You may have interest in becoming an animal breeder, or you may have even done some part-time breeding in the past, but did you know that you could have a well-paying, full-time career breeding small animals for sale as pets? Or if you’re more interested in larger animals like racehorses, zoo animals, or livestock, you could find a job or career breeding them as well?
Just be aware that working as an animal breeder involves a lot more than simply playing matchmaker between a pair of purebred dogs or cats and letting nature take its course.
A qualified breeder should care for and have a real interest in the animals they’re breeding, and strive to meet quality standards set by such organizations as the American Kennel Club.
When breeding small domestic animals for sale, this typically involves mating purebred pets like dogs, cats or rabbits. Although this isn’t always the case, as some crossbred “designer dogs” and other mixed breed pets have become quite popular in recent years. When breeding purebred animals, the breeder will usually seek out pairs who display superior qualities such as size, appearance, or intelligence.
Many breeders sell their animals directly to the public, by advertising in local newspapers, online classified ads such as Craigslist, or by word of mouth. Others working in this field breed animals to sell to pet shops and even large pet store chains like Petsmart or Petco. With pet ownership in the US expanding rapidly in the past decade, there is more than enough demand for high quality purebred and crossbred dogs, cats and other animals.
Breeders of pets are normally self-employed and run their own businesses. If you’re interesting in producing larger animals that aren’t normally considered pets -- like zoo animals, or farm livestock, research animals, or even prize-winning racehorses -- you’ll normally be working for a larger organization, either alone or as part of a team.
So What Exactly Is Involved In Breeding Animals?
The work of an animal breeder can vary widely, depending on the type of animal being bred, and where the animal will end up. For example, breeding racing greyhounds is quite different than breeding purebred show cats, or an endangered species of elephant in a zoo or wildlife preserve.
Also, there are a variety of health conditions that can arise if animals aren’t bred properly, due to excessive inbreeding of certain pedigree dogs and cats. For example, large breed dogs like German Shepherds and Doberman Pinschers can develop conditions like von Willebrand disease, progressive retinal atrophy, deafness, and even epilepsy in some cases.
Fortunately, today we have a much better understanding of genetics than in the past, and health issues due to excessive inbreeding are much less common. Most reputable breeders in this day and age take great care to screen out and select only the healthiest animals for their breeding stock.
And the proper breeding stock is the most important element for most animal breeders. Most popular dogs and cats have their own breed standards, for example, and these standards need to be adhered to at all times. This is why most breeders specialize in just one or two breeds until they become very knowledgeable and familiar with the traits and requirements of these particular animals.
The job of a professional dog, cat, or other animal breeder doesn’t end with finding good breeding stock and producing quality litters. There are many other responsibilities that come with the job, including the feeding and proper nutrition of the animals, vaccinating them and having them inspected by qualified veterinarians, and providing for their overall care and well being.
The other type of large or zoo animal breeders typically work in large corporate settings as animal scientists, either by themselves or as part of a larger team. These breeders spend most of their time in well-equipped laboratories as they work to develop new techniques for producing meat, dairy products, and other animal-based commodities that we consume on a daily basis.
Educational Requirements & Career Outlook
If you’re interested in becoming a domestic or small animal breeder, there aren’t any formal education or training requirements necessary to get started. You will want to choose an animal species that you’re interested in, and will care about over the long term, and learn as much as you can about the requirements and characteristics of those animals. One idea is to get in touch with someone who’s already breeding the type of animal you’re interested in, and learn as much as you can from them before starting out on your own.
Individuals interested in breeding larger or more exotic animals, or animals for research purposes, will typically need at least a bachelor’s degree in one of the animal sciences, such as zoology, agricultural or veterinary science. This will usually be enough get you an entry-level position, although some jobs will require a post-graduate degree as well.
The job outlook for small and large animal breeders is good, as the overall pet population in the North America continues to grow. Pet ownership is expected to increase well into the future, and not just for traditional pets like dogs and cats. Many people are turning to more exotic animals such as reptiles, birds and amphibians for their pet companions, and breeders of these animals should be in high demand in the future as well.
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