Breeding and Selling Puppies
It seems so easy -you breed a litter of pups, then you sell them. There may be some hard work in between the first and the second part of that sentence, but this seems to be how many first time breeders view their decision to breed a litter of pups. The numbers of dog breeders are increasing a lot -and make no mistake, once you have bred just one litter, you ARE a breeder. You may decide to never breed another litter again, but you are still the breeder of that one litter.
Breeders and Owners
I may be old fashioned, but when I started in dogs, there was a clear distinction between breeders and pet owners. In fact, I was in awe of breeders, and it was something I always inspired to be -one day. Breeders were people who had a great deal of knowledge -you could ask them any question about your puppy or your breed in general, and you would get an answer. It didn't matter what the question was, be it about feeding, training, grooming, health or anything else, they knew the answer or had an opinion on the subject. They went to shows and/or working tests, and they were gaining placings regularly. They were seen advertising in the breed club magazines and year books (at this moment in time there was no internet!) and they listed their achievements with their dogs. If you read the dog papers and the breed notes in them you would see the breeders mentioned week after week. To me, there seemed to be a gap the size of an ocean in between being an ordinary pet owner, and being a breeder. Thus, I always wanted to earn the privilege to one day become a breeder. I went to training classes, I joined my breed club, I went to shows both with and without my own dog, I studied pedigrees for years and read books. Every book on the breed I could find. I even had my pure pet dog both eye tested and hip scored, because I learnt that it was important for breeders to know the health status of all dogs they bred, not just the ones that were destined for breeding.
My first and second dogs both remained pets. They were shown but never gained any placings, although my second dog was graded Excellent at his first show. (This being when I lived in my birth country of Sweden, so under FCI rules.) My third dog actually did gain the odd placing at shows and even my first ever class win. But I realised that in a popular breed, this wasn't enough. Also he had the occasional bout of skin problems. If I was going to breed a litter, both the parents would have to be of very good quality indeed, so I could hold my head high when I gained the ranks of breeders.
In the end it took 23 years and several dogs and bitches before I felt that NOW the time was right to breed a litter. My bitch had been hip scored and eye tested with good results, she had been shown and placed not just the odd time, but consistently. She had good temperament and excellent general health and had even competed in obedience. Her breeder was happy for me to breed a litter so lifted her breeding endorsement, and suggested a suitable stud dog -and was then with me every step of the way. The process of breeding was new to me (in dogs, anyway -I had plenty of experience of breeding first smaller animals and later cats) but I had a good mentor, and after all the years I had kept dogs, I now felt reasonably qualified to answer my own puppy buyers' questions.
I got lucky with that first litter. My breed was rare and there were no other litters around at the time mine was born, and I got all my pups sold, apart from the one I kept back for myself for showing. I was able to pick and chose between my potential buyers and ensure my pups got he best possible homes. My mentor helped by sending enquiries my way, too.
But it hasn't always been this easy, and it will most definitely NOT be as easy for anyone breeding their first litter of a common breed -where buyers can pick and chose between dozens of litters on the ground. At this moment in time, not only do pedigree dogs have a bad name, but people are short of money and selling puppies is harder than ever.
So just how do you find buyers for your puppies? Well, the first important thing to bear in mind is to ONLY breed if you have the required knowledge and already have a bit of a reputation with your dogs, be it from shows or in any form of working tests. Let's face it, would you like to buy a puppy from somebody who had bred a litter from their first ever pet dog, and would be unable to answer all your questions? Wouldn't you rather go to somebody with knowledge, to know that you always had back up and support through the puppy stage, adolescence, adulthood and even when your puppy gets old and his health starts failing? I know what I would choose. Yet many breeders these days do just this -buy a pet bitch, have no other involvement in the breed, and a year or two later breed a litter from her. Such a breeder is of very little help to their puppy buyers. Sure, such a breeder may well be able to sell their puppies, but they often tend to sell to just anyone who asks -as they have no choice. The discerning puppy buyer would simply not go to this type of breeder and therefore you are essentially left with the buyers that have little or no knowledge, and maybe have spent little time considering whether their lifestyle even is suitable for a puppy of your chosen breed. If you act responsibly and promise all your buyers to take back any dog you have bred at any time during its life, for whatever reason, then you have a high likelihood of finding yourself with adult dogs or half grown pups being returned to you at some point. If you simply don't care and DON'T promise to take any dog back, well then your puppies may well end up in rescue centres, or as strays, and may not have the good lives we all wish for our puppies.
So, first you ensure that you know your breed, and have done some sort of competition. Then you start spreading the word about your planned litter long BEFORE the mating even takes place. If you have a toy breed that has very few puppies, you may not need a waiting list before you mate your bitch, but if you have any breed that is likely to give birth to anything from 5 to 15 puppies, then I would advice you to always have a waiting list. Don't just accept anyone for it, spend time chatting to all the people first, and find out if they are suitable owners. And bear in mind that even if somebody says they definitely do want one of your puppies, they may still change their minds, for whatever reason. Don't count on all pups being sold just because you have a waiting list!
Do advertise -both in advance of the pups being born, and after. Explain about all the merits of your bitch, and of your chosen stud dog. List hip scores, eye tests, anything of relevance to your breed, as well as awards won. Give both parents KC registered names so that potential buyers can verify health tests on the KC website (only available for certain tests and certain breeds, but never hurts to print registered names rather than just pet names). Mention that you give a lifetime's support and will take any pup back at any time, and will want a contract signed to that effect. DON'T use phrases such as "Deposit secures!", "First to see will buy!" or "Puppies flead and wormed". You don't WANT a deposit to secure the purchase of your puppies, because you want to ensure they go to the best possible homes, and therefore if you change your mind about a potential buyer, you want to be able to easily turn them down. You don't want your puppies to sound like a second hand car to be sold to the first person to see it -you have standards and want to be able to pick the best possible buyers, to ensure your puppies have good lives in permanent homes. And yes, worming must be done of all pups but surely neither your bitch nor your puppies had fleas, did they??
Where to Advertise
Where to advertise is a subject that can cause many discussions. Examples of good quality places to advertise at would include the Kennel Club's website (a small advert can be placed there when you register the puppies), Champdogs and the two dog papers Our Dogs and Dog World. Personally I find that via these, I get a better type of puppy enquiry. The person who knows enough to look at Champdogs, the KC website or buy the dog papers, usually already knows something about dogs and knows where to find a good breeder. Then there are literally hundreds of other places to advertise in. There are the various puppy selling websites which attract puppy farmers, back yard breeders and responsible breeders alike, as well as dog magazines, local newspapers, pet shop windows and vets waiting rooms. All places where you can find advert for puppies for sale. Sure, go ahead and advertise in them all -but be prepared to spend some extra time questioning the people who contact you, as invariably you will get emails or phone calls simply asking "How much for your puppies?" or "I want one of your puppies, can I collect it Wednesday?" In fact you can end up with very unsuitable enquires, but then there is always the chance that among them, there may be a gem -the perfect buyer.
Don't be afraid to turn people down. As I mentioned before, the best possible homes matter more than anything else. It is of little use to you, anyway, to be able to sell a puppy at 8 weeks of age only to have it returned as an untrained 8 month old. If you don't feel like asking lots of questions, just ask people to tell you about themselves, their family and their dog experience, and usually it will all follow automatically and become an informal chat rather than an interrogation.
Finally, never breed a litter counting on making some money. Chances are you will not. And never breed a litter unless you are able to keep one or more pups, as good homes are never guaranteed and unless they can be found, your only option is to keep the surplus puppies yourself.