The price of puppies, literally

How much is that puppy in the whelping box?

From $50 to $1500, puppies come with many different price tags. Some may be given free, and others may exceed even this range. But where do these figures come from?

Puppy sellers come in several categories. They include show breeders, working and sporting dog breeders, puppy mill or commercial kennel breeders, pet shop retailers, and backyard breeders.

Show breeders breed for correct type in accordance to the breed standard., for size and proportion, front and rear angulation, straightness and reach of gait, head type, pigment, and all the other traits important to maintaining the breed according to the standard. Some of these traits are important in the long-term health of the dog. Show breeders take responsibility for certifying their males and females against problems inherent to their breed. Their efforts help minimize inheritance of potential problems by their puppies, which in turn will benefit the puppy buyer's wallet.

Working and sporting dog breeders concentrate on working drives and retaining strong instincts to perform the duties their dogs were originally designed to do. These dogs are genetically predisposed to perform their line of work whether it is herding, trailing prey, flushing birds from the bush after long, energetic searches, or performing in the schutzhund field. These dogs are not necessarily beauty contestants, for temperament and workability are the priorities. Health is important, so they are also screened for health problems according to breed.

The price of puppies from show, working, or sporting dog breeders are higher than most newspaper classified ad puppies. These puppies come generally come from parents that have achieved titles under the well-trained eye of an unbiased judge. Certification of parents have been done in an attempt to eliminate hereditary health problems such as hip dysplasia in large breeds. Starting prices for these “blue-blooded” progeny begin at $500 and may be more depending on breed, titles, or potential as a show dog, working dog, or pet.

Working titles in their pedigrees may include TD or TDX for Tracking Dog or Tracking Dog Excellent; HS, HI, or HX, the herding titles awarded by the American Kennel Club; WD or WRD for Water Dog or Water Rescue Dog from the Newfoundland Club of America; DPO I or DPO II for police dog titles; Schutzhund I, II, or III, or other titles that indicate a continuation of the dog's ability to do the work he was originally bred to do.

Although these puppies sell for higher sums than others, their temperaments should remain stable relative to the purpose of the titles achieved by their parents and grandparents.

Breeders of show, working, and sporting dogs generally offer health guarantees, an indication of a confident, well-considered breeding. The passion these breeders have for their breed helps them continue their journey to produce genetically sound dogs.

Puppy mills and commercial kennels are the main contributors to pet shops. Their goal is to produce lots of puppies for profit. Puppies are a commodity. Puppy mills may be raided by animal control for horrid, deplorable conditions. Quality is not a top concern in this part of the industry.

Puppies are often sold to pet stores at wholesale prices and resold to the public at “show ” prices. The cost of overhead, especially mall rental property requires the store owner to charge exorbitant prices for their “products.” Compulsive buyers and the high degree of foot traffic supports these establishments. Before making a financial and emotional commitment, prospective buyers should contact the area's humane society and Better Business Bureau for information.

Backyard breeders are the main contributors of puppies. This term applies to all who breed with little knowledge of bloodlines, breed standard, or proper temperament and structure. Their breeding animals are not screened for potential inherent problems prevalent in the breed, nor are the dogs proven under the well-educated eye of a judge in the show ring or at a trial. Key phrases such as “champion bloodline,” “excellent bloodline,” “German or European bloodline,” “oversized,” or “rare colors” are often selling points in their ads. They have not taken the time, money, or effort to insure anyone they are breeding better dogs than the next advertisement in the paper.

“Rare colors,” advertised as unique, may be major faults according to the breed standard and may be linked genetically to health problems. “Excellent bloodline” is nothing more than a family tree if the breeder has little or no knowledge about bloodlines. Many backyard breeders confess that they are not breeding show dogs and don't subject themselves to the show or performance breeders' rigorous attempts to eradicate health problems or to maintain proper type or temperament.

Puppies are like children — they are all cute. But they do eventually grow up to be adults. If you prefer a specific breed over a mutt, choose a puppy with the potential to grow up healthy, properly-sized and proportioned, and with the correct temperament distinctive to the breed you have chosen for the family pet.

Melody Greba

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