Why Does a QUALITY Puppy Cost So Much?
This article by Bill Burns of the Kennel At Burns Gardens in Port Ludlow, Washington first appeared in The Havanese Breed Magazine. Because his experience mirrors our own, R'Gang Havanese has obtained permission to reprint the article here to help you understand the true cost of breeding the highest quality dogs.
When I first wrote this article in early 2010, I was looking at over $2,000 in vet bills for successful bladder stone surgery and wondered whether the dog buying public understood how expensive it is to operate and maintain even a small dog kennel. (I also was a bit concerned about whether I actually understood.)
I don’t have an unlimited supply of money. For me to continue long term in the business of breeding, training and handling dogs I have to cover my expenses. If I don’t then I will run out of money and be forced out of business.
Some business expenses can be controlled more easily than others. Some, like showing dogs in conformation, can be eliminated without destroying the business. In the beginning, I think it is necessary for someone new to dogs to show their dog(s). There are many reasons to do so, but for me the three most important for a new person to show their dogs in Conformation are these:
- It provides a structured venue for the new person to learn what constitutes a "good" dog.
- It provides an excellent way for the new person to show what he or she is currently producing in their kennel.
- It is an excellent way for other breeders and prospective puppy buyers to meet the new person and evaluate them and their dogs.
Fortunately, like many breeders with a bit of experience, I no longer "have" to
show dogs to be successful in my business. My decision to continue to show my dogs is therefore a personal choice, so I don’t allocate any of my expenses incurred showing dogs to the "cost" of producing puppies when I calculate the price I must charge for my puppies.
The unavoidable expenses incurred producing puppies are the costs my puppy prices have to cover. This is critical: The reason why the price of my puppies must be at least as high as the overhead expenses is because the expenses are unavoidable. If the unavoidable are not covered by the money coming in from puppy sales I will run out of money and have to quit breeding dogs. In addition I need to make some profit, if for no other reason than to provide a cushion against future unanticipated medical costs – like the cost of cancer treatment or a surgery.
In the first article, I took a three year time frame that started during the year 2006 and ended in 2009. For this study, for convenience, I used calendar years. I also wanted to have some overlap between the studies so that any remarkable changes (like the cost of dog food) would be tempered. So I used the three year calendar period from 2009 to 2012.
The number of Havanese puppies produced here during that first three year period was 38. In the most recent three year period the number of puppies produced was 28.
During each of these periods we paid for Vet fees, medicines, wormers, vaccines, progesterone testing, flea prevention, health testing (Baer Hearing, Bile acid, Cerf for eyes, OFA Patella, OFA Cardiac, OFA Thyroid, OFA Hips, LCP and Elbows), stud fee, semen storage, AKC and CKC registrations and pedigrees, DNA kits, Microchips, vaccines and progesterone testing. We paid a total of $45,326.64 for those kinds of things during the earlier time period. During this past three years, we paid a total of $34,924.92.
The breakdown during this most recent period was $24,113.97 for Veterinarian fees; $5,363.01 for medicines, $3,057.44 for health testing, $2,390.50 for AKC and CKC registrations, fees and supplies like Microchips.
Divided equally among the 38 puppies produced in the earlier period the average cost for those things was $1,192.81 per puppy. For the latest period, the average cost for Veterinarian fees and related items was $1,247.32 per puppy.
During the first three year period the dog food for the Havanese, including the puppies (kibble, meat, chicken, Nupro, goats milk, coat supplements, fish oil, treats and bones) cost $10,579.32 or $278.41 per puppy. During the most recent period, the cost of these things was $12,498.99. The cost increased remarkably to an average of $446.39 per puppy. (The number of dogs in the kennel stayed constant at 8 adult Havanese for each study period.)
Dog supplies, including toys, leads, collars, bedding, disinfectants, brushes, grooming products, dryers, kennel repairs, piddle pads, puppy buyer packets - including copies of "The Joyous Havanese" and the HFC’s "From Nose To Tail" grooming book - pedigree software, crates, x-pens, shears, combs, photos, and the like cost $26,300.20 or $692.11 per puppy during the initial period. In the latest three year period I was able to reduce this expense to $15,612.59 or $557.59 per puppy.
