Times have certainly changed from the days when you could take $50 to the local pet store and bring home a brand, spanking new puppy. Puppies are rarely sold in pet stores anymore and have become the domain of private breeders. Whether you purchase a dog from someone who advertises on an online marketplace, someone who operates a commercial breeding establishment, or from a reputable preservation breeder, one thing you will find these people all have in common is a dramatically increased price from those days of shopping for your new canine family member at a pet store. With many different breed types and mixes to choose from, prices can range from the sublime to the ridiculous. If you’re on the hunt for your next best canine pal and you’ve got a purebred in mind, you might be wondering—why are purebreds so expensive?
Are Purebreds More Expensive than Mixed Breeds or “Designer Dogs”?
There is no question that the purchase price for a puppy is much higher today than in the past. During the research phase, you will discover that some breeders charge more than others. These fluctuations in price points vary not just from breeder to breeder but also from breed to breed.
Local shelters and rescues offer dogs available for adoption. These dogs sometimes are purebred though most often they are of mixed heritage, coming from parentage that is almost impossible to accurately quantify. These dogs are equally as worthy of a loving home and can make for exceptional pets.
Dogs in the care of a shelter or rescue are available for the price of an adoption fee which can range from as little as $50 for a senior dog to greater than $750 for a puppy or an adult in its prime. These fees also cover the cost of any necessary health care prior to adoption and most often also include a spay or neuter. Adoption, by far, is the least expensive option when it comes to adding a pet to your family. Coupled with the cost savings, you also have the great pleasure of helping an unwanted pet find his or her perfect match and to move on to a wonderful life filled with the joys all dogs should know.
When compared with the cost to adopt a dog from a shelter or rescue, the price for a purebred or a designer dog does indeed seem high. Though many people believe that purebreds are the most expensive, this is not, in fact, always true. Designer dogs, also known as mixed breeds or hybrids, typically top the charts when it comes to how much you can expect to pay to add a puppy to your home.
A quick search of the online resource connecting breeders and buyers, Gooddog.com, helps illuminate the pricing across several areas of the United States. Here is a short list of some of the pricing for both Golden Retrievers and Goldendoodles in the United States today:
West Virginia $1250-$1500
New York: $2700-$3000
North Carolina: $2000-$3000
North Carolina: $2000-$3000
Based on this small sampling, it is easy to see that Golden Retrievers are equal to or less expensive to purchase than Goldendoodles. This price list is not exhaustive but gives a random set of data for the purpose of evaluation. From this, we can determine that purebreds aren’t necessarily more expensive than other dog types.
What Factors Affect the Price of a Purebred Puppy?
An examination of the provided list above will show that prices vary from state to state for both purebred Golden Retrievers and Goldendoodles. This is quite common. Dog breeding, at present, is an unregulated industry, meaning that each breeder is at their own liberty to set pricing they feel is fair for the sale of their puppies. As a result, supply and demand as well as personal location will have a dramatic impact on the price you will pay to purchase a puppy.
Are There Advantages to Purchasing a Purebred?
One of the advantages of purchasing a purebred puppy from a reputable breeder is predictability. Since purebreds have a legacy of pedigrees that were carefully selected to ensure the breed maintains a specific set of traits which include appearance, function, and temperament, you can be reasonably assured of what a purebred puppy is going to look and act like when fully grown.
This predictability of type is what helps to preserve a breed for future generations to enjoy. It is this commitment to reaching towards the breed standard that allows for such diversity in dog breed choices. With so many dog breeds from which to choose, you have the advantage of selecting a dog type that perfectly suits your family’s personality and lifestyle.
Because purebred lineage has hundreds of years of thoughtful breeding behind it, you can breed a Beagle to a Beagle and end up with a dog that looks and acts like a Beagle. This is not the case with mixed breeds or hybrids. Like begets like. When you put together two dogs of entirely different characteristics, you are going to get a mixed bag of traits in the offspring. By breeding a Beagle to a Maltese, you are going to get a combination of the traits from each parent, and that will vary greatly within the litter and in any subsequent matings that occur. Though you may desire a smooth coated breed that enjoys being a lap dog, you may instead get a drop eared, long coated tri colored dog that lives to bark and has no interest in sitting on your lap at all. Genetics is a tricky game, and when combining dogs of entirely different appearances, purposes, personalities, and health conditions, it is anybody’s guess as to what you will get.
How Do Breeders Determine the Price of Their Purebred Puppies?
