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For many dog lovers, a career centering around animals sounds like an ideal option. If you have experience in dog breeding and want to produce quality dogs that enhance their breeds, then starting a dog breeding business might be a rewarding opportunity. As the owner of a breeding business, you’ll spend plenty of time with your dogs every day. But there are challenges to becoming a dog breeder, too. Read on to make sure that this is the right career move for you.

Business Overview

Dog breeding businesses work to supply families, show dog owners, and even working dog owners with well-bred dogs who are suited for their purpose. Breeders often specialize in one certain breed of dog, and they carefully select pairings to pass on the best qualities to the puppies.

Many dog breeders who specialize in show animals also compete their own dogs. Often, breeders have strict requirements for evaluating potential buyers. Breeding operations also vary widely in size. Some breeders may breed a litter or two a year, while larger operations may almost constantly have puppies available.

Industry summary

According to IBIS World, the dog and pet breeding industry experienced a 3.2% decline from 2014 to 2019. This decline was due to a number of factors, including stricter regulations of puppy mills. The 2017 “Adopt, Don’t Shop” campaign pressured pet owners to adopt pets from shelters, rather than buying from breeders, which led to reduced demand. As a result of that campaign, many pet stores opted to partner with local rescues instead of selling puppies from breeders.

In 2019, there were 214,439 breeding businesses in operation, and the industry employed 219,743 people. The pet breeding industry brought in $2 billion in revenue.

While public concern over puppy mills and pressure to adopt is likely to continue, there are still opportunities for dedicated, quality breeders within this industry. Moving forward, breeders will need to demonstrate their dedication to breeding quality dogs in humane, ideal conditions to combat some of the negative atmosphere that surrounds the industry.

Industry trends

As different dog breeds come into popularity, the prices and demand for those dogs fluctuate, which can affect dog breeders. According to Orvis, popular TV shows and movies can prompt a breed to gain popularity, though the effect is often temporary. For instance, the 101 Dalmations movies caused Dalmations to surge in popularity, while the Game of Thrones series prompted families to seek out more Huskies. In some cases, media can cause a breed to be popular for as long as a decade, but this popularity is a trend, and does end. Breeders may adjust their breeding programs to take advantage of the trends, but they also need to be prepared with a plan for when the breed’s popularity drops off. 

Who is the target market for your dog breeding business?

On the basic level, dog breeders market to people who want to be dog owners. However, individual breeding programs may have more refined target markets. A business that focuses on breeding show dogs will market to enthusiasts who want to own or compete a show dog. Breeders of certain sporting breeds may market to owners who would provide their dogs with working homes.

Skills, experience, and education useful in running a dog breeding business

Starting a dog breeding business doesn’t require a business degree, but certain skills and experiences can increase the chances of the business becoming a success. 

Dog breeding experience. Experience in and knowledge of dog breeding are essential when starting a breeding business. Dog breeders should have knowledge of good breeding practices, how to care for pregnant dogs, and how to recognize and manage labor and then care for new puppies.

Knowledge of dog genetics. Breeders need to understand genetics so that they can choose breeding pairs that will pass on good characteristics and produce quality offspring. An understanding of genetics is also essential in avoiding some hereditary conditions and ensuring that the puppies have the best chance at being born healthy.  

Dog training experience. A breeder with experience in dog training can work to make sure that every puppy is well-socialized and has some basic training before it goes to its new home.

Pet first-aid skills. Dog breeders need to be comfortable doing some basic first-aid and triaging an emergency until they can get the dog to the vet. Experience in a veterinary setting or some pet first-aid training is beneficial.

Interpersonal skills. While dogs are the main focus of this business, strong interpersonal skills can also help a breeder to engage with potential buyers and find their puppies suitable new homes.  

Costs to Start a Dog Breeding Business

It’s possible to start a smaller dog breeding business with a limited budget, especially if a breeder already owns dogs that are suitable for use as breeding stock. It’s possible to start a small operation for around $5,000, while larger businesses with many dogs can cost closer to $15,000 or $20,000. 

Common startup costs for a dog breeding business include:

  •     Kennels and any property renovations
  •     Equipment and supplies
  •     Dog and puppy food
  •     Breeding stock
  •     Signage

Steps to Starting a Dog Breeding Business

Step 1. Write your Business plan

After coming up with the idea, the next step in starting your business should be to write a business plan.  Not only will a bank require you to have a business plan, but multiple studies have shown that a business plan helps increase the odds of starting a successful business.

Related:
How to write a business plan
Free sample business plans

Step 2. Form a Business Entity

A business entity refers to how a business is legally organized to operate. There are four primary business entities to choose from which include the sole proprietorship, partnership, corporation and LLC.  Each type of entity has its own pros and cons such as liability exposure, costs and administrative requirements. 

Related: Comparison of Business Entities

 Step 3. Select your Location

Because of the amount of frequent care that dogs and puppies need, most breeders run their businesses out of their homes. Some renovation or expansion may be needed to create kennels and safe yard areas for the dogs and puppies.   Since you are working with animals that will sometimes be noisy, be sure to check zoning and covenants in case you have a neighbor that doesn’t approve.

