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Thinking of Breeding Your Doodle?

One effect of the current popularity of Labradoodles and Goldendoodles is that there is a whole group of people who want to have a litter or two  in order to supplement their income.  Another group of folks have such a great dog they want to have ‘just one litter’ in order to keep a pup for themselves or a family member.  Yet another group want their children to experience the miracle of birth, so plan just one litter to provide that for their children.

If you have ever considered breeding dogs, for any reason, you may want to look carefully before you leap.  The financial commitments of breeding are something you will want to become familiar with before accepting.  Those commitments SHOULD be the same whether you are planning on breeding just one litter, or planning on breeding for the long term.  The puppies you produce in just one litter are just as important to the families that adopt them as the puppies that are produce in a 10th or a 50th litter.  The puppies from 'just one litter' should be bred with the same care as any 'professional' would give the effort.

This list of costs is not nearly complete, but may give you an idea of the actual bottom line for whelping a litter, after all is said and done.  The assumption here is that you are planning on approaching this in a responsible way, by testing your breeding stock, and offering support to the owners of the puppies even after the puppies leave your hands.  Those are the hallmarks of a respectable, responsible breeder.  If breeding responsibly is not your intent, then nothing I say will dissuade you, as you share the morals of the bane of the dog world, the puppy mill.  In that case,  you probably WILL make a little money, at the expense of puppies lives, and the lives of those that love them.

Costs Prior to Delivery:

Health testing costs to screen for genetic disorders will vary depending on whether you breed Labradoodles or Goldendoodles.  This list is the bare minimum of health tests, as other tests that merit being done are not included.  Good breeders often also do blood work to check for thyroid function and also and cardiac ultrasounds, for example.  But let's start with the basics.

Hip tests: PennHIP $300-600 depending on region of the country OFA, Hip and elbows $150-300 depending on region

CERF (eye exam by a certified veterinary opthamologist) $50-200 depending on region

PRA $165-195

von Willebrand’s $150

Brucellosis test, if natural breeding $75

Progesterone tests if AI $300

Shipping of semen if AI $300

Stud fee: Usually the price of one pup. Let’s be generous and say you will get $1000 per pup, for F1 pups.  Higher generations sell for more, and the stud costs are much higher ($2000-$3000).  Even if you plan on selling the pups for much less, that is what the stud fee will run.  If you don’t have an established name, you may HAVE to charge considerably less that the going rate per pup, despite the high stud fee.  

Materials and Supplies:  Whelping box, heat pads, heat lamps, scissors, thermometer, towels, baby scale, tweezers, hemostats, alcohol pads, baby suction bulb.  
Build your own whelping box, $30

So total ranges from $2500-$3200 before your girl has even delivered
her pups.

Expected Costs After Delivery

Milk replacement formula, baby bottles, tubes for tube feeding, sterilizing solution, nail clippers       $50

Puppy worm medication (2,4,6,& 8 weeks), puppy diarrhea medicine: $50

Food: a pregnant female needs about 4X what she normally eats, and a lactating female will also need extra rations.  Growing puppies are also chow hounds. For a good quality kibble, probably $400 will be spent on mom and pups from the time mom gets pregnant to the time pups go to new homes

Vaccinations (2 sets before pups go home) $160-300

Cost of Hot Water, Electricity and Soap to do 2-3 loads of puppy/dog laundry every day for 8 weeks: Depending on region, $0.50 a load, $60

Electricity to keep pups warm:$50-200

Time off work to monitor mom and pups for first 5 days (minimum).:Different for everyone, but likely to be at least $1000

Chewing supplies:  Either $300 to repair the walls the pups will chew, or $50 in dog toys!

Cleaning supplies: Puppies are pooping machines.  Do you really want to use your kitchen mop and bucket?  Probably not.  $30 for soap,bleach and supplies.

Advertising to sell pups????

So total at least $1700 by the time the pups go home.  And one more thing. Many responsible breeders try to make sure the pups they breed do not then produce pups that end up in shelters by having the pups they breed
spayed and neutered before they are sold.  That is $150-250 PER PUP.  

