The True Profits in Dog Breeding – Complete and Revised

It is really good to know the truth about what goes into your well-bred puppy (and what goes into poorly-bred puppies). It is important so that you can understand where your hard-earned money is going and what it is supporting. And, of course, if you’re considering breeding you’ll want to know the costs involved too.

I genuinely wish the average dog-buyer had a better perspective of the true expenses involved in breeding. Many people have the odd idea that breeders make a huge profit. The truth is that the crappier a breeder is the more profit he will make. It is a hard and fast rule. And when it comes to puppies you usually get what you pay for.

So, sure, the lady with untrained dogs crammed into smelly kennels is making a profit on that $1400 livestock-puppy you bought. But are you getting a well-bred, healthy and socialized animal? You’ll have to do all the socializing and in a hurry. As for well-bred? Well that is a clear “no”, though luck can most definitely shine your way. What about healthy? You’re spinning the roulette wheel on that one.

Is the ethical breeder (the one that is training, cleaning, loving, socializing and making tough breeding decisions) making any profit for all the hard work involved? Maybe…

Maybe after 7 years. I’ll show you:

Expenses

There are three of these. Plus TIME involved. I have included a basic “labor” time equal to part time employment. The truth is I spend a whole lot more time then that on the dogs and puppies and that is not including the demand most people make on my time as a breeder for phone calls, emails and visits to the house. I had to put something in for hours so I decided to make things easy and use the average number of hours for a busy part-time worker. But dogs don’t give you weekends, holidays or sick days 😉

We’ll use the expenses listed for the ethical, loving breeder. These are the real, actual expenses involved. Don’t believe me? I will link posts that fully detail each and every expense. I keep really good track of my expenses and I will give you an average over about a six year period.

  • Initial Investment: Our hypothetical breeder spends $59,052 to set up her breeding practice plus 2 years of her life/time + 2200 hours of unpaid labor before she has a single puppy in hand to sell. 

The first two years of breeding over, we skip to the completion of year three when we’ll have puppies to sell. Our breeder has 5 brood bitches and 1 stud. She must house, feed and responsibly maintain these dogs for this year (the third year being in business). This means maintenance costs.

  • Maintenance Costs: she spends $15,974 to maintain her breeding dogs + 1,460 hours of labor (there will be links for where I get this number from as soon as I have the article posted. For now you’ll have to trust me that it is very expensive to properly maintain 6 top-condition breeding dogs).

So now our breeder has completed her third year since she began her program and her first year actually breeding her dogs. She has sold 8 litters in total since she bred her females every other cycle (which is what a breeder should do). Each litter costs money specifically to raise properly. These costs occur each and every litter and are therefore not incorporated in our start-up costs.

  • Per Litter Costs: our breeder spends $2,104 per litter in consumable supplies and costs. (Again I will post a link to the break down for this as soon as I have the article posted.) Multiply this cost by our 8 litters per year and we get $16,832 per year just to raise the puppies properly (and humanely).

You didn’t think raising puppies was cheap or easy, did you? If you do anything more than shove them in a shit-filled wire cage outside then you’re going to spend at least some money.

If you want to raise them in a clean, warm and loving environment best suited to raise well-socialized and healthy puppies it is going to cost you (to the tune of about $2,104 per litter).

This brings our breeder’s total debt to $91,858 + 3,660 hours of labor. But remember this is over the course of three years, so the dog enthusiast doesn’t need to be a super wealthy person. And she also sold puppies this year (added in below). Our breeder just has to be willing to save a lot, work really hard and dump every cent of “profit” back into the business while still investing even more money earned from a different source of income.

Selling the Puppies

As an inexperienced, brand new breeder she cannot charge premium prices for her puppies, even though they have been raised at premium expenses. To be realistic and responsible and to (most importantly) begin creating a quality reputation she must sell her puppies for about $600 each.

  • She sells 48 puppies (8 litters with an average of 6 pups per litter) for $600 apiece and brings in $28,800 which she’ll immediately put right back into the business.

After our breeder’s third year since setting up her program if there are no emergencies and everything goes amazingly beautifully she will be “in the hole” for $63,058 + 3,660 hours of labor

Will There Be A Profit?

