Why Puppies Cost So Much
Often a potential buyer’s first question when inquiring about one of our puppies is the price.
Often the response to my answer is, “That is more than I am looking to spend.”
Usually I never even get a response back and I never again hear from that person.
Occasionally the potential buyer tells me that they have found a “cheaper” puppy elsewhere.
Occasionally I am asked if we are willing to provide a discount for one of our puppies.
The buyer basically tells me that they will only consider buying our puppy if we lower the price for them…
So I am going to step on my soap box and rant about WHY we charge what we do and why we do not offer discounts.
So here goes my rant:
We do not make money at the price we charge.
We make income but no profit selling puppies.
…You don’t believe me do you?
I can understand why, because generally people think the math goes something like this:
Cost to buy an average breeding bitch: $1,000
Cost to buy an average stud dog or pay for a stud fee: $1,000
Average number of puppies in a litter: 6
Price for each puppy: $1,000
So the average income on one litter is $6,000
Now deduct the cost of buying the bitch and stud/stud fee ($2,000) and the average cost of raising the litter or selling the puppies (let’s say a very generous $1,000) and that makes the profit on that litter around $3,000.
And for the second litter, the cost of buying the bitch or stud will not need to be deducted ($2,000) and so the average profit will then be around $5,000.
And that bitch can have several more litters during her lifetime so clearly that is thousands of dollars of profit.
And that is with just one bitch.
We keep more than one brood bitch…
Well, we would indeed make money like that if all we did was buy the dogs, breed all of them each year, and sell dozens of puppies each year at our current price.
Then we could afford to sell puppies much cheaper than we do. The value of puppies from a breeding program like that would be about $500 each. …But of course the breeder deserves to make a profit to help make a living for all her work and service. So she charges a few hundred dollars more on a cost-plus basis. $900-$1200 for each puppy is still a fair price from a breeding program like that.
There are plenty of breeders who DO breed to make money like that and they are successful in their business hence they remain in business…and they are known as commercial breeders.
We are not a commercial breeder.
We practice selective breeding which involves keeping stock that ends up not producing puppies for us at all, much less every year. And we normally keep at least one puppy from the stock that does end up producing puppies for us.
All the money we get from selling puppies goes to the dogs. A lot of it goes towards WHAT THEY DO at our kennel.
What the dogs at our kennel do is the entire point of our breeding program. Selling puppies or “pets” is simply a by-product.
What we do with our dogs—the parents of the puppies--eliminates the profit we would otherwise make.
While the income we get selling puppies undoubtedly helps offset the cost of the kennel, NONE of that money buys us dinner, pays our non-kennel bills, non-kennel expenses, or otherwise pays for non-kennel things.
Basically, from a business perspective we operate our kennel at a loss.
It is a huge money pit.
I am not kidding you when I say that we need to spend five figures a year to operate our kennel.
That figure does NOT include the initial start-up costs that we spent thousands of dollars for, before we ever sold a puppy, to get a racing sled team and breeding program off the ground in the first place, such as kennel fencing and hardware (wood picket that fences in an acre of our property), dog houses and tie outs, feed and water dishes, and purchase of breeding stock and race dogs.
That figure also does NOT include any extraordinary vet bills which tend to be thousands of dollars because it involves some kind of surgery. The vet bills to save a sick dog that is too young to die and can continue living a quality life if we pay to try save said dog when it has a chance…which, not only have we already done this more than once, such bills are a mathematical certainty when anyone keeps several dogs.
The average five figures we spend each year operating the kennel includes:
Each year we spend thousands of dollars on literally tons of kibble.
Each year we spend hundreds of dollars for several hundred pounds of ground meat.
Working sled dogs eat an incredible amount of calories and because we aim to compete we must not cut corners on quantity or quality here.
…By the way, because we aim to compete is why we must keep dozens of dogs in our kennel i.e. not all the dogs we add to our kennel make the cut while others are too young or too old to try out for the team.
I sleep better at night when we have a budget of $6,000 a year to keep our sled dogs properly fed.
Or in other words, we need to sell 5 puppies a year at our current price just to break even the cost of feeding the kennel for the year.
This budget includes feeding nursing bitches and the puppies to eight weeks of age.
Each year we spend hundreds of dollars in gas money trucking our sled dogs to trails that are appropriate for dog teams in order to train our sled dogs.
And if we cannot train our dogs often that season, then entering sled dog races that season is a waste of money...and sled dog racing is the main point of our kennel.
The race entry fee, plus the gas money to get to and from the race, along with lodging fees, also costs hundreds of dollars, times the number of races that we enter that season.
I feel warm and fuzzy inside when we have a budget of $4,000 to train up our sled dogs for the season and seriously compete.
A budget of less than $3,000 for the racing season literally makes me pull my hair out from stress worrying if we can afford to train up the dogs and seriously compete with them that season.
So that brings the total to about $10,000 a year so far.
