I’ve been a professional pet dog breeder for enough years now to realize one thing. If you are to do right by the public and your dogs, then it costs a lot to produce a puppy and accordingly a lot to buy a puppy.
Our price is cut to the bone. I have been able to do this because we are established (hubby and I are both 55 now) and it is our passion; plus the kids have left home.
But this is no way to establish a professional pet dog breeding sector for the Australian dog-loving public.
Dogs are a huge part of Australian life. In Australia, 39% of households have a pet dog they call their family member. There are 19 dogs for every 100 people. That’s 4.2 million dogs in Australia, needing 420,000 pups to bred per year to meet this demand.
Most pure breeds are coming from hobbyists (the show breeders – ANKC), puppy farmers and backyard breeders. These breeders do not breed for your family pet with regard to high health and temperament. They do not have the breeding programs and genetic diversity to do this. They do not rehome their mums by four years of age and they don’t invest in importing new genetics from the USA. And welfare is a whole ‘nother topic again.
Currently Dachshund Australia pretty much stands alone as a professional purebred specialist pet breeding establishment. And that’s lonely.
This article outlines the cost of breeding the canine family member for health, temperament, good looks and high welfare. Only when these costs are reflected in the price of a puppy can Australia see the development of a professional pet dog breeding sector.
Comparison to boarding
To put the cost thing into some perspective, I’d ask you to consider boarding kennel fees. It currently costs around $30 per night to board an adult dog; some cost a bit less and some a lot more.
I think it fair to say boarding kennels are pricing competitively, or else they would go out of business.
We can use this figure to cost the boarding component of dog breeding. Of course breeders have many more costs again, and these are canvassed below.
We can use the boarding kennels comparison by calculating the number of boarding nights on a per-puppy basis.
Puppy is here for a minimum of 8 weeks, so $1680 for puppy. Next we add in the boarding of the mum and dad that produced puppy.
Dachshund mum’s average 3.5 pups per year, calculated on the basis that the mum has no pups for the first 15 months and then is retired at four years of age.
So 3.5 pups share a mum-boarding factor of 365 days, which equals 104 days which is $3,128 per puppy.
Lastly there is the dad-boarding factor. At a responsible breeding ratio of 30% males to 70% females, each puppy is allocated 0.06 x 365 days for the dad. That equates to $657 per puppy.
The boarding component of breeding one puppy comes to a grand total of $5,465.
Costs in addition to boarding
The boarding analogy of breeding doesn’t take in the whole cost picture of breeding.
A boarding kennels is not responsible for the medical bills of any of the dogs in its charge.
At anytime we have 10 junior dogs growing (not productive – so we can retire mums at 4 years or younger), 10 males and 20 productive bitches and 10 males, which means we hope for 125 pups per year (average of 0.5 pups per month per productive mum).
Our vet bills average $24,000 per annum. This is the global figure of running the business with all dogs receiving the veterinary care they need. This comprises the routine puppy costs of health checks, vaccinations (we give two, one at 6 weeks, one at 8 weeks) and microchipping, dental, the occasional cesarean, health checks of all dogs, their vaccinations and so on. This cost does not take into account all the medications we purchase for worming, flea treatment, drugs and so on.
But staying with the vet bill alone, this averages to $228 per puppy.
This brings the running total of producing one puppy to $5693.
Other factors not included
The nature of breeding is 24/7 in a labour intensive way that is not encountered in boarding kennels.
We do not leave the dogs unattended and whelping involves being on watch and then in attendance at all hours. The whelping process involves hours of skilled labour. The newly whelped mum and bubs require intensive input for the first few days. If pups aren’t suckling well, two hourly supplementary feeds commence day and night.
When it’s time for solids for puppies (at 3 weeks) more work begins. Then at 5 weeks we must start taking mum away for social breaks to assist the weaning process. There are large amounts of bedding needing daily washing.
Medication of pups and mums and all the dogs is a regular work activity. We follow tight schedules and there is seldom one day that is not requiring medication for this or that. Then we have our regular nail clipping and grooming and bathing of all dogs, plus daily social breaks and enrichment. We also have the husbandry management areas, of who is due to be mated with whom, ultra sounding mums and so forth.
