As the market is normalizing, the supply of dogs is still slightly in excess of demand, buyers have lots of options, and breeders are having to work a little harder.
Many breeders are feeling stressed and wondering…should I quit dog breeding?
Before I dive into that, let me tell you a little story…
Is it time to quit?
I started playing organized soccer when I was 9. It was a fun thing, I met some great friends, and it was something to work towards and do. I did pretty well at soccer and after a year or two or recreation teams—the teams where you just sign up and they throw you on a team—I decided to try for the teams you had to tryout for, where you were selected and offered a position. It really changed the game. While the competition was much tougher in these games, the players on my team were much better, too. We were in a different league, literally.
It’s an interesting shift: you go from doing the best you can, to having the resources, the goals, the drive, and the support through great coaches. It makes you better, but it requires commitment. I had practice 2-3 times per week, we had a game every weekend. We practiced through the heat of the summer and after our fall season was over we went on to play three seasons of indoor soccer at the local arena. It was rare to have a weekend where we didn’t play at least one game, and we often had a few tournaments throughout the year, where we’d play 3-4 games in a weekend out of town.
It was a lot of time committed, I couldn’t stay out late the night before games. Our family couldn’t take many trips out of town because we were always traveling for soccer. My brothers also played, so it was a triple whammy with the three of us playing. We were always driving all over, and to my parents credit, they made nearly every game, only missing when there was a conflict between two games.
When I was in high school things were even more intense. Our team had become pretty good and we were often traveling 2-3 hours for a game on weekends. Add that to my pretty hefty schoolwork load and I really didn’t have a life outside school and soccer.
I remember when I was around 14-15 I went through a tough time, our whole team did, we were transitioning to high school. With everything new and exciting it started to make soccer feel less exciting, in fact, honestly it felt stressful, lots of work and practice and then we started losing a lot of games. The fun was falling out of the bottom of it and I started thinking of jumping from playing on the high-competition team back to the recreation team, where there weren’t any tryouts and where it was just supposed to be fun. Not so much stress.
I began to play that out in my head. What would it be like to just have fun playing soccer? I started to feel the rush of the fun of it, how I would be able to run circles around the girls on the other team. How I would be able to score easier, I wouldn’t have to practice as much, and I would just be able to be there playing.
Well… that thought process only lasted a few days, then it occurred to me that the other girls on my team wouldn’t be able to pass me the ball as I had hoped, my defenders might not be able to stop their offense and what if my other teammates couldn’t score? I realized that I didn’t actually care if we won or lost, that’s wasn’t why I played, I played because the act of it was fun. I liked that I was active, that I had my friends together, and that I was working to be better and achieve something. It was really fun when my teammate could pass me the ball and I could receive it, pass it to someone else and assist the score.
I decided to continue to play soccer on the competitive teams until my senior year of high school. While I couldn’t articulate it well back then, what had happened my freshman year was that I realized that playing soccer was only fun if I was playing at the level I was able to play at. I had to put that hard work into it, that dedication, I had to be committed to play it the best that I could play because that’s what actually made it fun. That’s what made it worth the time invested. Those days when we had a hard game, where the score was zero to zero nearly the whole time, and it was grueling, the parents weren’t chatting they were completely invested in the game, many standing up because it was that close.
Playing without that commitment wasn’t worth my time. It actually didn’t bring enough engagement for me to be worth the time dedicated. It was all or nothing. I couldn’t just be half invested, one foot in and one foot out.
Bill and I have had this chat about life and activities. We, like most of you, have a hard time being in that middle ground where we feel we aren’t giving 110% to something we’ve committed to. It actually makes us a bit hesitant to start things because we don’t want to only be able to do it part way.
For example, Bill took a long time to pick which Jeep he wanted. He wanted to make sure he wasn’t getting something that was almost what he wanted. He knew it would be more frustrating for him than actually fun. It had to do all the things he would want to do with it, at a price that didn’t irritate and aggravate him when the payment came around each month. He then spent a lot of time figuring out the few upgrades he wanted to add. He knows himself well, and knows what he wants to do with the Jeep and therefore knows what performance parts he needs to accomplish his goals.
Yet, we also aren’t part of a Jeep club, we aren’t going out every weekend hitting some crazy trail, so we know we need to reel it back a little and get the accessories that are more value-based for some stuff because the price of getting the best of everything would irritate us. Primarily because we wouldn’t be using it as much.
Are you committed to your dog breeding program?
