The Cost of a Litter

THE COST OF A LITTER

 

There have been questions over the years about why my puppies cost more than "the ones in the paper." When you buy from a responsible reputable breeder, this is what is involved.

The average pet owner, has no idea just how much time and expense a reputable breeder spends per litter.   The following is an idea of the expenses involved in planning, breeding, and caring for a litter until they go to new homes, from a breeder such as I.

Obviously the first step for a reputable responsible breeder is to have a good quality bitch.   Most good quality bitches do not come cheap!  By good quality, I mean that the bitch is from a known heritage (registered and pedigreed with the majority of the pedigree being champions and/or performance-titled and health-tested ancestors), has no disqualifying faults, is temperamentally stable and is healthy.  This bitch should be able to finish the requirements of a championship herself, should be able to pass a Temperament Test, and must be health tested. To learn about their conformational strengths and weaknesses, their temperaments, their longevity and causes of death and their overall health, you need a breeder that can give you years of experience about the ancestry of your dog..

Just for informational purposes, a championship could cost anywhere from $500 (owner handled in only 4 or 5 shows) to, well over thousands of dollars!  It can take even a good quality bitch a while to finish a conformation championship title in tough competition and  in certain areas, you may need a professional handler, and cost could rise  over $5000 or more.  A basic obedience title (Companion Dog) would probably include the cost of obedience classes, plus the cost of entries.  A CD could be earned in as little as 3 shows or as much as 3 or 4 years of showing.  Agility can cost thousands depending on how far you want to take your titles, as there are many to be gotten, too numerous to mention. . The same goes for field and tracking titles. Since most of these competitions are never in your back yard you must consider the price of gas these days. Traveling and gear are the biggest expense for most titles.

The point here is that it costs money to title dogs.  There are people that don't feel that conformation showing is important and they feel they don't care if the parents of their puppy were shown.  The fact of the matter is that conformation shows are supposed to be about proving that the dog conforms to the standard for the breed, that the dog is built properly to be able to do the job it was originally intended to do.  For some reason, many people don't seem to see the connection between shows and their desire for a nice pet.  A dog that is built properly with the proper angles and the prescribed build ideally should have a better chance at good health.  Good health of the joints and bones, proper room for the organs, the capability to be able to jump and run, paws and legs and joints that can absorb shock properly, etc.  Good health starts with good conformation! Not to mention that if no one bothered with how the Basset Hound looked or any other breed for that matter, it wouldn't be long before we would no longer recognize the breeds we have come to expect.

Testing temperaments also translates to the pet owner.  I think that everyone wants a stable pet that they can count on not to harm their family and friends.  No one wants a dog, that is afraid of its own shadow, spooked by every moving thing or noise and worse biting when felt threatened. Maybe the pet owner is interested in having a dog they can do performance sports with. Titles on the parents may indicate a hereditary link of these kinds of traits.   Some people may be interested in obedience, field, tracking, agility, or Rally, if the parents and ancestors have these titles, it may be an indication that the puppies will have that aptitude.  Regardless of the interest of the average pet owner, titles on the parents may be indicative of the kind of temperament you can expect in your pet puppy.

Health testing is very important.  In our breed eye screening for inherited glaucoma disease is essential. Blood panels are done on the dogs.  Thrombopathy and Von Willebrand's Disease are a serious bleeding disorder. Bitches should also have a thorough vet check prior to breeding and a brucellosis test is needed for sires and dams. A culture/sensitivity vaginal test is performed before breeding. Several progesterone tests are done to determine the optimal breeding time, fecal testing.  As you can see, it is very easy to spend $$$$$ on health testing prior to breeding.

The responsible breeder spends lots of time and money researching  dogs to complement their breeding program.  The breeder is attending shows ($) or simply traveling to see these dogs, is staying current with the breed magazines ($), is attending seminars ($), is maintaining memberships in breed clubs to keep abreast of important breed news ($), is calling other breeders nationwide in the pursuit of more information ($), is purchasing books on canine genetics and breed specific books ($), they are donating time and money to health research and rescue efforts ($).   All of these things also go into the making of a great puppy.

Finding a good stud dog is another issue. They will have to pay a stud fee ranging anywhere from $800 to $2500. Hopefully this stud will have the same degree of health testing completed, will also be a conformation champion and   from healthy, beautiful, long-lived ancestors.  This stud dog will probably not be in the breeder's area and flights may be necessary to get the bitch to the stud dog and back.  This will likely add another $600 minimum to the costs.  Not to mention that the breeder may lose a couple of days of work getting the bitch to the airport and picking her up again.   Flights may not be necessary depending on the distance involved but it's likely that at the very least, a long drive (gas $) will be necessary, and a hotel bill for about 5 days while staying near the stud dog.  If Semen is being shipped, either frozen or chilled , some breeders prefer this new way of breeding to save wear and tear on shipping the bitch, you will need the aide of a reproductive specialists doing procedures like transcervical implants or artificial insemination.
 
The breeder is probably going to find it necessary to do a bit of advertising ($) to let people know there are puppies expected.  The national breed or all-breed magazines are expensive to advertise in.  Other ways is through a web site that is very costly to set up and run.

The breeder is also going to need to build (or purchase) a whelping box.  While this box may last them for many years, it will cost some upkeep over time in re-painting and refurbishing as needed.  The breeder will be amassing towels, blankets, carpet and newspapers for the whelping box.

Other supplies that may need to be purchased include:  garbage bags (at least hundreds),  puppy dishes, puppy toys, syringes, nursing kits and formula. Lots of disinfectant and bleach, and Clorox wipes, mops, sponges, heat lamps, heating pads, hot water bottles, ex-pen's, a puppy scale, puppy food, worming medication,  laundry detergent, paper towels (lots and lots!), potty pads, blankets etc. While some of these supplies will be used over and over again, some will need to be purchased fresh for each litter.  Either way, there are supply costs.

