Whatever advice you have been given about dog breeding don’t fall headlong into it. From me to you, consider dogs as the equivalent of human babies but with paws, fur, a fussy need of care and affection, all while endowed with the voracious appetites of rabid raccoons.
Due diligence is simply a bare minimum before getting into the dog-breeding business. It may seem too easy a business to get into, but it can give you a shocker of a lifetime if you don’t start right. Having bred dogs for nearly a year now, an in-depth look at it makes for interesting perspectives.
First off, Kenyans have a knack for getting excited by every likelihood of making quick money without conducting proper background checks.
Many have lost money from hopping into prospective exciting businesses that promised a rich quick kill without inquisitions on their viabilities, such as the cryptocurrency business, the quail business fad, the poultry business and of late, the dog breeding business.
Most of us, I think, must have grown up in homesteads that had dogs. I remember most village homesteads had no less than two or three mutts. Mutts or the village mongrels are standard basic budget dogs. They eat everything that a human being eats and if they still feel hungry, they will go forage for their own food.
The work of guarding your compound is a secondary side hustle coming a third distant after foraging and mating. They do not fall under the auspices of man's best friend if there is no mention of food. These dogs would be perfect for the breeding business if the market hadn’t lost faith in them..
Until the inception of high end breed dogs into the Kenyan market, the village mongrels were the hot cakes, one only had to visit the Lubao Dog market in Kakamega to confirm this.
Their reign was broken by the fad for small dogs that were more of an aesthetic show of class than anything else. I am talking about the surge of Chihuahuas into the dog market.
Every leafy suburb in the big cities had hordes of these tiny fearless imps, pleasant for the modern household, easy maintenance, budget dogs with a touch of class. Japanese Spitzes, Maltese Terriers, Poodles and Chihuahuas were fast sales.
In crept the large breed dogs. I’m talking about Pitbulls, Belgian Malinois, Golden Retrievers, Labradors, Rottweilers and every other kind of large dog which found itself in the market fueled by the desire for work dogs and security dogs.
People made a wild killing selling these new dog pedigrees. Dog breeders popped up in every part of the country to supply a market that demanded authentic, registered breed dogs. This is how I found myself starting a kennel of my own in the beginning of January 2022. The market was teeming with prospects of making an overkill from a small initial investment, or so I thought.
The most fundamental thing about breeding dogs is the starting capital; puppies, feed (the dogs eat a lot), for training sessions and lastly for medication which includes vaccination (on a yearly basis and in case they get sick).
The prices for puppies vary depending on the demand by the market and the type of breed. At some point in time, German Shepherds were the most popular breed on the market and thus the most expensive but this is slowly being superseded by the South African Boerboels and Rottweilers which have increased in demand largely because of their reputation as fierce guard dogs.
For my business, I started out with two German Shepherd puppies which I got for a sum total of Ksh30,000. Both were three months old, fully vaccinated and registered.
A standard wooden kennel for two puppies costs about Ksh8,000 - costs can be lower if you buy the materials yourself. Professionals will however advise on building a permanent concrete structure whose costs will vary depending on the materials used.
A permanent structure is much easier to clean and maintain. Wooden kennels on the other hand get outgrown by the pups hence a need to upgrade to bigger structures which is largely non cost effective - that is if you failed to account for this from the beginning.
Registered puppies add to your credibility when selling them off to the market which is a factor that one needs to have in mind.
I got my two dogs for a bargain (they would have ideally cost me Ksh30,000each) because the previous owner, having realized that the market was flooded with German Shepherds, was getting rid of his entire litter and breed (a fully grown German Shepherd costs between Ksh70,000-Ksh100,000).
The plan was to breed them, sell the litter and increase the size of the kennel. The dogs would breed six pups per litter and if I sold them for the market rate of Ksh30,000 by then, I would have made a solid profit, that is what I thought.
For comparison, the cheapest pup, say a Maltese Terrier, can go for as low as Ksh10,000 and the most expensive pup for example a Siberian Husky goes for nothing less than Ksh150,000.
