Breeding dogs, in the general audience, is qualified as a hobby, a passion, a crime (!), but it can also become a business. Like all businesses, it can be performed responsibly or unethically.
Dog breeding should always put the welfare of the dogs first without ever cutting corners on that. Unfortunately, it’s not always black and white therefore leaving room for hot debates all over the Internet and in many neighborhoods where dog breeders decide to settle down.
Over the last months and years, we have published numerous articles on how much we hate unethical dog breeding (let alone puppy mills) and that the word business in breeding business simply means exchange of money for a dog which as far as I know, everybody does. If you want to read some of these articles pertaining to unethical dog breeding and puppy mills, check these out:
- The Concerning Welfare Issues of Modern Dog Breeding
- How to Report an Unethical Dog Breeder?
- Why Backyard Dog Breeding Cannot Be Criminalized
- A Third of Purchased Dogs Come From Puppy Mills
- The Cutest Smallest Tiniest Mini Teacup Toy Dog
Please forget the bitter taste and bad connotation you have associated with the word business because on this website, we meant responsible breeding business when we use the word breeding business.
Dog Breeding NOT As a Business
First, let’s define what is dog breeding when it is not performed as a business, often as a hobby or perhaps as a mistake. Generally, hobby breeders breed the one dog they own either by mistake because they have not supervised their dog, or simply because they want their female to experience motherhood at least once.
Such hobby breeders rarely have much knowledge in terms of pedigree analysis, canine gestation, and delivery. Nursing is also a blurry concept to them. Hobby breeders often improvise and take one problem at a time, hoping that Mother nature will take care of everything seamlessly. And letting nature follow its own course is generally better than being too involved with the whelping process.
Initially, once the female dog is visibly pregnant, a hobby breeder with start a long and intensive quest for updated dog breeding knowledge — and its generally when they find Breeding Business! Main points of concern are:
- Is there a must-have puppy milk replacer?
- What supplies do I need in my whelping kit?
- What makes a whelping box safe and comfortable?
- How to take care of a pregnant bitch?
- How to hand-nurse puppies?
- How to stimulate lactation in dogs?
Although these interrogations are common to all responsible dog breeders, they are a huge deal when you aren’t really expecting that much of a workload. Plus, hobby breeders tend to underestimate their importance in case of emergency.
A few weeks away from the litter’s due date, the hobby dog breeder is starting to post ads online, join Facebook Groups, spread the words in their vicinity, and so on. They will attract a few interested people and perhaps some more later on. Overall, it’s a one-off experience that will probably use up a chunk of the breeder’s savings, but it’s for a wonderful cause.
Once this one-off or accidental litter has been dealt with, the hobby breeder with rarely plan another breeding. It was a fulfilling time but the level of stress it caused was somewhat overwhelming for a regular dog owner who doesn’t have enough time to allocate to his canine family.
Dog Breeding As a Business
The other type of dog breeders is more prepared, knowledgeable, and ambitious. These as the more professional dog breeders who consider their activity as a sustainable and responsible dog breeding business. They may just have a single dog, or one litter every few years, but they see this as an activity, not as a one-off experience.
Prepared dog breeders generally find Breeding Business before they even organize their first mating; we’ve got plenty of open doors (i.e. amazing articles) where they can find us. Professional breeders aren’t huge dirty factories pumping out dozens of litters yearly. They predominantly are dedicated individuals who accumulated a wealth of knowledge about their favorite breed over the years (or even months.) They eventually and rightfully believe that they can improve the breed by only using the best blood available.
When somebody is breeding dog as a business, there is an clear intention of breeding the best of the best: not necessarily champions, but rather specimens that bring something to the table.
Therefore, pedigree analysis is a massive part of their work: they spend endless hours weekly trying to dissect each hype dog’s pedigree, assessing whether or not the given specimen is worth being included in their breeding program. Professional breeders know by heart which health screenings all dogs have to undergo, and which qualities and flaws each popular bloodline is associated with. They know that breeding dogs is a science that has nothing to do with putting two dogs together and allowing luck do the rest.
Paperwork is very important for more professional breeders: they want to sell each puppy with an agreement of sales that will protect both the new owner and themselves. They are keeping whelping records of each puppy so they can quickly monitor each of their pups if need be.
Can't You Be In Between?
You absolutely can. And I believe hobby breeding and professional dog breeding are on the same continuum; they are far from being two binary states. Every single ethical dog breeder is somewhere in between these two labels. Some breeders are clearly identified as hobby breeders while others are obviously more organized and professional in their approach.
What matters truly is for both types of breeders to ensure all their dogs are properly taken care of: diet, exercise, hygiene, health checks, paperwork, etc.
The cost of dog breeding is also important to consider. The profitability of dog breeding as a business is a huge conversation and while most will argue that you can only lose money if you breed ethically, I dare to disagree strongly. The question is more whether or not there is money in breeding the dogs you intend to work with.
A hobby breeder will inevitably lose money. A little or a lot will depend on so many factors (size of the litter, breed, pedigrees, health checks, registration…) that it is impossible for me to predict it right here right now.