Related: Choosing a business location

Step 4. Apply for Business Licenses and Permits

A commercial dog breeder license is needed through the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), under the Animal Welfare Act (AWA).  See the Dog Breeder Resource Guide.  

Additionally, most states have have laws and licensing requirements for commercial pet breeders.  

Last, most states will require a dog breeder to obtain a sales tax permit.

Related: Common business licenses, permits and registrations by state

Step 5. Find Financing

Coming up with a good business idea and having the skills to run it are one thing, but getting the funding to start a dog breeding business is another.  Funding to start a dog breeding business business can be difficult.  In order to get a loan, the borrower(s) will need to have good credit and be able invest 15-25% of their money towards the total start-up costs. 

Related: Finding the money to start a business  

Step 6. Get your Marketing Plan in Place

Dog breeders also need to actively market their business and their puppies. Marketing activities may include building a website, maintaining a social media presence, networking with local dog trainers, and even advertising online. Marketing costs will vary depending on the type of activity.

Related: Low-cost ideas to market a new business

 Step 7. Get Insurance

A dog breeding business needs several types of insurance for full coverage:

  • General liability insurance protects the business if customers are ever hurt while on the property. Liability insurance can help to cover expenses like legal fees and medical bills. 
  • Commercial property insurance can cover the cost of equipment that’s damaged or destroyed during an event like a fire.
  • Workmans comp insurance helps to cover the expenses like lost wages and medical bills that can result if an employee is ever injured while on the job. 

The cost of insurance policies varies depending on factors like the business’ location, the value of its equipment, and the number of employees on staff. To get the most accurate idea of what to budget for insurance, request quotes from multiple providers. When comparing the quotes, don’t just look at how the premiums stack up. Instead, be sure to also consider other details like coverage limits, exclusions, and deductibles.

Step 8. Hiring Employees

Owners of smaller dog breeding operations can often manage the entire business by themselves, but as a business grows, it may be necessary to bring in help. According to ZipRecruiter, dog kennel staff earn an average salary of $24,075 per year, or approximately $12 per hour. Depending on location and a worker’s experience, that salary can be as low as $15,000 and as high as $31,500.

In addition to budgeting for employee salaries, a business’ budget also needs to include other expenses that come along with hiring staff. These additional expenses include paid time off, health insurance contributions, and workmans comp insurance.

Related: Hiring your first employee

How much can you potentially make owning a dog breeding business?

Dog breeding business income will depend on many factors, including the business’ size and number of litters, the breed of the dog being sold, and even the purpose of the dogs, like whether they’re intended to be show dogs, working dogs, or pets. Salary.com reports that dog breeders make an average salary of $52,549, though salaries most often range between $46,743 and $58,801.

Things to consider before starting a dog breeding business

While breeding dogs gives you a chance to make a career out of your love of dogs, this business sometimes brings heartbreak with it, too. Births can sadly go wrong, and you’ll need to be prepared to face the potential loss of puppies and, sometimes, of your much-loved breeding dogs. While careful, deliberate breeding and regular vet care can help to minimize this risk, breeding is an activity that’s never entirely without risk.

It’s also important to be prepared for significant, unexpected vet bills. A sick puppy or a birth that doesn’t go as planned can find you traveling to the emergency vet, and bills for even a single visit can be thousands of dollars. You’ll want to establish an emergency vet bill fund to have on hand, just in case. Some pet insurance companies may also provide coverage for breeders, which can help to minimize some of these vet bills.

There are also some ethical questions that you’ll need to think about when deciding if this is the right business option for you. With an overpopulation of dogs in the United States, many animal lovers campaign against dog breeders of any kind. While the country won’t benefit from an influx of poorly bred dogs, there is room and a need for quality dogs that are carefully and selectively bred. Responsible, well-educated breeders carefully invest in and refine their breeding stock to make only the best contributions to the breed, and they carefully vet homes for their puppies. Still, be prepared to have people question why you are breeding and to possibly tell you that you shouldn’t be running your business.

While it’s justifiable to breed quality dogs that are in demand, you’ll also need to think about each of the puppies’ futures. Carefully choosing homes is a good step toward ensuring that your puppies have good lives. However, as life circumstances change, it’s still possible for the dogs that you’ve bred to end up in undesirable situations. Consider implementing an offer where you’ll always be willing to take back a dog that you’ve bred. This can help to ensure that the dogs from your program will always have a good home to go to, reducing the chances of them ever ending up in a shelter or rescue.

Resources:
American Kennel Club
International Working Dog Breeding Association
Natural Rearing Breeders Association

Additionally, Amazon has several good books for starting a dog breeding business such as:
How to Start a Dog Breeding Business (Free on Kindle Unlimited)
How to Start a Dog Boarding Business: Work with Animals You Love, Make More Money, and Have More Freedom (Free on Kindle Unlimited)
Starting a Dog Breeding Business: Step by Step How to Get Money, Supplies & Equipment
The Lucrative Dog Breeding Business: Your expert guide to making huge cash from dog breeding business (Free on Kindle Unlimited)
The Layman’s Guide to Whelping Puppies – from Conception to Sale