As a hobby, show or professional dog breeder, we’re often wondering how to price my puppies right? The worst method to price each puppy of a litter is to declare a price based on what other breeders are doing. With that being said, you cannot just randomly come up with a figure and expect people to pay it without questioning you.
Finding the right price for your puppies is a way for you to lose as little money as possible, or make as much profit as possible, and keep on breeding quality healthy dogs. Pricing wrongly will result in unsold puppies and a budgeting nightmare for the following months.
A lot of breeders unfortunately discount their last puppies to the first families they see so they can get rid of them. These poor puppies end up in an unscreened household with a high chance of ending up in a shelter.
Different costs have to be taken into account when deciding on a price for the litter:
- The litter costs — fees and expenses linked to that particular litter
- Kennel costs — running expenditures throughout the year
- Magic multiplier — we detail that towards the end of the article (the secret sauce!)
Let’s dive right into it!
In order to decide the minimum price for each puppy of your litter, you have to open a spreadsheet and sum up all the costs engaged and to be engaged for this particular litter.
We’ve got some of these here below but each breeder is unique and you may have other costs to add.
Health checks and screenings of the parents
The first cost directly linked to the litter is the health testing of the parents. Depending on the breed, you may have more or less of screenings to do but overall, this is the starting point of the litter because you cannot and should never breed dogs that haven’t been medically cleared by a good vet.
For some breeders who only own the bitch, you will also have to find a quality sire that will match your dam. Stud breeders often ask for a stud fee that can be of a few hundreds all the way to several thousands of dollars.
The stud fee depends on the quality of the male and his results in various competitions or previous matings. However, some stud breeders won’t ask for money but instead, they will require the pick of the litter. Meaning, they will choose first which puppy they want to keep in the litter.
Logistics, progesterone tests and artificial insemination
Once both parents are clearly picked, it’s time to organize the actual breeding (mating, coitus, call it how you like); and this also incurs costs.
First, you’ve got to know when the bitch is ready to be mounted and there are reliable progesterone tests to alert you of when that mating window is starting. They can be done at the veterinary practice or at home (but you’ve got to know how to do it.)
Once you know your bitch is ready, you’ve got to actually set up the meeting and mating. Depending on the stud breeder and your own schedule, it can be organized at a particular spot (and incur transportation costs) or the semen can be taken and shipped to you (shipping costs), and then artificially inseminated in your bitch’s uterus (and some more costs for that.)
Logistics have to be clearly laid out in a contract between you, the bitch’s owner, and the stud’s breeder. That way, if somebody is failing to do what’s required, they can be held accountable.
Feeding of the nursing bitch and all whelps
Hopefully by now your bitch is pregnant and few weeks into her 9-week pregnancy. During these 63 days, the mother will have very different needs than usual:
- specific diet to provide nutrients and vitamins to her and the whelps
- health supplements to keep her away from deficiencies
- vet visits throughout the pregnancy (routine or emergencies)
- whelping kit to be ready to provide assistance to your bitch
- whelping box to offer the mother and the litter a safe spot
- deworming few days before delivery
This is a shortlist that gives you an idea of what expenses you should expect during her pregnancy. It is not a comprehensive list by any means.
Postnatal care and vet visits
Once your puppies are safely brought to this world by your courageous dam, you’re going to meet a few more expenses.
There can be huge differences between breeders at this point: some will pay for a dog trainer to start educating the dogs, while most breeders simply won’t.
Common postnatal expenses are those relating to the feeding and caring of the mother and each of the puppies. And these expenses proportionally increase with the number of weeks you are keeping these puppies at home (8 weeks, 12 weeks or even more?)
- whelping kit
- whelping box
- vet visits
The food and supplementation of both the mother and the litter is a big chunk of that postnatal budgeting. Coming second are the vet visits and vaccination shots you may provide them.
Unless you are very bad breeder, you will also prepare a great puppy pack for each family welcoming one of your puppies. We’ve written a big fat article listing what should be in a puppy pack so we won’t list that again here.
