How Much Do Dog Breeders Make?

You’re a dog breeder?!

Border terrier breeder and blogger Tegan Whalan wrote an excellent post called The Sin of Breeding Dogs. It’s about people’s reactions when they find out she is, God forbid, a breeder!

“I’ve seen a number of faces go hard and critical when I make this declaration,” she wrote. “When did dog breeding become such a sin?”

I’d like to know the answer to that question as well.

In the dog world we like to talk about “responsible breeders.” I don’t know what I consider a responsible breeder vs. an irresponsible breeder, but I do not lump them all together (“greeders” is the term I hear most).

I’m very careful not to participate in any “adopt, don’t shop” conversations. There are plenty of acceptable ways to obtain a dog. Going to a shelter is one. Going to a breeder is another.

Tegan wrote how she is never quite sure how to respond to the critical comments she receives as a dog breeder.

“Occasionally, I blurt out something about showing my dogs, or that I am a registered breeder, but it’s never quite what I want to say,” she wrote. “I want to say: Yes, I’m a dog breeder. And by dog breeder I mean ethical and responsible dog breeder, concerned about the health of my breeding animals and the long term welfare of my puppies.”

You can read the full post here.

I thought it was good to hear a breeder’s perspective for once – a voice often lost in this angry “rescue world.”

And what about profit? Do dog breeders make money?

Tegan wrote how she is very much in the red as a dog breeder. In fact, she has never earned any money from dog breeding and doesn’t seem to intend to. She’s bred three litters and lost more than $5,000.

“I have beautiful dogs that I love in my house and life that I wouldn’t have without this breeding program,” she wrote.

And while she said there are a lot of reasons to breed a litter, “Money isn’t one of them.”

Read the full post here: I haven’t earned any money from breeding

How do you respond to people’s attitudes against all breeders?

39 thoughts on “How Much Do Dog Breeders Make?”

  1. Thanks so much for following my blog, Lindsay, and sharing these two posts. The term “greeder” is actually what inspired me to write the post on my income from breeding. People in the rescue community would be disparaging to the opinions I hold on rescue issues, pretty much casting my thoughts as illegitimate because of my involvement in breeding. (Despite the fact that I have had approximately 40 rescue dogs through my home, compared to breeding 13 puppies all up.)

    It’s a frustrating state of play when discussions on animal welfare get turned into breeder vs rescuer conversations. Beyond frustrating, it’s damaging – I know more than one breeder who has chosen to distance themselves from the rescue community as a result of the negativity they receive. It’s high tide that we put aside our differences, and just work towards working together to improve animal welfare.

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      Thank you for writing such great content! Would it be OK if I added one of your border terrier pics to this post?

    2. Discerning Rescues should not be disparaging of reputable and ethical breeders, especially if they are supporting Rescue and fostering dogs. It is just unfortunate that breeders like you seem to be so scarce. Most of the ones I know don’t want to accept dogs that are not of their own breeding but so long as they are accepting back dogs of their own breeding, and limiting who of their puppy buyers can breed through spay/neuter clauses in their contracts, they are good in my book. Thanks for posting.

  2. I’ve always avoided telling readers where to get their dogs too. It’s a personal decision.

    When I started blogging I had a number of breeders that were blogging buddies. Now most have gone dark because of the current bias against them. It’s really a shame because good breeders add so much to the dog world.

  3. Elizabeth Kleweno

    While we have two rescues right now, I am thinking that we will probably go to a breeder in the future. We like big dogs but both of us have allergies so poodles or labradoodles for us. Thanks for linking the blogs from Tegan. I enjoyed reading both of them. It’s nice to get insights into other peoples lives and how much money they spend. I have a horse also and that is a major money pit! 🙂 But I wouldn’t trade her or the money or time spent for anything.

  4. Thanks for linking to that post. I know some people who are involved in dog breeding, and it most certainly is a labor of love. I am grateful to ethical breeders who are attempting to strengthen the health of our dogs, especially those breeds who have been damaged by excessive inbreeding or aesthetic “standards” that favor dogs who are not healthy or functional.

  5. It’s interesting, one place I’ve not seen animosity towards breeders is in the Livestock Guardian Community. I wonder if it’s because it’s so hard for people to actually get a rescue to adopt to them if they are honest about the dog becoming a working farm dog.

    Or maybe I’m just not listening to the whole conversation.

