Please click here to read this wonderful article:
Allen St. John, Contributor - I provide an
alternative take on sports, entertainment and pop culture
How Much is that Doggie in the
The Surprising Economics of Purchasing a Purebred Puppy
The song got it right. As much as dog lovers melt over a cute, cuddly
puppy, when it comes time to actually buy a dog, price sensitivity enters
into it. In
a recent, very popular post about the Westminster Dog show, I talked
about getting my now-three-year-old golden retriever Tessie. As we shopped
for a breeder, I discovered that Golden puppies ranged in price from around
$500 for a dog from a backyard breeder or a pet store to upwards of $3,000
for a show quality pup from a top breeder.
My golden retriever
Tessie as an eight-week old puppy
I’ll admit now that price
was a very important parameter back then. I will also admit now, that while
we made an amazingly great choice, I was also really stupid.
the truth in one sentence: The initial purchase price of a dog is a drop in
the bucket compared to the other expenses of dog ownership.
Let’s do the math. A $900
dog from a puppy mill costs 21 cents a day over the puppy’s 12-year life
span. A $2,000 dog from a quality breeder costs 45 cents a day. The
difference is less than a quarter a day. And what does that 24 cents buy for
your dog? A small handful of supermarket kibble.
But what are you getting
for your money with the more expensive dog? No doubt about it, golden
retriever puppies are among the cutest creatures on earth. When I walked
Tessie when she was little, and groups of squealing 16-year-old girls
flocked over to pet her, I understood how
Brad Pitt must feel. And the cheaper puppy is going to be just as
adorable as the more expensive one.
A quality breeder does two
important things. He (or she) has the potential parents checked for heart
problems, eye problems, and hip problems, and if the dogs don’t get these
clearances, they’re not bred. They also breed for temperament, and can tell
you if a dog from any given litter is likely to be a drivey hunting dog or
laid-back, lick-your-face couch queen. Most importantly, parents with
behavioral problems–from biting to skittishness–don’t make it to the
if a $900 puppy mill dog ends up with hip dysplasia or a heart condition or
a thyroid condition, you could easily swallow that $1,100 difference in a
single vet visit, and still have a dog with a shortened life, or a
compromised quality of life. And while quality breeders will offer a refund
if your puppy has a serious health problem, the far better alternative is
not having to use that guarantee. Good breeders aren’t cheap or easy to
find, but they tend to be cheaper than the best dog hip surgeon, or the best
This isn’t theoretical. A
member of a golden retriever forum in which I’m a member told this sad tale.
She got her puppy from a backyard breeder, a casual breeder who doesn’t do
the cruel, large-scale, for-profit breeding of a puppy mill that feeds to
pet stores, but also doesn’t do medical or behavioral clearances on the
parents. The owner of the new puppy felt proud at having haggled down the
price on her dog from $550 to $300. That lovely cute puppy ended up needing
double hip surgery at eight months. Needless to say, her vet bill ate up her
savings tenfold or more. And even after thousands of dollars of veterinary
care, the poor puppy still will never romp that Tessie does.
No, buying from a quality
breeder doesn’t guarantee your dog will be healthy and well-adjusted, but
having four or five generations of checkable health and behavioral
clearances has to increase your chances of having a healthy, happy dog. And
for a quarter a day, it seems like very cheap insurance.
Having given you the
actuarial analysis, let me provide a real-world example of the cost of
raising a dog, and how quickly it can outstrip the initial purchase price of
$1,200 for Tessie from a high-quality breeder, a price which is a little on
the low side for the
New York Metro area.
beautiful, sweet-tempered dog, and at three years of age, she’s been
completely healthy, with nothing more than routine vet visits (with one
exception noted below.)
the first four months we had Tessie , this is what we spent.
Gating an already
fenced-in backyard: $1,350
Crates and interior gates: $180
Routine vet visits and vaccines: $270
Emergency vet visits (she ate a sock): $1,100
Dog Food (Purina Pro Plan): $160
Toys, chewies, Bowls, Kongs: $160
Puppy Kindergarten: $140
Mileage to buy all this: $300
We spent more than triple the
purchase price in only the first four months of having our pup, and we
really did pinch our pennies, buying only what was really necessary.
My golden retriever, Tessie
Tessie’s “ate a sock”
adventure was the only thing that wasn’t “normal” but she didn’t have to
have surgery, and it’s not a particularly unusual expenditure either. And
unlike most pups, Tessie didn’t chew anything of value—like a
Coach briefcase, a Manolo Blahnik sling back, or the AC adaptor to a
Macbook Pro–which could be added into the equation.
if you remove the emergency vet bill, you’re at $2,560, double the purchase
price. It’s easy to forget how expensive it
can be to own a dog. Even for a healthy, low maintenance young dog like
Tessie, we still spend well over $1,000 a year on food, vet bills, and other
sundries, and we bathe and groom her ourselves. In the context of this
substantial, ongoing “cost of ownership,” the initial purchase price is
insignificant. Skimping on the purchase price when there are health and
temperament issues at stake strikes me as penny wise and pound foolish.
put it another way. If you’re making your decision based on a few hundred
dollars of initial purchase price of a puppy, the cold, hard truth is that
you probably can’t afford the dog at all.