Is a Breed’s Appeal Ageless?

Pictured above: Puppy buyers come in all shapes, sizes, colors—and ages. photo by Dan Sayers

Does today’s puppy buyer have a median age? This is a question I asked of breeders recently on a Facebook page dedicated to the preservation of purebred dogs. My query was made in response to a series of photos posted on another page that featured eight-week-old pups with their new families. What struck me about those images was the presumed age range of the puppy buyers as evidenced by all the gray hair. It seemed as though each puppy from this litter was going home with someone nearing—or well past—retirement age. This got me thinking about the age of today’s typical puppy buyer. Are buyers aging at a rate similar to that of breeders? Are Baby Boomers more likely to be attracted to breeds that are entirely overlooked by Gen-Xers and Millennials? Can a purebred dog’s appeal be measured in generations? The replies to my original question provide anecdotal evidence that when it comes to purebred puppies, breed appeal is—sometimes—ageless.

The Sporting breeds are often viewed as a good fit for active people and families with growing children, so the responses from breeders of dogs in this Group were not unexpected. “Last litter, my youngest was around 26,” wrote a Brittany breeder who described an “established young family with acreage, a history with another breed and agility for years.” Her placement of a show prospect with a former Junior also left this breeder with “zero regrets,” as did placing a pet quality pup with an “empty nester couple in their 60s.” A response from another Brittany breeder read, “I knew I could trust my mid-twenties couple when we spoke on the phone and then when I met them. Lovely people, very responsible. You just get very lucky sometimes.” A breeder of Kooikerhundje wrote that she typically places puppies with people in their “40-70s,” and a Lagotto Romagnolo breeder reported, “I have had all age groups of couples from childless to retired. The only group I haven’t had is a family with toddlers.” A pair of Pointer breeders wrote that they typically placed puppies with people in their mid-to-late 30s or their 50s-to-60s. “I look for a couple or family who hunts or [is] active,” one noted. “A few have gone to runners who do 5K to marathons weekly.” A German Shorthaired Pointer breeder described her puppy buyers by noting, “Mine are all over the place, but typically, I get families with kids.” A breeder of Chesapeake Bay Retrievers wrote that a buyer’s commitment to performance is more important than his or her age. “Many of our dogs sell to hunting homes,” she said. “There is no set age range. I sell from mid-20s to the ‘80s.” By comparison, one Labrador breeder who replied noted that her puppy buyers are typically middle-aged. “The vast majority of my clients are usually late 30s to late 50s,” she wrote. A breeder of English Setters replied that she sells puppies to people of “all ages,” but a Springer breeder had a smaller demographic for her puppy buyers. “Generally, mid-30s-40s,” reported this breeder of her puppy buyers’ ages. “They typically have a family and their children are over seven-years-old.” A breeder of Irish Water Spaniels offered insight into buyers of this rare breed. “Not a lot of litters, but mostly ages 40-60,” she shared. “I give preference to very active homes. Very few go to young families unless there is experience with high energy dogs and an adult working at or from home.”

The diversity of the Hound breeds can offer something for people of any age. One Basenji breeder’s experience suggests that this unique hunting hound is a good fit for energetic families. “Young adults to middle age, with children usually under ten,” she advised for her target demographic. A breeder of Black and Tan Coonhounds looks for homes with young adults and plenty of space. “Most of our dogs [that] end up in companion homes go to people who are financially stable, on some acreage and have kids already,” she wrote. “The acreage isn’t a requirement, just kind of a product of the type of folks (often rural or semi-rural) who want a hound dog. Older folks generally not so much, as they don’t want to get an exuberant large breed pup that could accidentally hurt them.” The preferred age range of this breeder’s puppy buyers is “late 20s to early 40s for the most part.” A breeder of Bloodhounds, however, leans more toward older puppy buyers. “I look for a financially sound home in addition to some home stability, long term vet relationship, etc.,” she shared. “So, for me I select seasoned (older) folks to place pups with (but I get apps from all age groups).” Paradoxically, another Bloodhound breeder declared that when it comes to puppy buyers, “The stats are millennials.” A response from a Dachshund breeder reflects the breed’s broad appeal to buyers aged “25-77.” A breeder of Standard Smooths supported this view. “Late 20s to seniors with kids and grand kids,” she offered. “My dogs are raised with kids and it shows. Want to make sure they are socialized and have great temperaments.” Two breeders of Rhodesian Ridgebacks offered their perspective on placing a powerful hound in a home with small children. The first had a definite age range for adults—and a limit for children. “Mid-thirties, with kids over ten,” she declared. The other Ridgeback breeder wrote that she considers a buyer’s energy level as well as his or her age. “It is probably more important to screen for a physical activity level and temperament match than to target an age,” she suggested. “When I was in my late twenties I was brushed off. This is why people turn to rescues. Later I met resistance (even though I was looking for an older puppy or adult) due to having a toddler. Finally someone took a chance on me. The older you get, the more naive 20-somethings look.” This breeder said that she checks on the financial stability of her puppy buyers too, but doesn’t discount a potentially good home because of a buyer’s age. “Mentor them,” she said. “Then you have a young person in the sport.”