The variables in the dog business are many. The food costs a lot of money to buy and the bigger the kennel, the more food you buy, and dogs eat a lot - I mean, a lot!
In buying food I started with leftovers from eatouts in town but this was advised against because the food has low nutritional value.
The Bravo food brand is the most popular dog food with the small3 kg pack retailing for Ksh 700. It is advisable however to buy dog rice which goes for Ksh 1000 for every 3-5 kg but will take longer to exhaust (Consider Bravo as high end dog food with some owners only using it as a treat).
On counsel, an alternative to supermarket food would be buying chicken heads and necks which are wholly nutritious and cheaper and can supplement the dry foods
Training of the dogs is also a factor to consider in that each training session has a standard marketing rate of Ksh2,500.
Training sessions take time depending on the temperament and the brilliance of the dogs and these too are costs incurred. It is cheaper to train the dogs yourself but it will require that you spend about an hour everyday with them. The importance of training the dogs is to make them easier to handle and manage and also to enable them to be social around kids and to also learn obedience-an untrained dog is a walking hazard. Dog training never ends, the sessions however become minimal as the dogs grow because they would have learnt all the basic commands. There are many tutorials a dog owner can get online depending on the breed of dog and the functionality of the dog that they can use to train these dogs. Training sessions per week are recommended for beginners for three months and looking at the viability of this, it is unsustainable. Dogs are best trained when hungry with a plus that training enhances their bond with the owner. It is recommended to personally train them for cost cutting.
Dogs have to be vaccinated every year and even when they are born, you have to vaccinate all the pups and have them registered.
Vaccinating a dog can cost between Ksh1,000 to Ksh2,000 if one is sourcing for a private veterinary officer. It costs Ksh 300 to Ksh 500, however, if one is relying on the services of a government veterinarian.
Alternatively most persons usually rely on free vaccination campaigns that are occasionally organized by the government and by wellwishers for mass dog vaccination. But you cannot rely on this as a business person since these drives are usually sporadic and may not match the vaccination schedules of your dogs.
Dogs need time, care and affection and if one is not able to offer this, you will have to hire someone who can. This can also get quite costly.
Given the fact that the costs can quickly add up, a new litter must be disposed of within three months of birth to avoid the very high possibility of making a loss.
Three months after I had joined the dog business, working to establish a kennel of my own, I realized that most of the breeders were getting rid of their German Shepherd breeds, the very ones I had invested in, some giving them out for free and others selling them at a loss.
Upon enquiry, I established that the market had been flooded and thus not as lucrative as I had been led to believe. The profit margins after all expenses had been handled were too slim.
This is because kennel owners were switching to larger, more reputable dog pedigrees as the market demanded. These new dogs in the market fetched bigger profits but would require more capital and who knows for how long these breeds were going to be popular. I had to cut my losses and opt to keep my dogs as security dogs as opposed to selling them off.
It is a reminder for any likely entrepreneur to remember to constantly be in touch with the market in order to be able to understand what is popular.
The dog business is not a bad business but it can easily turn out to be one if you are not well prepared for the fluctuations of the market.
You have to really keep the costs low. I would spend about Ksh2,000 on food per week and this would be left overs from eateries which is not recommended.
An alternative of locally manufactured dog food would cost a measly Ksh200 after every 2 days but the downside is that the food is not as nutritious and as palatable as the other options.
It is also important to note that every region has a group of breed owners who organize activities inclusive of dog shows, capacity building on dog keeping and with the knowledge and connections on where to get food and every other dog fundamental at a bargain and in bulk.
For dogs that are exclusive for breeding, one should start breeding them after one and a half years. They should be fully grown by then and one is unlikely to incur expenses associated with a complicated birth likely to happen if they start breeding too early.
Like every other business, dog breeding has its pros and its own cons. Having a solid capital for care and maintenance and a proper understanding of the evolving market is likely to guarantee one solid return. An advantage is that one gets the opportunity to interact with man's “best friend” as a business partner. One cannot envision a more healthy prospect.