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How Much Do Dog Breeders Make? [SURPRISING Real Salary]

Dog breeding definitely seems like a fun business.

Watching tiny puppies open their eyes for the first time. Watching them play. The joy of delivering that puppy to his new family.

Well, we all know there’s work too.

Cleaning up after pups who are, of course, not potty-trained yet. Feeding the pups, socializing them, etc.

But there’s actually far more to dog breeding than just the mechanical tasks.

A lot of time, knowledge, and thought goes into a proper breeding program.

So what does being a dog breeder actually pay? Surely the pay has to be awesome for top breeders of their respective breeds.

Or is the dog breeder pay not as good as many think it is?

How Much Dog Breeders Actually Make

Most breeders with a small breeding program of two female dogs usually make between $8,000-$20,000 for small breeds and between $20,000-$36,000 for larger dog breeds in revenue.

Professional dog breeders with four female breeding dogs can make between $16,000-$40,000 and $40,000-$72,000 for small and large breeds respectively.

That being said, your breeder pay could be significantly higher or lower, depending on your selling price and litter sizes.

French Bulldog sits on a pile of money, signalling that breeders definitely can make money with breeding.
Photo by JStaley401 on Shutterstock

But it could also be lower or even negative if you’re just breeding with your own dog and still incur the cost of health testing, socialization, etc. in the first year (which I strongly advise doing).

So what exactly does the average dog breeder salary depend on?

  • Dog breed (small or big)
  • Price per puppy
  • Number of females for breeding

Smaller dogs get smaller litters, averaging around 1-4 puppies per litter while large dogs often have 5-10 puppies per litter.

Exceptions naturally apply and your large dog could turn out to only have one litter this year, so keep that in mind.

Price per puppy largely depends on what breed you’re planning to advance, what you’re planning to do with the puppies, and lastly, what your geographic location is.

The number of females is often scaled up as you get more and more experience if you’re trying to go for full-time breeding.

However, most breeders are probably just starting out with 1 or 2 females and have 4 at the very maximum.

Breeding is feasible once a year for one female (unless the breeder uses back-to-back breeding).

Here’s a little table that illustrates the possible pay in relation to the number of pups per litter and the price a breeder might ask for:

Puppies per litter/
Price per puppy
Number of puppies per litter & Price per puppy

The table above only applies to one female dog, so you can multiply that by two, three, or even four if you’re serious and knowledgeable enough to scale a breeding program.

Of course, dog breeders do have to pay taxes.

Also, this is just the revenue before any costs associated with breeding.

As a mental exercise, let’s calculate the hourly pay of a dog breeder.

With the breeding program of 2 females mentioned above, you’ll have to be around the pups for 8 weeks straight, twice a year.

Plus, you’ll have to take care of the female before, during, and after birth.

You’re easily looking at 200 hours per litter, so 400 hours total in our example.

That’s $20-$50/hour if you’re breeding small dogs and $50-$90/hour for large breed dogs.

Doesn’t sound too horrible?

Well, that’s just the immediate puppy care but there’s also pre-birth care.

Furthermore, while breeding may not be the 24/7 job we’ve laid out here, it requires a whole lot of knowledge and effort if done right.

This neglects all the training that went into this and we haven’t yet subtracted the business costs.

How Much Does it Cost to Start a Dog Breeding Business?

While some sources are trying to tell you breeding a dog is possible for as little as $500, that’s not true if done ethically.

Responsible breeding is not possible with an initial investment as low as a couple of hundred bucks.

That’s not even enough to get a healthy female dog with breeding rights.

Apart from that, training and bonding with the dog you’re planning to breed should be the absolute priority on your list.

Don’t breed for the money. I repeat, do not breed for the money.

There are far more lucrative business ideas out there that also don’t happen to harm an entire species if done wrong.

However, I’ve actually compiled a little list of what you’ll have to initially invest before you can start breeding.

  • Health testing (hip/shoulder, x-ray, heart, blood work, etc.): $750-$1,500
  • Stud fee: $500-$2,500
  • Whelping box, kit, etc.: $150-$500
  • Prenatal, birth, and postnatal care: $250-$1,000
  • Complications during birth like c-section: $0-$2,500
  • Puppy shots, deworming, collars: $200-$800
  • Puppy food: $100-$500
  • Enrichment for puppies: $150-$1,000
  • Socialization trips: $100-$250
  • New owner starter kits: $0-$250
  • Show titles (trips, grooming, training lessons, etc.): $0-$2,000

In total, breeding one dog responsibly can cost around $8,500 in the first year alone.

Puppy symbolically stands under a dollar bill, a lot of work is required to make money as a breeder.
Photo by Gorlov Alexander on Shutterstock

Every breed will incur different costs associated with the business and I’m always talking about responsible breeding.

The lower end of $2,000 is already the bare minimum to keep an ethical operation going.

If you think you can get the neighbor’s dog as a stud for $50, please don’t.

