How To Start a Kennel

How To Start a Kennel

It’s in your mind and you just can’t figure out how to get started… So how to start a kennel? Well, we’re breaking it down in this blog post and truly hope you’ll come out of it full of action points. Breeding dogs requires knowledge, time, money and obviously, a lot of effort over years.

Owning a dog as a pet is easy; you don’t need to understand canine genetics or have to be extra cautious about picking the right dam or stud. When wanting to start your own kennel, things become more of a challenge. Each choice will impact your bloodline’s future, and potentially, your kennel’s reputation.

This is why, before you get started with your breeding endeavors, make sure you read this post but also our other important pages.

mind map to start a kennel

How To Start a Kennel? By Not Breeding

The overall philosophy we are promoting here at Breeding Business is that quality breeding generally starts by not breeding. When discussing such matters, the debate promptly drifts onto ethics when actually, it should shift onto knowledge, science and abilities. If somebody has enough knowledge and is fully able to breed quality dogs, then please let this person breed quality dogs. Not every breeder is a puppy mill!

Knowing how to breed dogs means understanding what goes into a top quality litter:

  • a healthy screened pedigree,
  • objectively performant parents,
  • and obviously a lot of care, love and attention

Starting with the best and purest intentions, dog breeding too often fails in its execution. Generally, that first litter we had high hopes for isn’t as good as we expected it to be. People did not want to pay the price we asked them to. Vet bills are heavy, so is the cost of looking after these unsold puppies.

This is why great breeders should start slowly. Learn first, then understand what makes some breeders great successes and others bad failures. Build your future bloodline using all that knowledge you’ve accumulated and don’t repeat mistakes others have made.

The truth is, starting a kennel is far from being easy. Especially for those who really want to bring something to the table and not just breed for the sake of it.

Research, Genetics and Founding Stock

Most wannabe dog breeders take this adventure by the wrong end. You should never buy dogs and wonder what’s the best bloodline you can get out of them: this is a losing mentality in so many aspects. By doing that, you are limiting your ambition to these dogs’ potential and you simply are not ambitious enough. A dog breeding program has to be bigger than any of your individual dogs.

When you know, deep down, that you want to breed dogs ethically and responsibly, you must avoid adding average puppies to the mass of already existing average dogs. The right approach is to reverse engineer your bloodline’s end-goal and lay the foundation that will allow you to reach your dog breeding ambitions.

What Do You Want Your Dogs To Excel At?

Firstly, answer very honestly a few simple questions:

  • what type of dogs are you thinking of breeding?
  • do you want your bloodline to have a look, a purpose, or both?
  • what do you want your bloodline to be known for?

In other words: what are your dogs going to bring to the table? Perhaps a look and a very strict conformation to the breed standard, or a huge emphasis on performing a particular task (hunting, sniffing, herding, speed, etc.) and reaching the podium in local/national competitions.

Many readers will, right this second, think “well, why not both a purpose and a look?” and by experience, it takes many years to be a top-tier breeder who can focus on two ambitious goals. I would suggest sticking to one and excel at it before having further ambitions.

What are your dogs going to bring to the table?
Said differently… what are your dogs going to bring to the table?

Research the Breed and Bloodlines

Unless you are working on a very niche goal (ie. very unusual racing corgis, sniffing pugs…) you will not be alone in your endeavors and therefore, it is your duty to review what other breeders are doing. Unless you know exactly what is your final ambition, you won’t be able to see how good these people are performing. This is why before speaking to anybody, you have to be clear about your goals. Some of these breeders may be the thought-leaders in that space, others may be winning awards and events, while many are most likely failing miserably.

Study them all.

Oh, and by studying, I don’t mean reading their website’s about page. Email them, be honest in your first exchanges and learn as much as possible about their dogs while networking with them. They may be breeding your next stud or bitch. Also email all the regional and national breed clubs to inform them of your future plans. They are specialized in your breed and attend several events every year! There clearly are the best people to speak to once you start to have a clearer plan.

So, how to start a kennel? Definitely not by putting two dogs together without in-depth research and learning. Learn from people who are currently trying to achieve what you are hoping to do yourself, and use breed clubs as a source of constructive feedbacks along the way.

Understand Canine Genetics

Most novice breeders believe that putting two dogs together will give birth to a litter of average puppies and that amongst the whelps, there will be a super puppy and probably a very bad one. Well, it’s wrong and stupid-thinking at its finest. The same goes for those thinking that white and lean parents will automatically give birth to a litter of white and lean pups.

The common denominator here is the lack of understanding of what heredity and canine genetics consist of, their principles, mechanisms and how they interact with environmental influences. Sadly, canine genetics and heredity are perhaps the hardest and most important part of breeding dogs. They require a lot of reading, studying and digging. They are the kind of topics that, even when vulgarized, understanding them fully is rather tough.

We’ve got a whole heap of sections about heredity, canine genetics and environmental influences in our bestseller, The Dog Breeder’s Handbook. I’ll invite you to take a look and really grasp what these concepts are all about. We made a real effort into breaking down each term and concept so you can understand them with ease.

The punchline here is that you should stop all breeding plans until you go through canine genetics and heredity. Otherwise, you’ll just do things the wrong way despite having the best intentions.

