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  • Pam Llewellyn

Why Are These Puppies So Expensive?

Updated: Mar 6


Many times, breeders are asked why their dogs cost so much. After all, you can find dogs in the classified ads for a few hundred dollars or pick up a dog at the pound fairly inexpensively. What makes a dog from a breeder more expensive? There are many reasons why someone would want to buy from a breeder rather than getting a dog from the animal shelter. They will know their puppy has been lovingly raised and will be a joy to them. Sometimes it's because a buyer has a special need that can best be met by the breeder helping them select the best puppy for them. Some buyers want the peace of mind that comes with a health warranty. They will know that the breeder has confidence in the quality of the dogs they are selling. Many of our buyers come to us looking for a dog they aren't allergic to. In our case, our Labradoodles are bred to be allergy-friendly. We never say our dogs are hypoallergenic, because some people just can't handle any dogs. In our business, we offer potential buyers the opportunity to come and handle the puppies in advance. It's better for them to know they're allergic than to take a puppy home and find out it's not working well with their allergies. We do this because we don't want buyers to have the horrible experience of bonding with a puppy and then having to return it. It's important to understand that an excellent breeder is extremely conscientious about their dogs. From how they're raised until they get matched to a great family, there is an incredible amount of physical, day-to-day work that is impossible to put a value on, such as cleaning pens, weighing puppies daily, administering supplements every day, giving every puppy a close physical inspection each day, proving puppies exposure to other people, places, sounds and smells, cleaning outdoor play areas when puppies are old enough to play outside.... these are just a few of the regular tasks. The first big expense a potential breeder incurs is the cost of purchasing a dog with outstanding qualities in the hopes of future breeding. Depending on the breed, this can run from a few thousand to over $12,000. This is the cost of the dog plus the breeding rights. The future breeding dog will require all the same veterinarian visits, shots, and fecal and blood work as any puppy. Additionally, a reputable breeder will get Penn Hip/OFA tests to get a preliminary report on whether the dog’s hips and elbows are acceptable for breeding. This test, depending on the veterinarian, can run from $450 to over $1,200. Paperwork showing the results will be filed in a national database. The dog will also be seen by a veterinarian who specializes in animal eyes. The checkup is called a CERF exam.These are screening examinations performed by board certified veterinary ophthalmologists in order to identify changes or irregularities within the eyes. The exam is performed following pupillary dilation and consists of indirect ophthalmoscopy. The results of this procedure will also be sent to a national database. This cost of this exam is approximately $50. Most responsible breeders will do genetic testing on their breeding dogs. These are quite expensive. A basic DNA panel will run around $400-$500 per dog. There are additional tests to check for other, less common, diseases, as well as checking for DNA for fur colors. Each of these also run several hundred dollars. We do this because we don't want to unknowingly pass on genetic problems. We would rather spay/neuter the dog than breed them irresponsibly. The breeding dog will be fed premium dog food to ensure good nutrition. Some breeders will also feed a raw diet, either as a supplement or as the dog’s entire feeding. The cost of premium dog food is much higher than a regular grocery store or pet store dry food. Many breeders will also give their dogs various vitamins and supplements as an extra boost to their nutrition. These supplements are often expensive, but can be very beneficial to the growing puppy or breeding dog. During the second year, a breeder will repeat the OFA/Penn Hip testing to get the final results on the dog’s hips and elbows to confirm that the dog’s fully-developed hips and elbows are appropriate before breeding. An ethical breeder will not breed a dog with poor hips. Breeding should NEVER be done on a young, immature dog. Excellent breeders will wait until at least the dog’s second heat cycle. Occasionally, a breeder may not be able to get all the necessary testing done before the dog’s second heat. A good breeder will choose to wait for results rather than opt for the money. This is the ethical thing to do, to help ensure good traits are passed down to the puppies. All of these expenses are incurred before a breeder knows absolutely for sure that their dog is of excellent breeding quality. Sometimes dogs don’t pass muster and won’t be a good dog to breed. This dog will be pulled from a breeding program and spayed. When the breeding cycle is beginning, there are more costs involved. Most breeders will need 2 to 4 progesterone tests to determine the proper time for breeding. These tests are usually around $100 each. The breeding dog will also be screened for brucellosis. Canine brucellosis is a bacterial infection which is highly contagious between dogs. It is considered a sexually transmitted disease and a dog that tests positive should not be bred. This test will cost about $120. Then there is the stud fee, which is usually equal to the cost of one puppy. If the dog has a small litter, this will be a significant, but necessary, part of the budget. The owner of the stud dog will usually require that payment upfront. Most breeders will offer the breeder a free breeding in the future if the female doesn’t become pregnant. If the pregnancy goes smoothly, usually the only medical treatment needed will be an ultrasound around 4 ½ to 5 weeks to confirm pregnancy. Unless the breeder owns an ultrasound machine, this will mean another visit to