I get this question a good bit. Not so much from prospective clients as from acquaintances I make through every day life. Folks I meet learn that I'm a breeder and so they want to know about the doodles and the dog business. Of course I'm all too happy to comply - I'll talk dogs all day if ya let me! The conversation inevitably turns to price, and I get varied reactions when I tell them the range. Some folks just say "Whew! Out of my price range", while others are left with their jaw open wide and astonished expressions. "Why so much?" they'll ask. Usually I just give a canned answer .... something about the investment in our dogs, operation expenses, etc. I don't get into too much detail, which lately has had me thinking that maybe I should. Another comment I get quite often is "Wow, y'all must be loaded!" Hmpft. Hardly. The thing most people don't understand is that there isn't much financial profit. Here's why:
Here we are at the close of June on the calendar and I'm doing the dreaded month end accounting. As always, I'm astounded at what we've spent this month. We are in the process of building the new dog facility and it literally feels like we are hemorrhaging money. Thank the Good Lord above we saved as diligently as we did - seems there's a surprise around every corner in construction. I couldn't even say what the total cost is for a couple of reasons. One, the building is yet to be completed. (I know, I know. Any day now people!) And two, frankly I'm terrified to add up the receipts. Scary stuff. I ordered 12 doggie doors for the runs yesterday to the tune of $1200. That's just one component of hundreds of details that will go into this facility when it's all said and done.
I took Raphael and Cali to the vet this week for their ProHeart injection and Rabies booster. A hundred bucks. Twelve dogs. I'll let you do the math. The vet gave me a month end summary of what I spent there in June. Pretty sure I'm putting their kids through college. And the thing is, all of our vet visits this month (minus one ear infection) were preventative care and general maintenance. No emergencies, no sick dogs, no C-sections or surgeries or X-rays, nothing out of the ordinary. Yet, that month end summary was several pages long with a very large number at the bottom.
Thelma and Louise, our two latest acquisitions were added to the program this month. There was the expense of a round trip drive to Dallas TX to get them, and then wellness checks at the vet once they got here, along with all the usual items - heartworm meds, tick and flea preventative, vaccinations, etc. Then there is the cost of the actual dogs. Folks who are not in the business may be surprised to learn that a dog with breeding rights costs FAR more than our pups placed as pets with a spay/neuter contract. It varies on exactly how much more, but on average its doubled. This is one expense of the business where there is not nor will ever be room to cut corners. Only the best will do, and while it's painful to write that check sometimes, I know it's an investment in the future of our program. Excellent quality breeding stock is mandatory for a successful program. Add to that the cost of health clearances and you have yourself quite the pricey pooch.
To take that a step further, if said pricey pooch does not qualify for breeding, well now you are out your initial investment, your time, the cost of housing, training, feeding and maintaining this dog, and the costs of the health clearances themselves. The dog shouldn't be bred, so now you pay for a spay/neuter and place him as a pet at a substantially lower number than your investment. Now I'm no financial wizard, but I do know what "in the red" means.
After the vet stop, I cruised on over to the co-op for Frontline and feed, and dropped another couple hundred dollars. Keep in mind, those are recurring costs, not one timers. Its been an expensive day so far, and it's not even noon yet.
There are areas I can keep costs down, like doing my own grooming. With 12 dogs, most with high maintenance coats, expensive groomer visits every 6 weeks is completely out of the question. I don't particularly like grooming and I'm not the best at it, but it is a savings nonetheless. We have hired out the construction of the new facility, but we will DIY the interior and finishings. It will take longer, and it may not be picture perfect, but it will be a tremendous savings. Every puppy in every litter gets a wellness check at the vet when they are 6 weeks old, but we self administer their initial vaccinations and dewormer. We do all of the training as well. Hired trainers are expensive so I trained myself to train, and it's turned out to be something I'm both good at and enjoy, at no monetary cost. A win win.
While those areas for cost control do exist, there are some fixed costs and areas where we refuse to skimp. Quality reliable veterinarian care is a prime example. Not only do I have a financial investment in my dogs' well being - they are my family. I love them dearly. Not giving them the medical care they need and deserve would be akin to not taking my child to the doctor if he were ill. I can't imagine.
We are constantly reinvesting the financial gains of each litter, to make our program stronger and better with every passing day. It pays off. We have happy families, healthy puppies and not only do our clients return to us, they refer their friends and families as well. There is no greater compliment than that. A referral is the greatest form of flattery that exists.
Years ago when I bought my first doodle, I never dreamed I would one day breed. I had been looking for a Goldendoodle for awhile, but I was having a difficult time coming to grips with the price. Some were well over the $2,000 mark and I couldn't fathom that anyone would pay that for "a dog". One day I happened upon a newspaper ad placed by a semi local breeder. (This was long before Facebook and other social media avenues were mainstream.) I couldn't believe the price! $800! I called the breeder and low and behold she had just what I had hoped for and the puppies were ready to go home. That. Day. It was a sign I told myself. Meant to be. Yeah it was a sign alright, as in here's your sign stupid. Man was I ever a dummy.