The breeds of the Working Group come with their own demands for care which may or may not be met by puppy buyers of varying ages. “My current litter is going to retirees and a couple in their early 30s,” reported a breeder of Alaskan Malamutes. Interestingly, this breeder noted that all of the pups from her recent litter went to “repeat buyers,” none of whom are “interested in breeding.” A Greater Swiss Mountain Dog breeder replied that she finds her puppy buyers at either the beginning or end of their working lives. “Young couples or older empty nesters mostly,” she posted. And a breeder of Rottweilers responded that, in her opinion, the best puppy people for her breed are solidly middle-aged. “Late twenties through early 40s,” she wrote of her target demographic. “I won’t sell to 18-24-year-olds anymore unless they are exceptional. Have not had good luck regarding young people and Rottweilers, which I find sad as I got my first one as a 20-year-old.” Like all dedicated preservationists today, breeders of Working dogs often have their “work” cut
out for themselves.

A Terrier’s appeal can depend on the breed’s size. “I would say the average age [of puppy buyers] is about 55,” offered an Airedale breeder who wrote that her pups go home with everyone from “young
families to retired adults.” A breeder of Bedlingtons posted, “I find my puppy buyers are empty nesters who want to add a well-bred dog to their home or the younger set who have [gone] the rescue route, found it was not all it was cracked up to be, and want a well-bred dog.” An experienced Border breeder posted that her puppy buyers range in age from 25 to 70. “Anyone over that, I GIVE a retired, trained dog that will be NO problem,” she added with conviction. A breeder of Cairns shared that the average age of her puppy buyers was 45-50, with a wider range provided as “from 30-ish to 65-ish.” Another Cairn breeder shared her most recent experience for reference. “This current litter, pretty much all of the folks who were interested in buying were retired,” she offered. The puppies of two Irish Terrier breeders seemed to find the same type of homes for their puppies. “Young families to senior citizens,” offered one. The second breeder provided a more definitive response. She wrote, “30 to 70. Middle age [people] don’t buy puppies.” Likewise, a Wire Fox breeder noted an increased age range of her puppy buyers. “Used to be younger, but the last few years it’s late 50s after the children have left home,” she shared. A breeder of Miniature Schnauzers offered that she has a wider pool of potential puppy buyers, writing, “I sell to all ages, young-to-old.” However, another Schnauzer breeder replied that she typically finds homes with people aged “45-65.” Similarly, a Scottie breeder who responded wrote that she places her pups with people in their “50s to early 70s.”

Who can resist the many charms of little dogs? Well, according to the responses provided by Toy breeders, it all depends on the breed. Among Chihuahua fanciers, the typical puppy buyer today seems to be firmly middle-aged. Two breeders described the majority of their buyers as “40+” and “40 and above.” A Toy Manchester breeder responded by noting that inquiries for her puppies come from people of various age ranges. “I have had all sorts,” she said of the folks who are interested in this “extremely versatile, and collectible” breed. Likewise, the public’s familiarity with another breed has maintained it’s popularity for decades. A response from a breeder of Toy Poodles emphasized that her puppy buyers represent a cross section of dog lovers from every station in life, “from young families to retired seniors!” However, a breeder of Silky Terriers sees things differently. “I tend to get ‘older’ people,” she wrote. “I breed Silky Terriers and the waiting time can be up to two+ years. I think ‘younger’ individuals are so into rescue or have no desire to wait for the breed of dog they want.” Her opinion, no doubt, is shared by many of today’s preservation breeders who have to compete with an increasing demand for dogs of unknown—or
ill-conceived—origin.

