Running a dog breeding business differs from having an occasional, or even accidental, litter once in a dog’s lifetime. But even when a dog owner decides to breed his or her dog, they should not be automatically qualified as running a breeding business.
Funnily enough, this is our website’s name, Breeding Business. We picked it years ago because it sounded good and was memorable; we regretted later on because the word business has a bad connotation. In many people’s head, the word business has nothing to do next to the word dog breeding. And after few months, I had to decide to either:
- own the Breeding Business name and show people that these two words are compatible, or
- give up and rebrand the entire website and lose all brand-awareness I garnered then
Years later, you know which option I went with. I kept it. Anyway, back to this article’s topic and let me start with the conclusion.
Not every breeder is running a dog breeding business. And for those who do run a breeding business, there is absolutely nothing wrong with this as long as you do not do it for the wrong motives. Dog breeding can be both profitable and ethical as long as you never cut corners on your dogs and build your reputation (online and offline) to have more demand than you have puppies available.
What Is a Business?
Sorry, I hate to be that guy that brings up dictionary definitions but in this case, it is very well needed. According to various reputed dictionaries, the word business has two main meanings:
- a person’s regular occupation, profession, or trade
- the practice of making one’s living by engaging in commerce
So a business is basically what somebody does, generally in exchange of some sort of remuneration, as low or as high it is. The definition does not bring up any sort of judgement on the quality of the business. This means, a business is not inherently wrong but instead, some people run their business is more or less ethical and responsible ways.
A business is
obsessed driven by several things including profits, quality, research, reputation, awareness, legacy, fairness in trade, social change, etc. Obviously, some business people prioritize some of these facets much more than others, but it is a personal decision to favor quality and social change over profits, for example. A business is a vehicle, the business person leading it is its driver.
Is Dog Breeding a Business?
When you are breeding dogs as a one-off, it becomes a temporary occupation and it is not necessarily your regular occupation. In such common cases, you would be labeled as a hobby breeder. Here again, some hobby breeders are more responsible than others, but generally those who read us are ethical and constantly trying to better themselves as dog breeders.
When you are breeding more than a couple of litters of puppies over your own lifetime, you are not really doing it as a hobby anymore (unless you are keeping all puppies.) Now, you are somewhat producing puppies that you aim to sell in order to generate some revenue. Breeding dogs is expensive when done well, so this revenue may not turn into a profit, but it is still money against dogs. This, to me, sounds like a trade so by definition, a business.
A lot of dog breeders when facing the word’s definition will try to rationalize:
- “I’m losing money at every litter”
- “I just do it for the love of the breed”
- “I only ask money to filter out the families my pups will land in”
The reasons why somebody enters a trade, however small or big this trade is, do not make this trade less of a trade; it is still a trade, it is still a business. And, there is absolutely wrong with running a very small business, as long as one is doing it for the right reasons.
Can Selling Dogs Be Ethical?
To me, selling dogs can be done extremely responsibly and I see it happening daily with most of our audience. To other people, breeding dogs is a horrible concept, let alone selling them. This is a very personal question that is based on every single one of us’ beliefs, morals, and principles.
Personally, I do not encourage one-off breedings but if somebody learns and is ready for it, I bless them. I want them to succeed and this is not going to work if I demonize them. We all started somewhere, we all have shortcomings, we all have imperfect breeding programs, we all made mistakes. Yet, we are not horrible beings.
Selling dogs is ethical if the breeder is motivated by the betterment of the breed he or she is working with. If a breeder is solely motivated by generating profits, he will cut corners, conveniently forget about DNA testing, avoid health checks, and so on. Now, I do hold a grudge towards a lot of dog owners for buying from the wrong places (pet shops, puppy mills, unethical breeders, etc.) I believe that buying dogs from unethical sources is unethical, too.
When Does Dog Breeding Become a Business?
Each state within the United States has its own laws and thresholds dictating when does a breeding activity becomes commercial, and needs special registrations as well as submitting to a lot more constraints. But very few breeders (even more professional ones) fall into this commercial breeder status.
Colloquially, and this is a personal opinion, a breeder runs a breeding business as soon as they design a breeding program. Meaning, if you have a goal (an ideal specimen for example), and you are aware that it will take years to get there, you are de facto running a kennel’s business operations. To reach a dog breeding program’s goals, an ambitious breeder must organize several breedings, keep some promising puppies and sell others, evaluate income and expenses, and so on.
Most people are just breeding their dogs to see their bitch enjoy motherhood once; and I don’t think they even see it as a trade. However, when you plan things ahead, and make actual business decisions for your bloodline, you are running a breeding business, as small as it is, and as ethical and caring as it is.
What Is Needed to Start a Dog Breeding Business?
A lot of knowledge on canine genetics, dog anatomy, whelping and nursing methods, and obviously, a comprehensive grasp on the breed you plan on working with.
Additionally, a breeder needs to have a north star, a breeding program with clearly established measurable goals. These goals can pertain to the breed’s appearance, agility, athleticism, sense of smell, etc. This is of primary importance and shouldn’t be scattered: have one or two goals and stick to them because these goals will drive all your choices in the future.
Finally, you need a large budget in order to acquire high-quality founding dogs (matching your breeding program’s goals), and ensure all health checks are performed and returned positive.
We have written many “Get Started”-style articles and I would highly recommend you to read all of these as soon as possible:
- How to Breed Dogs — a step-by-step guide about dog breeding
- Dog Heat Cycle — explanations of each stage of a female dog’s cycle
- Copulatory Tie — article on the dog’s coitus with a breakdown of each step
- How Much Money Do You Need to Start a Dog Breeding Business — list of expenses
- How to Read a Pedigree — everything you need to extract the right info from a dog’s pedigree
- Weaning Puppies — guide on how to transition pups from milk to solid food
- Breeding Charts — important downloadable templates of record keeping forms
- Lactation in Dogs – guide to improve and stimulate a female dog’s lactation
We have so many articles that it would take hours to list them all here, but check out our latest ones and older ones here.