the vet. Most of the expenses during the pregnancy are for food. The pregnant dog's appetite greatly increases during pregnancy and also during the period of time when the mother is nursing her pups. Additionally, at some point the puppies will also begin eating canned dog food and dry kibble -- so, another expense. We want our puppies to go to excellent homes, so each potential buyer has to fill out an application for us. This helps us know about each family and their needs/preferences so we can match them with the best puppy for them. As the puppies grow, we observe them to see what their personalities and skills are. For example, we had one couple where both the owners were deaf, and they planned to train their puppy with hand signals. We watched the litter carefully to see which puppy was the most visually attentive, so we could match that puppy with that couple. Preparing for the birth of the puppies is REALLY expensive. At the bare minimum, there are a lot of very necessary items. Our list looks like this: Supplies to have on hand; check make sure we have everything, and place Amazon orders if needed) Iodine (fresh bottle at every birth) Q-tips for iodine Chux pads (at least 100) Propectalin Calcium tablets Dewormer (Safeguard) Dewormer (Pyrantil) Collars Unwaxed dental floss Kitty/puppy litter Vaccinations Microchips Digital scale (for weighing puppies) Thermometer Lubricant for thermometer Colostrum gel (Oral Cal Plus brand) Benebac gel Powdered puppy formula Baycox (Toltrazuril) Chicken (look for good sale and freeze) Freshpet dog food (watch for sale) Make sure there's plenty of Life's Abundance on hand Whelping box Fencing Floor protection Supplies to have gathered and ready for birth: Forms to chart puppy birth times, weights, and collar color Clock or watch Vet number nearby Gas in car Scissors Clamp Collars Iodine and containers Chux pads Warming bed Unwaxed floss Bulb syringe DeLee suction device Oxygen tank & attachments Warm box/heating pad Stethoscope Calcium tablets Lots of clean towels/rags/washcloths Glove to hold puppy Digital scale to weigh puppies Flashlight for outside Trash can w/ liner Human snacks/drinks! During the first two weeks, every puppy gets weighed at least twice per day to ensure they are gaining weight adequately. This gets cut back to once a day after that. There are also supplements we give to each puppy during the early weeks. Benebac helps puppies' digestion. The benebac is given orally to each puppy every day. This item alone costs $63. The colostrum comes in thirty milligram tubes which cost about $35 per tube, which means 15-30 doses per puppy. One tube would treat one to two puppies, so for a large litter, the breeder would need several tubes. Each puppy is given a visual inspection every day. The breeding mom is also checked each day and has her temperature taken for several days. We want to be watching to make sure mom doesn't get any infections. We also begin a neurological stimulation program around 3 days. Puppies' ears, paws, tail, and belly are handled to help puppy learn that these types of touch are nice, not threatening. This is especially helpful if the puppy goes to a home with young; it also makes vet visits easier! We also expose them to new smells and sounds every day. In our program, we have a set of YouTube videos with sounds that a puppy will hear in the future. These sounds are things like: running household appliances; sirens; children laughing, crying and screaming; trains running and blowing whistles; and various other sounds. We also give each puppy opportunities to play and swim in a bath tub for early exposure to water. General things like play toys are needed and important for puppies' stimulation and mental development. More chux pads will be needed to keep the puppy area clean. Sometimes we use old quilts or blankets to save a bit of money, but then those have to be washed and dried every day! Our puppies are born and raised in our home with plenty of TLC! Around 5 weeks, they start spending more and more time outside. We have built an enclosed play area in our yard. We have a lot of toys for them, including a tunnel for them to run through, a baby slide for them to climb up and slide down, balls to push and chase, and ropes dangling from above that puppies can tug on. The enclosed area has a large dog house with a heater in it for cold days. Puppies always come back inside in the evening and stay inside on days with very bad weather. Our puppies are wormed three times as a precaution, and also given a dose of medicine to make them less susceptible to coccidiosis. At six weeks of age, all the puppies go to the vet for a health exam. We want to know our puppies are healthy before going to their new homes. Before leaving us, every puppy is microchipped and given their first set of puppy shots. Our puppies are all bathed again on the day before going home, so they look good and smell clean. There are also expenses (and time) involved in answering buyers' question; photographing puppies and posting them on social media; maintaining a website; preparing informational, educational packages for each new owner; preparing health warranties and spay/neuter contracts; doing business bookkeeping, which usually means hiring a bookkeeper and a tax preparer. After puppies go to their new homes, we answer any questions that buyers have. We will always make sure that our puppies are safe, happy, and loved. We also tell all our buyers that if at some point in the future they find they cannot care for their dog, they need to let us know. We tell them upfront that we do not want our dogs ending up in a shelter. We will help the owners find another good home for their dog. As you can see, there is a lot more involved in responsible breeding than just putting two dogs in the same room and collecting the profit. In fact, many breeders are lucky to break even! We do what we do because we love our dogs and and want others to experience this same love between a dog and his human!

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