Puppy packs are very personal so you can put a lot of cheap but useful things or just a couple of bigger and pricier items. Either way, make sure you include these packs in your grand total.
Kennel Running Costs
When you start a kennel and run it ethically and responsibly, you will inevitably have various expenses. Some may be very occasional and should perhaps not be included in your sum of expenses, while others should absolutely be added to your grand total.
- Feeding — the #1 expense for dog breeders is the food and supplementation all year round
- Health — vaccines, health checks and home treatments (ie. worms, parasites)
- Grooming — nail clipping, coat washing, trimming and drying, at home or at the salon
- Equipment — crates, kennel runs, dog clippers, bowls, leads and collars
- Cleaning — a good kennel is a disinfected, clean and fresh kennel
- Insurance and accidents — always budget for possible health emergencies or little worries
- Dog shows — tickets to events and competitions you attend to promote your kennel
- Clubs and memberships — registrations of some dogs, litters and various club fees
- Marketing — website hosting, domain name, ads and other promotional fees
If you are breeding service or specialty dogs, there will be other costs to add to this list. For example, therapy dogs must be following a very specific training program from very early on. This is usually done through a paying, external training service.
On the other hand, accidents your dogs may have during the last year should not be passed on your puppies’ final price. Deciding what should and what shouldn’t is a matter of personal preference.
Now, sum all of these costs —both litter and kennel related— to obtain your grand total accounting for all reasonable expenses.
If you keep on adding unreasonable expenses to your grand total, you might just end up with a too high price tag for the value your dogs will bring to their owners.
This is why dog breeders must put their ideal selling price into perspective with their market.
Most dog breeders will end up selling their puppies to people in their area. The word area is vague and could mean town, state, region, country or else. It really depends on your ambition and the dogs you are working with.
You’ve got to understand the prices buyers who want similar dogs to yours are willing to pay; and the prices your competition is offering publicly, and privately.
These are not final values because we don’t actually know if the prices these show are the prices people actually paid after negotiation. However, if a breeder is easily selling all his dogs at a given price, let’s say $1,000 per puppy, there is a chance he could either make a loss (consciously or not), or perhaps could earn more if he was pricing a little higher. It’s all about finding the right pricing point.
Finally, buyers often see the price tag as a proof of quality when they go after great dogs. We’ve seen that in the American Bully community: buyers only wanted expensive dogs because they believed that was proof of top Bully bloodlines. They were obviously wrong but it also helps us understand that underpricing your dogs won’t necessarily be attractive for buyers.
Reputation, Marketing and Wow Factor
Some breeders have literally nothing special to offer besides cute puppies. Others have that special sauce that can justify exorbitant prices, or even just above the market price tags.
These dog breeders have demand. The minute a breeder has more interested buyers than he has puppies in the litter, the price instantly goes up. It’s called supply and demand and it’s valid for dogs, sneakers, cars, phones, and everything else people sell.
Building a reputation that will grow your audience of followers will give you that leverage. Too many breeders start using social medias and internet when their bitch is pregnant but this is too late. Work all year long towards building a strong following (blog, social media channels, videos, etc) so the day you announce your litter, people show their interest and start queuing up.
We’re missing one variable — the magic divider! Alright, that magic divider is not that magic. It’s the number of puppies in your litter commonly referred to as the litter size or puppy count.
Now, you can easily decide on the right price for your puppies: divide the sum of all expenses by the number of puppies; and put that price into perspective with the market and your reputation (aka supply and demand.)
So, How Much To Sell a Puppy For?
Considering the supply and demand, the breeder should sum all expenses up and divide them by the number of puppies in the litter. That is the starting price for each puppy and some alterations should be made depending on the puppy’s uniqueness, for example.
Understand that this price is what they should normally sell for so you don’t incur a loss. Now, the market may decide differently and drag your price down, or if you have built a great reputation, your price and profit can explode.
Voila, this is exactly how you should set a realistic starting price for each of your puppies in a litter.