Of course, some costs like show titles or a c-section are non-existing costs for many breeders but if you actually include these too, breeding can cost as much as $12,000 or more in the first year.

As mentioned above, multiple dogs will increase business expenses and thus risk.

While the cost in the second and third years will probably be lower, if you intend to be a breeder long-term, you’ll encounter very unexpected costs from time to time.

How Hard Is It To Breed Dogs?

Breeders have to invest money, not to mention the time and knowledge it takes to raise puppies properly.

Here are the qualities you should have as a dog breeder:

  1. Financial savviness to set up a business plan
  2. Dog training knowledge
  3. Ability to set up a proper breeding program
  4. Interest in caring for pups & mother
  5. Nutritional knowledge
  6. Patience
  7. Skilled at socializing puppies
  8. Good at selecting future puppy owners

If you can cope with the puppy screaming and whining all day, that’s a good first step.

Being able to provide financially for your dogs is also essential as is loving to take care of the pups.

However, that’s not enough because the hard part is setting up a breeding program that actually makes a difference for this particular breed.

After that, socializing and properly desensitizing pups to sounds, people, animals, textures, and smells is the key to responsible breeding.

But is it actually hard to breed dogs compared to other jobs?

Well, depends on what your goals are. To be in the top 10% of any given profession, you’ll have to invest a lot of time to develop a breeding strategy and acquire the necessary knowledge.

While getting into the top percentile of dog breeders may not be as hard as getting into the top positions of some coveted Silicon Valley jobs, there’s a crux to it.

It’s tricky to balance the profit and well-being of the four-legged friends.

Be a great breeder and the joy it brings is disproportionate to the setbacks and feeling of defeat you’ll get when dealing with live animals.

So, in other words, it’s definitely more lucrative to try to become a great software engineer, lawyer, or heck, even artist.

Is Dog Breeding Profitable?

To be fair, all jobs in the dog niche are not paying exceptionally well.

I actually have an article on how to become a dog groomer and how to become a dog trainer.

Dog trainers may be the best-paid job in the pet industry where you still actively work with dogs.

If you’re good at attracting clients and love working for yourself, you can charge decent rates for board and train, daycare, or private lessons.

If you’re in dog breeding for profit, don’t do it.

You’re wondering why someone might think dog breeding is a lucrative business?

Puppy mills.

These disgusting operations churn out puppy after puppy with minimal veterinary care and certainly no emotional support for the little pups.

To be competitive, puppy mills often sell their dogs for as little as $500 up to $1,000.

Their power lies in quantity.

Dozens of breeding dogs at the same time in some shabby junkyard is a common sight for rescue organizations busting these puppy mills.

To be fair, with minimal care or thought, backyard breeding may not make these people rich but it’s a nice extra income (which is often not taxed as they claim it’s not done commercially).

Sadly, responsible breeding is not really lucrative.

It can still be a great option for you and if done right, you can live decently off of breeding canines.

How Many Litters Can a Dog Have?

It’s best to retire a female at 5-6 years of age or after she had 3-4 litters.

While it might be tempting for somewhat larger amateur operations (don’t get me started on how puppy mills do it), it’s not advised to utilize a female dog beyond 3 or 4 litters in a breeding program.

Health risks for your female dog increase drastically and the same applies to potential risks for the pups. Also, older dogs can’t provide optimal care in many cases.

What Is The Most Profitable Dog Breed?

Chasing trends in the dog breeding industry is never smart as the trends change quickly but the dog stays.

Whenever a certain breed, designer dog, color pattern, fur style, or whatever overtakes the media, there are bound to be people who take advantage of the lack of supply and high demand.

Once the media limelight disappears, these dogs suffer the consequences and their owners are stuck with unhealthy dogs costing them thousands in vet bills, causing them to be abandoned in shelters.

Selecting a certain color or pattern can provide a great return but breeders and owners are just playing the short-term game.

We’ve seen it happen with the American Bully XL where all they see is $$$, sometimes resulting in frog-like creatures.

Another example is the Cane Corso’s rise in the recent AKC popularity ranking, to the dismay of many shelters now having to harbor these giant dogs because the owners weren’t really ready for that commitment.

I mean, the Frech Bulldog is comically #1 according to the latest AKC popularity ranking. How is that even possible with the myriad of health issues?

Dog breeders of the future need to focus on how to improve a breed and not just profit profit profit.

If you manage to set up a lucrative dog breeding operation for the improvement of that breed, kudos.

Unsuspecting dog lovers who have no clue about genetics, health testing, and intricate knowledge of the history of a breed, please don’t breed for the money, there are no big bucks to be made.

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Disclaimer: This blog post does not substitute veterinary attention and does not intend to do so. I am not a veterinarian or pet nutritionist. If your dog shows any sign of illness, call your vet.

About Danielle

Equipped with 5+ years of expertise as a Rottweiler owner, I partner with licensed veterinarians and trainers to share research-backed and actionable advice for you and your furry friend.