smart spending

The price of puppies for sale

Pet stores

Puppies sell in pet stores for $800 on average, with high-demand breeds costing more. Those fees include puppy food samples and discounts on other purchases.

Pet store puppies come from commercial breeding operations. Bred in volume, following government regulations for minimum food, shelter, cage size and care, these puppies sell for $50 to $200 to brokers who sell to pet stores. "Pet stores then turn around and sell these puppies for an extraordinary profit," says Cori A. Menkin, ASPCA senior director of legislative initiatives. "We have seen puppies for sale in pet stores for as much as $2,500."

Menkin adds that commercially bred puppies often suffer medical and behavioral problems such as aggression or severe anxiety. Typically, these problems stem from:

  • Poor-quality breeding stock not screened for genetic soundness to reproduce.
  • Chronic sanitation issues when so many animals are kept in close quarters.
  • Limited exposure to normal interaction with the mother dog, littermates or caretakers.

Investigators have documented respiratory infections, parasites, serious diarrhea and other conditions, along with genetic problems with hips and knees, which can require expensive surgery or euthanasia.

Amateur breeders

Puppies bred at home by average people typically sell for $200 to $600, with perhaps a collar, a toy and some puppy food included.

These home breeders incur some of the same veterinary costs. Less likely, however, are medical clearances and stud fees, medical breeding or delivery help from veterinarians. While these pups are raised within a family and not in cages, they probably don't receive the systematic developmental work as pups from more experienced breeders.

Amateur breeders may make a profit of $1,000 to $2,500 per litter based on lower overall expenses.

Free to good home

Puppies available free from friends, family or strangers most likely come from accidental litters. The chances of good overall care and health of the parent dogs and pups are lower, based simply on a lack of dog care knowledge. There is often no way to know the health, temperament or even sometimes the breed, if the male is unknown.

You're more likely to find free pups in communities overrun with unwanted dogs, where pups taken to a shelter risk euthanasia. However, one study of shelter animals found that "most dogs relinquished to shelters initially were obtained from family or friends at no charge." Reasons for giving the dog up included behavior problems or a family move.

Clearly, it's easier to vote with your wallet when the product isn't a puppy, but what goes into breeding and raising pups during those critical first eight to ten weeks influences the pup's relative "quality."

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