Breeding 101

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Here are some things you better consider before you start a breeding program. If you are expecting this job to be sunshine and fairy dust, allow me to give you a good look at reality in this line of WORK. ALL of these things apply whether you want to raise ONE litter, TEN litters or have this JOB as your full time occupation. 

And keep in mind .... breeding will cost MORE than you think, hurt MORE than you think, be more dangerous than you think as you AND your family's safety will be compromised with strangers visiting your home to see puppies, and you will likely quit before you even raise your first litter. And if you don't ... you will likely quit after you raise your first litter and lose THOUSANDS of dollars trying.

1. You will need to be physically fit. You will be lifting dogs up and down from the wash bay and in and out of vehicles for vet appointments and trips to the airport. You will be lifting multiple bags of dog food EVERY day. You will be carrying 5 gallon buckets of water ALL winter. You will be carrying 5 gallon buckets of food from yard to yard at feeding time EVERY day. You will be lifting large dog crates when you travel to and from the vet and the airport.

2. You will need to be available to your dogs, puppies, and your puppy buyers EVERY day. That means if you work a full time job and have 3 kids in sports this is NOT the job for you. The demands of this job are 365 days per year. You will need to plan to have Christmas, Thanksgiving, and every other holiday get together at YOUR house because travel is just not an option. It just won't work to hire someone to manage your breeding program for you. You will also need to be available to your inspector at THEIR convenience. Weddings, funerals, family outings, baby arrivals, first day of school ... don't plan on it. Puppies are ALWAYS born when these things happen. And if you think for a second you will leave your mama's to whelp on their own, especially a first litter, you may as well not even get started on a breeding program as you WILL be wasting your time and money.

3. You will need to have a large acreage of land zoned for agriculture. Raising dogs, even ONE litter, inside the city limits or in a platted subdivision or neighborhood where you have a Home Owners Association WILL NOT WORK. The city limits, platted subdivisions, and HOA neighborhoods typically have a 3 dog limit. You will get a big fat fine for being over the limit because placing puppies takes work. THEY DO NOT ALL SELL BY 6 WEEKS OF AGE especially on your first litter where NO ONE knows who you are. You will likely have half your litter left into adulthood putting you over the limit of dogs allowed.

4. You will need to be able to deal with loss. This job is NOT ponies and rainbows. You can expect an average of a 10% loss in EVERY litter. Mother nature can be VERY cruel. If you are not a person that can deal with loss, this is NOT the job for you. There is NEVER 100% live birthrate in any species and in particular the animal world.

5. You will need to have a REALLY big bank account. This job is VERY expensive to operate on a monthly basis. You will raise many MANY litters before ever seeing any type of profit. As with any business, you can expect to work for free at least for the first 5 years. You will need to plan on having a minimum of $20,000 in reserve AT ALL TIMES to continue to pay operating costs during the dry seasons when there are no puppies or when loss is greater than income. You won't be able to make do with less and still be able to pay operating costs for the business and be able to pay your own living expenses.

6. You will need to be ok with strangers coming to your home on a regular basis to view the puppies and their parents and while we're on that subject you will need to add extra insurance to your homeowners policy. It's called 'stupid people insurance' for those visitors that have vision problems .... they can clearly see your barking dogs safely contained on the other side of the fence warning them but they choose to stick their hand over the fence anyway and get bit. These insurance policies say you cannot have any dogs out runnning around when visitors arrive so you better have plenty of reliable fencing assembled to contain your breeding animals and their offspring. NEVER assume your dog won't bite ESPECIALLY mama's with puppies. And many people bring their children with them to visit. YOU are responsible for EVERYONE'S safety while on your property.

7. You better have a supportive spouse. 100% of the breeders I have set up to breed and mentored and then they failed did so because of a spouse that was NOT on board with the program. The spouse needs to understand you MUST work 7 days per week. You MUST be available to your dogs, puppies, and puppies buyers 7 days per week. You MUST be available for 4:30 am checkin's at the airport on a regular basis. And your new smell will be 'fragrance au dau doggie' 7 days per week. You WILL also be covered in dog hair from regular grooming and handling dogs and puppies. They also MUST be on board with having the bank account for the breeding program separate from the family funds and not be dipping into it for pleasure items for themselves or the family. You will need to budget for the program for the sometimes SEVERAL months in a row when there are no puppies to sell yet the program still costs the same to operate with or without income from puppy sales.

