It started a few months ago, when we were visiting the local nursing home with our dogs and a puppy (the nursing home is a great place to socialize the young pups– it is safe and clean, and our dogs are the only visiting dogs).
One of the nurses asked my mom if she knew how young a girl dog could have puppies. My mom shrugged and told her that a female dog *could* have puppies as early as 9 weeks after her first heat cycle… why?
Wellll…. nurse hadn’t “gotten around” to spaying her six month old Chihuahua. Understandable– I’m not a fan of early spays myself, but then again, my breeds don’t usually come into their first season until they are 10 to 11 months old or sometimes even 14 months.
She also had never “gotten around” to neutering her male Maltese. My mom grimaced and asked the dogs’ sizes. The nurse wanted to know what my mom meant. My mother asked for the dogs’ weights… is the male much bigger than the female??
“No,” she said, “he’s only about 15 pounds, before his haircut. And she’s a big chihuahua, almost five pounds already.”
*slams head on desk* *also your Maltese is huge*
Well, the deed was done, and my mom begged the woman to have her little dog spayed NOW. But it was too much to think any sort of responsibility would come from this, and nine weeks later, the bitch MIRACULOUSLY delivered five healthy puppies.
In a similar miraculous fashion, they all, mom included, survived to six weeks. The nurse had more questions:
“Where do I advertise them?”
“Where do YOU advertise your puppies?”
“Well, we have a website, but our puppies are typically spoken for BEFORE they are conceived… occasionally we keep a couple back for training, and there might be the odd puppy whose owners backed out, but…”
“Oh. Do you think Craigslist is a good option?”
“Noooo… Craigslist doesn’t allow breeders to list.”
“Oh, but I’m not a breeder… I’ve only had this one litter. Not like you guys.”
“Well, um, Craigslist doesn’t seem like good option.”
“Well I saw Malted Cheese on there before, and they were TWO HUNDRED DOLLARS A PIECE!”
(this is where my ears perked up… Malted Cheese??? Turns out she was saying “MaltiChis”)
My mom did her I-can’t-believe-I-am-engaged-in-this-conversation-smile.
“Well, just be really careful when finding them homes… and they have to be eight weeks old, by law, before you sell them, and be sure they get vet checked before they go to their new homes… shots… dewormings…” She and the lady had a nice chat about where to go for “cheap” health checks (PS– we don’t know). I went on playing with Janie and handing toys to the residents to throw for her.
Eventually, our visit is over and we get in the car. Before we get out of the driveway, we erupt into a cloud of anger and disbelief. Strangely, we each have a different pet peeve that surfaced in that conversation.
Mine? the term “breeder.”
Mom’s? The price of her puppies, and mostly her profit margin.
Obviously we live in a time where it is en vogue to rescue a mixed breed dog. (and the disclaimer– I love mixed breeds, I have two myself, both rescues, one was a street dog who showed up and decided to join the family, one was an owner-surrender because he is the world’s worst dog and somehow we just can’t not like him.)
I always thought the general perspective on purebred dogs went something like this: If you *must* buy a purebred dog, then get one from a responsible breeder.
Apparently that is no longer the case. More and more, I am hearing conversations such as this:
“We have a Golden Retriever. Yes, he is a purebred…. no, not from a breeder… our neighbor has two WONDERFUL DOGS and they had ONE LITTER of WONDERFUL PUPPIES. I don’t agree with supporting breeders.”
So, let’s just skip the semantics (Really, people, what do you think “breeder” means? Apparently it means more than one litter?).
At some point it became acceptable to just toss two dogs together, have a litter of puppies, and be free of all responsibility because, well, you aren’t a “breeder.”
If you take the time to carefully select a bitch and a stud, pursue all avenues of health testing, and HEAVEN FORBID have more than one litter? Well, you are nothing but a “breeder.”
I asked a friend once if he knew the hip and knee history on the parents of his limping large breed (purebred) dog. Well, no, he didn’t… because he didn’t get her from a breeder, he got her from friends of his parents’. But their dogs were perfectly healthy. They’ve been to the vet a lot of times. You know, they aren’t in it for the money, they just had a litter of puppies because their dogs are so wonderful.
Okay. My soapbox– I don’t care if you are planning on your two WONDERFUL dogs to have ONE singleton litter, and you are planning to keep Baby George for the rest of his life. You are planning to bring a life into this world. We have SO MUCH amazing testing available. You owe it to that one life (and really, as soon as you count on a small litter, you will be blessed with fifteen bouncing babies) to do everything in your power to ensure he is as absolutely healthy as he can be. I don’t care if you aren’t a “breeder.”
Sure, it costs a lot of money to get the parents tested. It might seem like the testing is going to eat up all your profit!! Well, it probably will. That isn’t the point. You aren’t in this to make money, remember?
This leads right into my mother’s biggest issue– the profit margin.
Think back to the original story of the Malted Cheese puppies. Two hundred dollars each, times 5. One thousand dollars!
Then let’s take a litter from a larger breed– say, eight hundred dollars each, times 6. FORTY-EIGHT HUNDRED DOLLARS.
Who made more money??
This is where most people stop. Obviously, the people charging $800 a puppy are making way more money. So, either the puppy shoppers get pissed because they think the “breeder” is a money-grubbing SOB (and we all know in these days, it is cardinal sin to make a profit), OR they never look for the value in either set of puppies and immediately go to purchase the cheaper pups.
But the question should be, who had the bigger profit margin?
It may not be the people who “made” $4,800.
Let’s not even look at the initial costs of raising a quality bitch up to breeding age (but briefly think of purchase price, vet care, a quality food, training/competition/somehow prove her worth, and health clearances. One time I penciled it out and came up with $25,000, assumed I was wrong, tried again, and got $28,000. I stopped trying.)
For a single litter, you must consider:
Stud fee (or hey, maybe you have your own male! Great… see above for how much THAT will cost)
Increased dietary needs during gestation and lactation
Missed work during the whelping and at least several days after… or hire a whelp-sitter…
Blankets, toys, MORE feed, supplements, etc. to raise the pups up to eight weeks
Oodles of stuff to put in their puppy care kits, food to take home
It adds up. Quickly.
In our program, vet visits drive our costs up. Our puppies see a minimum of two veterinarians before they go home. Fortunately, our local vet is 15 minutes away. The other vets? The opthamalogist and the hearing doctor are an hour and a half away. So is the cardiologist, who we recently had to employ (and a single visit to see her eats up more than one-half the cost of a puppy). The vet we know and trust for our large breed puppies? Three hours away.
Our profit margin is very, very small, and on some litters, non-existant. We do occasionally make a profit. It goes right back into the dogs, usually to entry fees.
Obviously this post is nothing more than a rant, but I wanted to get it out there. Feel free to share and comment and discuss. Yes, well-bred puppy DOES cost more. NO, the owner is not trying to make a quick buck. Hardly.
I also understand that there are poor breeders out there who charge hundreds for their pups, but have invested very little time and effort, so it is important to remember: Cost is not directly proportional to quality.
Do your research. Lots of it.