Yes, there will be enough of a profit to sustain the business and make the hours and effort at least mildly worthwhile… in another three years. You just have to have patience, determination and a whole lot of love for dogs.

Our breeder now has a pretty good reputation and is getting a name for herself. She is fairly well known at dog events and in small breed-specific communities. She might even start being found through the almighty business-determiner Google Search. Our breeder still cannot charge premium prices for her puppies for the fourth or fifth years, but she can increase her prices to match those of the most common breeders (which certainly don’t compare to her standards and the quality of her puppies). By her sixth year our hypothetical breeder can begin charging premium (and more appropriate and fair) prices if she chooses to. She may not choose to. I don’t.

Fourth Year:

  • She spends $15,974 to maintain her breeding dogs the fourth year.
  • Our breeder spends $16,832 in consumable supplies and costs for her 8 litters this year.
  • This adds a total of $32,806 + another 1,460 hours of labor for the fourth year

But now we can sell those 48 puppies for the mid-range breeder price of $1200 per puppy.

  • Our breeder sells her puppies and yields $57,600 for the  year. Woo-Hoo! As you can see the money in (for year four) exceeds the money out (for year four alone) by $24,794

So after our breeder’s fourth year since setting up her program (again if everything goes blessedly smoothly) she will be “in the red” only by $38,264 + 5,120 hours of unpaid labor

We’re getting there!!

Year Five:

  • Our breeder has the same expenses in year five as all the others = $32,806 + 1,460 hours of labor
  • Our breeder sells her 48 puppies for $1200 per puppy and yields $57,600 for the year.
  • Our breeder comes up with a difference of $24,794 and applies it to her debt

And after our breeder’s fifth year since setting up her program (more really amazing luck and no major catastrophes or medical events) she will be “in the hole” for only $14,470 + 6,580 hours of unpaid labor

Oh, Wait

Well, we’re at year five. Guess what? Your five brood bitches must be retired at the end of next year. No more puppies from them after year six. This is going to incur new-dog expenses and puppy training, new DNA tests, new health clearances and count on needing double the number of dogs you plan to breed because you’ll be weeding out at least 50% of the dogs that come up as potential candidates. So you’ll need 10 potential brood bitches in order to eventually have five good girls to breed. Remember it takes 1.5 – 2 years to start getting puppies from your new breeding stock applicants so you’d better get on this right now…

Some of these girls can come from your own dogs but even so you’ll be “paying” for them in lost profit. And you have to do this carefully or you’ll wind up with deleterious genes destroying the puppies you’re selling. You’ll have to carefully use Wright’s coefficient to calculate genetic ratios and heterozygosity/homozygosity in order to maintain a safe level of linbreeding and to avoid dangerous inbreeding practices. This takes skill, effort and more.

You can count on several thousands of dollars here. But for the sake of keeping this poor post as brief as possible (really, I’m trying) we will just pretend this expense is non-existent for our hypothetical breeder.

Finally, a Profit!

Year six will be “the year” if God smiles benevolently on our breeder and doesn’t allow any tragedy to befall her dogs or breeding program. However it is really much more likely that she will have had some large expenses involving health etc. with her dogs because they are living creatures. We all get sick, we all get injured, we all have issues from time-to-time. Why should we expect our dogs to be any different? It isn’t magic! Even when you do everything right! It is to be expected. Our breeder has now helped deliver 144 puppies… the likelihood of having a medical complication with any of these neonates or their Mommies is pretty high.

But for simplicity’s sake we will imagine that our hypothetical breeder had a perfect 6 year run.

  • Our breeder has the same expenses in year six as all the others = $32,806 + 1,460 hours of labor
  • Our breeder sells her 48 puppies for $1200 per puppy and yields $57,600 for the year.
  • Our breeder comes up with a difference of $24,794 and applies it to her debt

And after our breeder’s sixth year she has made a profit of $10,324 for six years of labor totaling 8,040. This gives our breeder $0.78 cents an hour for six years of labor.

Seems a little ridiculous, doesn’t it? Why on earth would anyone want to go through all that?