There are many variables that come into play when a breeder makes the decision as to what price to charge for their puppies. Here are a few to consider:
- The cost of breeding, whelping, and raising a litter responsibly
Breeding, whelping, and raising a litter is a very costly proposition if done responsibly. It is expensive in terms of both time and money. However, it is important to bear in mind that not all breeders are committed to offering their puppies the same start in life, and this should be considered before agreeing to purchase a puppy from a breeder.
For breeders who put little forethought into selecting the ideal mate for their female and who do no pre-screening to ensure genetic health conditions are not passed on to the puppies, breeding a litter costs very little. However, reputable breeders live by a strict code of ethics. This code of conduct covers all aspects of proper dog ownership and responsible breeding including ensuring the ideal health of the breeding parents and their suitability for use in a breeding program, proper health testing to ensure no avoidable genetic illness is passed on to the offspring, and the correct temperament of both parent dogs.
Breeding costs alone can be extremely high. Most reputable breeders select their breeding pairs not from what is convenient, but from what male dog can help them improve their lines in health, appearance, and temperament as he or she moves forward in their breeding program. Most often, the dog that is best suited to the female does not live nearby, and not only is a costly stud service required, but the breeder must also get their female to the male, an expensive and time-consuming prospect.
Other costs that can be involved in the breeding experience range from multiple progesterone tests to ensure the right timing for the mating, veterinary visits, artificial inseminations, and even surgical implants if necessary. All of these costs can range from as little as $1000 to $5000 or more without the inclusion of the stud fee.
A stud fee is usually equal to the amount of what one puppy would cost, and thus, varies from breed to breed. The stud fee is also affected by things such as the popularity of the stud and if the boy is a proven producer of high performing dogs in such areas as performance sports, therapy or hunting work, or conformation. As an average, stud fees are no lower than $1000 but can be $5000 or more. With these costs in mind, it is easy to see how a reputable breeder has invested a great deal of money, and to date, has no return on their investment. Reputable breeders do not seek to make money on their litters; most hope to come as close as possible to not taking a huge financial loss.
In some cases, a breeder will spend all of this money and go to all of this effort only to discover in four to five weeks’ time that the breeding attempt was unsuccessful. Though most stud service contracts indicate a return service is provided free of charge should the mating not result in a successful pregnancy, the breeder must still pay the cost of shipping, progesterone testing, insemination, and vet services again for the second attempt.
When whelping a litter, the breeder must be prepared for any emergency situations that may arise. Some mother dogs are incapable of whelping their own puppies or may end up with a stuck puppy, requiring a veterinary visit for a c-section. Some breeds cannot whelp naturally, and thus, a scheduled c-section is the norm. If a mother dog’s milk does not come in or she becomes ill and cannot feed her puppies, all of these problems indicate more work for the breeder, more support needed for the mother dog, and more veterinary assistance required. Breeding is not for the faint of heart. A lot can go wrong, and it is vital that a reputable breeder be prepared for these things should they arise.
Bear in mind, that while some breeds like Great Danes can have up to 12 puppies a litter, other breeds like the Norwich Terrier may only have one or two. If the breeder is breeding with the intention of keeping a puppy to move forward with in their breeding program and the pairing only produced two puppies, there is a very limited amount of money the breeder will get back on their investment in the litter since there is only one puppy to sell. Since most breeders breed out of pure love for their breed and are simply looking to offset some of their costs, they will price their puppies according to what is fair given their expenses and will accept that they will, in some cases, experience very substantial financial losses.
Raising a litter to ensure well-adjusted, confident puppies that are suited to life as beloved family pets is a full-time job, one that reputable breeders take very seriously. Ensuring the right start during those first 12 weeks of life is critical and will shape each puppy’s future. The importance of this time cannot be overstated. The commitment involved to exposing puppies to the right stimuli and experiences at the right time and in a safe and controlled environment takes a lot of time, a lot of love, and sometimes, a lot of money, but it yields immense rewards.
- The cost of proving a dog in the show or performance ring
There is much value in a breeder taking the time to prove their dog in the show or performance ring. Titling a dog in a conformation event or performance discipline is an excellent way to show a dog is sound in structure, form, and function. A dog that is properly built and moves correctly is a dog that can fulfill its intended purpose and is one that is unlikely to succumb to illness or injury. These are important qualities that all breeding dogs should have. Though it is quite possible for a dog who has never competed in a performance sport or conformation ring to still bear these qualities, most breeders like to have their dogs obtain titles.
