You may have used tools to see how many people visit your website, but have you worked out how to capture their information so you can reach out? People who visit your website (your crowd!) often do so to gain more information about your breed or find out when you’re planning a litter. To reach out with information, you need to have their contact info. A pop-up mailing list is the key to most online businesses, and your kennel can benefit as well from this eaasy to use tool.Continue reading
For dog breeders, Facebook seems to be such an underused tool. Breeders love the groups. Groups for breeds, groups for breeders, groups for fighting new animal rights laws, and groups for arguing about whether designer breeds are acceptable.
But are you using Facebook to help your kennel, to hurt it, or just to stay in touch with your friends?
Today, I’m going to teach you how to use Facebook to find better homes for your puppies, to increase your puppy sales, and to promote your kennel to pet owners, performance homes, and other breeders.
Why Care about Facebook?
Facebook connects you with people and families that are incredibly enthusiastic about your breed, your dogs, and you. (Crazy, but they turn into a fan club.) However, you aren’t allowed to use Facebook to sell animals. Facebook will close you down in a heartbeat. You can’t advertise animals for sale or studs, and you can’t talk about it on their messaging platform.
So if you can’t sell dogs through Facebook, why would you want a Facebook page?
You want to find the very best owners for your puppies, and you want to be able to charge a fee that reflects the amount of work you have put into those puppies. The very best way to do this is to have a dedicated audience.
Imagine that you have a litter of 5 puppies…and you have twenty potential homes. These are all buyers that you’ve been interacting with for months, and you’ve gotten to know them. You can trust that they are genuinely interested in keeping the puppy (because they’ve put a lot of time into acquiring it–a “puppy flipper” isn’t as dedicated), and they already are emotionally attached to the litter.
Isn’t that a million times better than some random stranger? You don’t even NEED to advertise that the puppies are for sale. You can just direct people to your kennel’s website (or your phone number, but you should also have a website) to contact you about the puppies.
Think about what you are doing now. Do you have people that are actively interested in your breed? Are you interacting with them regularly? Do you have twice as many as your average litter size?
Just think about it. Someone calls you and returns a 6 year old dog. You post on your Facebook group that you just got this dog back…and get three phone calls in 24 hours with people that want him. You have a litter that’s huge for your breed…you expected 6 and got 12…and you’ve got homes. Homes that know your puppies are worth whatever price you place on them.
Do You Have a Facebook Account?
I hate that this has to be a question, but if you don’t have a Facebook account, sign up for one. You can download apps for your phone or tablet (even the Kindle!) or login on your computer.
I’m going to assume you can handle doing this. If not, you should know a family member who can talk you through it.
Oh, and read this page by the US Government before sending or accepting any kinds of payment on the Internet or over the phone. You will receive communications from many scammers. Learn to tell them apart from the others.
Does Your Breeding Program Have a Facebook Page?
The first step is to create a Facebook page. You cannot have a separate account for your personal life and your kennel. Facebook requires that you combine them.
It’s OK–it’s super easy to do, and you can adjust your settings to make it easy. I’m going to walk you through setting up a page, or you can hire me to set it up for you.
Start by logging into Facebook like you always have. At the top right of the screen, you’ll see a series of icons. One is for Messenger, one is a little alarm bell, one has a circle with a question mark. You’ll click the last one–the triangle pointing down.
Choose the option of “Create Page.” It’ll open up a page that has you choose between a business/brand, or community/person. Choose Business/Brand. (I know you’re thinking your kennel isn’t a brand, but it really is.)
Name your page, and choose the option “Pet Breeder.” It will prompt you for an address. Put in your correct address, but choose to hide it. You don’t want anyone and their brother knowing that you have young puppies and where to find them. Puppy theft is rampant in many areas.
You can add a profile picture. Don’t set this up yet–you’ll want to make sure it’s cropped correctly and that it’s exactly what you want. You have several other places to add images, so make sure you upload the correct image.
Congrats! Your kennel has its very own Facebook page.
What do I do with my Facebook page?
Your Facebook page is intended to share news about your kennel, and communicate with your fanbase. (Yes, you want a fanbase!)
So a few Facebook best practices and tips:
- Post something of interest at least 2 times a week. It can be an update (Coco and Toby are expecting puppies next month!), a picture you took, information on your breed, or anything else related to the kennel.
- Avoid posts that don’t relate to the business. While big news is great (We’re pregnant!), make sure it is relevant to your fanbase. Your fanbase doesn’t care that you have a cold–unless you have a funny anecdote about your dog snuggling with you. Remember that you want to keep them interested, and they are with you because of your dogs.
- For the love of all things furry, do not make political or religious statements unless you intend to alienate people who do not agree with you. It is fine to feel strongly about politics or religion, but understand that if you make statements that your fanbase doesn’t agree with, they will cease to be your fanbase.
- Post lots of pictures, especially if you have puppies on the ground. Pictures of parents, older siblings, cousins, etc., at all ages work great as well. Don’t forget cute pics, silly pics, show pics, and bloopers.
