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Dog Breeding: How To Get Started

At A Glance

Becoming a dog breeder isn't just about cute puppies; it's a labor of love and a commitment to preserving and improving the breeds we adore. Do not confuse breeding with puppy-producing. While anyone can produce puppies, a good breeder will:

  • Try to improve the breed with every litter by learning more
  • Genetically test adult dogs and meticulously match them to deliver high-quality puppies

Last Updated on: July 12, 2023

If you are a canine enthusiast with a burning desire to turn your love for dogs into a rewarding occupation, consider getting into the dog business. Many people out there have turned their passion for dogs into a rewarding occupation by becoming independent dog breeders.

As a dog breeder, you become a steward of a breed’s heritage. It’s a labor of love that involves careful research, meticulous planning, and unwavering dedication to producing healthy, well-tempered puppies that embody the best traits of their lineage.

While breeding is not all that tough, breeding ethically and responsibly is. Puppy mills or for-profit breeders often resort to unethical practices to produce litters in number and seldom care about health and conformity.

On the other hand, a reputable breeder strives to improve a breed with every litter. Furthermore, trustworthy breeders also follow ethical breeding practices, health test adult dogs, and focus on temperament and socialization.

So, how do you become a breeder of dogs?

In this guide, we’ll let loose the secrets of the trade, from selecting the perfect breeding pair to navigating genetics, whelping, and responsible breeding practices. Keep reading.

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Steps To Follow

Be Mindful

Before you set up shop, you must understand what you’re getting into. Breeding puppies is no easy feat; it’s a lot of hard work and patience. And sometimes, the results may not be as fruitful as anticipated.

According to Jolyn Snider, Dog Trainer, “Anyone can become a dog breeder but being a responsible, careful, and ethical dog breeder is something completely different. Those three things do not mean just throwing two dogs together and breeding or setting up a puppy mill and breeding ‘mutts.’”

Choose A Breed You Want To Work With

how to become a dog breeder - choose a breed you want to work with

Decide which breed you want to work with. All breeds have different requirements, and what works for one may not necessarily work for another. Additionally, consider the specific traits and characteristics of the breed that align with your goals and interests.

Whether you’re looking to breed working dogs, companions, or show dogs, selecting a breed that suits your aspirations will enhance your enjoyment and success in working with them. Investing time and effort into a breed you genuinely care about can lead to a fulfilling and rewarding experience for you and the dogs you work with.

Get Your Paperwork In Order

If you are considering dog breeding as a business venture, it’s important to get your registration paperwork in order so your operation is smooth and legitimate. You must therefore do the following:

Research and Understand Legal Requirements:

In the United States, dog breeding businesses are subject to various national regulations and laws, including:

  • Animal Welfare Act (AWA): This federal law sets minimum standards for the treatment of animals in commercial breeding facilities. It covers aspects such as housing, sanitation, veterinary care, transportation, and handling of animals. Breeders who sell puppies to pet stores or wholesale dealers and have more than three breeding females must obtain a USDA license and comply with AWA regulations.
  • USDA Licensing: If you meet the AWA criteria to operate as a commercial dog breeder, the next step is to obtain a license from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). Remember that the USDA conducts inspections to ensure compliance with animal welfare standards.
  • State-specific Regulations: Most states also have their own set of regulations regarding dog breeding. And while these regulations can vary significantly, they usually govern aspects like licensing, zoning, record-keeping, health requirements, the number of breeding dogs allowed, etc.
  • Local Regulations: County or city regulations may impose additional requirements or restrictions on dog breeding businesses and cover areas like licensing fees, zoning restrictions, noise ordinances, and limits on the number of animals allowed.
  • Transportation Laws: If you plan on transporting dogs across state lines for breeding or sale, you must also comply with federal and state laws on animal transportation. They typically cover transportation conditions, the age and health requirements of the animals, and the necessary transit documentation.

Consider consulting with legal professionals or industry associations for further guidance on compliance with dog breeding regulations in the United States.