Anyways, how does this all relate to dog breeding? Well, it has to do with commitment. Are you committed to your program? What does that really mean? Don’t worry, I’m not going to pull some military crap, just telling you to work more hours, drive harder, promise I’ll explain.
I’ve been working with a lot of breeders recently who are discouraged with the market. It’s been harder to sell puppies, they’ve been burned by buyers who don’t want to place a deposit, or who tell them they’ll place a deposit then ghost them. I’ve personally noticed buyers have been a bit more flakey the last few months.
Many breeders have discussed throwing in the towel and quitting. They’re so disappointed that they are feeling like how I felt when I wanted to quit soccer. It feels like breeding has lost the reward and all they’re left with is pain and work. For some breeders it will be time to quit, it was something that didn’t play out well, it didn’t compliment their life in the way they thought it would or it wasn’t what they thought it would be and so it just isn’t a good fit for their life and lifestyle. Just like we are matchmaking puppies to buyers by lifestyle, dog breeding has to match your lifestyle and work with it.
Now, don’t worry, if it doesn’t feel like it is fitting your lifestyle, then it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t breed, most of the time it means you need to make some shifts. For example, when many of us first start, our puppies are inside our home, this seems really nice, until they start eating food, mom stops cleaning up after them, and then they start to smell. If they’re in the middle of the house, now we feel we can’t have people over, and all of a sudden breeding feels really overwhelming. Yet, in that situation, it’s not that breeding is a problem, it’s that we need to make some facility adjustments so breeding and our lives can coexist in a better way.
Just the same, if your buyers are driving you crazy with questions, then maybe you need to focus on setting better boundaries and expectations.
Many of you are struggling with marketing, so this is why I’m doing two cohorts, the ideal puppy buyer cohort and a following marketing cohort…those who are in the Ideal Puppy Buyer cohort will have first dibs on the marketing one. If you’re interested, fill out the form here for the Ideal Puppy Buyer Cohort waitlist.
Want to Get the Roadmap to a Successful Breeding Program?
What happens when you aren’t committed to your dog breeding program. . .
Anyways, I want to talk about one more thing that might be sabotaging you: that’s commitment to your program. Again, this isn’t military-love-the-suck. Rather, it’s about how creativity is inspired. It is hard to be creative when our energy is diverted to contradictory things. If you are debating quitting breeding and that’s a running option in your mind, something you’re tossing around, then you are inevitably thwarting the creative juices in your mind because you’re splitting those juices into two cups, one that’s labeled “quit breeding” and the other that’s labeled “find a solution to this problem.”
Your brain is an incredible thing, it’s a super computer, but, just like any computer, we have to know how to use it. We don’t want it to turn into a weapon of mass destruction for our life, which it’s more than capable of doing.
How does it work? Well, that’s a whole series of books, but in our case, what we need to know is that when we are working with two opposing ideas, it’s going to look for supporting documentation towards both ends.
If you are thinking of quitting, then it’s going to notice things and point them out to you: like when you’re cleaning up dog poop, when a frustrated buyer calls, when your breeding dog digs under the fence to find a boyfriend because she’s coming into heat. Your brain will sort of poke you with an elbow and say, “Hey, did you notice that? See if you weren’t breeding you wouldn’t have to deal with that.”
Or, when you think you’ve found a possible solution to your breeding problem you’re working through, you start to list out the steps, the finances, and whatever else you’ll need to coordinate to make it work. Then when you think you have a plan ready to execute your brain will chime in again and say, “Man, that looks like a lot of work…” Then he’ll just leave the room after planting that seed of doubt.
It thwarts your motivation and excitement. Makes you question yourself and the plan again. This hemming and hawing causes you to pause, kills momentum, and keeps you in a state of mentally and emotionally struggling with your situation longer than you need to.
Taking action instead of waiting for the perfect plan
One thing that I’ve learned from Bill is that often times it’s better to take action that to wait for the perfect plan. He always says, “Get started and the path will define itself.” Really though, that was so irritating to hear, because I wanted to plan it PERFECTLY. He’s right though, half the time you won’t even know what problem you’ll be working with until run into it. So it’s impossible to plan it perfectly, you can’t even plan the problems perfectly.
His point is to take action. You ever think about the things you need in the grocery store, trying to map out the perfect path to get them all with only hitting each aisle you need once? I try to do that. I often think I’ll be amazing at it, but I’m really not, nearly every trip I send the kids back to grab something from an aisle we’ve already gone through. I sometimes find myself sitting in the store thinking of which aisle to go to next to be most efficient, trying to plan each item in my head. It’s dumb and by the time I’m done standing there, I’ve wasted enough time to know that I could’ve just walked across the store twice. So I should really just go get what’s in my head, and get it done, so what if I get 200 more steps.
While taking action is important and rolling through ideas is important. We can’t get our most creative solutions until we are fully committed to our programs. If you are in this headspace where you’re feeling pressure to quit. I want you to go to the dark side. I want you to take some time and fully mentally commit to quitting. Think about it. Feel it. Feel what it would be like to no longer breed. Does it feel like relief? Excitement? Freedom? Does it feel like emptiness? Loneliness? Does it feel like stress because of income? Does it feel like stress because it’s an engaging outlet for your brain that helps you stay at home with the kids and make money?
Getting honest with what you’re feeling
When you fully commit to the idea of quitting you’ll start to get to the bottom of the thought pattern, what’s actually irritating you. Most of us are ashamed of entertaining the idea of quitting. We feel guilty because we are worried we may have made a mistake, may have invested time or money we feel should’ve been spent elsewhere.
If we continue to suppress how we are feeling then we are diverting energy to that suppression and that is also sapping our creative juices. Many of us feel so guilty entertaining the idea of quitting that we won’t let our brain think about it. I encourage you to give yourself permission to think about it. You have my permission to entertain it, if it helps.
I also want to let you know that there will be some parts of quitting breeding that’ll feel really good. If it didn’t have some good points, then it wouldn’t even be on the table. What’s enticing you to quit is exactly the thing you should dive into understanding.
Using your feelings to fix the problems in your dog breeding program
Most of the time you’ll find that your brain will tell you “I would love it if…” and then it’ll fill it in with something like, “If my waitlist were full,” “If my buyers weren’t so frustrating,” or “If I was able to take a vacation and not stress about the dogs.”
Your goal in this exercise is to figure out the “I would love it if…”
The hope for the exercise is that by allowing yourself to think about quitting you’ll be able to acknowledge the frustrations fueling that thought. Get to the root of it. When we no longer suppress these thoughts and let them in, they feel heard, I know it seems weird to think about your thoughts and fears needing to be heard, but it’s a thing. You’ll also learn things about yourself and your program, and you’ll find you have more energy to work with since the elephant in the room of your mind is gone, and he’s no longer eating all the energy.
We often need criteria to limit our options so we can move forward. For example, my brother, Drew, an amazing graphic designer said in our interview, that if someone asked him to illustrate a scary tattoo that’s really hard to do, it’s not restrictive enough to spark creativity. However, if that changes to “illustrate a scary tattoo that has a barbed wire and sharp teeth” or “illustrate something scary that looks like it should be sweet” well now that’s something to work with.
When we allow ourselves to delve into the idea of quitting, to release that tension looming in our minds, sapping energy, then we can choose that it would or would not be right for us. We just never get that answer if we straddle the figurative fence never fully committed to either end.
Once you get onboard that quitting isn’t the answer, but that you have to solve a specific problem—or series of problems—then you can now have your restriction: the restriction is that you have to make it work. Have to find a way for it to work because the option of quitting is no longer on the table. So if you had to make it work, what would your creativity come up with?
Jot some notes down make a plan. This time your mind will get quieter about pointing out things because it’s working cohesively with you on the idea of making it work.
I use meditation a lot to get answers and insights to my problems. I’m not sure if you guys are interested in learning more about what I do for that. If you are, let me know by sending me an email at [email protected] or reply to any of my emails I send you.
I know that times are harder in the breeding world, people are no longer willing to jump off balconies to have a better chance at getting a puppy, however there are still a lot of buyers in the market. They’re out there, you just need to get in front of them, the right ones.
If you want to dial in your Ideal Puppy Buyer better, join me in the Ideal Puppy Buyer Cohort, it’s happening over 6 weeks, one 90-min session per week. I may offer a weekend one if enough people are interested. I look forward to hearing from you. You can sign up here.
Remember, I’m in your corner, on your team, whether you decide to quit breeding or not, I want what’s best for you.
Thank you for listening to another episode of the Honest Dog Breeder Podcast, with me, your host, Julie Swan, I know we talk about some deeper stuff on here sometimes, but I know you handle it well. Thanks again for joining me, it’s always a pleasure, looking forward to seeing you in the next episode!