Your Kennel's Breeding Stock

Right now, if you’ve followed our steps, you should know:

  • what types of dogs you will breed,
  • what your bloodline will excel at,
  • what is your long-term ambition,
  • and what bloodlines and breeders match your goals

So, it’s now rather simple to contact these suitable breeders and expose them your plan to breeds dogs so they can let you know as soon as your perfect puppy will be available. Now, it is up to you to be as demanding as you wish to be. The more rushed you are to get started, the more you’ll accept an average dog.

Just remember that this is your founding breeding stock and these first dogs will have a huge influence in your bloodline and future success. It’s not the right time to be easygoing, especially with your first bitch(es).

Set up Name, Website and Legal Structure

Setting up your kennel is the easiest part when you’re wondering how to start your own kennel. It’s fun and technology made things so much easier that anybody can do it.

Find a Memorable Name

Just like the name of your baby or dog, finding a memorable kennel name that you like and are proud of can be a long process. Some breeders change after a few months, while others trim the fat and use a shorter version of their original name. Pick a name you feel strongly about and stick to it.

To me, the name does not make the kennel, the quality of the dogs does.

Perhaps the most important part of finding the right kennel name in today’s world is making sure it’s available on social medias and as a dot com domain name (see below.)

If so, register it as soon as possible, even if you just want to use it in few months’ time.

Is your kennel domain name still available?

Setup a Quick Kennel Website

Having a kennel website is not just an ego-trip. It allows you to share and document your dog breeding adventure from day one (ie. today) before you even have your first dogs. Not just that, it gives you a platform for your followers to see what your breeding program is about and obviously get regular updates about events you attend, litters you are planning on having, and anything else pertaining to your kennel.

For those of you who already know WordPress, the free CMS, we’ve also created a premium dog breeding WordPress plugin called Breedr for WordPress. Otherwise, if you know zero about website creation, we’ve got an illustrated guide to setting up your kennel website, and it takes 15mn for the slowest of you. No coding or particular skills required, just a computer!

Demo of Breedr for WordPress
Screenshot of a kennel website running Breedr for WordPress. Check it out!

The legal structure truly depends on your country, state and project. For most people, doing it as an individual is best, just make sure you keep records of all incomes and expenses for tax purposes. If you plan on managing your kennel full time and also sell merchandising and monetizing your online presence, registering yourself as a formal company might be better, and more tax-efficient.

Consult specialized websites or book a quick chat with a local accountant. You can always start as an individual and then officialize a proper LLC or limited company.

Brick and Mortar: Layout and Equipment

Now you have finalized the most important parts of your kennel, it is time to go on to the next stage: set your farm up. This is when things are getting serious: it’s not about emailing people and thinking things out anymore. It’s about shaping your kennel and turning ideas into real tangible equipment while complying with health and safety rules.

It’s also when you realize that everything will cost you money so daydreaming was fun, reality is not.

Your Dogs' Accommodation

At all times, your dogs must be kept in a healthy, spacious, safe and suitable accommodation in regards to the number of occupants, the size of the quarters, the temperature, the material used, the exercising facilities and the general cleanliness (invest in top quality kennel disinfectant…)

Even if you absolutely want to have your dogs be at home with you, they should still have a specific area where they can be safely left alone when need be. It is essential to have a clearly designated area for your dogs so you can sometimes take hours off “work”, relax and spend time with your family or with yourself. Your dogs should always have an available exercise area, as well as toilet and sleeping spots.

Decide whether you want an open space for your pets such as using dog gates, or if you rather want to use playpens and large crates for part of the day or night. All of these are very useful when you cannot monitor or supervise your dogs or if they live within your household. If your dogs are living outdoors, you do need to invest in quality kennels and runs.

Before any dog arrives home, you must get down on your knees…

We are tall, they are short. Get on your knees and go around your place to look out for some dangerous items that will need to be hidden or removed. I am talking about spotting little things than can harm your dog or simply create a mess: wires, plugs and sockets, sharp corners, expensive furniture, etc.

Transportation Crates

Your dogs will regularly visit their vet, go to the forest, to dog shows, and the list goes on. Obviously, you want to make sure you’re buying a comfortable and spacious travel crate that fits into your car or is accepted by train companies. Speak to your vet for soothing pills as it can really help for very long journeys of few hours.

If your dogs are fragile, old or just prone to injuries, make sure you have a foldable dog ramp available to make everything easier.

Starting a kennel is hard!
The bottom line is that starting a kennel is challenging. Yet, the rewards coming from working with dogs are incredibly fulfilling.

Conclusion and Take Aways

Not sure if you realized but we haven’t spoken much about money, expenses, profitability and other financial things. That is because we cover that in depth in our Handbook and other articles.

Besides money talks, we’ve touched everything that you must understand if you truly are driven by becoming a top quality dog breeder. Most important is the health and well-being of your dogs while also finding your kennel’s why. Indeed, knowing your objective will help you map all your actions to what you want to achieve over the next months and years.

Summing up how to start a kennel comes downs to a few pillars:

  1. Clear goals – have a precise picture of what you want to achieve in the short, mid and long run
  2. Understand heredity – learn canine genetics’ principles, breed literature and stay up-to-date
  3. Network with others – exchange and connect with other breeders, judges and breed clubs
  4. Founding stock – find the right dogs to lay your own bloodline’s foundation
  5. Set it all up – it’s time to focus on your kennel’s website, name and equipment

Obviously, set some time apart every few months to review your progress and how your new kennel is holding itself. Make courageous decisions to make it better and keep on doing what works!

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