  6. If we better engaged with breeders we would be able to work more effectively together to educate dog buyers on responsible ways to raise a dog. Myself and friends have bought dogs from breeders and none of them advised us on socialising, puppy class, training methods etc. Lucky for me and my dog I’m an avid researcher and have a background in ABA and psychology so I am pretty on top of that stuff, but it has meant that problems arising now for my friends dogs are discussed with a, “I didn’t know how important X was.” Socialising is a big one. So, if breeders better educated their buyers on choosing the right dog for them, and how to raise one well, then us rescuers would have fewer dogs to rescue. If we could have that conversation between breeders and rescuers I think it would be better off for everyone in the long run.

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      My friends and family members have had similar experiences with breeders (and shelters too, actually). Not enough emphasis is put on training and socialization. It seems like a lot of first-time dog owners feel more comfortable going to a breeder because there is this belief that shelter dogs have issues. But then they end up with these puppies and they aren’t always sure how to train and socialize them.

  7. One term can cover a variety of activities – there are responsible breeders and irresponsible ones, just as there are responsible rescues and irresponsible ones. The same can also be said for parents – I spent a significant portion of my life working in child welfare and even more dedicated to Border Collie Rescue. Believe me, attitudes towards neglect and abuse of animals often is not limited to the family pets in the household.

    Commercial breeders are in it for the money. They (or the brokers that act as a smokescreen) can put on a jolly persona, hide behind a slick website, but the dogs they breed receive little medical care and just as little kind handling and attention. Often the puppies are the only ones who ever see a Vet, for first shots and deworming before being sold.

    Back Yard Breeders can range from small-scale commercial breeders with stacks of cages in the basement or back bedroom, to a family with one or two intact dogs that they allow to breed.

    The term “Hobby Breeder” usually means people who are passionate about their breeds of choice, and are far more willing to discuss breed traits and energy levels, the amount of exercise and training required, and potential health issues. They screen for temperament, clear hips, eyes, heart, and any other known potential health problems them when looking to breed their dogs. Their dogs, both adult and pups, are “home raised” and well socialized, and that does not mean stacks of cages or veri-kennels in a spare bedroom. Retired breeding dogs are considered family, and either kept for the rest of their lives, or placed in homes that are just as carefully screened as those of the puppies they place.

    Commercial Rescues are not so much different – since Katrina opened the doors wide to cross-border Rescue, many people have jumped on the band wagon who are not acting in the best long-term interests of the animals. Often the only medical care and oversight is what the dogs receive at their point of origin, often through donations by well-meaning folk who are happy to see them pulled from high-kill shelters, and their transport is also supported by well-meaning volunteers. But the Canadian Rescues who receive them are not all operating to an acceptable standard, lacking foster homes and assessment periods to allow for training and behaviour evaluation, and automatic admission Veterinary medical exams (and testing for Heartworm and Lyme), and some are asking just as much for adoption fees as the more reputable Rescues who invest their time and skills to ensure that the dogs are appropriate for the adopters who want them, and the adopters are appropriate for the dogs. When the adoption fails, they fail the adopter and the dog, by using guilt and excuses to renege on their return policies. “We have no space” and “If we accept this dog back, dogs in need will die!” are common excuses. Often these dogs from failed adoptions are dumped at the local Shelter, or worse, dumped period. It is rather horrific how many thin, dirty and unclaimed strays are found in regional forests.

    A couple of suggestions for tightening our pretty shabby animal welfare legislation:

    Do what is being implemented in England, and require ALL dogs to be microchipped by the breeder and the information updated when a dog changes hands. This will help to identify their origin, and greatly reduce the number of unclaimed strays.

    Limit the number of breeding dogs allowed per Kennel License. This is a practice that is being adopted in a growing number of Municipalities in Ontario. Tighten Municipal Bylaws and then ENFORCE THEM, for cryin’ out loud.

    Implement more low-cost spay and neuter clinics. The Ontario Veterinary Medical Association needs to get their heads out of their arses and stop their opposition to these clinics. Make it a requirement that ALL Municipal Animal Control policies include spay/neuter of shelter animals and a low-cost spay/neuter program for their residents.

    Ask questions, and demand transparency. Puppy buyers should be able to see the parents and where the animals live, and should be empowered to report cases of poor housing and neglect. Toronto Crimestoppers now accepts reports of animal abuse and neglect. This should be policy Province-wide, and the investigation and enforcement properly funded and overseen Provincially.

    Educate yourself and do your homework, whether you are buying a puppy or adopting from a Rescue.

