Back when I was teaching aviation, one of the items in our instructor handbook addressed helping students work with and manage stress. The one that always stuck out to me was “Change Your Perspective.” I remember the picture in the book, it was a landscape and it was seen through a box, which I guess was supposed to be a window or picture frame.
Change your perspective
Change your perspective… back then I thought it was true, but it was also annoying and a bit irritating, especially when the book only spent about a paragraph explaining this concept, while I knew full well I could probably spend a year in therapy and still not be able to magically change my perspective on things.
Changing perspective also feels a bit like a cop out, like you’re giving up. Sort of like in the military when you were told to “Embrace the suck.” Besides the fact that that is quite a weird phrase, I’m not even sure it makes sense, but, of course, the idea being to just love it, love how messed up it is. I have to admit, nothing about that feels in alignment. That’s sort of like saying, “Love that you have a splinter in your finger.” I don’t know about you, but I don’t think I would be inclined to love that, let alone forget it. In fact, I think I would be more inclined to focus on nothing else until that was managed.
I’m really big on alignment, which isn’t really me telling you I see the chiropractor all the time, I should actually see him more frequently, he’s quite talented—I tried acupuncture for the first time last month and I swear I reversed 12 years of a painful knot in my back, yet I digress. Alignment is not just your body, but while alignment in your body is important, I’m more referring to allowing your heart and mind to get on the same page.
It shouldn’t be a fight. You don’t want your mind to tell you to drive harder, push farther, and to give up sleep, while your emotions are being dragged kicking and screaming in frustration, aggravation, and exhaustion. That’s not necessary. When in alignment things are easier. They sort of fall into place.
Now I can hear you, I can feel you rolling your eyes at me, you giving me that irritated smile, like, “Sure whatever Julie, what planet are you from? Puppy poop cleaning will never be something I love and feel in alignment with.”
Now, while I get it, puppy poop sucks, I don’t want you to embrace that suck, but could we see it as an opportunity? A spark to get our attention?
Every problem is an opportunity
Recently, as I’ve been dealing with my own life journey, I’ve been realizing that every problem is really an opportunity. While this is—technically-a change of perspective, I find it much easier to look at the world through this looking glass: Every problem is an opportunity.
Instead of feeling like I need to embrace the suck and pretend to love something I hate, I can see it as a mystery, a problem to solve. If every problem is an opportunity, then, in fairness, I am definitely surrounded by opportunity. And doesn’t that sound a whole lot better than “I’m surround by problems?” 😅
When I was first dabbling with this concept, my questioner brain was trying to break it, but I couldn’t, oddly, I just reinforced my thoughts of it. My grass wasn’t very thick and the weeds were taking over, it was a problem for me to solve, an opportunity for me to learn more about my grass and take care of it. I had the thought that maybe it needed more than water, that maybe it was depleted in nutrients, so I took the opportunity to learn and bought a small bag of fertilizer. I spread it by hand to really be a part of the process. I wanted to be there, with my grass, so she didn’t just get the nutrients she needed, but that she knew I was invested in her survival and thriving. I water by hand (if you’ll recall, she’s only about 20×20’, about 6×6 meters). I like to walk out barefoot and feel the water from the hose get between my toes. I like to feel the grass with my fingers, seeing all the new growth, the little bright green stalks shooting up, daring to grow right into the fire, known as the Arizona sun. Those stalks grow out of the ground trusting, they don’t hesitate, they just grow. When they get cut, they just get denser and grow some more. I often wish I could be more like plants, seizing any and all opportunities without reserve.
You ever see a tree that’s been struck by lightning? If it survives, which they often do, it’ll often lose a branch, wearing this darkened scar, but then they’ll just grow, they don’t get stuck in the opinions of other trees judging them for being a little lopsided, rather it just keeps going and growing, seeing the opportunity and taking it.
You’ll see the same is true for so many things. Why did we buy a crate for our dog? To fix a problem. It stopped them from getting in the trash, helped to house train them, and they didn’t eat our couch while we went out to the grocery store. Why do we have cars? Because we had a problem, we wanted to go places faster than we could walk. Cars were invented. Then we wanted to get there faster and planes were developed. Necessity is the mother of all invention, which is to say, before we can invent or create, we first must have the need, or shall we say a problem to solve.
Changing your perspective on puppy poop
What if we, ahem, changed our perspective to see the puppy poop as a challenge. What if we noticed that cleaning puppy poop didn’t feel in alignment, and saw it as an opportunity to make things better in our program?
Here are some ways to spin this:
The puppy poop is an opportunity to learn a better way, maybe that gives us the spark to study and implement litter box training. This saved me a lot of time and the puppies weren’t as gross, still gross, but not as gross, when I wanted to spend some time with them or show them to buyers.