A professional dog breeder also faces expenses, even more, if you count all the marketing side of running a kennel: dog shows, pet exhibitions, paid ads, website hosting, website creating, domain name, etc. When having a dog breeding business, you also tend to take extra care with more vet checks (as you should), a better dog food, perhaps even training classes, and so on. At first sight, professional breeding is hard to profit from if you do not cut any corner to lower the level of expenses; but there is one thing you can change and hugely increase. It is your revenue generated by the sale of each puppy.
Talk to people. Ask prospects what would make them pay more for their future puppy, and execute upon that. This means having great pedigree, very clean kennels, but also having a modern kennel website with testimonials, weekly updates, galleries, and so on. Prospect buyers want to see you attending (or winning) dog shows even if they will never go there themselves. They want the best blood possible. They want to see you not just when you have puppies to sell, they want to know you from months ago and follow your journey from conception to sale.
Breeding dogs is an Art more than a business but there is an exchange of a dog for money down the line. Make sure you present your dogs and your kennel under the best angle so you can have a queue before you even have the puppies born. Don’t be scared to increase prices and build your reputation over time. Never stagnate in quality, always improve.
Laura Winston's Take on Professional Dog Breeding
Some special people in our valuable audience always let us know how some of our articles could be improved. Sometimes, they come up with different angles that are very much worth being published. This is the case with Laura Winston from Rosemont Bichons, in Shingle Springs, California, USA. Here is her great addendum to our article (added on December 28, 2017!)
A reputable breeder of purebred dogs has an ethical responsibility to the betterment of the breed as defined by the breed standard, as well as creating a place that is a safe and healthy environment for all of the dogs. And includes proper records on each puppy or dog placed under the kennel name.
Breeding to the Breed Standard
A professional breeder must be recognized by the breed’s National Club and adhere to all of the standards of practice the National Breed Club sets for breeding, including health testing and other protocols. A breeder must also be in good standing and comply with local breed and all-breed clubs. All pedigrees will be highly researched and well-thought out with consideration of each pairing’s strengths and weaknesses. Preferably the breeder will also be successful at grooming and handling of the puppies as they go from litter socialization through American Kennel Club (AKC) championship.
The AKC Championship is awarded by different judges that choose that dog as an exceptional example of the breed and it’s conformation to the breed standard, thus assuring a healthy, desirable breeding stock.
It’s not the quantity of puppies produced, but the quality of them contributing towards improving the breed. An AKC Championship is the Good Housekeeping Gold stamp of approval!
A Safe Environment
A professional breeder maintains a specific area of the house or kennel for the sole purpose of breeding purebred dogs. The mother and puppies need to be in a clean, safe and separate place to assure bonding and good nutrition while nursing. A place or station for basic husbandry care of the adults and puppies should be set aside. A place for bathing and grooming needs to be established. A clean indoor play area for socialization and separate sleeping area must be established. A warm or cool temperature must be maintained for the comfort and well-being of the puppies and adult dogs. Quality food on a scheduled feeding plan for each stage of life and water is always available. Veterinary care is utilized on a routine basis and for emergencies as they may arise.
Meticulous records must be kept by a reputable breeder. This includes pedigrees (3 – 4 generations), including all comprehensive litter whelping notes and placement of the puppies. This includes photographs of the new owners upon transfer of the puppies. All litters are to be registered with AKC, and each puppy accounted for throughout it’s life by microchip. Follow-up with the owner of the adult is done as needed to gather further information about the dog for consideration of future breeding plans. As the breeder, you are responsible for the life of the dog, the owner is responsible for the daily care, health and well-being of the dog. A responsible breeder will properly match by evaluating the puppy or adult dog to it’s owner, including home visits when possible before placement. All dogs must be properly vaccinated and microchipped. Including a month of pet insurance when a new owner takes the new puppy or dog to their vet, promotes proper veterinary care for the life of the dog. Providing food, toys, blankets or photos is value-added and well-received by the new owner when getting their dog.
Although I am a “professional breeder” I only recognize breeders of purebred or purposeful cross-bred utility dogs (e.g. Alaskan sled dogs, therapy dogs, seeing eye dogs or military dogs). Designer dogs that are cross-bred for popular requests is not, in my opinion, what a breeding business should be. And this is simply because you don’t know what genetic roulette you are playing with. The goal of breeding is to breed for health, temperament, conformation to the breed standard (which includes a dog’s work, e.g. herding, sporting), pedigree and betterment of each with successive generations.
Dedicated breeders can make it a viable, financially successful business with good financial record-keeping. Given the quality of the foundation bitch and sire, and with each additional bitch and sire brought in under a well-planned breeding program, the cost of each element of the business is more. Acquiring well-bred, highly-pedigreed champions, then having additional costs for health testing, veterinary care, whelping and puppy costs can add up quickly, all given to the much higher prices of purebred dogs from well-recognized, reputable breeders. The best assurance you can get to owning a healthy, happy puppy who has been planned through art and science and whelped with generations of information, is to buy one from a reputable breeder who welcomes all your questions and visits, while responding thoroughly to phone calls and emails. It all goes into the business. The price is reflected in the quality of the breeding and the services you provide. A professional business that is demanding daily, yet rewarding for a lifetime.