- Try to post weekly updates, and identify each puppy. Most breeders use colored collars to identify individual puppies, and you can refer to them by color if you don’t want to name them.
- If you are good at taking videos, post videos as well. Your fanbase will love watching videos of your dogs doing things they enjoy.
- If you are keeping puppies, make sure to let your fanbase know as soon as you’ve made a decision. Post a weekly update picture collage, and note “We are in love with little blue girl and the big red boy. We’ll be keeping them both, and hope they’ll grow into their parents’ footsteps.” This does two things: lets your buyers know that those puppies will not be available, and also lets them get emotionally attached to those specific puppies. They’ll stick around to watch them grow, even if they aren’t ready for a puppy right now.
What Do I Post?
It’s important to post regularly. The more frequently you post, the more your fanbase will interact with you and your dogs, and the more they’ll want to hear more about your kennel. Post at least twice weekly, but up to 3 times daily will keep your fans engaged. Post as many pictures and videos as you can.
But what to post, especially multiple times a week?
- Post pictures of as many different dogs as you can. Everyone will have a “favorite.” Make sure to include a caption that has personality.
- Show your dogs doing both cute every day dog things, and whenever they do something special. If you show, make sure to take lots of great pictures at the event of every dog you take.
- Puppy pictures grab the most attention, but your puppy pictures don’t need to be of the puppies in your whelping box right this minute. Post pictures of your adult dogs when they were little.
- Take pictures and videos of training exercises. Tell your fanbase what you tried to achieve, and how you taught your dog.
- Facebook will prompt you with things that you posted exactly a year ago, and every year after. Repost them as often as you can. Your fanbase will enjoy seeing how their favorite dogs grew up.
- Post articles and reports that people interested in your breed, or puppies, might find relevant. New research about your breed’s health conditions, information about your breed’s specialties, or your favorite trainers will grab their attention.
What About Trolls?
Trolls infest every facet of the Internet, and your Facebook page will be no different. A troll is, by definition, someone who makes inflammatory comments in hopes of riling up everyone on your page.
It’s important to differentiate between someone who has a question about your program, or what you do, and someone who makes comments to incite an argument.
Don’t argue with people on your page. It looks unprofessional, and also leaves you open to being taken out of context. You can choose to keep inflammatory comments up, and just ignore them, or delete them. Many trolls will repost their questions until you block them. I prefer to ignore them, and only delete and block if the suspected troll continues to ask the question.
The Adopt-Don’t-Shop Movement
You will certainly field questions about why you breed instead of rescue. Be prepared to answer these questions honestly but while explaining the need for responsible breeders.
Outline what you, personally, do to reduce the number of dogs in rescue. Things like buy-back contracts, finding responsible homes, and fostering rescues, are great ways to outline how you help reduce rescues. You can also talk about your local or national breed club rescues.
The adopt-don’t-shop movement comes from a valid place. We still euthanize hundreds of thousands of dogs each year as a country (USA). Don’t discount those who are concerned about these rescue dogs, even if none of the dogs you’ve bred have ever ended up in a shelter.
Don’t Be Afraid of Social Media
Social media is the new “classified ads.” It’s super easy to be successful on Facebook. Make sure to check out Petlosopher Breeder Services if you need assistance.
A whelping box is almost a requirement for breeding dogs. “Whelping,” or the giving birth by a female dog, is a stressful process. The puppies must stay warm and near their mother, or they will be unable to nurse.
Whelping boxes should have firm sides, be just the right size, and have an absorbent liner. Today, we’ll talk briefly about what, exactly, a whelping box should be, and some of my favorite boxes.Continue reading
According to conventional wisdom, bitches need a “rest” cycle between litters. However, in the past few decades researchers, most notably Dr. Robert Hutchinson, have discovered that the hormones that lead to ovulation (progesterone) cause deterioration of the bitch’s uterus. (Source: DPCA Transcript.) The deterioration of the uterus leads to reduced litter sizes and higher risk of infection. As a result of this research, it has become “common knowledge” to breed back-to-back. However, I’m going to discuss whether breeding back-to-back is inherently better.
Health of the Bitch
From the research presented, the bitch’s uterus is clearly healthier when bred back-to-back without a pause. However, the reproductive system is not the only system to consider in the bitch’s health.
Breeding seriously depletes a bitch’s fat reserves. Her body will naturally turn any fat reserves she has into milk for her puppies, especially if she is not taking in enough quality food to maintain milk production. If she stops eating shortly after birth, either as a reaction to a c-section or from illness, she will use up her reserves as well instead of eating.
On a subsequent pregnancy–one started without adequate fat reserves–she may end up in a situation where she needs those reserves. As a result, she will either get sicker, or she will stop producing milk. If she stops producing milk, handfeeding her puppies falls to the breeder. Handrearing puppies is exhausting and expensive.
So while breeding back-to-back is certainly healthier for the uterus and will result in more puppies from her over her lifetime, doing so if she hasn’t bounced back from the first pregnancy can be expensive, heartbreaking, and exhausting. Breeding back-to-back should only be considered with a bitch that has bounced back from the first pregnancy and is back in shape.
