dogs are being exposed to things, things like giardia, that are actually a facility problem. Giardia, for example, lives really well in water. If it’s in the soil it gets reactivated by water, so when it rains, it’s worse. I found that when I implemented better facilities, that were dry, I removed my pond, and added concrete kennels, things were a lot better with health for my dogs, they weren’t exposed to the giardia in the same frequency they were before, this made reinfection a lot less common and therefore it made things much easier to clean—not the least of which being the poop removal.
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This leads me into the next pillar, facility management. Facility management is everything from how you set up your whelping and puppy rearing pens to where your adult dogs live, where they get exercise and entertainment. It’s the plan for sanitizing along with poop removal and disposal. It’s where you set up your supplies, how you manage inventory of it and dog food. It’s the routines that you have each day with your dogs.
Facilities are often the most expensive component of your dog breeding business, they’ll probably rival your dog food bill in later years. Because of this high cost of entry with facilities, I’ve seen a lot of breeders put it off until later than they should. I can’t throw stones though, I live in a glass house…I also have the clean the windows in that house, it’s irritating.
I struggled with giardia for so long, and that, of course, did affect my dogs, my time, my reputation with my buyers, and ultimately my bottom line. Why did it take me so long to build facilities? A few reasons, really. For one, I didn’t properly allocate the funds from my litters. Two, I thought that I needed to build it all at once, but that was so much money that it never felt realistic, so I never believed it would happen. And, third, I really didn’t know enough about the materials to know what to build. I was at a bit of a loss.
If you feel like me here, don’t worry, there’s hope, if I could eventually sort it out, you will, too, and probably much faster.
Oh, and another thing to consider, if you feel like your dogs are taking over your life, the days are blending together, you never feel like it’s done, and you find yourself making quick box dinners because you don’t have time to cook the food you want to eat, watching Netflix late into the night so you can check out a little? That’s a pretty good indication you need to work on your facilities.
Before I had facilities, six dogs was miserable to manage. I now manage 20-30 dogs on average and it’s nowhere near the work it was years ago when I only had the six dogs. The difference is nearly all facilities.
If you end up with facility management on the quiz, you’re in a for a treat, I give lots of tips and tricks to help with that one in the mini-course.
Let’s move on to people management, the third pillar. You know those people that tell you their plan and they’re all about it, but you just know there’s a big piece of the puzzle they’re missing? They’re so excited, you don’t want to ruin it, but on the inside you’re cringing? That’s how I feel when people tell me they want to breed dogs so they don’t have to deal with people. Dog breeding is like half dealing with people. Not only are people such an intricate part of breeding, but when all the other parts of breeding become routine, it’s the people that’ll still be able to throw you wild cards.
I’ve joked before about the people skills that breeding develops for you, and while I was teasing, it’s true. Dog breeding is quite the form of customer service. You have to help them manage their new puppy and set them up for success with a live animal that you can’t exactly control. Oh, and did I mention that unless you set it up right, they’ll blame you for everything? It’s a favorite of vets…”oh, yeah, the breeder should’ve…blah blah…” You never get that line from vets with a shelter dog…but hey, we are playing with higher standards that come with higher expectations, hold on…let me take a second to put on my armor, I think the adopt don’t shop movement is on their way.
When you’re struggling in people management it can be a lot of things, people can be pretty complicated. Some of the more common struggles I see are breeders not really understanding who their ideal puppy buyer is. This is a huge piece of the puzzle and sooo many breeders sort of ‘forget’ this step. If you don’t know WHO you are selling to, it’s hard to breed the right dog for them.
Another issue is setting appropriate expectations throughout the puppy purchase process. Failing to set these expectations generally means you’re to blame in their eyes. You can’t exactly play the “I assumed you knew” card when you’re the breeder and they’re the buyer, that still leaves you at fault. You’re the professional here 😉.
The good news is there are lots of resources I’ve built and put together inside the Dog Breeder Society to help you with this one. I even have a pretty hefty module on building quality customer relationships inside Dog Breeding 101. Of course, I recommend you start with the mini-course if you get people management when you take the quiz, lots of goodies in there to get you started.
And you want to know a secret? Dog breeding enters a whole new level of fun—and that’s not sarcastic—when you get people management tackled. When this pillar is going well in your breeding business, it’s quite enjoyable and rewarding to breed dogs. I’d say success in this area is required to sustain a long-term breeding program, not to mention how it sets you apart from other breeders.
Ah, the last pillar, business management. This one is controversial, although, I’m not really sure why. Anything you work on gets better when you have more money to throw at it. Isn’t that why non-profits are always fundraising? By treating your breeding program as a business, you’re reflecting and evaluating things to make sure they’re getting better, that they’re working as they should.
I’ve always believed that if you aren’t making money in breeding, you’re doing something wrong. Where else are you going to birth upwards of $10,000 or more in 63 days? If your dogs are costing so much that you’re washing out all that money, something had to have seriously gone wrong. We shouldn’t be satisfied if that money is disappearing.
Now, I will say, I heard Dave Ramsey once talk about people mistakenly choosing to get big tax refunds instead of getting that money each month. His point was that when you know you’re getting a large sum of money, you think of all the things you’re going to spend it on. You plan all the large purchases you’ll make or the things you’ll pay off, but, he says, and I’ve been guilty of this on quite a few occasions, “By the time you finally get that large sum of money, you’ve spent four times that amount figuratively.” His point was we often forget to be responsible with large sums of money, we often fail to notice how little of that is “extra.” How so often we really need to use that money to move us forward, not just have some fun.
If that came out as me loving to be boring, it’s not, I mean, I am boring, but I don’t think you should have a boring life. I think you should enjoy it. I enjoy my life, although I imagine a fair amount of people would find my lifestyle boring, but hey, it’s what I like.
I want you to enjoy the profit from your dogs, but if you aren’t making a profit, or you are making a profit but you’re living in chaos because of your dogs, well, maybe it makes the most sense to hunker down and figure out where you can make some adjustments to make things better. What can you streamline or improve to make your day-to-day less taxing and more enjoyable?
Use the money as a guide, track the costs, see where money is leaking out.
Yet, business management isn’t all about the money. It’s also about building a structure that is easy to manage, that provides consistency of service and support to your puppy buyers. It’s creating that efficiency so you have repeatable results and you aren’t selling your soul to your dog breeding program.
Just like facilities—or lack thereof—means the the dog side of the business seems to be taking over your life, if the non-dog-related stuff is taking over your life, well, it’s time to reflect and put some business systems in place.
◦ ▪ Writing the same emails over and over? Make a template. ▪ Get asked the same question all the time? Put it on your website. ▪ Do buyers constantly spay their dog before you ask them to? Put it in your contract.
Improving the business pillar is what makes your breeding program sustainable without you losing your sanity. You might think it’s not important to have your sanity, but your dogs and your family are really hoping you’ll stay out of a straight jacket. It makes it much easier to feed the dogs and help with the household.
Again, I have some awesome tips business management tips inside the Dog Breeder Society and, of course, inside Dog Breeding 101, but start with the mini-course! It’s free and loaded with great information. If you haven’t noticed, I love business, I have a business degree, and business innovation is something I could read about all day long.