Curiously, not a single breeder of Non-Sporting dogs offered an opinion about puppy buyer demographics. However, the same can’t be said for the Herding breeds. Several breeders of Australian Shepherds weighed-in on the subject. “I have every walk of life, young-to-older couples with empty nest, to families, to single people 20s-30s,” reported one breeder. “But if I had to find one more common than not [it would be] late 20s-to-30s with family and kids ranging from just born to 21.” Another Aussie breeder reported that her pups typically go home with “young couples, late 20s.” A third wrote that her puppy buyers are aged “late 40s and older.” This breed certainly enjoys broad appeal among the dog buying public! A breeder of Belgian Malinois offered a thoughtful view on the age of her puppy buyers. “That’s changed dramatically as fewer families have an adult at home during the day,” she stated. “Used to be young families. Now, much older, sometimes single people. Very different.” A pair of Belgian Tervuren breeders seem to agree with this assessment. One reported that her last litter of pups went home with people in their “30s thru late 70s.” The other agreed, noting that her puppy buyers are aged “mostly 40s-to-70s. But [from] my last litter of ten, two went [to] owners around 30.” A Border Collie breeder has had success placing her puppies with “families with children” and a breeder of Bouviers finds her puppy buyers show interest while in their late 20s to upper 70s. “More on both ends versus in the middle,” she claimed. A Briard breeder places her puppies with people that she estimates are “30-ish to 75.” Another breeder of this French herding breed shares this opinion, suggesting that her puppy buyers are as loyal as the dogs she produces. “Most of my buyers nowadays are repeat puppy owners who are 40+ years,” she wrote. A Collie breeder posted that her pups generally go to people in their “30s to 70s.” A pair of Cardigan breeders shared many similarities when describing the ages of their puppy buyers. “I have two age groups that are typically interested in my dogs: Young professionals out of college, starting their careers and building their family units; nearly retired or newly retired people ready for the next phase of their lives,” reported one. “I get a smattering of people in between those two demographics, but those represent the majority.” The second breeder of Cardigans offered a similar response. “Most common for us [are] young couples with no kids yet (generally 20s) and couples with kids who have left the nest,” she replied. “But we do get all age ranges. We have also put quite a few with families.” Also responding to my question were two Pembroke breeders with similar experiences. “Interestingly enough, our buyers demographic [is] either 60-plus professionals who appear to be slowing down and have time for dogs now…or we have many Gen-X and less than 30,” reports one breeder who noted that older buyers often arrive with grown children who are home from or going away to college. Younger buyers, he reported, are more generally infatuated with a purpose-bred dog’s heritage. “I find our buyers to have done their research and are willing to wait a bit of time,” he added. The other breeder of Pembrokes agreed. “Me, too,” she wrote in response. “Most of my last litter went to people who have gotten dogs from me before. One buyer, who came looking for me because I bred the father of her last dog, drove 1,000+ miles to come and get that baby.” This breeder claimed to have few “new” puppy buyers since she prefers to “pick and choose” who her pups go home with. Breeders of the Miscellaneous and FSS breeds, however, typically welcome interest from “newbies.” For example, a breeder of Dutch Shepherds described the diverse age range for buyers of her versatile breed. “I just raised a litter (10-weeks-old yesterday),” she shared. “I sold six puppies and kept one for myself. My puppy buyers ranged in age from mid-20s to late 60s. This is a very active breed that needs quite a bit of physical and mental stimulation. That’s what attracted the younger buyers. The older end of the spectrum has a working ranch and the dog will be in training to help move the cattle.” Perhaps this “Miscellaneous” story best exemplifies the true value of preservation breeders: Providing purpose-bred dogs for a purposeful life. The idea is truly ageless! 

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