Dog lovers rejoice! It appears the puppy market is beginning to settle after prices skyrocketed during the COVID-19 pandemic.
At the height of COVID-19 lockdowns, prices for pups ranged between $4,500 to a whopping $15,000, with the average going price for some small fluffy breeds hovering around $6,000. Before the outbreak of COVID-19, these same puppies could be purchased for as low as $900, with the average price being around $2,000.
While the drop in prices is good news for people wanting to welcome a four-legged friend into their home, there are additional factors to be aware of. New challenges are also on the rise for breeders and buyers alike to maintain ethical selling processes.
According to the president of the Australian Association of Pet Dog Breeders, Tracee Rushton, puppy prices peaked during the COVID-19 pandemic, but are now descending as life returns to a new normal.
“Prices will come back down, possibly not down as low as what they were prior to COVID-19, and they’ll balance out at a price that families are prepared to pay for the pups,” she tells upstart.
As COVID-19 lockdowns sparked sequences of panic buying and sanctioned more time at home which people could use to raise a pup, demand for dogs exploded, catching unsuspecting breeders out with short supply.
“There’s nothing quite like a bit of panic and unsureness about our future to increase prices on desirable products, and I think that’s what happened with the puppies themselves,” she says.
As a breeder of Toy Poodles and Great Danes, Rushton is often asked how breeders can justify asking so much for a puppy.
“The price of the puppy has to cover the costs of breeding that pup,” she says.
This means setting a price that will ensure the breeder at the very least breaks even when considering other factors that continue to fluctuate.
Some expenses involved in breeding are obvious, like providing premium food and vet work. However, there is a long list of unseen fees that need to be compensated before a breeder can even think about making a profit.
According to Rushton, these payments could comprise any combination of registration and association fees, costs to build and maintain kennels and whelping facilities, annual audits of compliance obligations, expenses associated with showing. Then there are the pre-existing health checks, transport charges, costs to raise and prepare mum and dad, and advertising fees. This is also without considering the labour of providing care and exercising multiple dogs daily.
“It’s surprising when you do the figures, all of that does add up,” she says.
Another issue is that the value of a puppy can be inflated by the impact of scammers and what Rushton and the industry have penned as ‘puppy flippers’.
“We call them flippers because they purchase any cheap or reasonably priced puppies to resell almost immediately for double the price.”
This means that if registered breeders don’t advertise and sell their puppies at the current market price, they run the risk of having their puppies flipped and losing track of them across different locations.
While instances of puppy flipping are saddening for breeders, buyers also lose out through the transaction as the eventual owner’s buyer guarantees become invalid. This also applies to purchases from unregistered breeders, according to Saintsolider Kennel owner Paul Gibilisco.
“They’re not doing any of that [compliance obligation] stuff so they don’t have those costs to outlay, and they could potentially be selling their pups a little bit cheaper,” he tells upstart.
Consequently, these examples of illegal activity mean that expectations of puppy packs, which include a bed, food and other accessories, six weeks of free pet insurance, breeder support and return policies typically provided with the purchase of a new puppy, cannot be followed through by the original breeder.
As a breeder of American Staffordshire Terriers with 10 years of experience, Gibilisco has seen the puppy market shift as unregistered backyard breeders have started to realise there is money to be made in selling puppies.
“There are a lot of backyard breeders out there breeding for the sake of making money,” he says.
However, when breeding with the intent to create the correct type, temperament and body structure, Gibilisco believes honourable breeders do it for the passion of improving the breed and not for the interest of extra cash.
So, if you’re researching or shopping around for anything that ends in oodle, do not despair or hurry into things. Rushton believes puppies will never get to a stage where they become unaffordable for the average person. At the end of the day, it’s the consumers that regulate the price.
“Ultimately [the] market is controlled by how much someone is willing to pay for a dog.”
Article: Emily Patterson is a third-year Bachelor of Media and Communication (Sports Journalism) student at La Trobe University. You can follow her on Twitter @emrosepatterson
Photo: Puppy Dog Staffordshire Bullterrier by InspiredImages available HERE and used under a Creative Commons Attribution. The image has not been modified.