The Investment of a Lifetime: The Cost of a Puppy

Recently, we have been screening puppy applications and on occasion receive feedback like the real message I will share below….

”That is waaaay out of my price range for a dog, it’s a dog….I don’t get it.”

Just as a disclaimer, we place companion puppies in our breed at the same price as our other breeder friends (so no we aren’t an outlier) and I recently spoke with another terrier breeder placing puppies for about 10% more than we place our companion puppies for. But I would like to explain to those who “don’t get it” or even those who DO get it what they are paying for in their companion puppy. The goal of this is to serve as some basic information for those who might be considering purchasing not only a purebred, but a WELL BRED, puppy. As with anything in life, this is an investment, however I would argue its definitely a long term investment worth making. Not only are you investing in your companion for the course of their lifetime….you are also paying for the investment of your breeders’ lifetime.

The Foundation

Long before your puppy was born, at least one from us, we spent years and thousands of dollars traveling to dog shows. A dog show is not like a regular sporting event it has many purposes, to see other dogs of the same breed, to learn from mentors, judges, and other breeders, and it doesn’t all just happen after going once or twice. No there are no big cash prizes either…maybe a few ribbons or trophies if we got lucky along the way.

Travel took place across states and across continents to find what was the healthiest dogs to include in the breeding program that adhere closest to the breed standard. This foundation takes on average took about 4-5 years your breeders lives to work on and yes it probably meant missing out on holidays or family vacations because there was a dog show. Why would anyone go to these lengths to breed dogs? Because we care, deeply, as do many of the others that have joined the ranks as breeders both new and old, about our breed and its preservation….and doing it RIGHT!

The Plan

So how does one plan a litter? I can tell you from experience, the plan never entails things being easy. When selecting a sire for the litter, the thought never crosses our minds any distance is too far or cost is too great. The breeding always begins with a comprehensive health check of the female, accompanied by hundreds of dollars in progesterone testing and this is before the thousands of dollars spent on both stud fees and either travel or semen shipment.

The money spent on the stud fee is to assist HIS owners with offsetting their thousands of dollars of investment in his rearing, health testing and exhibiting. It is likely they don’t turn much of a grand profit as in a low registration breed, even a popular sire may only be used a few times in a year. Sometimes, even after all of this careful planning, she will miss for any number of reasons mother nature intends leaving behind the breeder with an empty heart, empty whelping box and a mailbox full of vet bills. This is all part of the cost of dog breeding and so far, please note, the breeder has spent thousands, maybe tens of thousands of dollars and has yet to produce a single pup for themselves or for you!

The Pregnancy

Ever hear the saying “even a blind squirrel gets a nut sometimes?” this is about how it feels when you finally are expecting a litter…..after years of work and amounts of money you don’t want to think about…you’re expecting puppies! The first month is full of worry because you don’t know if she took. The second month is full of worry because now that she is pregnant she cannot have most medications, could be exposed to disease (for example herpes exposure can kill the whole litter) and the last few days you don’t sleep at all because you need to be there for her if she goes into labor. But wait! Your breeder still has a professional career or maybe a family of their own to care for. This all likely gets pushed aside, again, because of their dedication to the litter…the litter that contains your puppy. Finally the litter arrives, maybe with a C-Section that cost approx. $2,000, and hopefully some of the puppies made it….

Raising the Litter

So after all of that work, you’d think the next 8 weeks are easy right? Well if you like being a zombie and don’t need sleep or food sure! For those who don’t know, neonates need to be cared for every 2 hours, and no that's not just business hours, that's all 24 hours in a day for about the first 2 weeks. The mother is a first timer and doesn’t want to potty the puppies? Guess who does it, the breeder. Puppies need bottle or tube feeding? The breeder does that too. And oh its someone’s birthday or falls over the Christmas holiday? Oh well, no travel, no guests not even any dog shows because there is a litter at home that needs care. I’m not sure if you’ve noticed a common theme yet, but the breeder character in this story misses out on a lot of holidays, professional work days and vacations? Maybe even small things like their children’s sporting events and their grandmothers birthday celebration. These are all “intangible” costs of breeding well-bred dogs…and yes this cost is a great one.

Once the puppies are older, they continue to need constant care. Through weaning they now require excessing cleaning and hundreds of loads of laundry to ensure they stay clean. The cleaning never really ends, its more of a constant cycle. Bedding needs washed, food pans need scrubbed and poop needs scooped not only for the litter but the other dogs too! Of course there is also the cost of shots, microchips, and vet visits for any pups that fall ill. There’s AKC registration fees to pay, paperwork to file, legal fees to draft appropriate contracts and countless other loose ends to tie up before the puppy goes home. Then there’s advertising the litter and the time it takes to carefully screen each family and yes this does cut into your breeders day.

The Cost of a Lifetime

So what is the end result of this exercise? A happy, healthy, vibrant well reared puppy ready to go out into the world an enjoy life as a lovely example of their breed for the next 10-15 years. The pup doesn’t have many vet bills besides an annual check up because they got a healthy start in life backed by healthy genes. They don’t have behavior issues and love you from the moment they meet you because all they’ve ever known from the breeder is love and care. This saves you mountains of both bills and also heartaches from dealing with a poorly bred dog you may have paid less for. This is what you are investing in, the lifetime of your carefully bred dog.

But wait! Before you drive off with your puppy, where did the breeder go? They took the fee you paid them for the pup, paid back their mountain of vet bills, the note at the feed store for dog food and bedding, and set aside a little extra left over for the stud fee next spring or a potential veterinary emergency with their own dogs. What? Yep, overall if I opened “the books” to everyone, the love and labor the breeder puts into the litter is more often than not “au gratis” or free of charge. If there’s a small litter, there may not even be enough to cover the cost of doing the breeding. However, like a glutton for punishment, your breeder has dedication their life, a good portion of it to producing your puppy. This is the cost of doing RIGHT BY THE BREED and most likely your breeder would not have it any other way.

Profitability??

Who really makes out on this deal? Just curious, its not the breeder for certain, they I assure you did not turn any kind of “profit” on the transaction even with the “steep” cost you paid for the puppy…Take a look in the mirror, it may just be the companion puppy home watching their healthy well bred family member run in the yard with their children. Their ability to rest easy at night knowing their pup is healthy, but also it sleeps in its crate because oh yeah, your breeder did that too…Just a thought! While you’re enjoying your peaceful night’s sleep your breeder is likely burning the midnight oil either researching pedigrees, waiting for a whelping or bottle feeding a newborn pup for the next companion home.

Delicious Bull Terrier Breeder