On any one day, we have several different food rations going out. Expectant mums are on a higher nutrition plane, nursing mums are on two feeds a day. Nursing puppies post three weeks have changing meals daily in accordance with the development. Teenage dogs (which comprise one third of the dogs) need extra food and are on puppy food until at least one. Then there are usually a couple of dogs that are too fat or too thin … they must be fed on their own with an appropriately adjusted ration.
Further, to preserve the welfare of our breeding mums we retire them at four so they have a great chance of us finding them a loving pet home. If a bitch is a particularly fertile mum, she is moved on like all the others and we simply retain one of her pups for breeding into the future.
We employ expert staff, including myself as an agricultural scientist and my hubby David with a science bachelor degree working full time.
Everyday we have staff here in addition to David and/or myself. The team includes me, David, Jen, Deb, Teressa, and Louisa, plus associates.
Wages for this come to $170,000 per year.
This adds another $1,619 per puppy.
Running total cost per puppy: $7,312
World leading purpose built facilities
At Dachshund Australia we have invested $400,000 in building a facility that ensures the highest standards of welfare for puppies and adults.
This includes dedicated quarantine areas for any dogs entering the property, a hospital room complete with the latest technology so we have immediate access to vet resources, runs and accommodation that exceed the newly revamped Victorian Code of Practise – the strictest code in existence.
We have enrichment activities, including a 4 acre play paddock complete with a dam for our adults to run and swim.
We are continually upgrading and improving our facilities. Most recently we have concreted the puppy runs to ensure they are not in contact with the soil (grassed runs for pups look nice, but reality is there are soil born pathogens such as coccidia that can give pup tummy upset). And in preparation for next summer we are installing fire prevention strategies, including a sprinkler system across the length of the 36m brick doggery.
The $400,000 investment represents an interest bill of $24,000 a year.
That adds another $228 per puppy.
Running total cost per puppy: $7,540
Compliance costs as a registered dog breeder
We have to re-register every dog every year in Victoria (in NSW its once for life). That’s another $1300 per annum.
In addition, the cost of our registration has just increase from $140 per annum to $5,000.
This adds an additional $60 per puppy.
Grand total cost per puppy: $7,600
So why are puppies so cheap?
If my breakdown of the costs of producing a puppy is valid (and I have the paperwork to back it up), then the obvious question arises as to why are puppies so cheap?
The answer to this strikes at the core of pet dog breeding in Australia. Producing ‘man’s best friend’ has been wholly unprofessional. Evidence of this is all about.
Even some of the best looking pet shops source puppies from people wandering in off the street with pups from unplanned matings of who-knows-what dogs. I know where I live I was curious to see what a flash new enormous pet shop would pay for puppies. They told me ‘$250’. I said that was a crazy price…how can a puppy be produced for that with all the animal welfare factors and so on and so forth? I was told they don’t source from professional breeders, but rather the pups come ‘from someone’s bitch at the dairy wandering over to a farm down the road’. Good grief! And quite possibly mother/son, father/daughter, sister/brother matings. Who knows? And then they quadruple that price for the unsuspecting public.
Then there’s the show breeders who are hobbyists and sell the pups they don’t want to show. This is not doing the best by your new family member. It might cover the costs of their hobby, as it’s possibly cash in hand, but it is not taking into account best breeding practice. These pups have been bred to meet show ring requirements that are exacting and cosmetic only. It is a fact of nature that in selecting for one characteristic you trade off another. While breeding emphasis is on minute appearance details, it comes at the expense of breeding characteristics wanted in the family pet – great temperament and health. You cannot breed for x,y,z without trading of a,b,c; the laws of genetics. Worse, show breeders practice inbreeding (‘line breeding’) to fix the exacting requirements of the show judges.
Next there is the underground component of the industry. Which is rife. Dog breeders running disgusting cruel set ups are going under the radar. One awful establishment nearby was brought to my attention. I was told it was filthy, with poor dogs in cages and putrefying food about. And this was a purebred dog breeder.
Pay the right price to the right people
So where from here?
The answer is simple.
If Australians are ever to get the new family member they deserve and breeding dogs are to have the life they deserve, then demand to see how and where they are bred and raised.
In our case, our motto is ‘Anyone can call here unannounced at any time of any day or night and we are inspection-ready’.
The only way we will get better dog welfare and healthier pets is to fairly reward those who are transparently doing the right thing.