You’re probably in puppy fever already and getting a little pup is definitely an exciting chapter in life.
Whether you’re a first-time dog owner or a canine veteran who has lived with dogs since the beginning of time, you’ll encounter the issue of what a pup actually costs.
To some people, the cost of puppies can be quite shocking.
On top of the initial buying cost comes the monthly upkeep, vet visits, and more.
While it’s understandable that everybody is trying to save money, getting a puppy is not the best occasion to live frugally.
Poorly bred dogs can actually make up for their cheap price through behavior issues or vet bills.
However, there are ways to save money without compromising your pup’s health or your own sanity.
Also, I’ll try to play devil’s advocate and dive deeper into why puppies from a responsible breeder are priced the way they are.
At the end of this article, you’ll know the following things:
- What Factors Into A Puppy’s Cost
- What Breeders Usually Pay For Proper Breeding
- How You Can Save Money On Your Pup Ethically
- What The Monthly Or Yearly Costs Are
So let’s start with the burning question.
Cost Of Getting A Puppy
Getting a puppy from a responsible breeder can cost between $1,000-$3,000. The price of a puppy depends mainly on location, breed, and purpose.
The cost of your individual pup depends on various factors:
- Breed (is it a rare breed?)
- Purpose (working/service/breeding dog)
- Show-line quality and factors such as color
- Breeder’s program (enrichment, socialization, food, etc.)
In any case, the range mentioned above is a good starting point.
If you live in a location where a certain breed is especially rare, you have two options.
- You make use of the limited choices in your area
- You swallow the pill and travel long distance (or even fly in a pup)
The second option is equally as expensive or even more expensive but you’ll also have a wider range of breeders.
Traveling to get a dog cheaper (e.g. US to South America or Western Europe to Eastern Europe) is not recommended.
Most of the time, health testing, socialization, etc. are all not up to par and if they are, chances are that this breeder will be the most expensive one in the area too.
While traveling hundreds of miles may not be unusual, flying in a pup can seem unusual to potential buyers.
Flying in a puppy is not the best choice for most potential dog owners, but breeders with sought-after dogs are used to this.
You do have to pay the airfare and some breeders require you to pick the puppy up and fly back together in the cabin (if the pup is old enough and doesn’t hit the weight limit for flying in the cabin).
If restricted to cargo, I’m personally not such a fan of flying a pup due to the health risk as well as the behavioral side but it’s doable with responsible airlines.
You can check the AKC’s most popular dog list which is published yearly and shows you which dog breed is most registered in the US.
While this doesn’t account for dogs outside this kennel club, it’s still a good measure of how popular any given breed is.
Some breeds are rare and there’s not a lot of demand for them but others have a shortage due to relatively high demand.
Certain rare types or breeding lines can also be rare.
For example, if you live in the US and want a German Rottweiler you’re restricted to American breeders breeding with the German type or you get one from Germany.
While the first option is certainly viable, there will be a markup because the breeder had to get the female dog + a stud as a breeding partner from Germany at some point.
Getting a puppy can be expensive.
But getting a working or service dog can be mind-boggling expensive.
Well, it’s not really mind-boggling if you consider the time and knowledge it requires to train these awesome souls.
The tasks of working animals can range from herding cattle all the way to protecting livestock.
A military or police K9 is also possible (although mostly organized by your employer).
Properly trained protection dogs can be quite expensive and are often not bought as puppies but as fully trained young adults.
Fully trained protection dogs can cost between $30,000 – $80,000.
Service animals can range from seizure or diabetes alert dogs to therapy dogs.
While many rescued dogs can do the therapy dog job, it might be the preferable choice for some owners to go with a puppy in order to socialize and train them early on.
Guide dogs have their own breeding programs most of the time after which they go on to enrich a blind person’s life.
Properly trained guide dogs can cost somewhere around $50,000.
Appearance & Show Lines
If you’re planning to win show titles, there’s no way around getting a puppy that adheres to the breed standard.
In my personal opinion, the breed standard is pretty outdated or abstruse for some breeds.
That being said, the various breed standards kennel clubs have established are mostly well-thought-out and definitely worth a look before committing to a pup.
Stuff like head shape, body proportions, exact height/weight, muscle, etc. all matter in the show ring.
However, even if you don’t plan on professionally competing with your dog, many potential dog owners are looking into specific colors.
And that can actually negatively influence a potential puppy owner’s choice as there are colors you should stay away from (like Merle in some cases) and there are colors that are clearly not intended by any breed standard or breed enthusiasts.
Popular designer dog colors are cream, lilac, blue, harlequin types, and many more.
Some of these colors have never existed in the breed’s history which might suggest crossbreeds are sometimes marketed as purebreds.
If you’re getting a desirable color within a relatively rare breed type like the formentino original Cane Corso, it might not be so easy to get your hands on one.
Color or appearance, in general, is not your most important metric by far though.
Temperament, health testing, and much more are essential boxes to tick when you’re getting a puppy.
Responsible Breeding Is Expensive
If you’re buying from a responsible breeder who’s really putting effort into breeding lifelong companions for humans, you’ll have to pay accordingly.