Doing the Math:

8 pups in an average litter, but neonatal deaths average 25%, so that’s 6 pups to sell. These deaths often occur many weeks after delivery, After a fair bit of cash has already been invested in feeding and worming and vaccinating them. Keeping one for yourself or a family member? That’s one you can’t sell.  So count on 5 pups to sell, projected raw income $5000.  Wow, that sounds good!  Add up all the expenses listed above(except the desexing, which not everyone does), and total profit, if all goes well, roughly $800.  This does not account for all the time you spend talking with potential puppy buyers (you will talk with at least 10 people for every one that actually buys a pup), all the time spent cleaning, weighing, monitoring, handling and socializing the puppies.  This averages at least 4 hours of work every day for 8 weeks.  And that is if all goes well.  But look again:

Unexpected Costs

Emergency C-section: $1200
Emergency trip for eclampsia: $150 (often fatal if not caught early)
Treatment for mastitis $175
Treatment for pyometra (uterine infection) $250, and hopefully she survives....pyometra is often fatal.
Vet visit for sick puppies :$150-$600
Vet visit for mom dog running a fever, having diarrhea, etc $200

These costs are unexpected, in that you cannot schedule them in, but they are not uncommon.  Anyone who has bred for any period of time at all will tell you that one or more of these events happens in AT LEAST 50% of litters.  And sometimes more than one event in the same litter.  Murphy’s Law is alive and well in the whelping world.  So let’s be optimistic and say you have $300 in unexpected costs.  Profit is down to $500.

Again, being optimistic, let’s say you got the full $1000 for each of the 5 pups, AND they all went home EXACTLY at 8 weeks, so you don’t have any extra food or vaccination costs for pups hanging around more than 8 weeks .  And that IS optimistic.  After the pups go home you get a call from an owner, or 2, who say their pup came home with ear mites, or worms, or coccidia, or giardia.  A responsible breeder will cover those costs.  That’s a few hundred bucks.  Then a year later an owner calls, their pup has been diagnosed with severe hip dysplasia, or cataracts. Yep, it pops up despite our best efforts at choosing healthy parents.  A responsible breeder will refund the purchase price or have some other reimbursement policy for genetic disorders.  Now you are most sincerely in the hole.  Or another person calls and they are being transferred out of the country and can’t keep the dog.  Will you take it
back or let them surrender it to a shelter?

Sure, it is possible to skimp and shave costs.  Use a cheap kibble, don’t take time off work and if mom squishes a pup, so be it. Don’t test your breeding stock and don’t offer a warranty.  But doing that is what gives the term ‘backyard breeder’ such a bad connotation.  Do it for more than one litter and that makes you a puppy mill.

And for a dose of reality from someone, Katie Olds, who is NOT a breeder, here is a post from a doodle discussion board. I reprint it here with her permission.  It was written by her on a discussion board in response to someone posting that they were thinking about breeding their girl 'just once'.

Ignoring the money and testing and all that -- pups are HARD.

For one they smell like in a LITERAL sense. Puppies make your entire house smell. Like poop. EVERYTHING. I recently raised a litter of 7 puppies when their mom was dumped on rescue. It was a wonderful experience I never want to ever have again. I love puppies. I love dogs.

I did not love 8 weeks of destruction and smell inside my home. Besides the smell you literally spend every moment worrying. Will they get sick? Are they all healthy? What about parvo? And then picking homes?! Forget it. Are the applicants good enough? Are they going to follow through? Will they love the puppy the way you do?

Oh and for 4 weeks the mom eats and drinks NON STOP and also has to potty just as often -- if you aren't home she's still gotta go.

Honestly I'm happy to share my experience with you if you'd like. I raised 7 puppies in my home and while I love dogs and can manage 10-13 at a time, raising puppies was a whole different ball game I don't want to ever play again!

In addition to the financial costs, it is important to consider the emotional impact breeding can have on you and your family.  Check
out "Adventures of a Doodle Breeder"
 for that discussion.

Author: Helene Roussi