The Obama family may have paid $2300.00 for a Portuguese Water Dog Puppy. Is this crazy?
Puppy prices vary considerably and often purchasers have no way of knowing if they are getting more with a $500.00 puppy than they are if they pay $250.00. So what goes into a puppy's price?
The price of a PWD or Borzoi is in part affected by the fact that these breeds are both somewhat rare. There aren't as many sight hounds as their are Beagles and Chihuahuas, so the price for a rare breed is higher. The price will also change based on whether you pick your puppy up or have him delivered. Also if you prefer to buy an older dog, this may raise the price if you are looking for a proven competitor or lower the price if you are taking a dog who needs a home by a certain deadline. Contrary to popular beliefs about unwanted dogs, there are more people in the US wanting puppies than there are puppies available. (There are plenty of mixed breed adults with little training in need of second or third homes, however).
The first part of a puppy's valuation, if we should call it that, comes from his parents. If a sire or dam's name includes the prefix "CH" (Champion) it means he or she has won ribbons at least three times (probably more) and at least some of the time there were several other dogs that a judge passed over. It's argued that females have a harder time earning their championship because they can't be shown in season , their hormones affect their coat or they are having puppies rather than attending shows. But if you want a puppy to show in a conformation ring, both parents and many grandparents with the CH designation are something to look for. Conformation is more than a prize winner, though. Dogs who are put together right are more likely to be pain free moving around which can lower the incidence of joint related injuries or even arthritis in old age.
The suffixes on the parents' names may be more important because those indicate how your dog is going to want to spend time. JC and SC at the end of a Borzoi name show that a sight hound can follow a lure and avoid fighting with another dog during coursing/racing. There are also designations for champions in the field which demonstrate a dog's ability to perform as Borzoi were bred to. This is a good sign that your dog will be typical of the breed. If you are looking for a sight hound you already know they are easily enticed to chase and stay with a moving object outdoors. If you intend to go camping and sit around the fire with your dog off leash, then perhaps a Senior Coursing dog is not your best companion.
The second part of a puppy's value comes from the breeder. The years of experience and understanding of the breed that a person puts into choosing the right parents and raising the dogs and their offspring has a great impact on your puppy. Going to an experienced breeder has a significant benefit but expect to be interviewed and placed on a waiting list. It's well worth it. An experienced puppy raiser will ensure that your puppy has a safe and enriched learning environment at the right time. If a breeder has three types of dogs and five litters at at time, then she should also have paid staff that are equally expert in providing individual attention to each puppy. And that brings us to the next contributor to puppy pricing.
The third part of the puppy's value is based on time and money the breeder spent to help bring the puppies into the world. Paid help has been mentioned but more directly, breeders don't always try to recoup the cost of medical tests for heritable disorders, show entry fees, top of the line nutrition and training even though they should. This is because most dog breeders have other sources of income, known as day jobs. If the breeder has done medical testing and performance testing, expect to receive documentation.
One of the direct contributors to the Obama's new puppy Sunny's price may have been that she was conceived by artificial insemination. While this requires human intervention it also allows truly great dogs to impact a breed or family within a breed longer than they live. In some cases a dog's true greatness isn't recognized until later in life. With the advances in DNA testing, breeders are more likely to use frozen semen because it's easier now to prove the parentage if anyone questions it.
There are additional medical costs to raising puppies which shouldn't be a surprise to anyone. Puppies and mothers need medical care before breeding, during pregnancy and while the puppies are growing. Any illnesses that can be prevented or need to be treated add to the costs of caring for young dogs. Time off from work for emergencies, equipment, grooming supplies, food and toys are all part of the cost. Depending on the breeder, costs may be factored in to the final asking price.
Finally, the price will be affected by the type of ownership agreement you sign. You may be the sole owner and have final say in all decisions about the care of your dog. Surprisingly, this may lower the price. More commonly, a breeder will retain some ownership rights to your puppy into the future. She may want a say in whether the dog competes in dog shows and how often, whether you breed your dog and with whom, and a right to first refusal if you decide to re-home your dog. These agreements are usually called Co-owner agreements and can be quite complicated.
If you have heard of getting a lower priced puppy by asking for a Pet Quality dog you might get mixed reactions. A pet dog must be resilient and social which means he should be accustomed to carpet and kids and strangers and other dogs. Some breeders choose puppies that they do not want to breed and offer them at a lower price because people looking for a contender will pay more. If you prefer to buy a puppy that is only 12 weeks old, a breeder may charge more to have this puppy ready early, or less because she is not going to house and care for the dog for very long. It's important to know that Pet Quality has different meanings to different people but it is not about the ability of a dog to make a good companion and in some cases could raise the price, not lower it.
A sales price may be called an "adoption fee" in some cases. If a dog becomes available as a neutered, vaccinated, trained adult, the costs to find a new home may be minimal. But if the dog was in need of medical care or transported for a long distance, the cost may be greater even than a young puppy with guarantees. Most groups that re-home dogs accept donations from people who are not receiving a dog to cover some of their costs so they don't have to pass on all of the dog's bills to dog adopters. In some cases, dogs with issues might be made available at no cost because they have ongoing needs that will require a financial commitment, for example a diabetic dog or bitch with a skin condition from allergies.
You can expect to pay anywhere from a nominal shelter adoption fee of $50.00 to a thousand or two for just the right dog when you are looking for a very special skill or color*. It's not unheard of for someone to pay multiple thousands of dollars for a Westminster winner with proven abilities. That is in part because it's unlikely for someone to sell such a dog.
No matter what you pay for a puppy, you'll spend plenty more over the lifetime of the dog on food, toys, medicine outings and shows. Once you decide on your purchase budget, it should be easy to find a puppy you can afford with the skills you need.
(*please don't ever choose a lifetime companion based on his color. I do understand that all things being equal a cute puppy has it's appeal and may be worth more money to you if he has a special heart shaped spot over his right eye. Just don't forget that is the least of considerations for making a good match between you and the puppy of your dreams).