Puppy poop also taught me a lot about the health of my puppies. I would watch their poop as a gauge to their internal stress state. I knew if they were stressed out, then the poop would get softer. If they were sick, it would be really bad. I learned what giardia looks like, what it smells like. Struggling with puppy poop lead me to learn about giardia and how to rectify it, how I could treat a dog with MOOM, my magic oregano oil mix, and affordably bring my dogs to eradicate giardia without the aftermath that often accompanies chemical medication.
I can’t be upset that I’ve had to deal with puppy poop, while it wasn’t without heartache, it was an opportunity to learn and be better.
Struggling with puppy poop, its management, and its ability to change how fun having puppies is…or maybe isn’t…
It became an opportunity for me to better serve my buyers, too. Interestingly, I found that the puppy pen I use after whelping, that has a litter box, actually worked out great as a suggestion to buyers as a way to safely contain their puppy while they were gone. Not only did the buyers find this tip very helpful and gave them peace of mind, but it also built a better relationship between us. I found it made their lives easier and as a side benefit, they felt they could be more open with me about the frustrations of puppyhood, because I was open about how it can be frustrating. A better relationship lead to more information about my dogs, my buyer struggles, and allowed me to create better educational materials for my buyers so they were more prepared.
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Using your buyer’s struggles to build momentum in your dog breeding program
You might feel that stress when buyers contact you with a problem. They are frustrated about house training, they’re frustrated with puppy biting, they’re frustrated with leash pulling. Maybe they don’t know how to cut nails or they aren’t sure what toys their puppy can safely have. Instead of being irritated with all these and feeling inclined to send them to google to figure it out. We can look at these “problems” as “opportunities” to better serve our buyers.
These little moments build momentum. Maybe this litter you create a worksheet on tips and tricks for house training. Maybe next litter you make a worksheet about your favorite activities to wear out a puppy. Soon you have a whole guidebook to give you buyers, either digitally or physically. This is the premise behind my Puppy Guide MasterClass, to help you talk about the five pillars of dog ownership and how to share that with your buyers so they’re more successful.
Have you ever been frustrated, at your wit’s end and then you meet just the right person and they hand you exactly what you needed? Sometimes that’s a supplement, sometimes that’s a great conversation, sometimes it’s the perfect book or the perfect YouTube video. And when you indulge it all just clicks. You can be the saving grace for your buyers. Every problem they have is an opportunity for us to be their partner in crime, a team together.
We can be their relief. We can help them have the life they want with their puppy. It surely starts with our breeding decisions, but it ends with our customer service. If you can provide the customer service along with great pups, it’s the magic sauce. That’s what’ll bring your program to the next level. Breeding is so much more than just the pups we produce.
ARE YOU STRUGGLING TO SELL YOUR PUPPIES IN THIS MARKET AS IT NORMALIZES?
Many breeders have expressed their frustration as the market is doing a little ebb and flow. It can feel like such a sinking feeling when you can’t seem to find good homes for your puppies. You start to go through these negative thought patterns where you feel like maybe you’re not a good breeder, you’re failing your pups, you’re failing your family, you’re wasting money.
I know those feelings, those thought patterns, they’re quite defeating.
Let’s harness our new thinking: every problem is an opportunity. What opportunities does this market provide us? If sales aren’t just easy anymore, what opportunity lies in front of us?
It’s an opportunity to be better, but how? For me, it’s an opportunity to review your business and the marketing. So many breeders think that the pricing is all that’s involved when the market is slow, but really, it’s not so much the pricing as it is the ability to get in front of the right buyers, especially when the economic scales of supply and demand aren’t in good balance, there’s more supply than demand.
However, as your marketing improves, so do your buyers. Not only are they better buyers in the sense that they’re more in alignment with your breeding program, but also, they’ll be willing to pay your price, because they trust you and are sold on getting a dog from your kennel specifically.
That’s the key, getting them sold on your kennel specifically. How do we do that? It starts with intimately knowing your ideal puppy buyer. I know, it sounds like I’m beating a dead horse. Here’s what’s interesting though, despite me saying that, the vast majority of the breeders I speak with don’t know their ideal puppy buyer well enough, new breeders or seasoned, it is still the number one problem I see getting in the way of success for most breeders.
Even for those who seem to have a fair handle on the person and the lifestyle their dogs should provide, they are often failing to put that into their marketing or on their website.