Register Your Business

how to become a dog breeder - register your business

The next step is deciding on a suitable business name and registering it with the appropriate authorities. You must also determine the appropriate legal structure for your business, like sole proprietorship, partnership, or limited liability company (LLC).

Also, consider registering for an Employer Identification Number (EIN) if necessary.

Obtain Necessary Permits and Licenses

Contact your local government or animal control agencies to determine the required permits and licenses for breeding dogs, such as a breeder’s license, kennel license, or animal welfare permit.

Understand Your Tax Obligations

Don’t forget to consult with an accountant or tax professional. This will ensure you comply with tax regulations specific to your business.

Get familiarized with sales tax requirements, income tax obligations, and any exemptions or deductions applicable to the business.

Establish Proper Record-keeping Systems

It is essential to have a comprehensive record-keeping system. This will help you be on top of and easily track important information about your breeding program, including pedigrees, health records, breeding contracts, financial records, etc.

Consider Breed-specific Requirements

Certain dog breeds may have additional requirements or registrations, such as breed club memberships or certifications. For example, the Border Collie Society of America maintains a registry specifically for Border Collies, and registration with them may be necessary for certain competitions or events.

You must research any such breed-specific obligations to meet all the necessary criteria.

Get Your Physical Kennel Ready

how to become a dog breeder - get your physical kennel ready

How you set up your kennel would depend on which breed you choose to produce. Some breeds may do well in homes, while others may need open spaces to thrive. There are typically three types of operations:

  • In-Home Operations: Breeding operations happen within the breeder’s residence or home. Breeders with in-home operations generally have a small number of breeding dogs and their litters. The pups are raised and cared for as part of the family, and such breeders usually have a close relationship with each dog. They also prioritize quality over quantity and focus on producing healthy, well-socialized puppies.
  • At-Home Operations: These, too, are carried out on the breeder’s property or residence. However, at-home breeders often have more breeding dogs and produce more litter than in-home breeders. They also have a dedicated space, like a separate building or facility on their property, to accommodate the dogs. At-home breeders also prioritize the well-being of their dogs and are able to give individual attention to each.
  • Commercial Kennels: Also known as professional or large-scale breeding operations, these operations typically adopt a business-oriented approach to dog breeding. These larger facilities are designed specifically for breeding and housing a significant number of dogs and are often subject to additional regulations and inspections due to the larger scale of their operations.

Commercial breeders may also have breeding dogs of several different breeds and produce multiple litters simultaneously. Most employ staff to assist with the daily care, health monitoring, and socialization of the dogs.

Meet A Local Veterinarian

As a breeder, you must have 24/7 access to a veterinarian with the proper tools and setup. This is because you never know when your female dog may need help to deliver her litter. Besides that, puppy care, vaccines, and deworming must be administered promptly, and any delay could be fatal.

Procure Your Breeding Stock

how to become a dog breeder - procure your breeding stock

As stated earlier, an ethical breeder strives to improve the breed. So, it’s important to procure male and female purebred dogs that are genetically healthy and have a sweet disposition.

You must also get your dam and sire DNA tested to rule out any inherent health conditions and to establish the health of the litter. You can ask a vet or follow AKC’s guidelines to know which tests apply to a particular breed.

Also, ensure you read the contract. Sometimes, AKC registration and future breedings are prohibited, so ensure you do your due diligence.

Care For Your Dogs

Caring for your dog is not just about feeding it food and taking it to the vet. You must also ensure your dogs have a clean environment, are groomed properly, get enough exercise and mental stimulation, socialize, and receive lots of love and attention.

These factors are a foundation for healthy, happy, and even-tempered puppies.

Start Matchmaking

Now that you’ve procured your dogs and have all your paperwork, let the matchmaking begin. Veterinarian Viktor Rrao states, “You need to have an extensive understanding of the bloodlines of your sires and dams to prevent inbreeding; you need to have a clear goal for what type of behavior or look you are going for in your dogs; and you need to have enough time and money to feed, house, register, health test, and temperament test all of your dogs.”

