Why Breeders Charge What They Do

Countless times I've heard people looking for a puppy say phrases such as "I can't afford that" or "I'm only looking to spend XX" or "So and so only charges this much" or "I'll just breed two of my own dogs together to increase my team".

Before you go out and get that cheaper puppy or breed what's known as a Backyard Litter just to save a few bucks, take a moment to consider why so many breeders of quality charge what they do.

I've been breeding siberian huskies for over 10 years. I didn't start out breeding because I wanted to save money on buying more dogs; I started breeding because I wanted to become a dog breeder. Years before I even had dogs of my own one of my future life goals was to be a dog breeder.

Now, granted, I didn't have a written 10-year-plan to make a name for myself or to combine this line with that line with this other line and create my own recognized lineage of siberians, but I did know I wanted to breed siberian huskies and I wanted to do it the right way. I didn't just want more dogs: I wanted to produce better and better siberians. So when I got started in breeding I did my homework first. I paid the money to get good quality puppies from respected lines. I researched pedigrees. I asked questions. I learned about the lines I was breeding, about the health issues of siberians, about how to match up good qualities with bad ones. I had experienced mentors helping me make breeding decisions and helping me every step of the way for the first handful of years. And I initially went outside my own kennel to find accomplished stud dogs to breed my best females to, in order to produce higher quality puppies than I could by breeding two of my own dogs together.

In the past 10+ years I've also learned from the litters I've done. I've learned which traits are most likely to get thrown, how some traits skip generations, and which lines blend well with other lines. I've seen the differences in outcrossing versus line-breeding and I know when and why I want to do one over the other. I've learned how to raise good eaters and well-socialized, friendly puppies. I've learned to give vaccinations, deworm pups, remove dewclaws, and countless other day-to-day tasks associated with raising healthy and happy puppies.

So when you pay that higher price to buy a puppy from me, it's because it's backed by those years of experience.

I don't choose to breed young dogs in my kennel. When I plan a litter, the male and female chosen are ones who've already proven themselves in harness for multiple years. I know their personalities. I know their strengths and I know their faults. I've had their eyes tested and cleared at least once, if not two or three times. And I don't just know the traits and personalities and medical histories of the male and female being bred: I also know those of their parents, and grandparents, and often great-grandparents and great-greats. In fact, these days most of the pups I produce are second or third generation Sibersong dogs.

I only select what I feel are the best females and males in my team to be part of my planned breeding program. A lot of thought goes into pairings so that any minor faults that either parent might have are less likely to get passed down to their offspring, and their better qualities are doubled on in order to create a stronger gene pool. Even those litters that have been unplanned are scrutinized for whether or not the pairing is ideal, and the few times it has been a truly undesirable mating I've used the "morning after shot" or spayed the female to make sure there would be no resulting litter.

I don't have litters simply to make money. My goals when I breed a litter are first and foremost to improve my own team, and secondly to continue improving the quality of siberian sled dogs that are out in the world. I feel very strongly that breeding mediocre siberians produces more mediocre siberians and only hurts our breed's reputation as a sled dog.

So when you pay that higher price to buy a puppy from me, you're getting a puppy that descends from generations upon generations of proven and healthy siberians.

Raising a litter properly takes money. Vet bills, dewormer, vaccinations, extra food for the mom, the cost of feeding all those wee mouths from 3.5 weeks old until they go to new homes, the endless bags of pine shavings, and more. There are also a lot of hours of work involved with raising a healthy litter and socializing the pups.

But it goes beyond the cost of the litter. Given that I don't breed a dog until it's been well-proven in harness, that means I've raised that dog and trained that dog for a minimum of 3 years. Sometimes 4 or 5 years before I breed him or her. I've fed and trained and dewormed and vaccinated the parents for all of those years. I've entered races to test their skills, I've done an inordinate amount of training with the dogs to make sure they are worthy of being bred. Yes, that's all part of being a musher. But that training and racing experience helps me to decide which are the best dogs to breed, and helps me to learn what traits each dog has so I can make better decisions about breeding.

When you buy a puppy from me the price you pay hardly even begins to cover the years of expenses that really went into creating that puppy.

That's not to say that you can only get great pups from experienced breeders. Just as we experienced breeders can occasionally produce a pup that doesn't turn out quite as well as we planned, so can an inexperienced breeder occasionally produce a really fabulous litter without knowing what they're doing. As Jeff Goldblum's character said in Jurassic Park, "Life finds a way." However, I much prefer the quote from Hunger Games: "May the odds be ever in your favor."

Oh, and there's one more thing you're paying for when you get a puppy from me: I like to call it "Lifetime Tech Support". For the entire life of that dog, I offer unlimited advice on everything from puppy training, housebreaking, harness breaking, gear - you name it. And if you ever cannot keep that dog I will always, always take it back. Even if the dog is 13 years old. If I bred it, and you cannot keep it or no longer want it for any reason whatsoever, I will take that dog back into my home until I can either find it another good home or until the end of its natural life. Most reputable breeders I know of do the same.

Can the guy selling his $200 siberian puppy on Craigslist promise you that?

- Jaye