In order to understand the price of a puppy, it is important to first understand that different breeders set different prices based on a breeder’s particular practices. The practices of a breeder are what determine the “category” a breeder fits into. Understanding the different types of breeders will help in understanding how a puppy is typically priced by a breeder.
The Puppy Mill – This is the easiest breeder to define because of sheer number of campaigns designed to educate the public about the horrendous conditions found in puppy mills. Unfortunately puppy mills are kept in business when unsuspecting buyers purchase puppies from pet stores (the #1 outlet for puppy mill puppies), internet puppy broker sites, or worse yet the puppy mill itself. Often when the buyer arrives on the property of a puppy mill and witnesses the horrific conditions of the poor animals yet still proceeds with the purchase. The buyer understandably has immediate sympathy for the poor puppies and purchases the puppy to “save” it from the abuse. Sadly – this is how the puppy mills stay in business. As long as the puppy mill has a market of buyers, regardless of the buyer’s knowledge or intent, the puppy mill receives income and will stay in business and continue to produce puppies. Puppies from puppy mills tend to be the least expensive because they have high volume with minimal expense. Serious temperament issues, congenital, nutritional and genetic defects are simply to be expected, they are common and normal risks associated with a Puppy Mill puppy.
The Back Yard Breeder - This derogatory term is used to describe the person that simply breeds dogs together with no regard to proving those dogs breed worthy. This person acquired their dogs from a back yard breeder, puppy mill or puppy farmer – reputable breeders NEVER allow their puppies to go to homes that intend to breed without first proving the dogs breed worthy. This person has little or no monetary investment into their dogs other than the standard food and veterinary care required to maintain their dogs and the puppy price normally reflects the lack of investment. The dogs are not cleared of genetic disease or titled, and sometimes they are not even registered (“AKC papers”) they are simply pets that are bred.
Most of these Back Yard Breeders have no idea what the term means; they literally breed their pet dogs and offer their puppies for sale in the newspaper or on internet puppy sales sites. The female delivers her puppies under the back deck of the home, in the shed or in the closet, often unattended. Some of the puppies survive and many do not. The puppies are often raised in filthy conditions, not necessarily intentionally but because the person is not set up properly to have a litter of puppies in their home. The pups are weaned from their mother and forced to eat kibbled dog food at a very young age, often as early as a few weeks of age. They are sold as “ready to go” as early as 4-5 weeks old (when they should still be nursing) simply because they can eat kibble and the owner is overwhelmed trying to care for the pups. They are commonly heavily loaded with parasites and protozoa, not vaccinated (or vaccinated too young) and many are carrying hidden deadly or crippling genetic defects that won’t manifest to the new owner until later in life. Typically they'll produce one litter, or maybe even a few litters and find out how expensive, exhausting and heartbreaking it is to breed dogs, and have their female spayed. The American Kennel Club estimated in 1996 that about 70 percent of purebred, AKC-registered puppies were from this type of Back Yard Breeder.
Puppy Farmer - In recent years a new category of breeder has become commonplace and by virtue of their practices, calling these breeders “Puppy Farmers” seems to be the most fitting term for them. The term Farmer is easy to comprehend; a farmer makes a living by producing a commodity for a profit with as little overhead as possible. The farmer will cut expenses where ever possible, but never to the extent of jeopardizing the product's outward appearance, as he knows this will make his commodity less likely to sell. Sadly, many, many people are fooled into purchasing a puppy from this type breeder.
The Puppy Farmer is usually knowledgeable and breeds regularly, and produces anywhere from a low to high volume of puppies. The Puppy Farmer often disguises themselves as a small scale operation with “high quality family pets” or may be a large volume operation producing “high quality working or show quality” puppies. They claim to be the “best”, they commonly call themselves “COE breeders” or “Code of Ethics” breeders without disclosing the actual “code of ethics” they are claiming to abide by. They will always deny that they produce puppies with temperament or health defects or contribute in any way to the unwanted dogs that end up in shelters or rescue. Most of them have websites or advertise online and they often attempt to disguise their status by making claims that cater to their target market.
Some of the Puppy Farmers cater to people looking for an inexpensive family companion; they throw the word “family” in their marketing statements at every opportunity and claim to be better than other breeders because they breed only for the purpose of producing family pets. Common catch phrases used by these breeders are “we are a small breeder”, our dogs/puppies are “family raised”, “fur kids”, “family lifestyle”, “hand raised” and even “fair priced”. Some of the pet Puppy Farmers claim to have “champion or working lines” which simply means their own dogs used for breeding have never accomplished anything, there is just a champion or working titled dog or maybe even several, somewhere back in their dog’s pedigree.