I told the breeder I'd make the three hour drive the next morning to come see the pups. She would not provide her address but instead insisted on meeting me elsewhere. Red flag #1. Her facility (if she even had one) must have been horrendous. She loaded up 8 puppies and drove to meet me in a Walmart parking lot. And that, my friends, is a handful. I didn't realize it at the time, but I do now and I'm reminded of it every time I load up a litter to take in for wellness visits. She clearly did not want me to see where and how they were raised, nor meet the dam and sire. It was quickly apparent why.
Here we are at Walmart. She pulls out a dirty ripped scrap of what was once a child's playpen in a previous life, and one by one drops the puppies in. They were dirty and skinny (red flag #2) but I couldn't help it, I instantly fell in love with the boy who would become My Buddy. Which I am sure is precisely what she was counting on.
So this woman says to me, "That's the one you want?" Yes. He is the one I want. And here's the third red flag. She never asked me where I live, my occupation, about my previous dog ownership experiences (limited!), nothing. Not even my name for Pete's sake. What she did ask me was, "You brought cash right?" It truly pains me to tell you how ignorant I was. But if it helps anyone else in their process, then I can swallow it.
Yes I brought cash. And yes I took that skinny, dirty, sickly puppy home. What I saved in purchase price, I more than made up for in vet bills getting that poor fella to a healthy state. Praise God he remains healthy to this day - I'm amazed every single day that he hasn't been diagnosed with a life taking genetic defect. For what I paid plus the vet bills, I could have purchased the highest priced doodle out there. One from health tested parents. One that was already healthy. One that came with a health guarantee.
I guess this is my long way of saying you get what you pay for. I was stupid and ignorant, I didn't ask the right questions and I didn't do my research. The fact that I got an awesome and I do mean AWESOME dog out of it is a total fluke. An anomaly. I was incredibly lucky, and I am blessed daily by his mere presence. That's not to say health tested parents and health guarantees from a breeder produces 100% healthy puppies 100% of the time. Nature happens. It does however greatly reduce the risks of inherited genetic diseases. If there's one thing I've learned in this business, it's that there ARE no guarantees in breeding. God is in control - not me.
Yes there is some profit, and let's be clear on this: profit is not a dirty word in breeding. Greed is. The Animal Rights Activists will argue that every penny you spend with a breeder is fueling greed, and that you're supporting unethical inhumane practices. As with anything, that certainly can be true (and was with the aforementioned breeder), but I am forever the optimist and believe that to be more of the exception than the rule. Let the ARA's come to our nursery and witness the devastating heartache that comes with the times nature is cruel and I'm crying, cradling a dying puppy. Or when you only sleep in two hour increments for days on end because you are tube feeding and injecting fluids into a dehydrated, weak, failing puppy. When you are emotionally and physically spent, but refuse to give up on willing this tiny life to pull through. These are the hard truths and the not so happy times in breeding. These puppies did not ask to be brought into this world. I created the circumstances that resulted in their birth. I am responsible for them.
There is no greed in the GVD nursery. But there is love and devotion. There is nurturing 'round the clock 24 hour care, and pure dedication that comes from deep within. No, profit is not a dirty word - this is my job. And isn't that why we go to work? To make money? The way I make money just also happens to be my passion.
I'm not griping about the money that goes into this business and I'm not complaining about the profit level. On the contrary. We are simple folks. Blue collar, working middle class all American citizens. No we aren't rich, nor do we aspire to be. Mo money, mo problems. So why do we do it? Tons of work, never a vacation, small profit margins ... doesn't sound much like the ideal job, does it? I'll tell you why I do what I do. I want everyone to have a Buddy. But I want them to have a healthy, long lived companion without the sleepless nights of worrying about canine congestive heart failure and severe hip dysplasia. I want to be the person who is instrumental in bringing the joy to other families by way of a puppy just like Buddy has done for me. So maybe I got a "deal" on Buddy - maybe not. If that crooked lady could sell me an $800 dog and justify her price weighted by her expenses and investments, well I don't know how much of a "deal" that really was. I implore you: ask questions! If that cute little puppy is super cheap, there's a reason for it. Chances are, the appropriate care, investment, testing and well being of parents and puppies are not in place. Chances are, that breeder is out to make a buck and the top priority is the bottom line.
That's not how we do things here and I have no problem sending someone down the road when they want to negotiate or bargain on a price. Feel like YOU are the one being interviewed when you call me? Good. Because you are. I have my heart and soul and the majority of my finances invested in these babies and I will make darn sure they are in the best homes as they well deserve. I do this because I love it. And that's my bottom line.