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How Much Is That Doggie In The Window? Too Much At Any Cost!

By Adam G. Katz
Copyright 1999

A client called me earlier this week and wanted some advice about purchasing a puppy she'd seen at a local pet store. I advised her not to buy a dog from a pet store. Why? For the following reasons:

  1. When buying any puppy... even one from the best genetic stock... you're taking a genetic crapshoot that the pup will turn out to be the type of dog you want. But when you adopt a puppy from inferior breedings, you're really playing with the house odds against you!

  2. Regardless of what the pet store owner tells you, and regardless of the fact that the dog they're selling has AKC (American Kennel Club) papers... dogs sold from pet stores ARE from puppy mills and NOT from quality breeders. And I'll prove it, from an economic standpoint alone:

The Economics of Breeding Puppies!

Let's say you want to breed quality puppies. We'll pick a fairly standard and common breed... the German Shepherd dog.

Well, of course... you want to start out with a brood bitch (your foundation breeding female) that is a super quality dog. Now, even if you purchase a puppy from a top breeder, you're looking at spending between $1,000 to $1,500. Factor in the first two years of raising, feeding, grooming, vet bills, and training... and bills accumulated for that broad bitch (remember... we're feeding her premium food, and keeping her in good shape)... will come to approximately an additional $3,000. ($1,500 a year, multiplied by two... a fairly conservative estimate).

So, now you're into just the brood bitch for approximately $4,000. And she's not even pregnant yet!

The next step would be to locate a suitable stud dog. Remember, we're talking about quality breeding! Of course, you can breed her with the German Shepherd dog who happens to live across the street, but this would make for irresponsible breeding. (The chances of finding a dog that lives across the street whose bloodlines compliment your bitch's bloodlines are HIGHLY unlikely! If you breed your bitch to this dog, you're increasing the chances of genetic mismatching and the likelihood of producing puppies with hip dysplasia, bad eyes, elbows, skin problems, etc.)

In order to really produce quality breeding, you must find a stud dog whose bloodlines compliment your bitch's bloodlines. And to do this, you'll need to:

  1. Cough up a stud fee -- usually around $1,000.
  2. Possibly fly the dog in from the state he lives in -- cost: $250, plus boarding fees if necessary.

Now, if all goes well, your bitch gets impregnated. If she doesn't, go back to square one.

Okay! Now You've Got Puppies On The Way!

So now your bitch is pregnant. Factor in at least three veterinary visits, at an average of $30 per visit. That's $90. And a number of weeks later, she finally gives birth. According to Joe Lucero, owner of an American Bandogge Breeding Program, the cost of each puppy, after shots, worming, veterinary check ups, and time put into all of the other extraneous stuff, ends up at an approximate cost of $180 a pup. (And that's over and above all of the other stuff we've mentioned!) So, an average litter of 10 puppies comes to $1,800 for just expenses in this category.

If I add up ALL of the expenses, I arrive at a total of $7,140. For a total cost per puppy of: $714.

And when you've spent this much time and energy into breeding and raising puppies, you're going to make damn sure that you place those puppies in good homes. But let's say you're just in it for the money. (Of course, you'd cut many more corners if you're in it for the money, but we'll get to that in a moment!) You don't care who finally buys the puppies. Instead, you drive down to your local pet store and sell the pups for an average mark-up of 50%... which means you pocket a profit of $357 per dog. In other words, the pet storeowner has just bought your puppies for an average price of $1,071 a dog.

In order to make a profit, the pet storeowner must mark up the puppies by AT LEAST 100% to make money, and many cases even more when he considers that some of the pups won't be adopted out and will be sold at a loss. So now the price of the pup, if you were to buy a well-bred dog in a pet store, would be at an average price of $2,142

The Big Monkey Wrench In This Whole Calculation Is That Pet Stores Usually Sell Products At A Mark-Up Of Roughly 4 to 5 Times!

Not to mention the fact that there is a tremendous "Pain In The Butt" factor when it comes to keeping live animals (especially dogs) on the premises of a pet store! So there's more expense, which we won’t tally here, in the hidden cost of paying employees extra money to clean and care for the pups while they're on the premises.

So, to really make the venture worthwhile, or comparable to the shelf space of carrying other products... the pet storeowner must also mark the puppies up by 4 to 5 times his cost. This would mean that each German Shepherd Puppy should be sold for an astounding $4,284 !!! Remember, pet storeowners are in business to make MONEY!

Here's the Kicker: I've Never Seen A Puppy Sell For This Much In A Pet Store! Why? Because There'd Be No Buyers!

But I have seen many puppies sold in pet stores for between $600 and $800. And many times less! And if you do the math backwards... you can see how somewhere along the line, someone in the process is doing a lot of scrimping!

But let's say you've bred your bitch before, so we can subtract the cost of the brood bitch... ($7140 minus $4000 = $3,140... or the cost to breed each puppy comes to $314) After a 50% mark-up to the pet store, the price of the puppy for the pet storeowner reaches $471.

And with only a modest 100% mark up, you come to a price tag in the window of $942. A somewhat high, but still reasonable price, right? Wrong! To compete with the shelf space of other products, you've really have to mark the pups up by 4 times... which leaves us at a price of $1,884!

BUT... if you're the breeder... and you've done a quality breeding with exceptional bloodlines and lineage... you can sell the puppies yourself for $800 to $1,000 a dog. Sometimes more! So, why would you sell your puppies to the pet store for $471, when you can sell them yourself for $800?

That's Right! The only way this whole "Let's Sell Puppies In The Pet Store" Economics works is if you've got puppies from poor breedings. Why? Because when you can buy the puppies cheap enough, you can still sell them at prices, which are close to market value and make a profit!

And how do you get really cheap puppies if you're a pet storeowner? You buy them from Puppy Mills! Puppy Mills indiscriminately over breed dogs in an effort to produce as many puppies as possible, in as short a time as possible, with one incentive: Profit!

Imagine dogs barely out of puppy hood themselves, being bred together! The results are horrific! Not to mention the fact that your puppy will be spending his most formative weeks (what we professionals call the "critical stages") behind a window in a high stress environment... a pet store!... rather than being properly socialized in a low stress environment, in a loving home.

So what's the bottom line? Avoid pet stores that sell puppies if you're in the market for a new dog.

You can read more Training Tips from Adam G. Katz by visiting his web site at: http://www.dogproblems.com

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