Before I got into dogs I always wondered why puppies were so expensive. I mean rescues are full of wonderful companions for $50 (including my very own Sam who was neutered and had all of his shots). When I got into the world of purebreds I started to understand all of the costs and now that I have dipped my toe in the water of breeding Australian Shepherds I REALLY get it. When you do it right it is NOT cheap! Let’s pretend for this exercise you already have a bitch.
Good Breeder – Shows his dog either conformation or in competitions that show the dog does the job it was bred for. The temperament of the dog is exceptional. The owner can explain the positive traits of the dog and the areas where there should be improvement.
Total Cost – $100s to thousands of dollars (hundreds is being kind or the puppy is a savant think thousands)
Poor Breeder – Scoffs at showing in any form and has multiple excuses why showing is stupid, fixed, political or a combination. The owner could not tell you what is in the breed standard but will dazzle you with buzz words and waive around papers.
Total Cost – 0
Good Breeder – Will thoroughly test the bitch with minimum OFA and CERF clearances and checks bloodlines for other hereditary diseases and will test for any other potential breed specific issue. The bitch will be over two years of age in excellent health.
Total Cost – $500-$2000 (some breeds more)
Poor Breeder – May have some testing but usually not on all breeding animals. Will waive papers around and say champion lines.
Total Cost – 0
Choosing the right male
Good Breeder – Reviews pedigree and conformation of available male dogs, looks at what they have produced and determines if this is the correct match. Based on geography will determine live cover, fresh artificial insemination, transported cooled semen or frozen semen.
Total Cost – $1,000-20,000 (depending on stud fee/breed)
Poor Breeder – Got me a stud dog in the backyard, stick ‘em together and let nature do its thing.
Total Cost – 0
Good Breeder – Progesterone tests to determine optimal time to breed, optional ultrasound and x-ray to confirm healthy litter. Bitch has a full veterinary exam prior to breeding, bloodwork including Brucellosis testing has been done. All shots and preventative medicines are current, bitch is on a high quality food and in optimal condition. Throughout pregnancy she is monitored and receives adequate exercise.
Total Cost – $500-$1000
Poor Breeder – All dogs have rabies shots and may have other shots depending on finance. Dog’s get whatever is on sale at the time and exercise is sitting in the same pen they live in all the time.
Total Cost – $50-200
Here come the Puppies!
Good Breeder – Whelping Box is introduced and the bitch’s temperature is taken regularly. When in labor, the breeder will assist if needed to determine if there are any issues. Puppies are taken to the vet to be given a health check.
Total Cost – $50-200 or more (my JonArt whelping box cost $1,000)
Poor Breeder – Checks pregnant bitch when feeding or when they remember. She is in a box in the garage or in her pen. Puppies are inspected by the neighborhood kids.
Total Cost – 0
Ready for their new homes
Good Breeder – Through their dog network has found homes for the puppies. Puppies with show potential are sold to serious show homes and pet/companion puppies are sold on spay/neuter contracts. All puppies have two rounds of shots, worming and had their eyes checked, puppies are microchipped. They contact the potential buyers on their list and match the owner to the puppy based on temperament and athletic ability.
The puppy will come with health guarantees and a contract that states the seller will take the puppy back at any time.
Poor Breeder – Puts a sign on their lawn and an ad in the paper or on Craigslist. Proper home is determined by the person who has a check that will cash. No health guarantees and no safety net.
Looking at the costs…
A good breeder will have at least $1500 into the litter of puppies and honestly that is CHEAP, in fact I want to meet them so that I can commend them because my litters have cost $3,500-6,500 and that did not include my time and I had FOUR puppies!. In fact I think a better number for any breeder is to assume costs of is $2500-3500 and that still would mean doing a lot yourself.
And let’s not forget if the pregnancy goes bad, a C-section is thousands of dollars, a sick puppy vet costs can add up as well. So let’s say you have a mythical litter of five and decide to keep one to be a prospective breeding animal, this means in pure costs those puppies each cost $600 to make (using an average of $3000 for litter costs) if you add in a portion of the cost of health testing and proving the dam you are looking at 200-400 more. All of a sudden that *expensive* puppy does not look so expensive does it?
Just as an example, between showing, trialing and health testing I have at least $10,000 into Stinger and Memphis EACH - doing it right is not cheap it is just the right thing to do.
This is why a well bred puppy is going to cost more than a few hundred dollars. A well bred puppy will not make its breeder a millionaire. At least my litters of Australian Shepherds will not be allowing me to retire to the Riviera. After reading about the meticulous planning and care – which puppy is cheaper? The puppy with the best care or the puppy who was made with little thought? In the long run a healthy puppy will cost less money. Less vet bills, less chance of a health issue and a safety line of a breeder who has a vested interest in helping you and your puppy.