In other words, we need to sell 9 puppies a year at our current price to comfortably break even the cost of feeding our sled dogs and the cost of seriously sledding with them.
Now factor in the cost of:
-Health clearances for common genetic disorders in the breed on all of our breeding stock (eyes need to be cleared yearly)
-Vaccinations (which must be done yearly for all race dogs, and done for every puppy we sell)
-Flea, tick, and heartworm meds for each dog
-Advertising puppies for sale
-Stud fees…no, we do not just always use a boy that we own because sometimes a better match for the girl that we are breeding is a boy that we do not own
-Microchips for each pup (to help do our part to have accountability for the dogs that we sell and to keep those dogs out of shelters so that we do not add to that problem!)
-Our electric bill for the disgusting amount of water we run from our well. Also to power the hundreds of feet of electric wire we use around the perimeter of our dog-yard fence
-Kennel maintenance such as building new dog houses and tie outs, repairing existing dog houses, tie outs, hardware and kennel fencing
-Repairing broken sleds. You think puppies are expensive? Your jaw will drop when you learn what a sled, sled-accessories, or sled repairs costs.
-Repairing/maintaining the dog box with which we haul the dogs to trails and races with. Also repairing/maintaining the truck, the trailer, and the ATV which put on incredible mileage each year and take considerable abuse from the dogs
-Maintenance of sledding gear (new harnesses, collars, lines, bronze snaps, winter gear for musher, etc.)
-Fees for registering litters and dogs with the AKC
-Classes for puppy obedience, CGC, Rally/Obedience, etc., and gas money to get to these classes or competitions…besides enjoying them, these classes are essential to raising well socialized dogs—which is a real challenge for a kennel (verses a regular pet home). While obedience titles earned at AKC competitions are necessary to prove to potential puppy-buyers that our dogs thus their puppies can be nice pets or family companions, too…not just crazy sled dogs that are only suitable for working homes.
-Fees for getting titles which our dogs have earned made official with the AKC so that those titles may appear on those dogs’ official pedigree and may be officially and permanently recorded.
Most of the things listed above costs HUNDREDS of dollars EACH.
Not to mention the cost of the 2, 3, 4 or more pups we actually keep from our litters each year.
Then factor in the cost of what I like to call “other:”
Immune/joint support powders for old dogs
Milk bones and other treats or toys
Dozens of bales of straw (for dog houses and dog box/truck)
Furthermore, we spend countless hours in the kennel doing kennel chores, on the trail training the dogs, attending doggie obedience classes, and on the road driving our dogs somewhere.
I have spent countless hours on the many pages like this one on my website for people to view.
I spend countless hours responding to emails regarding questions, giving kennel tours, or returning phone calls regardless if the person is interested in buying a puppy from us.
What’s more, we provide lifetime support for each puppy we sell.
We take back dogs that we have bred anytime during their lifetime when the owner no longer wants to keep the dog, no matter the reason.
We sell pups with a health guarantee, which “guarantee” really means “refund” since we cannot literally guarantee that a dog will be healthy in spite of our best efforts.
Yes, yes, it is a labor of love, but let’s be realistic here; we need money to pay the kennel bills.
We charge enough so that the dogs nearly pay for themselves.
We cannot afford to charge less.
Owning even a healthy dog is an expense that will far surpass the original purchase price of a puppy.
So when a potential buyer tells me that they can only afford such and such for a puppy, I have SEVERE reservations about letting them have one of our pups for ANY price.
EVEN FOR FREE.
So that’s why puppies cost so much.
And that’s why we do not offer any discounts.
Frankly, we are already selling each pup at a discount.
…So don’t ask me if we will charge even less!
As a matter of fact, our puppies are free.
To quote Joanna Kimball at rufflyspeaking.net:
“…You’ll be writing me a check for [whatever it is], but that check is actually buying ME. You are paying for the right to call me, any time of the day or night, for the life of this dog…. You are paying me a research fee for making an educated and smart decision about which dog to breed to which dog. And you’re paying me a retainer so that at any time in your dog’s life I will take back that dog, no questions asked, no matter the situation, and you’re paying me to take some very difficult decisions off your hands.”
(For that full article, click here)
To quote Joanna Kimball at rufflyspeaking.net again:
“The price I charge for my puppies is desperately needed and usually keeps a dog food check from bouncing. Because I have dogs, I am perpetually penniless and the vet owns a boat; because I have dogs, I had to buy acreage; because I have dogs, my car guzzles gas. So I give thanks to God for every puppy buyer who writes a check that covers the home equity loan I took out to pay the stud fee, and I thank God for every puppy buyer who lets me pay the vet back for the c-section, and I thank God for the puppy buyer who will pay for the cremation of the beloved ancient dog sitting on the couch in her last weeks, watching the puppies leave for new homes.”
(For that full article, click here)
Here are some other great articles to put the dog breeding “business” in perspective for you: