Why Do Some Puppies Cost More?
Things that factor the cost of a puppy
Health testing of parents—$1,000-2000 per parent dog
Parental lines—Breeding dogs cost more than pet dogs and quality breeding dogs can be expected to sell for $5,000-$10,000 each. This is due to guarantees for health, bloodlines, risk of a puppy not growing up to be breeding quality, etc.
Lost money and lost opportunity costs for puppies bought or raised for breeding that don't end up being breeding quality and have to be retired without breeding.
Breeding expenses and lost opportunity costs for failed breedings/pregnancies. A breeding using an outside stud with a shipped sample can easily cost $5,000.
Time for whelping, post-whelping socialization, training, and enrichment—Whelping can take 12-24 hours of stressful, unscheduled, uninterrupted time. Daily care of a litter can easily take 4-6 hours per day. Well done socialization, training, and enrichment can take 4-6 hours per day, depending on the size of the litter. Factor all of this in for 8-9 weeks, with no days off, somewhere in the range of 200-250 hours per litter, or 40 hours per puppy in an average litter. Assuming a very inexpensive professional hourly rate of $40/hr (well below what a professional dog trainer charges—trainers routinely charge up to $125-150 per hour), you are looking at a care and training cost of at least $1600 per puppy on top of other hard costs. More if you value a breeder’s time at a higher rate or more if a breeder has employees (that adds more taxes, insurance, etc).
Emergencies. Emergency c-sections are costing around $3,500-4,500 these days. There are other emergency costs that occur as well.
Nutrition and feeding. Good food and supplements cost more. There’s a huge difference between feeding Ol’ Roy, Purina, or Kirklands versus feeding a premium food and quality supplements.
Cost of supporting breeding dogs throughout the non-breeding season.
Lifetime breeder support, microchipping, rehoming, etc.
Business expenses. Even in-home breeders have business expenses, including but not limited to cost for additional use of utilities, capital improvements that need to be made to keep the puppies safe and healthy, licensing and permitting (if applicable), insurance, accounting and bookkeeping, marketing and advertising, equipment and supplies, food, veterinary care, continuing education, professional organization dues, bank fees, maintenance and repairs, employees or contractors, legal expenses, office supplies and equipment, and more.
Adopter education. We spend as much time as we need to help educate puppy parents in the care and training of their dogs to help ensure happy, long relationships with their pups.
Breeder experience. It’s my opinion and experience that an experienced breeder will produce healthier pups and produce better adjusted and trained puppies. That experience comes at a cost.
There are times when you get what you pay for, and, assuming you check out your breeder, purchasing a puppy is definitely one of those times. Puppies cannot be well bred on a budget. We have always paid a premium for our dogs and puppies and have purchased them from reputable breeders. The dogs in our breeding program are carefully selected and tested for temperament, health, and other factors and are cared for with the best nutrition, food, and vet care available.
A smart puppy-parent to be shouldn’t even consider buying a dog at a budget price without knowing there would be a deficiency in several of the factors listed above. A good breeder just can’t afford to breed and sell cheap puppies. While price doesn't always mean quality, if you see cheap puppies, unless the breeder is operating from a trust fund, you simply aren't getting the same quality.
Updated April 2023 to reflect inflation.