When a judge evaluates a dog and finds it worthy, it is an affirmation to the breeder that their dog is a good representative of its breed. Since this is a third-party assessment by a person that is paid to give an unbiased opinion, it is extremely valuable to any reputable breeder. A dog that does not measure up well against its breed standard is one that is typically best removed from a breeding program. In this way, dog shows are not simply beauty contests or displays of vanity with the awarding of a ribbon the most valued prize. Dog shows exist to help with the evaluation of breeding stock. It gets dogs within a breed seen by other breeders and assessed by judges, all important components of determining if a dog has sufficient merit to be used in a breeding program to help better the breed.
Even if a breeder owner handles their dog to save on expenses, it takes time to complete a championship. This is particularly problematic if you have what is considered to be a rare breed. Some dog breeds are not popular in the United States, and since you need other dogs of your breed to compete against in order to earn points towards a championship, this means travel, and sometimes extensive travel, may be necessary for a dog to earn everything it needs for a championship.
On the other end of the spectrum is what happens if the breeder owns a dog breed that is very popular. Popular breeds like Goldens, Labs, and Poodles are high entry breeds. While this would seem to be a good thing, it means the competition is stiff. To earn points towards a championship, the dog must first be an excellent example of its breed, then must be groomed to perfection, and finally must be good enough to compete against a professional handler…and win.
Titling a dog in conformation or performance is a costly venture, particularly if the breeder decides the dog is worthy of a campaign and sends the dog out with a professional dog handler. Some dogs are such exemplary examples of their breeds that a breeder may feel it is a good idea to try to help the dog achieve and maintain #1 in its breed. To do that, it is best for the dog to move on to a professional handler whose job is showing dogs every weekend. Most breeders have other jobs they must work and cannot be on the road as much as is required to keep a dog high in the stats each week. A professional handler’s salary and the advertising budget that goes hand in hand with a top dog is not inexpensive. Of course, it is possible for the breeder to owner handle their own dog and to achieve some success in this capacity as well. Still, there are entry fees, hotels, gas, and other expenses that must be factored into the overall bill.
In performance sports, the breeder handles the dog themselves, so no professional handler is required. However, there is often equipment that must be purchased, specialized training to undertake, and even weekly practices to attend.
- The cost of health testing the parent dogs
Today, we are blessed to have the tools at hand to help health test potential breeding dogs to best understand what genes they carry and how they can affect any future offspring. DNA testing is available through many labs in the US. These tests come in the form of swabs that can be brushed against the dog’s cheek and sent to a lab to undergo the tests required to show what genes the dog carries. DNA testing is an invaluable tool and can be used to make strategic breeding plans to ensure no genetic illness is passed from a breeding pair to their subsequent offspring.
Of course, sometimes health testing brings heartbreak. DNA tests or other physical tests such as hips, elbows, eyes, heart, or ears may show a failing score which would indicate a dog should be removed from a breeding program. When this occurs, the breeder has invested a lot of money only to end up with the disappointment that a dog they had very high hopes for is unfortunately not suited to the role they had in mind for them. Still, this is not the end of the world. Genetic testing can help us best understand how to make wise decisions for the dogs in our care and that in itself is a very worthwhile thing.
Though most health testing is done once only for the life of the dog, some tests should be done yearly such as eye exams since eye health can degenerate with age. Some breeds are naturally predisposed to more health issues than others. As a result, the amount a breeder will pay to complete the health testing on a single dog will vary from breed to breed. Most often, health testing will cost $1500 at a minimum but is often much more than that.
- The cost of vaccinations, registration, microchips, health certificates
Once the litter is on the ground, there are other costs the breeder will be responsible for. Most breeders supplement their mother dog’s milk by offering their puppies some goat’s milk as well. As the pups reach the time for weaning, the breeder will also need to prepare puppy mush from a high-quality puppy food that is soaked then pureed.
Puppies are quite messy. Whether the breeder opts to litter train using pellets or makes use of pee pads for effective training, there is a lot of waste to be disposed of. Since baby puppies lack much control over their bladders, they will also have accidents during the learning process. This means the breeder will spend a lot of time…and money…doing laundry to ensure their pups always have clean bedding. To be certain their puppies don’t suffer from any irritations of the skin from perfumed laundry detergents or fabric softeners, most breeders prefer to purchase unscented laundry cleaning agents or soaps intended for use with newborns. These products are very important safety measures but are also significantly more expensive to purchase.