Because they love dogs, their dogs, their mission and goals, etc. For the responsible breeder there really isn’t any profit. And that is the truth of the matter. The only way to make a profit is to start cutting serious corners and producing lower-quality puppies. You have to cut out lots of time that you spend on the dogs and training of your adults, too. The quality of life of the adult dogs used to produce those puppies must be severely degraded in order to make any profit at dog breeding.

But breeders do it and there are families willing to spend the money to take one of their dogs. These breeders are jerks for treating their companion animals worse than livestock. (Yes, worse than)-even worthy livestock breeders make better choices for housing, feed exercise, enrichment and the quality of selective breeding than these jerks do. So even livestock breeders beat these guys for quality of stock. And livestock aren’t supposed to live in your home, and aren’t expected to have reduced instincts and urges in order to coexist well with people…

The Light at the End of the Tunnel

Ok, so our breeder has been working for free. Six years have gone by and we have $10,000. But we know that we have to replace our founding bitches and there have likely been some other costs along the way. So year 7 starts us with a pretty clean slate. We have no profit but we have new, ready to breed girls, a good reputation, experience, equipment and basically everything we need for real success. Now comes the “profit”. By now we’ve learned what we really like, dislike and so forth. Those first six years of “no profit” really yielded a rich profit abundant in experience, love and lots of joy.

By the end of the seventh year (with our new ladies by this point) our breeder can charge $1200/puppy prices and make a reasonable profit. She makes a profit of $24,794. She’ll need to put some of this back into the business to pay for maintenance the following year and to have a reserve in the event of an emergency but in general she will have made about $15 per hour this year. She’ll continue to make about $10-15 per hour for the remainder of her years in business.

Can’t Our Breeder Charge Premium Prices?

She is putting in the time, money, thought and work into these premium caliber puppies so why shouldn’t she be charging the $2000-2500 price that the highest quality breeders charge? Well, she should, frankly. People will spend that money on her puppies because they are worth every single penny. Truly they are. And while the breeder that charges $2000 makes a profit it adds up to a pittance. Let’s look, shall we?

Year Six Do-Over

  • Our breeder has the same expenses in year six as all the others = $32,806 + 1,460 hours of labor
  • Our breeder sells her 48 puppies for $2000 per puppy and yields $96,000 for the year.
  • Our breeder comes up with a difference of $63,194 and applies it to her debt

After our breeder’s sixth year she has made a profit of $48,724 for six years of labor totaling 8,040. This gives our breeder $6.06 an hour for six years of labor. If you were to only count her labor for that year alone and ignore the five years of unpaid labor then she would make $33.37 per hour. Still seems a little ridiculous, doesn’t it? Especially when these kinds of breeders can usually go to work and easily make about $50/hour with vacations and sick days and things you can’t have with dogs… I know I could. (And I don’t charge $2,000 per dog, either).

Taking a Loss

So laugh not when a breeder tells you “I don’t make a profit” because the best breeders out there do not make a profit. And if they do make a profit, such as those very high-end breeders with the top-priced puppies they deserve every single penny they bring in.

Some people feel those kinds of puppy prices are outrageous and inexcusable but that is simply because they don’t realize how incredibly expensive and time consuming it is to breed dogs and the major inherent risks in breeding dogs. If someone wants to breed dogs without cutting corners but they want to make a profit they will need to sell their puppies for at least $2000 per puppy by their sixth year of breeding in order to stay in business and actually make money.

 

Because so many people won’t afford these high-end puppies they instead choose to fund the inhumane and unethical breeders out there. I choose not to charge the well-earned premium prices because my goal is to help educate puppy buyers and encourage breeders to do right by their dogs and their families. I reach more people with lower prices. You will find other breeders like me, too. They usually only have one or two litters a year (to keep their costs and time commitments down significantly) but the trade off is that people must then wait for their puppy. And so many people refuse to do that. They’d rather pick out a puppy from a low-quality breeder.

If you’ve read to the end then Thank You for taking a minute to see why really great puppies are so expensive. And, of course, crappy breeders will slap a high price tag on their puppies if they think they can get it. So while “cheap” puppies are nearly a guarantee “blood puppy” an expensive puppy is not a guarantee as to quality and ethics.

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