Incorporating stories into your marketing to sell dogs
A good way to do this is to incorporate stories into your marketing that doesn’t just tell the buyers what they’ll get with words, but illustrates it with micro stories. Little moments that show buyers the lifestyle. Don’t say that a dog is attentive, elaborate that idea with a story. Maybe that dog is so attentive that you don’t remember the last time you went to the bathroom by yourself. Maybe that dog is so attentive that not only does she watch the movie with you, but she gives you a look of irritation when you’re chewing the popcorn too loudly, interrupting her experience. (I also have a MasterClass on Selling Your Puppies With Stories.)
Notice how as I say those things they jump into your mind like a little movie playing. You might smile as you think of how your own dog does something similar. You might also be irritated that you would have a dog that wouldn’t even allow you to be alone in the bathroom, maybe your mind wanders to a dog in your home that used to scratch at the door if you closed it and left them the previous room. You might be flooded with irritation at the number of doors you need to fix because of that dog. No matter what you felt, emotion was evoked, you smiled or you shook your head, you were anxious or you were relieved you no longer have that dog. See how those little stories brought the story to light? They make the dog real. This is what you want your marketing to do, you want to bring to life what life with one of your puppies will be like.
Remember, the key in selling puppies is we don’t just sell a dog, we sell the lifestyle they provide. This means you need to illustrate the lifestyle in your marketing, take the qualities of the dog and turn them into a story. You probably don’t need to make them up. Instead you’ll be able to pull them from your own experiences.
Telling stories is about selling a lifestyle, not an adjective
You can even do this with your kids to get some practice. My daughter, Dakotah, is really outgoing, she’s quite the extrovert. Now I didn’t know this because she came with an ingredients label, I learned this over time as I watched her interact with other people and kids. If I were selling her (promise I’m not), but if I were, I might say she is “sweet, extroverted, and always up for adventure.”
But what does that mean? How can I illustrate that for someone? Sweet and extroverted is pretty generic. It might mean she gets in everyone’s face, but is nice about invading their space. Well that’s a whole lot different than life of the party and considerate because she thinks to have everyone’s favorite treat at the dessert table. Those two qualities can go in many directions as you can see. When you leave it up to the buyer to interpret sweet and extroverted, well, it doesn’t give them a clear picture of your dogs, nor the lifestyle they’ll have, and it makes it harder for the buyer to feel the lifestyle and therefore, they’ll be less likely to be sold on your pups.
Let me share how I might sell what my daughter is like being sweet and extroverted, and what that’s like for me as a parent.
Dakotah is sweet and extroverted. I remember once when she went to the park and her friends weren’t there yet, there was a young girl, about four years old, and so Dakotah went right up to her, sat down in the sand and played with the little girl, encouraging her to build a beautiful sand castle, bringing to life her fantasies. The little girl’s eyes beamed as a smile spread across her face, turning into laughter at the ridiculously tall tower they were building for a dragon.
The little girl’s mother smiled and walked over to me, telling me how much of a relief it was that an older kid would be so gentle with her daughter, as the older kids hadn’t always been considerate, and the little girl had been afraid of them.
I smiled at my amazing daughter, she makes me look like so much cooler of a mom than I actually am. I’m so lucky.
The lifestyle that Dakotah provides for me, if you will, is one where I feel like I’m an awesome mom. I get to watch her make the world a better place. I feel lucky I’m able to watch the growth of such an amazing person, to know her, her struggles and triumphs, and to love her on all her days, good and bad, so that she gets to be herself in her truest form, knowing she matters and is loved.
Now for some of you, that’s going to be amazing and you’d be willing to purchase my daughter (sorry, she’s still not on the market), but for others of you, you’re like, “Oh, man, that’s a lot of work, I don’t want to have to sit at the park and watch two kids build a sand castle. I don’t want some other parent walking over to me and interrupting my moment of peace.”
And you know what? They’re both okay. This is how a story helps: it brings the story to reality, allowing the buyers to know what they’re getting. This will naturally attract and repel people, and that’s what you want. You want them to be all in or you want them out. If they aren’t a good fit for the stories, they won’t be good fits with the pup, best to sort that out now, before they ever contact you.
Many of you have expressed interest in diving deeper into your understanding of your Ideal Puppy Buyer, not only understanding them, but learning how to implement them into your business and marketing better. I will be hosting a virtual cohort starting in August, I’d love to see you there! I have a weekend virtual Ideal Puppy Buyer conference and also a multiple-week one. You can get more information here.
I hope this gives you a little relief in the process of dealing with your problems, which you might now challenge yourself to see as opportunities for growth. This week try and take one problem in your breeding program—or your life—and see if you can find 2-3 opportunities that might come out of it. Then get to work.
Thank you for listening to another episode of the Honest Dog Breeder Podcast, with me, your host, Julie Swan. I look forward to meeting you and learning about your breeding program. Thanks for letting me along on your journey! Thank you again and I can’t wait to see you in the next episode.