Some breeders also opt for artificial insemination as a final resort if natural methods don’t work.

Care For The Mommy-To-Be

Once your dam is pregnant, take her for regular check-ups to check on the puppies. Dog pregnancies typically last between 58 to 70 days. This is also a good time to prepare for the puppies and learn about dog labor and what you should do.

You can also confirm that your vet will be on standby in case of an emergency or early labor.

Puppy Time

how to become a dog breeder - puppy time

Once the litter has arrived, ensure they receive plenty of care. Providing a safe and clean environment for the puppies, preferably a whelping box with proper bedding and temperature control, is important. You also need to increase the mom’s calorie intake so she has enough milk.

Establishing and weaning puppies is a crucial stage in their development. Gradually introduce solid food alongside the mother’s milk to help the pups transition to a balanced diet. Ensuring their nutritional needs are met. Also, start socializing them with humans and other animals during this time to promote healthy social skills. They will also need regular veterinary check-ups and vaccinations to monitor their health and prevent diseases.

Let The Advertisements Begin

It’s important to advertise about your puppies so people know about them. When advertising puppies for sale, it’s important to create effective advertisements to attract potential owners. Highlight their breed and desirable traits and emphasize qualities like temperament, health, and pedigree.

Include clear and appealing photos that showcase clean, well-groomed puppies. Also, provide accurate information on pricing, vaccination status, and any additional services or guarantees you offer.

Use multiple advertising platforms such as online classifieds, social media, and breed-specific forums to reach a wide audience of interested buyers. Always prioritize transparency, honesty, and responsible breeding practices in your advertisements.

Furever Home & Support

Ensuring that their puppies are placed in caring and knowledgeable homes where they will receive lifelong, attentive care and love is the primary motivation for most breeders. Prior to sending the little pups to their new homes, ensure they’ve received appropriate vaccinations, deworming, and veterinary care.

Provide new owners with a comprehensive puppy pack. This pack should include relevant documents, care instructions, and information on the puppy’s diet and exercise needs.

You can also offer ongoing support and guidance to the new owners, answering any questions and providing resources for training, socialization, and healthcare. Building a positive and long-lasting relationship with your customers will ensure the well-being and happiness of the puppies throughout their lives.

Frequently Asked Questions

how to become a dog breeder - frequently asked questions

How Much Money Can Dog Breeders Make?

On average, a breeder with two female dogs can earn anywhere between $8,000-$20,000 on small breeds and around $20,000-$36,000 on large dogs per litter.

However, this number could differ depending on factors like your setup, litter size, and selling price. Sometimes passionate breeders may also incur a loss because of vigorous testing and small-size litter.

Do You Need A License To Breed Dogs In NY?

According to the state’s Agriculture and Markets Law – 26-A, a pet dealer is someone who sells more than nine animals per year to the public for profit. This inadvertently also extends to dog breeders.

However, as a breeder, you are exempt from mandatory licensing if you sell less than 25 dogs/cats. So, as long as you sell a limited number of puppies, you should be fine.

Is It Illegal To Sell Puppies In NY State?

Effective 2024, the State of NY has banned the sale of puppies, cats, and rabbits as commercial commodities in pet stores. These stores often stock animals that have poor health and quality of life.

The law aims to prevent illegal breedings and promote home breeders who follow ethical breeding standards.

Is Dog Breeding A Good Side Hustle?

Dog breeding is an expensive hobby, not a side hustle. Breeding is an expensive affair; you need to consider kennel, veterinary care bills, and licensing costs. Moreover, dog breeding is not something you do to earn a profit; you do it to maintain or improve a breed. Some breeders often don’t make any profits.


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Meet Sheryl, a dedicated pet mom with over 20 years of hands-on experience as a pet mom to various dog breeds, from German Shepherds to Shih Tzus. Join her on her pet-centric journey as she aims to empower pet owners with practical tips and guidance. With her experience and passion for pets, she strives to make a positive impact in the lives of pets and their devoted owners.