    Here are two resources to assist in finding a reputable Rescue Organization:

    http://www.speakingofdogs.com posts a Directory of All-Breed and Breed-Specific Rescues that have been screened before inclusion. It also includes a list of Municipal Shelters.

    http://www.helpinghomelesspets.com is a charitable organization that requires the Rescue Organizations it supports to comply with a Code of Ethics in order to be members. At this time, it is the only Canadian organization that offers this screening. It’s 50+ members are active in assisting and rehoming dogs, cats, and pocket pets.

    To be a Reputable Rescue, their function should include supporting adopters, and accepting back adopted dogs if needed. To a Rescue, a Reputable Breeder is one whose dogs don’t end up in Shelters or Rescue, because they maintain communication and support with the people they sell their dogs to.

    If You Don’t Rescue, Don’t Breed!

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts from the rescue point of view. I’m glad to hear you are open to working with responsible breeders. You made a lot of good points, and one that I want to stress again is the importance of affordable spay/neuter options. I hear over and over that the largest barrier to the spaying and neutering of pets is a lack of money. People want to spay and neuter their pets, but they can’t always afford to do so.

      I can’t say I’m a supporter of all the breeding restrictions you suggest. Sometimes regulations sound good but they do more harm than good. I am not very informed on the issue though, as I am not a breeder and have never obtained a pet from a breeder. I’d be interested to hear what others think.

      1. Limiting the number of breeding dogs to 10 or even 15 allows reputable hobby breeders plenty of wiggle room. It also keeps those who operate as commercial breeders from expanding into numbers that cannot be well-managed and well-maintained.

        I do in fact have a Municipal Kennel License. I do not breed dogs though, I operate a Dog Boarding Kennel and Border Collie Rescue. I have four of my own and up to six foster dogs who share my home. All foster dogs are booked into the Vet on admission for exam/shots, and spay/neutered as soon as possible. No oops breeding here please! I spend a disproportionate amount of my time cleaning, lol. I have spent a substantial amount of money renovating the kennel portion of the building (it is attached to my dwelling) to ensure that it is bright, well-ventilated, hygienic, and warm in Winter. The commercial epoxy flooring (the same flooring as you find at Walmart stores) alone cost me $10,000. I also installed 20 kennels runs with solid walls (the originals were just chain link) but every second wall is removable, to allow for double sized runs, and I presently am set up as 15 runs, 5 double runs and 10 singles. The indoor runs each have individual outdoor runs, and also get out into a large yard for social time and exercise. On days like these they are usually out most of the afternoon and early evening, depending on how many are here and how they get along. Right now a boarding Shih-Poo is hanging out in here with me and the other dogs are out in the yard next to my office. It’s a full time occupation keeping everyone clean, fed and happy – when they are happy, I am happy, and if they don’t sleep, I don’t!

        I believe that all dog breeding operations should be licensed and operate to at least my standards and level of care, but they would be hard-pressed to make a profit doing so.

        1. While I understand what you’re saying, having regulation on kennel environments is not appropriate for breeders like myself who don’t use kennels. My dogs live inside. My bitches whelp inside. My puppies grow inside. I would never raise a litter of puppies in a kennel environment, nor would I seek to introduce legislation that requires puppies to be raised on a kennel environment.

          I wrote more about this topic here:
          http://leemakennels.com/blog/dog-breeding/clean-and-kennelled-the-future-of-dog-breeding/

          1. Lindsay Stordahl

            Yep, that’s what I was thinking too. I would not support such legislation either.

          2. I think you are taking the term Kennel too literally – in most Municipalities, anyone who has more than the legally allowed number of dogs per household needs to have a Kennel License. Doesn’t matter if they are kept in a kennel or in the home. I am not a supporter of dogs living their lives in a kennel either.

  8. It infuriates me when someone attacks a reputable breeder. I wrote a guest article when I first started Keep the Tail Wagging about what a reputable breeder looks like and was attacked viciously for it. What people didn’t seem to get was that calling me names didn’t make their argument stronger, it just made them a bully. Another person told me that breeders were just greedy – funny, because not one breeder I knew was rich. Recently a woman threatened to report me and my blog to PETA, stating that they were going to shut me down – really? Why was she upset? Because I shared that I believed in that reputable breeders existed, they hold the history of our dogs, and when all the rescues have homes – we’ll be looking to our reputable breeders for our fur babies.

    The only issue I have with breeding is the lack of homework people put into buying a puppy. There are too many options out there that allow people to make a spur of the moment decision – pet stores selling puppies, backyard breeders, puppies being sold out of a truck. This is why so many dogs end up in shelters. Not the breeders, but the irresponsible breeders and dog owners who don’t do their homework. Sometimes I want to scream “do you know how big that cute mastiff puppy will get?” “do you know how active an Australian Shepherd can be?”

