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.
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 with 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.
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 the risk of health problems, breeding is an activity that’s never entirely without risk.
According to IBIS World, the dog and pet breeding industry is projected to grow by 3.4% annually by the end 0f 2023. This decline was due to a number of factors, including stricter regulations of puppy mills and the huge increase in pet ownership during the Covid lockdown.
A recent AlphaWise survey reported that almost two-thirds of 18-to-34-year-olds plan to get a pet in the next five years, driving a 14% increase in pet ownership.
According to IBISWorld, as of 2023, there were 318,781 breeding businesses in operation, employing 322,288 people, and generating $3 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 perceptions that surround the industry.
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.
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 with a show dog. Breeders of certain sporting breeds may market to owners who would provide their dogs with working homes.
Checklist To Start A Dog Breeding Business
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If you’re thinking about starting a dog breeding business, it’s important to do your research first. Here is a checklist to help you get started.
Step 1: Choose a specific breed(s) or market to focus on
Starting a new dog breeding business requires thorough research and planning, just like any other business. The first thing to research is deciding on what pets you will sell and making sure there is a market.
The breed of dog people choose can depend a lot on their living situations and lifestyle. Apartment dwellers, for example, may prefer smaller, quieter dogs, while families with a large yard may prefer active, larger breeds. Demographic data can be obtained from local government statistics, census data, or through market research firms.
You can also look at what breeds other successful breeders are focusing on in your area. While you don’t necessarily want to mirror what they’re doing, understanding the competitive landscape can help you identify gaps in the market or breeds that might be oversaturated.
Step 2: Obtain the necessary licenses and permits
As a dog breeding business owner, here are the steps I would suggest to register your business and make it legal:
Research: You’ll want to do your homework on the different legal requirements specific to your state and sometimes even at a city or county level.
Federal law requires certain businesses that use animals, like zoos, research institutions, and commercial pet breeders to meet minimal animal care standards found in the Animal Welfare Act (AWA).
Additionally, most states have animal health laws and licensing requirements for commercial pet breeders once they exceed four dogs.
Business Structure: Decide on a business structure. Your options typically include sole proprietorship, partnership, LLC (Limited Liability Company), and corporations. Each type has different legal, tax, and financial implications, so it’s important to choose the one that best suits your needs. An LLC is often chosen due to its liability protections and tax advantages.
Related: Comparison of business structures
Name Registration: After registering the business structure, you may need to register your business name. This process will vary depending on what business structure you pick. Sole proprietors and partnerships will often be required to register a “Doing Business As” (DBA), while corporations and LLCs register with the state.
Obtain Business Licenses and Permits: Dog breeding often requires specific state and local licenses to operate. This could include a general business license, a pet dealer’s license, and/or a kennel license. Check with your local government and the Department of Agriculture to see what licenses are required in your area.
In addition, you may also need certain licenses or permits to operate. This could include a business license, sales tax permit, and Employer Identification Number (EIN).
Related: State guides for business licensing
Zoning: 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.
Health Inspections: Many states require regular inspections of your facilities to ensure that they meet health and safety standards. Prepare for these inspections and make sure your facilities are always up to par.
Register with the AKC: If you are breeding purebred dogs, consider registering with the AKC or other relevant breed organizations. This gives your business additional credibility and allows you to register your puppies, making them more valuable to potential buyers.
It’s important to remember that this is a general guide and the specific requirements can vary greatly based on your location and the specifics of your business.
Step 3: Set up your kennel
Assuming you already own the property where the kennel will be located, the next step is to get set up.
At this stage, you will want to work closely with the agency that oversees pet operations to make sure the facility meets all local regulations and standards for dog breeding businesses.
In general, there are some common requirements to follow:
– Set up separate areas for different purposes, such as whelping and nursing, feeding, exercising, and grooming.
– Install appropriate fencing and secure outdoor areas for exercise and play.
– Create a comfortable and safe environment for the dogs, including proper ventilation and temperature control.
– Set up appropriate sanitation systems, including waste disposal and cleaning protocols.
Step 4: Establish relationships with veterinarians and other professionals in the industry
Unless you are already skilled, establishing relationships with veterinarians and other professionals in the industry is crucial for the success of a dog breeding business. Here’s why it’s important and how to go about it:
Veterinary Care: Build a relationship with a trusted veterinarian who specializes in reproductive health and can provide regular check-ups, vaccinations, and reproductive services for your breeding dogs.
In addition, veterinarians can provide valuable advice and guidance on the breeding process, proper nutrition, health care, and general dog care.
Pre-breeding Health Checks: Have your breeding dogs undergo health screenings and genetic testing to ensure they are free from hereditary diseases and have the best chance of producing healthy puppies. Veterinarians can help with these tests.
