When bad breeders dominate the pet market
Updated: Apr 8
It's time for responsible dog breeders to buckle up!
And new puppy owners beware, the market is currently saturated with irresponsible breeders that decided to jump on the "dog breeding bandwagon" after they witnessed what is now referred to as "The Puppy Covid Craze," or the "Puppy Pandemic." Greedy and ignorant individuals saw a literal boom in puppy sales during the beginning of the pandemic. With dollar signs in their eyes, they purchased puppies and dogs of their own to breed.
Now, just two years later, we are finally witnessing the absolutely detrimental effects that this "Puppy Covid Craze," or "Puppy Pandemic," phenomenon has caused.
2020 was my best fiscal year ever, with 2021 reflecting similar numbers. Puppy sales were through the roof. If I could have sold a puppy to every single person that called me during this two year period, I might be retired (and I'm only 31 years old).
Alas, I'm an in-home breeder who cares about her dogs and puppies as if they were my human children. So my program remained basically the same through the pandemic, but my policies changed to reflect a demographic of buyers I had never experienced before. And in case you are wondering, I would never compromise my personal values and code of ethics regarding how I care for and raise my dogs and puppies for the sole purpose of increasing sales and profit--that's just not me.
I was getting so many calls at the start of the pandemic lockdown, I changed my voicemail greeting to, "Please do not leave me a voicemail." I basically stopped answering phone calls altogether in an attempt to initially screen customers and gauge their level of interest with doing business with me, instead of the first breeder that could cater to their unrealistic requests.
I was receiving 10-15 calls daily from buyers that wanted a puppy today, right now.
This new demographic of buyers consisted of primarily first time puppy buyers who knew nothing about how a typical purchasing process through an ethical breeder should be. And y'all, this is our fault--I blame us, the breeders. This is every single breeder's fault that sits on a high horse and refuses to educate customers on how to find ethical breeders other than themselves. This is every single breeder's fault that views other ethical breeders as competitors instead of allies, and therefore not referring puppy pandemic buyers to other ethical breeders, but rather attempting to coerce them onto a long term wait list in order to secure a future sale. When in the end, those buyers ended up purchasing a puppy from a different, lower quality, breeder anyway.
A survey was recently conducted in the UK on the "the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on puppy purchasing." While these results weren't measured in the US, I think that the overall customer base (based on my personal experience) remains the same in both countries, and that the US's statistics would be similar to the UK's if we conducted a comparable study.
The survey reflected that "puppy pandemic" buyers were:
less likely to seek out a breeder that performed health testing on their breeding dog(s)
more likely to be motivated to purchase a dog to improve their own/their family’s mental wellbeing
more likely to pay a deposit without seeing the puppy
more likely to be first-time dog owners
more likely to have children in their household
less likely to view their puppy in-person prior to purchase and more likely to see their puppy without their littermates
more likely to have collected their puppy from outside a breeders’ property or have it delivered
more likely to buy a younger puppy, in comparison to the recommended guidance of over eight weeks
Read more about the survey here.
My personal "puppy pandemic" customers (not potential customers, but actual paying customers) were all absolutely wonderful. I owe this to my rigorous customer screening process and my desire to only work with families that fully support and appreciate what I'm doing as a breeder.
The numbers don't lie.
Pet dog ownership in the US soared from just 38% to 54% in just a few years (source). These statistics are unprecedented.
So, how did an industry that was accustomed to serving approximately 48 million households adapt in just two years to serve over 69 million households (source)? For product manufacturers, the answer was simple. Produce more product! Pet industry sales reached a historic high in the US of $103.6 billion (source). What a great time to own a pet supply store!
For ethical breeders, the answer is also simple: We didn't. We didn't adapt to a hyper-inflated market. We gritted our teeth and got through it.
Bad breeders started crawling out of the woodwork to fill the temporary market voids that were created by the "puppy pandemic."
And so, the breeder fallout has begun.
Unfortunately, many puppy pandemic buyers are now selling or dumping their fully grown, untrained, poorly socialized "puppy pandemic" dogs. They simply had a lot of time on their hands and were bored. They weren't prepared for pet ownership, let alone puppy ownership.
And while these pandemic dogs are being dumped, the greedy breeders that suddenly became dog breeders overnight during the pandemic are stuck with ubers of poorly bred puppies that they are not able to sell, because everyone already purchased a puppy in 2020.
Niche breeders are doing OK.
This is great news for the ethical breeding industry, and a testament to responsible programs that have maintained a normal level of sales during this fall out.
A niche program is a small program that focuses on either a less common breed of dog, or that focuses on a niche group of buyers such as dog sport competitors or dog show exhibitors. These niche breeders typically don't focus on producing "family pets," but rather multi purpose working and competition animals.
Newer programs, or established programs that serve a broader market (like mine--the "pet dog" market is HUGE!), are struggling.
Our response will be to ride this out quietly. I will stop breeding altogether unless I have advanced financial commitments from customers. I will stand strong with my program and spend extra time with our dogs. And we will continue offering our custom, premium services to our existing customers, such as grooming and boarding.
I'm so thankful for my current customer base. My sweet families are pouring out moral support and gratitude for what I am doing, and for what I hope to continue doing in the future.
Hug your puppy today and make sure you are honoring them by giving them proper training and socialization. Our friends at Baxter and Bella Online Puppy Training School can help you if you feel like you haven't done your best so far. Use our exclusive discount code when you register for their Lifetime Membership: ILUVMYRETRIEVER
Happy trails and wagging tails,
Liza Marie Moon
Rebecca Creek Retrievers, LLC