Emilie has been breeding Akita Inu and Shikoku Ken dogs in France for over a decade, importing and exporting fantastic specimens. She has a responsible and smart approach to her breeding business as she breeds primarily to improve these exotic breeds while staying realistic about the income she requires in order to keep running such an expensive dog breeding business.
Please introduce yourself and your breeding business.
My name is Emilie, I’m 37-year old and I have been a professional dog breeder in France for 16 years now. I have 2 Japanese breeds, Akita Inu and Shikoku Ken, but I owned an Akita Inu since I was 16-year old: my first Akita was born in 1994.
How did you get involved in the breeding industry?
Well, since I was a child I had a dream: I wanted to work with animals. In France we have a high school specialised in dog breeding, so I studied there and got my diploma to officially become a dog breeder. I had my first Akita at 16, other Akitas joined my home and after I finished my studies. I started my kennel when I was 20-year old.
Do you consider breeding as a hobby, a business or both?
Firstly, I consider breeding as a hobby but then, I have to approach it as a business because of the cost it represents; I have to feed my dogs, care for them, look after the kennel and in France, because I am registered as professional breeder, I have an important amount of taxes to pay. I think I’m lucky to live doing each day what my big passion drives me to do.
Why have you chosen the Akitas Inu and Shikoku over other breeds?
I chose the Akita Inu dog because of their temperament and this breed joins two very important passions of mine: Japan and dogs. Few years after I got my first Akita, I discovered the other Japanese breeds and I instantly fell in love of the Shikoku Ken. Six years ago, I worked with a Japanese breeder to import my first Shikoku dog from Japan.
How many dogs did you start with and how did you choose your first ones?
Back in the days, I started with 3 Akita dogs, one male and two females. I chose them on their bloodlines and temperament. Twenty years ago, Akita was a rare breed so this choice was very important and thought-through. I now have 5 generations from my first Akita couple; they are all healthy, beautiful and with an excellent temperament! I have no regret about my first choice. With regards to the Shikoku breed, I started with one female from Japan and later imported a male from Japan as well because new blood was needed in Europe. Shikoku is a very rare breed so importing was the best choice available at the time.
Did you need a lot of money to start your breeding business?
Yes! Because of the French laws, the tax and sanitary obligations, we need a lot of money for the kennel. The import of Shikoku dogs is also quite expensive.
What are your breeding plan’s main objectives?
Actually, I focus on continuing my work within the Akita breed and I also focus on developing the Shikoku breed by working with many other breeders in various countries to preserve and improve this breed. Perhaps in few years, I would love to introduce a new breed in my kennel.
How many litters per year are you having on average?
Japanese breeds are primitive breeds so the number of litters is very irregular. In general I try to have 3 to 4 litters per yea although my objective is 5 litters each year. These numbers are low because I want to have time to take care of them and socialising them is a very important point at my kennel.
How do you find most of your clients, which countries are they from?
My clients usually find my kennel on internet and via dog shows. For the Akita breed, all my clients are from France. For the Shikoku breed, 80% of my clients are from other countries, mostly from Italia, Spain, Switzerland, Netherlands, Austria and Belgium.
What are your efforts put into in order to build a great reputation?
Lots of work to build a great reputation: in my opinion, the first point is to be honest! And breed-wise, selection on beauty and health is a very important point although socialising the puppies is also crucial. A very clean kennel with clean dogs is a base for a breeding business but it is important for the reputation, too. Winning dog shows is extremely valuable for some people but dog shows are not my ultimate priority although I actually love dog shows.
How do you differentiate your dogs and your business from the other breeders?
Each breeder is different, with different ethical work, some of them are working like me. I think in dog breeding there is breeding for money and breeding for passion. I consider my kennel as breeding for passion, because i’m not a puppy mill, I just have 3-4 litter per year and my kennel cost me lot of money, I don’t win lot of money. On breeding selection, I work with some other breeders in France and other countries with the same ethics, we support each other who it help on my work.
Do you do anything special, on a daily or weekly basis, to give extra care to you dogs?
I take care of my dogs daily and with a lot of pleasure, this is exactly why I rear my dogs in my own sweet home. Every week, I take my dogs for some new activities, dog walks, canine clubs, obedience and agility: it’s important for the socialising work to my dogs. Life in a kennel has to be fun and dogs in a kennel have to enjoy the fun too!
What is their diet, have you got a favourite brand or do you make the food yourself?
Their diet is industrial food made in France with only natural ingredients. I prefer this type of food because it is the best for the storage and the preservation.
Are you active on online communities and message boards?
Indeed, I am very active! I own a Japanese dog breeds forum since 9 years and I also have two websites, a Facebook page, a Google+ page and Twitter account for my kennel. All of them are updated every day! It’s very important to be active online to find clients and show our breeding work.
How important it is for a breeder to have an online presence nowadays?
Because a dog kennel is like a business (or is a business…), we have to be online everyday just like our followers are! Being visible on Internet is vital for us: there are so many breeders in France, in Europe and in the World, so we have many reasons to always strive to get more visibility online.
If you had to start afresh with another breed, which one would it be?
To continue with my passion, it will be an Asian breed!
What has been your most memorable sale and client?
Several sales are memorable, lots of them. Many clients became my friends, some of them are now my best friends. See how happy my clients are with my puppies is fulfilling for me. One memorable sale is the one of an Akita puppy girl sold to a family who have a child with a cancer. Because of cancer, the little girl doesn’t speak but with the arrival of the puppy, the little girl started to speak to the puppy, and it helped her mentally to fight the cancer. This young girl is now safe and adult. What a great memory for me!
Do you remember your first sale?
Yes, my first sale was an Akita puppy male in 1997, Pompoko O Chanur, to my first client who lives near my kennel so I saw this puppy growing up, and I even show this dog in competitions. He was my first Akita dog with my affix kennel name that I shown with excellent results, I was very proud. Pompoko’s owner and I became very close friends.
Any advice you would give to newcomers in this industry?
Yes, two words: time and patience. Both are extremely important to make a good job in dog breeding. Taking time to build a good kennel for happy healthy dogs. Having patience to buy and introduce the good dogs in the kennel and having litters, having respectable ethics, thinking for the dogs first, be honest. The clients will notice all these points and all the great work will become the best publicity.