Enrichment toys for socialization are also a big expense breeders undertake. Many of these items can be reused with future litters, but some are single use only. The importance of these items cannot be overstated as they play a critical role in helping a puppy to view the world with curiosity and excitement instead of fear and dread.
Before the puppies move on to their new homes, their breeder must take them to the veterinarian for a wellness exam, health certificate, microchip, and first set of vaccinations. In addition to this, the breeder must register each pup with the AKC and must prepare the take home puppy packs for each new owner.
What About the Cost of Rare Purebred Puppies?
If you are considering purchasing a puppy that is an endangered breed such as an Otterhound, a Sealyham Terrier, or a Cesky Terrier, you can expect to pay more money to obtain one. This is simply because they are very difficult to find and truly are rare since very few people are breeding them.
Beware of breeders offering “rare” puppies in fad colors, sizes, and coat types. Be careful to read the AKC breed standard for the breed you are considering. If the coat type, color, or size is not listed within the breed standard, there is a valid reason why, and you should avoid purchasing a puppy from that breeder.
Why are Some Purebreds More Expensive Than Others?
Some purebred breeds are more expensive than others not only when it comes to the initial purchase price but also when it comes to ongoing living expenses and veterinary bills. Some dog breeds are predisposed to developing health conditions that may require additional veterinary support to prevent and/or treat. Because these dog types are prone to developing health issues, it is even more important to select a puppy from a reputable breeder who does their due diligence with health testing to help produce healthy specimens of the breed. It may cost you more up front to purchase a puppy from them, but it will save you money…and heartache and grief…down the road.
I Found a Cheap Purebred Puppy – Should I Buy It?
Beware of bargain priced puppies. Most often, these puppies are advertised on online marketplaces or even on bulletin boards in stores, and they are attractively priced for quick sale. It is important to bear in mind that as with most things in life; you get what you pay for. If a puppy price seems too good to be true; it probably is.
Raising a litter in the correct fashion costs both time and money. Cutting corners can be done but not without negative effects on the puppies. Most often, people selling puppies very inexpensively have invested as little as possible into their litters. This may mean the mother and father dogs were never health tested and may not even be in good health. The puppies may have been raised in an environment where they received no stimulation or socialization and may grow up very fearful and aggressive. Breeders whose sole ambition is their own profit do make a profit, but it comes at the expense of the dogs in their care, the puppies they produce, and their puppies’ future owners who may be saddled with expensive bills for health and behavioral problems down the road.
Should I Buy a Purebred Dog?
There is no right or wrong answer when it comes to whether or not to buy a purebred dog. You can just as easily walk into your local shelter and find a dog that is the perfect fit for your family. A pedigree doesn’t make one dog “better” than another. All are valuable, and all are equally worthy of a loving forever home.
To determine if a purebred is the right choice for you, it’s a good idea to decide ahead of time what your goals are for a dog. If you are interested in a dog with the drive to succeed in competitive agility, you might want to find a breeder whose dogs are known to excel at that, whether the person breeds purebreds or designer dogs.
Want to compete in conformation? Well, then you’ll have to purchase a purebred as only recognized purebred dogs with written and approved breed standards are eligible to compete in those events.
Just looking for a pal to cuddle on the couch with and take for long walks? Then you just might find your perfect fit at a local rescue or shelter!
Mixed breeds and hybrids can make for wonderful pets and should not be discounted. However, if you are looking for predictability of traits, a purebred is the more reliable bet.
What is a Reasonable Price for a Purebred Puppy?
There is no set answer as to what can be considered a reasonable price for a purebred puppy. It comes down to what the goals are for your dog, the breed of the dog you are considering, and what you can afford to pay. If you are looking for a show dog and hope to breed in the future, you can expect to pay a higher price than you would for a companion dog you hope will spend all of his days out on adventures with you out and around town.
Once you have settled on your ideal breed, begin by doing some research. Connect with breeders of your breed via email or Facebook. Stop by a local dog show to see some of your chosen breed in person and to form relationships with others who also own and love your fave breed. Over time, you will be able to understand what you can expect to pay for a puppy of that particular breed, and you will also develop a feel for the breeder you feel is a good fit for you and your family. Typically, you can expect to pay between $1500-$4000 for a well-bred puppy from a preservation breeder. It is worth every penny!
Why are purebreds so expensive? When you factor in all of the costs to breed, whelp, and raise a litter of well-bred puppies responsibly, purebreds don’t seem so expensive after all!