8. You better be a person that is in good health. There are no sick days in self employment.

9. Here is a list of supplies you will need just to get started so go ahead and add these up. Heat and cooling sources; This will include air conditioning, fans, propane heat, heat lamps, bulbs, heating pads, heating mats. PLENTY of bedding; towels, sheets, blankets, rags, cedar shavings, & straw. Industrial sized water hoses. Supplements/vitamins; nutrical, red cell, pedialyte. Flea, tick, & mite control; Bravecto. Canned food. Canned Goats Milk. Bottles. Scales; one set to weigh puppies and one set for adult dogs. Industrial sized lawn mower and weedeater, the ability to operate and maintain them, and the time to mow your property weekly from April to October. If you think this is an area you can skimp on, I'll save you the trouble. Venomous snakes will soon become a problem and you could lose half your dogs to snakebite. Computer, fax machine, and printer for marketing plus a LARGE supply of ink, paper, envelopes, stamps, & business cards. A notebook for each dogs paperwork and records. Work clothes for yourself for EVERY season. This is a primarily outdoor job. Syringes, needles, vaccines, wormer, shampoo, detangler, brushes, scissors, hemostats, alcohol, rubberbands, crates for travel to and from the vet. Medicine, mousetraps, fly control, toys, collars, and leashes. A wash bay is a MUST with warm water, a sprayer, & hair dryer. Shade cannot be skimped on. If you don't have plenty of tree's you will need to invest in carports for shade. Food buckets .... 2 sets. You will need to be able to keep one set clean and rotate out at least weekly. Dog houses. Water tubs ... several different sizes for different times of the year. A good supply of bleach and rags. 36" exercise pens for emergency extra panels and fencing. Quickcrete for emergency hole fixes. Trash cans, mop, and bucket. You will need to consult with an accountant, bookkeeper, and tax professional to file income at yearend or have the know how and means to tackle all of these responsibilities yourself. You will also need to have VERY good credit to be able to be a merchant and take credit card payments for your puppy sales. People with bad credit are not granted the opportunity to be a merchant and accept credit card payments. A LARGE supply of QUALITY dog food and a cool dry place to store it. You must have indoor housing for you mama's and puppies with outdoor access. Raising puppies in a crate with mama for 8 weeks WON'T WORK. Plenty of fenced yards. You have to have extra empty yards to move the dogs to while mowing. They could be injured or killed by the mower if you don't move them. Now for the BIG costs: purchasing QUALITY breeding stock to get started with and paying for their transportation to you, registering them, paying for ALL of the available health testing with the lab (don't think for ONE second that you will ever earn your reputation by skipping the health testing), and DNA profiling with the registries. And if you choose your breeding stock as puppies you will have to pay to grow them up until they are breeding age.

10. Marketing will be the basis of your program and the reason you make sales or don't. You will need a REALLY good camera to take weekly pictures of your puppies and to display your breeding animals. You will need to be able to learn how to build and maintain your own website for marketing your puppies. It just doesn't work to hire it done. How available can someone you have hired be to update a puppy status from Available to Sold EVERY time you make a sale or EVERY time you need new up to date pictures posted of every litter.

11. You will need to have an evacuation plan as required by your inspector to remove all dogs and puppies from the premises AND somewhere to take them in case of natural disaster like wildfire, earthquake, flood, tornado, etc or in the event of an outbreak of disease as monitored by USDA.

12. You better be willing to work in ALL types of weather. Chores still have to be done no matter what the forecast is; rain, sleet, snow, bitter cold, or sweltering heat. Inclement weather means more chores.

13. You better have a REALLY good relationship with a vet. You WILL be paying their salaries most months.

14. You will need to be willing to take a puppy back that doesn't work out for any reason or no reason at all, room to house them, time for training, and commitment to advertise and rehome them. YOU are the reason that puppy exists so you will need to be committed for the lifetime of the dog.

15. You will need to decide if you are willing to learn how to ship your puppies. Shipping puppies is a VERY time consuming process that takes MANY MANY MANY hours of preparation from finding and purchasing crates, to assembling them with the correct hardware by rules setforth by the Federal Aviation Administration for the safety of the animals, sanitizing all the crates with bleach and providing shredded newspaper as absorbent material, to researching and booking flights and completing the MANY MANY MANY hours of paperwork for each puppy before they fly, to driving to and navagating a major airport near you. You also need to be willing to go back to the airport and get your puppy should one or both of their flights be cancelled or delayed and fly again the next day which means ANOTHER trip to the airport, more travel expenses, more time, and more paid parking. You will need to purchase clear plastic sleeves for your paperwork and lots and lots of box tape to tape everything that is required to the top of the crate. Some of the airlines are very stingy with supplies and make us provide our own tape and zip ties for the door. And don't forget the food and water dishes as required. If you don't plan on learning how to ship your puppies you will cut your market area down to only those buyers willing to drive to you for pickup.

16. You will only get out of your breeding program what you put into it. If you are the type of person that likes to work from 10 am to 2 pm with an hour lunch Monday - Friday and do things part way, let me save you the trouble .... this is NOT the job for you.

17. If you want to breed, have a WELL THOUGHT OUT WELL PREPARED PLAN AND SEE IT THROUGH ... in good times and bad. Pound, shelter, & rescue are FULL of offspring from people who thought they wanted to breed but didn't have a plan and/or failed to see it through. Again, if you think this job consists of playing with cute little puppies all day and making thousands of dollars .... YOU ARE VERY WRONG. If you think you just give them a shot and mama does the rest .... YOU ARE VERY WRONG. If you think raising a litter of puppies is an 8 week assignment and then you are done ... YOU ARE VERY VERY WRONG.

18. Sometimes litters of puppies need to be bottlefed for weeks at a time. If you work a full-time job do you have a boss that will let you take a leave of absence for a month while you fulfill your commitment to your puppies and their mama of bottlefeeding round the clock. Large litters, 7 or more, sometimes just need a little extra help. You can expect to bottle feed every 4 hours and it takes 2 hours to feed a litter of 10 every time you feed them. Just about every mama needs help with her puppies at some point in her breeding career with one litter or another. There is also the case of emergency cesarean due to complications during birth, or even just getting started with birthing, resulting in spay like when a rather large puppy gets stuck and cannot be expelled. When a complicated birthing process results in a spay for the mama you will be bottle feeding round the clock for an entire month so you need to be prepared for this time commitment and care for the litter of puppies you have produced.

19. You better REALLY enjoy doing paperwork because there is a TON of paperwork to do in this business. AKC, ASCA, & your state inspector ALL require different sets of paperwork records PLUS you will need a program like Quickbooks to keep income and expenses so you can hand your tax person a year end report at tax time each year. NONE of those entities work together. They all have different protocol for you to follow.

20. I only want to raise a litter or two. I don't want to be a breeder ..... Listen ... it doesn't matter if you raise 1 litter of pups or 100 litters of pups, YOUR NAME will be listed as breeder on the registration documents and that is a title that you should take VERY serious. If you can't, or don't want to, THEN DON'T BREED YOUR DOG. Remember .... 100% of animals in pound, shelter, and rescue are there because their breeder failed them by not having a plan.

21. And last but most important .... should the market for quality, healthy puppies from a reputable breeder, or your situation and ability to breed, ever change you need to have funds set aside, AND be willing to, spay & neuter each and every one of your dogs and not send them out on the open market intact to fall into the wrong hands producing puppies that are destined to fill pound, shelter, & rescue. If you cannot commit to this ... DON'T BREED.

There it is folks. I can't get any clearer about what it takes to operate a breeding program. You're either committed or you're not. There is no gray area on that. These animals will be completely dependent on YOU for their care.