Are the puppies from the first breeding healthy?
If the first litter was healthy, there’s no reason to question breeding again, right? Wrong. Without completing health testing, you don’t know what she has produced health-wise.
Now that we have DNA testing, (I recommend the Wisdom Panel 4.0), we can test for quite a few diseases in almost any breed. But some diseases aren’t testable with DNA, including many orthopedic issues, cancers, and some forms of epilepsy.
You may wish to wait until the first litter is older–a year to 18 months–to make sure that your bitch is producing puppies that will be as healthy as possible for the reasonable duration of their lives. This is especially important if you don’t have a good mentor in your breed who can give you solid information about the pedigrees you are working with.
Is the First Litter Stable?
By that I mean, do they all have good homes, and are you ready to do it all again?
Sometimes, it isn’t simple to place a litter. It can be a bad time of year (January, anyone?) or you can have issues with people backing out. Maybe the litter was significantly larger than you expected, or perhaps you had a disease run through the kennel and several pups became infected.
You shouldn’t breed a litter unless you can provide quality homes for that litter. If the first litter was difficult to home, don’t breed the second until you are certain that they will all find great places to live.
Can You Afford It?
There’s zero point in breeding a litter you can’t afford. If you can’t afford to pay for emergencies, things like the following, do not breed that second litter:
- Emergency C-Section
- Treating giardia, coccidia, parvo, or other diseases
- Caring for them as long as it takes to sell them (four to six months, if necessary)
- Paying your regular bills and expenses, including family emergencies
If you choose to breed two litters back to back, don’t throw away the opportunity by risking your own financial security.
Does a Litter Fit The Plan?
You’ve got everything covered. Your bitch is in fine health, you’ve placed the first litter in great homes, money’s not a problem, and you know your pedigrees well enough to be confident in the long-term health of the litters.
But…you’d really like to get some titles on this bitch. You bred her to give her time to mature a bit, you’ve gotten some training on her, and she’s ready to start looking for majors (or her CDX), and you really don’t want to put that on hold for another six to eight months.
It’s OK! Every person has different priorities. You are, of course, trading a bit of fertility for that title. But certainly, for most bitches, this isn’t going to mean the second or third pregnancy are impossible or even smaller.
All the Factors
So consider all the factors, not just your bitch’s uterus, when deciding whether to breed on consecutive heats. Don’t produce puppies you can’t care for adequately, and don’t stress your bitch (or yourself) simply for the sake of her uterus.
Have you considered breeding litters on consecutive heat cycles? How did it turn out, and are there any factors you wish you’d considered first?
Genetic testing isn’t just for breeders. Pet owners–even those with mixed-bred dogs–can learn valuable information with a simple DNA test. While responsible breeders are often early adopters of genetic testing, pet owners should participate in the process as well. Genetic tests tell everyone more about the health of their pets–and knowledge is power.
You just got home from work, and your dog is acting weird. You’re not sure what’s going on, but he seems sick. He’s cheerful, wags his tail, but just seems off. You probably should call the vet, but it’s after hours and there’s an emergency fee. You’re not sure if this is a dog emergency, or if your dog just ate too many cat box crunchies.
This happens to every pet owner. Something’s off, you don’t know what, and you’re not sure if this is an emergency, an EMERGENCY, or your pet is just being weird for a few minutes. While this article cannot replace solid veterinary advice, I have outlined when I think it absolutely is necessary that you contact a vet. Call your vet any time you think your dog is sick.
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I’ve joined a few Facebook groups for pet owners, and every few days someone asks about the care of newborn pups. Ideally, you should research this before you have a newborn puppy, and before you breed your female. But some people come into it accidentally–either they adopted a dog from someone else who was pregnant, or they didn’t know their female was pregnant.
Many newborn puppies do die. Even the most conscientious breeders lose newborns. Newborn puppies die for a number of reasons: cold, heat, infection, failure to thrive, matricide, suffocation, disease. Many, if not most, newborn deaths are preventable through simple supervision.
I wanted to talk about the basics of neonatal puppy care, not from a veterinarian’s perspective, but an overview of the very basic things you can do at home to keep your puppies alive and safe.
Can you vacation with your dogs? Totally. Lots of major hotels allow dogs, and it’s cheaper than boarding. Remember our 7 Golden Rules for Vacationing with Dogs.
Thirteen years ago, I had The Dog. Not just any dog, but the dog that was with me always. He was a gorgeous fox-red Labrador, aptly named “Rusty.” He was the best dog. He could be anywhere and wouldn’t steal or knock people over or do anything else excessively obnoxious.
However, Rusty had one little problem. In Labradors, a condition called Exercise Induced Collapse can cause them to lose all muscle function when they get overly excited, and Rusty had it. The disease is genetic, but not all (or even most) Labs are affected. So not only did I have to protect him from normal hot weather activities, but I had to make sure he didn’t collapse somewhere I couldn’t keep him cool. I learned a few tips and tricks along the way for keeping dogs safe in hot weather.