Other Puppy Farmers cater to people willing to spend more to get what they are led to believe is higher quality - playing on the idea that you get what you pay for, a higher price tag means a higher quality product. Some of these puppy farmers claim to have tested their breeding stock for genetic disorders (real or fake) and some may even claim to have titles on their dogs (real or fake) but they are still all about farming and profit. They may have financial investment into their dogs; while still finding many ways to minimize expenses and are often high volume and/or high price in order to maintain their puppy farming profit. Buyer beware - higher price does not always mean higher quality!
Puppy Farmers generally tend to provide a better overall level of care than a puppy mill or back yard breeder because they have to protect their commodity or it will hurt their profit margin. Depending on the scale of their operation, their puppies may be raised in their home or perhaps a specially designed room or area outside the home (i.e. kennel whelping rooms). The puppies are usually dewormed and vaccinated and some farmers may even offer health guarantees on their puppies.
The price tag for a puppy from a Puppy Farmer can vary wildly from one extreme to the other. It all depends on the farmer’s marketing scheme and what they can get their puppy buyers to pay based on their claims.
Limiting the financial investment into the dogs used for breeding means the farmer can sell their puppies for less money and still make a nice profit from puppy sales. For example, producing 30 puppies a year (3-4 litters) and selling those puppies for $500-$1000 each with little or no financial investment will net a farmer $15,000-$30,000 or more profit per year.
Making some financial investments and then selling puppies for exorbitant prices with claims of superior quality is another way the farmer makes their profit, and many of these high priced farmers turn out a high volume of litters each year resulting in cushy incomes of hundreds of thousands of dollars per year. Producing 50 puppies per year selling puppies for an average of $3000-$5000 is a pretty nice income by anyone’s standards.
Reputable Breeder – A Reputable Breeder or hobby breeder is a positive term that describes a breeder that abides by ethical and responsible practices and methodology. A Reputable Breeder’s goal is never profit. A Reputable Breeder’s goal is for the betterment of the breed and puppy sales are a by-product of this ultimate goal. A Reputable Breeder is normally a member of a national breed club that has and enforces breeding guidelines and restrictions for its members. A Reputable Breeder typically breeds only a few litters per year and only uses dogs for breeding that are proven breed worthy in health, temperament and breed type. The parents, and the preceding generations (grandparents, great grandparents and great, great grandparents etc.) have all been proven to be clear of genetic disease through proper genetic health testing with the appropriate certification. The attainment of working and show titles on dogs used for breeding (and preceding generations) is to prove a sound, stable, social and proper temperament and to prove breed type in accordance with the breed standard. Any dog used for breeding should look like a proper and familiar representative of the breed. Reputable Breeders breed their females to males that are potentially the best match for those females to continually improve their program and maintain the standards of the breed in general.
Reputable Breeders don’t use internet broker websites or sell their puppies in pet stores. They take great care to carefully screen their prospective puppy homes, take the time get to know the prospective owners to match their puppies with the lifestyle, goals and expectations of the new owner. Reputable Breeders provide lifetime support for all the homes of all puppies they produce and puppies from Reputable Breeders are not found in shelters or rescues.
Reputable Breeders do not take short cuts. They do not short cut expense or time on care, supplies or veterinary medicine – they do what needs to be done in the best interest of the welfare of their dogs and the puppies they produce – without exception.
Reputable Breeders typically charge what it actually costs to produce a quality puppy in an attempt to try to break even (or attempt to come close to breaking even). Reputable Breeders do NOT expect to profit from their litters, in fact, it is reasonable and normal to expect a financial loss. What a buyer thinks they can “afford” (or what they think the puppy should be worth) has zero impact on the amount the Reputable Breeder can “afford” to sell the puppy for. No breeder can afford to sell puppies for less than it cost the breeder to produce the puppy. It doesn’t matter if the puppy is going to a show home, a working home or a companion home. The fact that the new owner doesn’t want “papers” (AKC registration) doesn’t want to breed or show and wants “just a pet” does not change the Reputable Breeder’s cost to produce that puppy. The cost to the breeder is still the same for each and every puppy which is why many Reputable Breeders charge the same price for both companion and show quality pups. Reputable Breeders are in no position to negotiate their puppy price because there is no built in profit margin to give the breeder room to negotiate on price.
Puppy mills, back yard breeders and puppy farmers are commonly willing to negotiate their puppy price because they have a profit margin built in to their price. They may reduce the price for leftover unsold puppies as they are nearing or over 8 weeks so they don’t have to keep them and care for them.
Hopefully you have learned how to properly identify the different types of breeders and have made the decision to work with a reputable breeder to bring a well-bred, healthy puppy with a good temperament into your home.
When potential buyers are focused on the price rather than focused on finding proven health and temperament of the parents, it completely restricts the ability to find a well-bred, healthy, stable puppy from a reputable breeder. Please consider that if you set your own price by what you can afford, or what you are willing to pay, that the price alone may keep you from finding a reputable breeder.
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