Of course, fees and costs for certain things can vary but there’s a lot involved when breeding dogs that most potential dog owners don’t even consider.
Here’s an example of what a good breeding program can cost when you’re planning to breed your female dog.
- Health testing (hip/shoulder, x-ray, heart, blood work, etc.): $750-$1,500
- Stud fee: $500-$2,500
- Whelping box, kit, etc.: $150-$500
- Prenatal, birth, and postnatal care: $250-$1,000
- Complications during birth like c-section: $0-$1,500
- Puppy shots, deworming, collars: $200-$800
- Puppy food: $100-$500
- Enrichment for puppies: $150-$1,000
- Socialization trips: $100-$250
- New owner starter kits: $0-$250
- Show titles (trips, grooming, training lessons, etc.): $0-$2,000
Oh, and the most important thing – time: priceless.
In total, breeding a dog can cost anywhere between roughly $2,000 to $12,000.
As mentioned these costs are just a rough overview and every breeder’s cost varies.
The low end is often the bare minimum of what a breeder has to do.
You just have to do the basic health testing, pay a stud, get vet check-ups, feed, and socialize the puppies.
Yeah, some people will argue the stud fee can be as low as $100 or whatever but very few people with quality health-tested studs will agree to that.
Building your own whelping box? That’s great. Materials still cost money and sacrificing time is a trade-off.
Of course, some costs like show titles or a c-section are non-existing costs for many breeders but subtract those and a quality litter will cost you over $8,500.
Anybody still arguing that puppies are too expensive?
Let’s do the math.
- Litter of 3 at 1k-3k per pup: $3,000-$9,000
- Litter of 6: $6,000-$18,000
- Litter of 9: $9,000-$27,000
Smaller breeds have litters with a tendency towards 3 pups while large breed dogs often have larger litters with 5-9 pups (exceptions possible, of course).
That’s before taxes.
Breeding is probably possible once a year (unless the breeder uses back-to-back breeding).
If the breeder has multiple dogs, that means you can multiply the cost (but also the profit).
Granted, not all costs are recurring in the second and third year, but it’s still something to keep in mind since not every breeder is in the game for decades.
Ethical breeders retire their females at an appropriate age.
If you factor all that in, it’s possible that a breeder with small litters or low to medium prices actually loses money.
If done correctly in the economic sense, there might be a healthy profit but no dazzling six figures for almost any ethical breeder.
Breeders have to invest money, not to mention the time and knowledge it takes to raise puppies properly.
Find a breeder you love and who advances the breed and you’ll happily pay top dollar for your lifelong friend.
How Much Does A Puppy Cost To Adopt
If you’re planning to adopt, that’s wonderful!
While you might encounter a suitable adult rescue (and I definitely encourage you to look into them as well), puppies are also available from time to time.
Rescue puppies usually cost around $100-$500 to adopt.
That being said, the demand for rescue pups is incredibly high.
While they almost certainly don’t come from responsible breeders and thus may come with potential health issues, most people who are set on rescuing love the opportunity to get a little one.
Some rescues are on the cheaper side with $50-$150 but all rescues know that pups are quite popular.
Rescue organizations use this opportunity and often price pups higher than adult dogs.
Be aware that every rescue runs on these adoption fees as well as donations.
While this is a great way to save money, I’m always worried when people approach me to inquire about puppies or dogs in general for $50 or whatnot.
If you can’t afford more right now, it’s best to get a dog at another point in life because the care, food, and vet bills stack up pretty quickly.
Cheap and delicious homemade treats only get you so far when it comes to saving.
First Year Puppy Expenses
In the first year, your pup will cost you the most money, apart from what you’re initially spending.
Here’s a list of first-year puppy costs:
- Vet check-ups and shots: $250
- Collars, Leashes, Treats, etc.: $100
- Toys: $100
- Grooming supplies: $50
- Crate: $50
- Dog bed: $150
So in total, a puppy will cost you around $700 in the first year.
That’s without any complications, replacements, invisible costs, and so on.
An initial vet visit and getting your pup’s shot are essential.
Count yourself lucky if no other vet visits are required.
Depending on the breed, you’ll need multiple collars or harnesses, but in any case, you’ll need plenty of treats and maybe a long leash for training.
While the expense for toys may seem high, that includes puzzle games, snuffle mats, and other enrichment toys.
Don’t skimp on toys as the different textures, sounds, etc. also help with teething as well as overall socialization.
A good orthopedic and durable dog bed will be worth its weight in gold.
That’s just the first year though.
Actually, I have an article on the lifetime cost of a large-breed dog and it’ll probably shock you how much we spend on our canines over a whole lifetime.
The initial buying cost to get a puppy pales in comparison.
From puppy to senior dog at just 10 years, my female 100-pound Rottweiler will cost me around $40,000.
Don’t believe me? Go read the article. It’s worth every penny to me though.Disclaimer: This blog post does not substitute veterinary attention and does not intend to do so. I am not a veterinarian or pet nutritionist. If your dog shows any sign of illness, call your vet.