Whelping Assistance: In case of any complications during the birthing process, having a veterinarian on call or readily available for assistance is essential for the well-being of the mother and puppies.
Vaccinations and Deworming: Veterinarians can advise on appropriate vaccination schedules and provide deworming treatments to ensure the health and well-being of your dogs and puppies.
Networking: Connect with other reputable dog breeders, trainers, groomers, and pet professionals in your area to share knowledge, insights, and potential business opportunities.
Referrals: Veterinarians often have clients seeking well-bred puppies. Building a good relationship with them can lead to referrals and potential customers for your breeding business.
Step 5: Create a marketing and advertising strategy
Marketing a dog breeding business effectively requires a multifaceted approach, and one of the most critical aspects is establishing a strong online presence. This can be achieved by creating a professional, user-friendly website that provides comprehensive information about your business, including your breeding philosophy, the breeds you specialize in, and any relevant health or pedigree information.
Regular updates featuring upcoming litters, pictures of your dogs, and relevant blog posts can keep potential customers engaged and informed. Additionally, leveraging social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube can help you reach a wider audience and showcase your dogs in a more casual, engaging manner.
Another powerful way to market online is to join organizations such as the American Kennel Club (AKC) and participate in their events, as this can help you to network with other breeders and potential customers
Offline, attending dog shows and other local events can help you network with potential customers and other breeders, along with handing out business cards, brochures, and flyers can also be effective for local marketing. Offering to speak at community events or holding open house events at your facility can provide education to prospective clients and allow them to experience your operation firsthand.
Last, don’t underestimate the power of word-of-mouth marketing. Satisfied customers are often happy to recommend your services to friends and family. Consider creating a referral program to incentivize this. Also, collaborating with local veterinarians and pet stores can yield reciprocal referral relationships.
Step 6: Develop contracts and agreements for puppy sales
Creating contracts and agreements for puppy sales is crucial to protect both you and the buyer, and ensure the welfare of the puppies. While it’s always recommended to consult with an attorney to ensure your contracts meet all legal requirements, here’s a general guideline for what such a contract might include:
1. Identification Details: The contract should begin with basic information, including the seller’s name and contact details, the buyer’s name and contact details, and the date of the agreement. It should also contain detailed information about the puppy, such as breed, date of birth, sex, color, and microchip number if applicable.
2. Purchase Price: Clearly state the total price of the puppy, including any deposits made and when the balance is due.
3. Ownership Transfer: The contract should stipulate that ownership of the puppy transfers to the buyer once the full payment has been made and received.
4. Health Guarantee: Include a health guarantee clause, where you assure the buyer that the puppy has received a health check and necessary vaccinations from a licensed veterinarian. State the length of the health guarantee and any conditions or limitations.
5. Return Policy and Rehoming: Specify your policy for returns or if the buyer can’t keep the dog. For the welfare of the dog, many breeders require that they are contacted first if rehoming is necessary.
6. Breeding Rights and Spay/Neuter Agreement: If you’re selling pet-quality puppies, you may wish to include a clause requiring the dog to be spayed or neutered by a certain age to prevent unwanted breeding.
7. Buyer Responsibilities: Outline the responsibilities of the buyer, such as providing appropriate care, housing, diet, and regular veterinary checkups.
8. Registration Details: If the puppy is registerable with a kennel club or breed organization, provide the details, including any limitations on registration.
9. Breeder Support: Confirm your commitment to providing guidance and support to the new owner for the life of the dog.
10. Signatures: Finally, both the breeder and the buyer should sign and date the agreement. This formalizes the contract and indicates that both parties agree to its terms.
Remember, this is a basic guide. Each contract will vary depending on the breed, breeder’s requirements, and local laws. It’s always recommended to seek legal counsel when drafting contracts to ensure that they are legally sound and comprehensive.
Step 7: Get ready to launch
As you are getting closer to launching your dog breeding business, there are probably a number of small things to finish up. Everyone will have different needs, but here are some of the common things to do before launching.
Insurance: Obtain insurance to protect your business and cover potential liabilities. This could include property insurance for your breeding facilities and liability insurance in case a dog injures someone or causes property damage. Some insurance providers offer plans specifically tailored to dog breeding businesses. Be sure to shop around and find the coverage that best suits your needs.
Bookkeeping: Set up a proper bookkeeping system right from the start. This will help you track income and expenses, prepare for taxes, and give you insights into your business’s financial health. There are many software solutions available, like QuickBooks or Wave Accounting (FREE), that can streamline this process.
Bank Account: Open a separate bank account for your business to keep your personal and business finances separate. This makes your bookkeeping easier, helps you track your business expenses, and gives your business a more professional appearance.
Payment Processing: Set up a system to accept credit cards and other forms of payment. Services like Square, PayPal, or Stripe are commonly used by small businesses and offer easy-to-use solutions.
Remember, everyone’s journey will look a little different based on their specific circumstances and the breed they’re working with. However, these steps provide a solid foundation on which to build your dog breeding business. Be sure to consult with professionals in legal, financial, and veterinary fields to ensure all your bases are covered.
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Dog Breeding Startup FAQs
How much does it cost to start a dog breeding business?
The cost to start a dog breeding business can vary widely depending on several factors such as the breed of dogs you’re working with, the size of your operation, your location, and more. However, here are some general startup expenses to consider:
Dog Acquisition: Depending on the breed, purchasing high-quality, purebred dogs suitable for breeding can range from hundreds to thousands of dollars each.
Veterinary Costs: Initial veterinary costs, including vaccinations, health tests, and spaying/neutering (if applicable) could range from $200 to $500 per dog, though costs can be higher for certain breeds or unexpected health issues.
Breeding Costs: Stud fees (if you don’t own your own male) can range from $500 to $3,000, depending on the breed and pedigree of the stud dog.
Facility Costs: If you need to build or modify your home or property to accommodate the dogs, these costs can significantly vary. This could be anywhere from a few hundred dollars for basic kennel setups to tens of thousands for larger or more specialized facilities.
Business Licensing and Insurance: Licensing fees will depend on local regulations, but you can expect to pay between $100-$300 per year. Business insurance costs will vary based on the coverage level, but a basic policy might range from $500 to $2,000 per year.
Food and Supplies: The cost of high-quality dog food and supplies such as beds, toys, grooming tools, etc., can add up quickly. Expect to spend at least $500 – $1,000 per dog, per year, though this can be higher depending on the breed and individual dog’s needs.
Marketing and Advertising: Costs for website development, business cards, social media advertising, etc., can range greatly, but budgeting at least $500 – $1,000 for initial marketing expenses is a good starting point.
Miscellaneous: There may be other costs such as professional association memberships, attendance at dog shows, training courses, or emergency vet costs.
Remember that these are rough estimates and actual costs may vary. However, as a rule of thumb, it’s generally recommended to have at least three to six months of operating expenses saved as a buffer. This can help cover unexpected costs or lower-than-expected revenue, especially in the early stages of your business. Therefore, once you’ve estimated your monthly operating costs, you should multiply that by three to six to determine how much money you should have set aside before starting your business.
How much can a dog breeding business owner make?
The income potential for a dog breeding business depends on a variety of factors including the breed of dog, the quality of the puppies (e.g., show quality, pet quality), the reputation of the breeder, the location of the business, and the scale of the operation.
For instance, a well-respected breeder specializing in high-demand breeds might sell puppies for several thousand dollars each, while other breeds or lower-quality puppies might sell for a few hundred dollars.
A basic way to estimate income would be to multiply the number of litters per year by the number of puppies per litter, and then by the selling price per puppy. For example, if a breeder has 4 litters per year, with an average of 5 puppies per litter, and sells each puppy for $1,000, their annual gross income would be 4 litters/year x 5 puppies/litter x $1,000/puppy = $20,000/year.
However, this is gross income and doesn’t take into account the numerous expenses involved in dog breeding, such as dog acquisition, veterinary costs, food and supplies, facility costs, insurance, marketing, and more. It’s also important to note that this is a simplistic estimate. The actual number of puppies per year can vary widely and the selling price of puppies can fluctuate based on various factors.
What skills are needed to run a dog breeding business?
Starting a dog breeding business doesn’t require a business degree, but certain skills and experiences can increase the business’s chances of success.
Dog breeding experience. Experience in and knowledge of dog breeding are essential when starting a breeding business. Dog breeders should know good breeding practices, care for pregnant dogs, and 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 of 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 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 engage with potential buyers and find their puppies suitable for new homes.
What are the most popular dog breeds?
Every year the American Kennel Club releases its ranking of the most popular dog breeds based on AKC registration statistics for the previous year. For the first time since 1991, the Labrador Retriever is not in the top spot, and the top spot goes to the French Bulldog, who was at the number two spot in 2021.
The remaining top five dog breeds of 2022 are:
– French Bulldog
– Labrador Retriever
– Golden Retriever
– German Shepherd
What is the NAICS code for a dog breeding business?
The NAICS code for a dog breeding business is 112990.
The NAICS code (North American Industry Classification System) is a federal system to classify different types of businesses for the collection and reporting of statistical data.
Related: What is a NAICS code?