The High Cost of Cheap Puppies

I’m tipping my hat to the movie “WAL-MART: The High Cost of Low Price” in the title of this blog post, because in a way, pet stores and puppy mills are the  Wal-Mart of the dog world. Of course, the shirts and jeans on Wal-Mart’s shelves aren’t suffering like the live “products” sold in pet stores may; however, in both cases, you may well find yourself paying much more for low cost and convenience than you ever imagined. Read on to find out why a cheap purebred puppy is almost never a good deal, for you or the dog.

Why Pay More?

“Why should I pay over a thousand dollars for a puppy from show dogs, when I don’t want to show my dog, and  I could get the same dog at the pet store for $500?”

That– or some variant thereof– is a question commonly, and understandably, asked by puppy buyers. It does make sense, at first glance. When  buying a car to fetch groceries and commute a few miles to work and back, most people head for the Ford or Toyota dealership, not a Ferrari showroom. Why get ‘more than you need?’

Puppies from reputable, responsible breeders are expensive. They have to be. Contrary to the beliefs of some new puppy buyers, it’s not the show (or field trial, or herding, or Schutzhund…) record of the parents that you’re paying for. If you aren’t interested in competition, you will not receive a competition-quality puppy. Good breeders place pet-quality puppies in pet homes, and show-quality puppies in show homes.

You Get What You Pay For

What you’re paying for is the breeder’s work to produce the best possible dog for your family, and their diligence in ensuring that they will sell you a dog that does suit your family. Here are a few of the additional costs incurred by responsible, reputable breeders, which do not affect puppy mills and pet stores:

  • Health testing– for many breeds,  this means radiographs of hips and shoulders. In some breeds, it means an MRI or DNA testing. Any responsible, reputable breeder will do as much health testing as is possible for their breed.
  • Competition. Yes, I just said you’re not paying for the parents’ show record. You’re not– but you are paying for the breeder’s time and expense in presenting their dogs to a judge, who helps the breeder to determine which animals are worthy of producing puppies. Think of a show record as a judge’s screening, which is complementary to health screening.
  • Proper socialization. Puppies raised in a home environment adjust better to your home environment. This costs the breeder a great deal of time, compared to a pet store which can cage their puppies and pay someone $7.50 an hour to care for them in between selling other products.
  • Post-purchase support. A good breeder will be more than someone you got a puppy from. They’ll be a friend and ally for the dog’s entire life. If your puppy is ill in the middle of the night, most good breeders will not only allow you to  call them for advice, they’ll insist upon it. Whether it’s a week or a decade after you  bought the puppy, a responsible, reputable breeder will be there when you need advice, or if the unthinkable happens and you  must relinquish the dog.

What You’ll Really Pay for a Cheap Puppy

Now that we’ve seen why you’ll pay a high price for a responsibly bred pup, let’s look at the hidden costs of owning a dog bred by a puppy mill, like most cheap purebred puppies:

  • Veterinary costs. We looked yesterday at why mutts may or may not be healthier than purebreds, but one thing is for sure: You’re taking more of a gamble adopting a purebred  whose parents were not health-tested than one whose parents received all possible tests. If your dog develops a congenital or hereditary defect, most pet stores and puppy mills won’t give a refund or help with vet bills unless your state has a Puppy Lemon Law forcing them to do so. Even if they do offer a refund, most will  require you to return the dog in order to receive money. If you’ve already become attached to your pup, you’re stuck with  the bills.
  • Training and Behavioral Counseling. Pet store puppies were often raised in cages, kennels, or crates, which can cause many serious behavior problems. Separation anxiety, housebreaking difficulties, pathological  barking, and self-harm behaviors are all more common in dogs raised in cages.
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  1. As I talked about in a post a couple of weeks back, ferrets can make wonderful pets. But for some people the most important question that needs to be answered before acquiring one does not center on their suitability as a companion, but their legality.

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