What should I expect to pay for a puppy?

This is one of the most important questions for puppy buyers when they're looking for a dog, and that's completely understandable. So when you’re working with a responsible breeder it’s important to understand what goes into determining the price of a puppy as well as what variations you can expect from breeder to breeder and region to region. 

First, if you’re looking for a purebred puppy that’s well-bred then by definition you’re looking for a “show bred” dog whose parents have had a significant investment of time and money by the breeder. A quality purebred puppy will be bred with the intent of producing the best possible representative of the breed, that will look and act like the breed as described in the official Breed Standard. In other words, you’re looking for a puppy that will grow up to look and act like a Ridgeback. This takes LOTS of hard work and dedication on the part of the breeder. 

When you're looking to add a dog to your home, it seems counterintuitive that the least expensive puppy you can find is NOT a good deal until you think about what goes into a responsible breeding: 

  • Prospective breeding stock must have specific health clearances which includes extensive x-rays, blood and genetic testing for certain disorders, and often additional testing for heriditary conditions.  Puppies from parents that are screened for inheritable health issues are much less likely to develop conditions that result in expensive vet bills down the road. 
  • The prospective parents should be AKC conformation champions (or have a good reason for not having worked towards a title). Achieving a Champion title means multiple judges at multiple dog shows have assessed the dog and deemed it an excellent representation of the breed standard. 
  • In order to improve the quality of our lines, responsible breeders may use stud dogs with complimentary pedigrees that are outside our kennels. Depending on the success and track record of the prospective sire, stud fees can vary but a top-winning nationally ranked stud dog proven to produce quality puppies will command a significant fee. 
  • Prior to a breeding, it’s common for the prospective mother of the litter to have a pre-breeding health check. This includes a wellness exam, and often additional testing for possible infection or other issues that could affect the potential breeding. 
  • While many breedings are successfully completed with the mother and father naturally, just as many breedings are completed via artificial insemination (AI) with parents from different states or countries. In AI situations, there will be costs associated with the collection, evaluation, and shipment of the stud dog’s semen. Alternately if the potential sire is unavailable, older, or deceased and the semen is already collected and frozen there are storage and shipment fees. Then on the mother's end there is hormone testing to determine the optimal breeding time and multiple breeding procedures to complete the insemination. 
  • After a breeding, many responsible breeders elect to perform an ultrasound to confirm pregnancy. Additionally, when a pregnancy is near term it may be necessary to do an X-ray before the delivery to get a better idea of the number of puppies to expect. 
  • Every breeder hopes their litters are born without complications. But unfortunately just like with humans, things don’t always go according to plan. Problems with the delivery requiring emergency caesarian sections is not uncommon, puppies may be born distressed and require veterinary care, or worst-case the breeder may lose the mother while giving birth. 
  • Once the puppies are born, the breeder will incur costs for special foods during weaning and then for puppy food while they’re growing. Puppies will have one or more visits to the vet for checkups, first shots, microchips, and health certificates. There will be items such as food and toys sent with the puppies when they go home. 

While these hard costs of a quality breeding outlined above are significant, they don’t consider the breeder’s time. Responsible breeders spend hours and days socializing our puppies, making sure their living space is clean, teaching them about different environments, and overall just loving them. We don’t usually consider this time when determining the price of the litter, but for prospective puppy buyers these efforts are some of the most important reasons they've chosen a breeder. 

When considering the cost of a puppy, it’s important to understand the “universe” of puppy pricing. Adoptions from shelters or rescue groups can range in the $100 - $500 range, and to compete with those prices you can find puppies in the classified ads or on mass breeder websites from people looking to make a quick buck for $100 - $1000. You can also find slick websites advertising large breeding farms claiming “purebred champion lines” who constantly have puppies available for $2000 - $4000 or more and you just have to provide a credit card. And then you have pricing in between. Frankly, it’s confusing for new puppy buyers who are simply looking for a well-bred, healthy family companion from a responsible breeder! 

For Rhodesian Ridgeback puppies, pricing from responsible breeders varies regionally although within an area breeders generally charge similar prices. The price of puppies in any individual litter may vary based on the factors outlined above, but in the Colorado area responsible breeders are generally charging in the $1800 - $2500 range. Pricing for ridgeless puppies may be less, and the show potential/pick puppies from a litter with a top-ranked stud dog may be more. Outside of Colorado, puppies in the higher cost of living parts of the country like NY/NJ/surrounding areas and California will likely have a higher range, and puppies from lower cost of living areas like the Midwest will likely have lower ranges. And finally, puppies from highly successful, long standing kennels may cost more than puppies from newer less established breeders. 

The bottom line is that well bred puppies aren’t inexpensive, and there are a number of variables that go into determining the price of puppies in a litter. However, when you consider the effort and cost that goes into a well-bred litter and with breeder support for the life of your puppy, puppies from a responsible breeder are one heck of a bargain!