Animal Career Profile: Dog Breeder

English springer spaniel puppies
Nick Ridley/Getty Images

Dog breeders are responsible for producing purebred puppies designed for futures as show dogs, companion animals, or breeding stock.

Duties

Dog breeders are responsible for a variety of daily duties related to caring for the needs of their dogs. These routine 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, assisting with breedings (conducted either by live cover or artificial insemination), and registering dogs with the 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 must use their knowledge of canine conformation and 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 (and/or their progeny) at dog shows, either showing the dogs themselves or enlisting the services of a professional handler.

Career Options

Most dog breeders specialize by producing just one breed of dog, though some breeders choose to produce several different breeds of interest.

If producing more than one breed, it is common for a breeder to produce dogs of a related type (such as toy group breeds or working dog breeds). Some breeders produce so-called “designer” cross-bred dogs that are not yet recognized by the American Kennel Club as new breeds; these dogs are produced primarily for the pet market.

Breeders may also specialize in breeding dogs of a particular breed that are intended for a specific purpose such as show prospects, hunting dogs, or pets.

Education & 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, animal reproduction, or biology may prove to be useful. Coursework for these degrees may include studying topics in anatomy, physiology, genetics, nutrition, reproduction, genetics, behavior, and production. Courses in marketing, advertising, communication, and technology are also usually beneficial for those who are running their own business venture.

Dog breeders should be well versed in the standards of conformation for their breed, the behavioral traits of the breed, and the coat cuts that are desired for the breed. Many breeders are also groomers, and this skill can be acquired either by attending a formal grooming school or learning as an apprentice from an experienced groomer.

Salary

The salary for a dog breeder can vary 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 command higher prices than others due to limited supply. Some breeders command higher prices due to the fact that they have top quality stock from championship lines, especially when this has been demonstrated at major shows such as the famed Westminster event.

While it does not separate out dog breeders from the more general category of animal breeders, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) salary survey indicated that animal breeders earned a mean wage of $35,620 in 2010 (translating to a mean hourly wage of $17.13). The highest mean salaries for all animal breeders were found in Pennsylvania ($41,860), California ($40,990), Kentucky ($34,490), and Texas ($34,350).

While it is possible to earn a living by just breeding dogs, most dog breeders have another outside source of supplemental income.

Some breeders offer dog training, grooming, or boarding kennel services at their facility. Ultimately, most reputable breeders are primarily concerned with improving the breed and are not in it just for the money.

Job Outlook

There is always a market for quality pedigreed puppies, but “puppy mill” style breeding operations (where dogs are bred indiscriminately for profit) are strongly discouraged and very much looked down upon by reputable professionals in the pet industry.

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 will enhance the breeder’s reputation and ensure their continued success in the industry.