The County Kennel License for the initial period was $287 or $7.55 per puppy. In the past three years it has increased to $303 or $10.82 per puppy.
During the first three years, dog training, including books, seminars and dog classes cost $1,328.42 or $34.95 per puppy. This expense the last three years was $1,025.88 or $36.64 per puppy.
Counting these expenses only, my "overhead" or cost of producing puppies during the first three year period was $2,220.96 PER PUPPY! During this last three year study period it was $2,287.94 per puppy. It has taken a lot of work and discipline to keep my costs at this level in this economy. I hear the economists tell us that inflation is "tame" or under control. My books show something entirely different. The increase in Dog Food expenses in particular has been a real killer these last three years.
As noted in the original article, there are many, many other expenses that I have not included as costs my puppy buyers should be expected to cover. I decided not to include these, because while "necessary," they are costs that can vary greatly depending on the predilections of each breeder. Those cost categories are as follows:
- The cost of foundation dogs, i.e., those dogs that are the beginning of your breeding program. If you are lucky, they are VERY expensive.
- The cost of utilities, taxes, fencing, camera, computer, ISP internet provider, advertising or other marketing expenses, postage, telephone calls, general office expense, motor home and truck expenses.
- The very substantial cost of creating the facilities where you feed, groom, bathe, hospitalize, exercise, train, whelp and nurse your dogs. Nor the cost of repair to the house and equipment damaged by the dogs as it is "used" by them. (If this were a Golden Retriever magazine, I could write a story about how my new Golden "Buddy" literally ate our utility room when he was a puppy!)
- Finally, as noted above, for those of us whose purpose in breeding is to try to improve the breed, most of us at one time or another test our progress by having our dogs evaluated by others (Breeders and Judges) in Conformation Shows. This, by itself, is incredibly expensive. Costs include entry fees, transportation expense, parking fees, lodging and meal expense.
When I decide to keep a dog in order to grow it out to evaluate whether I might want to keep it for our breeding program, I have to consider how much that puppy will actually cost us. Our actual cost can be substantially more than the average cost assigned to the price of the puppy.
Depending on your resources and your personal preferences, the cost of the four items listed above can double or even triple the actual cost of producing your puppies. In other words, the actual amount of money spent to produce my 38 puppies was not "just" $2,220.96 during the initial three year period or "only" $2,287.94 during this latest study period, but as far as money actually spent is as high as three times those amounts.
If you will, please note that none of the expenses or costs listed and discussed herein include money for the hours I spend seven days a week working with and in my dog business. I am content with that as long as I can cover my essential overhead and make a small profit to set aside money for emergencies. I think this is what is meant by the term "labor of love!"
For you puppy buyers: please understand that when you buy a puppy from a breeder, it is fairly clear that you are not paying what it actually cost to produce your puppy. Your purchase is being subsidized by the breeder.
The amount of your subsidy is the difference between what you paid for your puppy and the true cost to your breeder to produce the puppy.
When I first wrote this article, it gave me valuable information that allowed me to refocus my efforts to reduce expenses. Since then, I have made some progress.
I have not been able to stem the affects of inflation on dog foods or supplements. My food costs in the first study were 85% of what they have been this past three years and inflation continues unabated.
I am really glad I decided to re-examine the original study and rewrite the article. When I began, I thought this revised article would end up as a public explanation for why I was going raise my prices. After studying the matter again, I now think that with careful attention to expenditures and a little more inventiveness I can keep my prices the same as they have been for the past 8 years. At least for now.
So, now you know the facts behind our story. Perhaps you puppy buyers now have a better appreciation of the true cost of your new puppy. Hopefully, this will prompt a few of you breeders to examine your actual expenses. I’d like all of you breeders to be able to cover your costs so you can stay in business over the long run as well.
For any of you who do not have to cover your actual expenses, then I have a request: Would you like to share some that unlimited supply of money you apparently enjoy? PLEASE!
The Kennel At Burns Gardens
Golden Retrievers and Havanese
Now you know why your puppy costs so much, LOL!
Please, if you have any questions regarding any of this, contact us at your convenience.