    We did months of homework before we adopted from a rescue. It’s a lifetime commitment. I want people to do their homework. I want lawmakers to ban the sell of puppies in pet stores and possibly online. And I want puppy mill owners prosecuted, serving jail time, losing their assets.

    And that’s just a taste of my rant on this issue. Wow! Fiery.

    1. Thanks for sharing your experiences, Kimberley. Your one post on breeders got you the response that I get every time I call myself a ‘breeder’!

  9. I know there are reputable and disreputable breeders. I know. I know that at least three million dogs in shelters are euthanized in the US every year. But what does it come down to? I don’t like the answer, or the answer as I see it.

    People are idiots and irresponsible.

    Is that too harsh? I run a dog breed post every Wednesday to educate people about specific breeds. Tons of purebred dogs wind up in shelters every February and March because people buy them for their children or fiances for Christmas without knowing or understanding how much work raising a puppy is. They do it for all the wrong reasons. That is NOT the breeder’s fault. Then these same people, who got all weepy eyed about bringing home a cute little puppy in December, who haven’t done any training or obedience classes or reading about dogs and their specific breed, take the destructive little mutt to the pound. And it’s not the dog’s fault! Or the breeders!

    Grr. I hate this topic. It makes me very angry. Yet, I try my best to combat it, on Wednesdays, in a positive way. What can I do differently? This is insane.

    1. Not letting the breeders off the hook on this one – if they are selling pups as Christmas gifts, they had better make darned sure that they are screening properly and their buyers are making informed decisions about what is expected from them. If those pups are no longer wanted only 2 months later, they should be going back to the breeder, not to a Shelter! A breeder whose dogs end up dumped at a Shelter at any point in their lives, should bear part of the burden and shame, as they in all likelihood were not offering any follow-up or support.

      Yes, there are always going to be some people who are very good at telling you what they think you want to hear, in order to get immediate gratification. Contracts that set out the Breeder’s or Rescue’s expectations, reviewed and signed, may help drive the point home, as well a follow-up contact. But sooner or later, both Breeders and Rescues find themselves with a situation where a dog that they created or took responsibility for no longer has a stable home, and if they are not prepared to suck it up and resume responsibility for that dog’s welfare, they should not be breeding or rescuing in the first place!

      1. Lindsay Stordahl

        I think puppies can make perfect Christmas presents, but any good breeder will be very careful about screening their buyers to make sure all the pups go to good homes as you said. And yes, they will take the dogs back if it doesn’t work out.

    2. Lindsay Stordahl

      Those posts are great because they encourage people to actually think about the breed characteristics rather than a cute puppy. We’re always so obsessed with looks even when it comes to dogs, and that can be a disaster if you end up with the wrong breed, energy-wise!

    3. Flea, I’m not aware of any research that shows that shelter intakes increase during the months you specified. That is, the unwanted Christmas present idea seems to be a myth.

      Most dogs are surrendered to shelters after a thoughtful process. The decision seems to be made over time, with consideration, on a range of factors. Unfortunately the link I normally share on this is broken at the moment (grr!), but there’s this one which describes why people relinquish pets…
      http://www.companionanimalpsychology.com/2013/05/why-do-people-surrender-dogs-to-animal.html
      You’ll see that ‘because I got a pet for Christmas and didn’t understand the work involved’ wasn’t a reason given. 😉

      1. Lindsay Stordahl

        Excellent points. I’m glad you added this link to the discussion. I also think the unwanted Christmas present idea is a myth. A huge pet peeve of mine is when shelters and rescues refuse to adopt out animals the week of Christmas. The holidays are the perfect time for some families to get a new pet. The kids are home. Parents take time off from work, etc.

  10. I think I have a contradictory stance on this. While I don’t have anything against responsible breeders, I can never really understand why someone would choose to buy a dog over giving one a home that really needs it, whether they are from a shelter, rescue, Craigslist, etc. I suppose showing would be the only reason but on another note, I don’t really understand the interest in that either. The argument “I want to get my puppy from a breeder so I know exactly where they came from and how they’ll turn out” infuriates me.

    My parents got their german shepherd from a reputable breeder and while she is beautiful, has little hip problems and is very loving towards people, she has major dog aggression which is a huge flaw in my book. Then again she is distributing traits of her breed…protective, alert, driven and needs a job or purpose to enjoy herself. I guess I just love my mutts!

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      I totally get where you’re coming from, especially since I have a mutt as well.

