Taking the fight against puppy mills has been gaining more and more attention in the past years. People around the globe started to realize how a 50-100$ puppy from a mill will probably suffer from their own inherited health issues as the years pass, not to mention all the ways how this will make their owners’ lives difficult too.
On the other end of the spectrum are those breeders, who’ve devoted their lives to preserve a breed by choosing only the healthiest dogs for breeding. As a result the future generations will suffer from fewer and fewer genetic issues, while still possessing the most characteristic traits of their breed.
However, these devoted breeders are not easy to find. Often they either don’t advertise their kennel and puppies the right way (if they do at all). This gives puppy mills the upper hand when folks are looking online (because they all look online first) for a new, furry family member.
To shed some light on the whys and hows of this issue, we made an interview with Attila Márton, a hungarian expert, specialised in kennel marketing.
Let’s get this started, right? Tell us a little bit about yourself!
I was the general manager of the Hungarian Kennel Club for six years. Around 2011-2012 the breeder community started to discover Facebook. At that time my Facebook profile was full with “friend” requests, people were uploading pictures of their dogs left, right and centre without any concept whatsoever. This pushed me to try to make order out of the chaos and noise, to show breeders, how it could be done and how it could help their work. So I went and wrote a series of 12-13 articles for the aKutya (“the dog”) magazine, which although on a beginner level, covered all the opportunities provided by the different tools of marketing. This series was later on translated and published in the States and in Greece. Then I was invited on the Arion Show Room to give a seminar on the topic. From there I was on my way to create a complete, four-lesson course, in cooperation with the Hungarian Canine Academy, that is meant to help breeders navigate in the world of marketing.
Copyright: Balázs Horváth
Sounds like quite a journey, I suppose this is when the term kennel marketing was created. How would you define it briefly?
How breeder can use the tools and methods of marketing to benefit their own kennel.
What’s your experience, how open are the breeders for this? Are you hitting a lot of walls?
I believe there are many breeders who have realised the importance of this. Whatever you do in life, you won’t succeed if you’re keeping a low profile, regardless how good you are at it. Those that took my course have improved a lot and are having great results. I focus on them, the ones that are open to it and I even follow up their progress after the course. Those ones who are not open to change and to improve can hardly be helped.
And what about breeders from abroad, are they doing differently?
This largely depends on the culture. For example in Scandinavien countries, where the public opinion on breeders is positive, having dogs with pedigree is common.. In a country where the public opinion of breeders is not that good, the numbers look entirely differently.
But regardless of the location, you’re going to see a couple of big kennels, that are well-known, successful, put a lot of time and effort to improve their reputation AND they use marketing tools.
Furthermore, crysis and conflict management should also be part of a breeder’s marketing tools. Unfortunately these happen every other day in the world of breeders. How they present themselves and how they communicate with the owners is going to influence their position on the market significantly. The first step to improve on this is being more self-aware and self-critical.
Difference between a breeder and a puppy mill
This a rather complex topic, but my personal opinion is that, you cannot always determine the line, which people are so eager to draw nowadays. Sometimes it is clear if someone is running just a puppy mill, other times people are labeled as breeders, whereas they probably shouldn’t be.
The productivity and the success of a kennel can only be evaluated on the long run.. It’s not just the current litter that matters but the consistency and quality of their lineage 10 years down the road. But then again, in this case does someone who has only been breeding for 2 years automatically become a puppy mill in our eyes?
There are a lot of factors and no objective metrics, no consistent system. Of course we shouldn’t call anyone with a litter a breeder, but it doesn’t automatically mean they are running a puppy mill or are bad people for that matter.
The judgement is often made looking at the breeders’ expenses and revenue. ‘Til this very day, breeders are being called out for doing it for the money. For the average Joe this is a curse word, without thinking about the circumstances. They think that a puppy only costs 1000$, because that’s how much money the breeder wants in their pocket. And then comes the evergreen “meanwhile all the shelters are full” slogan.
This argument begs the question, how much a breeder should earn for their job. For all the care they give to the puppies. All the time spent looking after them, socializing them (which is crucial in the puppies’ first three months), handling all the registration papers or just cleaning up after the puppies. Are they greedy to expect a payment, to make a living out of this?
On the other hand it’s interesting why breeders are just not willing to talk about it? Raising an entire litter is a tough job and every time they miss an opportunity to speak up about it, is one step to strengthen the negative stereotype.
Farmers wake up at sunrise to feed the animals, work on the fields or to take their wares to the market. That too is honest work, everyone knows that, no shaming there. Yet breeders let the bad word go around, ignore the shaming instead of telling how hard their profession is, how much it takes to “produce” healthy, happy puppies year after year.
The costs of breeding the healthiest possible puppies of a certain breed is completely overlooked as well. All the genetic and health tests that are run on the parents, getting the certifications, registering the puppies, raising them properly, feeding them with what’s best for them...these are just the standard expenses. This is what opponents and puppy buyers tend to forget, yet another reason to use marketing tools.
It is high time to take a stand against the bad mouths and tell people, that professional breeding deserves a payment just like any other job in the world.
Kennel marketing (as well as any marketing) is a powerful weapon, that anyone can get their hands on. If a puppy mill is doing a much better marketing than the reputable breeder next door, nobody’s gonna buy the breeder’s puppies. It doesn’t matter how healthy and well-socialised those puppies are if nobody ever finds out about the kennel. Since there is no cultural ground rule in many countries as to how and where to buy a puppy from and what to consider thoroughly, the price becomes a much higher priority when making the decision.
Another trait that makes a breeder more professional (besides their knowledge of marketing and their sense of purpose) is their willingness to learn.
Doesn’t matter how well you know your breed, how good your marketing concept is, if you don’t improve yourself, you’ll be left behind. For example medicine is constantly improving, evolving. Imagine how well would a veterinarian do if they used the same vaccination protocol they used 30 years ago...
The following segment is dedicated to the breeder's online presenceres.
Thank you for taking the time to answer my questions!
Zsófia Tóbiás - Wuuff PR/marketing manager
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