If you're an animal lover, you may have considered a career path in animal breeding. While there are many different options, dog breeding is one of the most popular. After all, people are always on the lookout for the companionship of "man's best friend."
Dog breeders are responsible for producing purebred puppies designed as future show dogs, companion animals, or breeding stock. Here's an in-depth look at the job, its prospects, and what it takes to get into this career field.
Dog breeders are responsible for a variety of daily duties related to caring for the needs of their dogs. These tasks may include activities such as cleaning kennels or runs, feeding, grooming, bathing, providing fresh water, giving medications or supplements, assisting with problem births, maintaining breeding records, studying pedigrees, helping with breedings (e.g., artificial insemination), and registering dogs with the American Kennel Club (AKC) or other relevant breed associations.
Dog breeders must also work closely with veterinarians to ensure that their dogs receive proper health care and nutrition. They also work with groomers to trim their dogs in the appropriate style for the breed or learn how to clip and style their dogs themselves.
Dog breeders use their knowledge of canine pedigree to select superior animals for use as breeding stock. Responsible breeders have their breeding animals genetically tested for hereditary defects common to their specific breed, and will provide proof of such testing to parties interested in purchasing puppies from them.
Many breeders also compete with their breeding stock (or their progeny) at dog shows, either by showing the dogs themselves or enlisting the services of a professional handler.
Most dog breeders specialize in producing just one breed of dog, though some choose to produce several different ones. When producing more than one breed, it's common for a breeder to produce dogs of a related type (such as herding group breeds or working dog breeds). Some breeders produce so-called designer cross-bred dogs that are not yet recognized by the AKC as new breeds; these dogs are bred primarily for the pet market.
Breeders may also specialize in breeding dogs that are intended for a specific purpose such as hunting dogs or indoor pets.
Education and Training
While no college degree is necessary to start a career as a dog breeder, some breeders do have animal-related or business-related degrees. Degrees in areas such as animal science, reproduction, or biology may prove useful. Coursework for these degrees may include studying topics in anatomy, physiology, genetics, nutrition, reproduction, behavior, and production. Courses in marketing, advertising, communication, and technology are also beneficial for those who are running their own business ventures.
Dog breeders should be well-versed in the standards, behavioral traits, and coat cuts that are desired for the breed. Many breeders are also groomers who acquire this skill either by attending a formal grooming school or learning as an apprentice from an experienced groomer.
The salary for a dog breeder varies widely based on the number of litters their dogs produce per year, the quality of the breeding stock, the going rate for puppies of a particular breed, and the breeder’s reputation in the industry. Some breeds, such as new cross-bred dogs, command higher prices than others due to limited supply. Some breeders command higher prices because they have top-quality stock from championship lines, especially when they've demonstrated this at major shows such as the famed Westminster Dog Show.
While it does not separate dog breeders from the more general category of animal breeders, the U.S. Department of Labor indicates that, as of 2018, animal breeders in the United States earn a median annual wage of $37,060.
While it is possible to earn a living by just breeding dogs, most breeders earn additional income by offering dog training, grooming, or boarding kennel services at their facilities.
There is always a market for quality pedigreed puppies from reputable breeders, but at 2% to 3% for the next decade, the pace of growth is behind the general average. Thankfully, with the crackdown on puppy mills (where dogs are bred in dirty, confined quarters), there is less room in the industry for unsavory breeding practices. While this may slow the growth of the job market in this field, it's ultimately for the best.
Reputable breeders use extreme discretion when selecting animals for breeding purposes and do not allow inferior representatives of the breed to become a part of the gene pool. Superior progeny—and ethical operations—will enhance any breeder’s reputation and ensure their continued success in the industry.