      All I can add to this is that each person deserves to obtain a dog in the way he or she feels is best. Personally, I just want a nice pet. So for me, it makes sense to go to a shelter or find the right dog through Craigslist. Even if I wanted a certain breed (I don’t) I could hopefully find one through a shelter.

      At some point, I might end up buying a working dog (and pet) that has come from a breeder. I’d like to buy a trained protection dog, and most of these dogs do not come from shelters because they come from specific lines bred for specific work/temperaments, etc.

      As another example, my husband has also always liked Greater Swiss Mountain dogs. At some point, I feel he has the right to buy one of these dogs. They just don’t end up in shelters too often. There are breed-specific rescues, but there is often a waiting list and a difficult adoption process.

      For now, though, I really have no reason to go to a breeder, and I like the idea of saving a life. My next dog will most definitely be from a shelter or Craigslist. I think for a lot of people, obtaining a pet is not a moral issue like it is for me. It’s not about saving a life, for some people. It’s about finding the right pet.

      1. Good points! I can definitely see why you would need specific breeds for protection or even some sports but I suppose I was thinking in the general family dog realm, I don’t get it. I overheard a guy at the dog park telling someone that the 5 grand he spent on his labradoodle (a designer mutt anyways) was the best money he ever spent, as the dog repeatedly humped Norman and later I saw it running off and not listening to him. While that may just be a training thing, in my head I was thinking, by no means do you have a perfect dog or superior dog to mine that cost me $150 to obtain.

        I can’t imagine my parents ever owning another breed than a german shepherd, but I hope to encourage them to rescue their next one. Still, I don’t entirely understand their interest in a working breed as I think it has been difficult to fulfill her needs. Everyone does deserve the dog they want but it’s a lot of the arguments why to go to a breeder that puzzle me.

        1. Lindsay Stordahl

          Yeah I hear ya.

          It seems like people still believe they can get a “better” dog if they go to a good breeder and pay a lot of money. And I guess sometimes this is true. But I think part of the problem is how shelters market the dogs in a “he’s been abused” or “no one wants him” kind of way. You and I know that most shelter dogs are great dogs, but do most people know that? I don’t think they do.

          My parents have always gone to breeders as well, thinking they will get a clean slate that way. And they will be the first to admit most of their dogs have been far from perfect – behavior wise and healthwise. I hope they go to a shelter the next time around as well. They adopted their cat through a rescue group (because, really, who buys cats from breeders??) so that’s a start!

          And who am I to talk about any of this, anyway? My mutt was free! 🙂

  11. You are right about shelter marketing, it only really works on people who want a hard luck story which is perhaps not the majority. I’m assuming most people get puppies from breeders so it’s not like there are that many abused puppies in shelters being so young, I think? But for sure money spent does not equal a better dog!

  12. In a perfect world I would LOVE to see people always go the adoption route, but it’s not always practical especially for breeds that aren’t often in rescue. For example, I’m fostering a wheaten right now and there are currently 0 wheatens available for adoption in my province. The ones that DO come up are usually from a puppy mill, but not everyone is suitable for a mill dog and vice versa.

    There aren’t a lot of us in rescue, but I definitely support reputable breeders.

  13. This is another example of the pendulum swinging too far in one direction. I think most people must think “puppy mill” when they hear “dog breeder”, and it is such a shame for the reputable breeders. I bred Australian shepherds a long time ago. We owned the mom and the dad and had three beautiful litters of pups. The pups were delivered in our bathroom, which we had set up for that purpose. They were loved on by our daughter and our cats, introduced to the neighbors, given their first shots, wormed, and socialized as much as puppy that age can be. Once at the beach we saw one of the puppies, now a full grown dog, that we had adopted out. She was chasing a Frisbee thrown by her owner and we could tell she was well loved and well cared for. The owner thanked us for letting him have the privilege of owning such a wonderful dog. It’s sad to think that people now denigrate breeders. We sold the puppies for enough money to cover shots and worm medicine. Talk about a losing proposition as far as money! We did it because we loved dogs and wanted to promote the Australian shepherd breed, which was not very well known back then. We stopped because three litters is more than enough for one dog, plus we kept one of the pups. The hard part is giving them up!

  14. We’ve have two litters in 10 years. Each breeding was done because we wanted a pup from the bitches, because the bitch had the right stuff (good health, temperament, drive, biddability), and we had others who wanted pups out of the breedings for the same reasons we decided to breed. Clearances and genetic tests were done, MANY sires were considered, and we contacted knowledgeable people to go over the pedigrees. We lost money on both breedings but we knew that going in. The first breeding was good and I think the second is great.

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