While waiting the delivery of the pups, the breeder is getting their contracts and puppy kits in order.  Puppy kits for the new owners may include binders of info and pictures, copies of health info, food samples, a toy, etc.  The breeder is making and returning long distance phone calls ($) to the potential owners keeping them up to date on what is happening.  They are spending their spare time meeting with and screening potential owners to find the best homes for their puppies. Hours with prospective buyers coming to see the pups. Hours on the Internet doing pictures, and answering questions from potential buyers. Trying to keep the house and family in order, Not only money but time patience and perseverance are needed here.

The bitch requires extra food in the last half of her pregnancy.  Her food requirement pretty much doubles in the end stages of pregnancy.  Many breeders also switch the bitch to a puppy formula for the extra nourishment.  Extra food means extra dollars.  Puppy food often costs more than adult formulations.  Once the puppies arrive, her food requirements will possibly triple whilst nursing her litter.

The actual delivery of puppies may go relatively smoothly with little or no expense or it literally could be a nightmare of emergency trips to the vet with a possible costly
c-section needed in the middle of a Sunday night.  Either way, the breeder must be prepared.  They must always remember that the delivery of the puppies might possibly cost $2000 or more.  The miracle of birth is not always an easy or inexpensive one.  Puppies get stuck, uterine inertia sets in, exhaustion happens, bitches lose strength, puppies come twisted, or 2 at a time.  Many bitches need Oxytocin administered to get the delivery going, some need x-rays or ultrasounds,  some bitches die.  Many will require antibiotics possibly after intervention during whelping. At the very least, many breeders do take their bitch to the vet for a check-up directly after whelping.  You can't cut corners when it comes to the care of your bitch.

After all the money that the breeder has already paid out to get to this point, they may only have 1 or 2 puppies or worse end up with all dead puppies, and or no puppies and pyometra.  Now you have hardly anything to help cover expenses.  On the other hand lots of puppies will mean more expenses.

Regardless of how many puppies there are, there are more expenses ahead. A large litter may require supplemental feeding. The time involved is substantial on the breeder's part.  The breeder will probably suffer more lost time from work at this point or have to use up vacation hours.

The real cost to the breeder, though, often at this time is in sleep deprivation!  Many breeders find it necessary to camp out 24/7 to keep an eye on puppies, sleeping next to the whelping box for the first couple of weeks.  From personal experience, it is exhausting! Waking every time you hear a squeak, making sure mom doesn't lay on babies.  Oh yes, this is a big problem with Bassets.

Hopefully the bitch is not suffering from any problems such as mastitis, eclampsia or endometritis, requiring veterinary care and extra attention from the breeder for both the bitch and the puppies.  Again, more costly possibilities!

Within a couple of weeks of birth, the breeder will need to register the litter with the AKC.

The breeder will usually start worming pups within a couple of weeks of birth.
The puppies will be ready to be weaned around 3 weeks of age or so, which means they will soon start eating the breeder out of house and home!  And the clean-up is extensive for weeks.

Hopefully all is going well with the puppies and they are developing normally and need no vet care or medication at this time.  But it's always a possibility.

The puppies are going to require their first shots at 6 or 8 weeks and a vet check on each puppy $$$.

Pet puppies may be going to new homes by 8 or 9 weeks .  Hopefully there are responsible homes lined up for each puppy.  But often times there is not, so puppy care, feeding and expense goes on for a couple or a few puppies.  More advertising ($) may be in order.  The next set of shots ($) is due at 10 to 12 weeks also.  Phone calls and emails are being exchanged as the new owners are offered help and advice through out the dogs life.

Then there are the hopefuls that, with Bassets, have to hang around for at least 4 months before the quality for the show ring can be determined.  And even at that age you are taking a chance. So as the puppies get older the expenses keep mounting. The time and effort into training them.  If for conformation they have to be socialized and trained to walk on a lead and stack in a show pose……and hold still! All this takes time and patience from the breeder.

In my conversations with people that are interested in breeding, I advise that at the very least they are likely going to need approximately $5,000 set aside to cover expenses, both expected and unexpected.  Depending on circumstance, that may be low or it may be high but in my experience it is average.  That $5,000 figure does not include costs associated with achieving titles.

And then there is the emotional expense of taking that puppy to the limits in training and socializing the love and hopefulness for that big new winner, nurturing and caring for months only to find out as it reaches maturity it is not all you had hoped for, and undesirable traits emerge.  There is the emotional cost that you can't put a price on as you hand you beloved show prospect over to a pet home after months of pain staking care,  to make room for the next hopeful.  This life is a roller coaster, and only for the strong at heart.

Breeders that are planning, producing and raising litters properly with due care and diligence are not likely to be making any profit doing so.  Even when the average pet prices are reaching in the neighborhood of $900 to $1500 these days.

Sure, you can pay prices like these and not receive a puppy that has had all of the care and advantages listed above. Do your homework!! The important thing is to ensure that anyone you decide to purchase from IS doing these things.  These kinds of prices should buy the advantages above and should also give you a lasting relationship with the breeder.  The price you pay should provide you with not only a history of your puppy but a future as well.  It should provide you with a lifetime of advice and help with your puppy.

A true hobby breeder that cares about the breed and does not cut corners is not breeding for money.

In conclusion, if none of this is important to you than go ahead and buy that “cheap” pet from the back yard breeder or puppy mill .  Your initial expense will be low but it is going to cost you in the end.

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