What Does a Kerry Puppy Cost?
by Janet Joers and Randy Hayes
Perhaps the best answer to this question is: Far more than the purchase price! Over the lifetime of the dog, the purchase price is, in fact, negligible, as you add up the costs of veterinary care, monthly grooming, food and supplements, training, pet insurance, boarding/petsitting, and all the incidentals that get worn out, out-grown, emptied, or chewed up!
But let's start there.
An informal survey was conducted at the end of 2004 on the Kerry Foundation newslist. Subscribers were asked to provide the current purchase prices for Kerry puppies in their area. Of the 37 respondents, the worldwide average was calculated at $1011. Some of the average prices are listed in the table below.
What do these prices mean for the puppy buyer? Or, what don't they mean?
Myth 1: It is cheaper to buy a puppy abroad if you live in a country with high-priced Kerries. Not so, and there are plenty of reasons for this.
For one, when you buy a puppy from a responsible local breeder, you get a lot more than a puppy. You get help with earsetting, grooming, showing (if that's your interest), referrals to vets, trainers, and groomers, along with advice, support, and expertise of all kinds when questions or problems arise. Overseas breeders can't offer you that. With a local breeder, you also get the benefit of her knowledge of the breed, her bloodline, and the health, temperament, and conformation of the puppy's parents--information that a foreign breeder may have difficulty conveying long-distance, possibly in a foreign language. A local breeder is one you can develop a working relationship with--a partnership--that helps ensure the future well-being of your puppy. It can also forge lasting friendships, and open a door for you to the greater Kerry community.
Another reason the overseas puppy is not cheaper is the hidden costs that ultimately get added to the purchase price--the cost of the health certificate, export papers, shipping and crate, and telephone charges. You may also belatedly find out that you didn't screen the breeder carefully enough (perhaps because of distance and language barriers), and discover that your puppy has health or temperament problems--problems that can be costly, and heartbreaking as well.
International puppy purchases are occasionally done among breeders themselves--breeders who meet each other at international dog shows, who follow the show careers of each other's dogs, and research pedigrees of dogs they like or of dogs that appear in the pedigrees of their own dogs. Breeders are discriminating buyers--they know what they are looking at (in a photo, for example), and they know what they want. And they do not need the kind of assistance that pet buyers need for earsetting, grooming, and so on. That's why purchasing a puppy abroad is best left to knowledgeable breeders like these.
Myth 2: The higher the cost of a puppy, the better its quality.
No one could reasonably argue that one country's Kerries are better than another's based on price alone. And while the survey results showed that show-prospect puppies were slightly higher in price than pet-quality pups, many breeders made no distinction between the two, selling each puppy for the same price. One reason is that conformation isn't the only measure of quality. There's health and temperament to consider. So a breeder with a carefully planned breeding program produces litters of overall quality--to her, each puppy is of equal value, whether or not they are show prospects. Another reason that litter prices are nearly constant is demand. There is a much greater demand for pets than show dogs, and in a free-market economy, the most sought-after products are not discounted.
Since the survey was done at the end of 2002, prices for Kerry puppies, at least in the U.S., have soared. This rise in price is most certainly due to the fact that a Kerry claimed Best in Show at Westminster in February 2003. Some breeders are asking $1500, $1800, and even $2000 for a puppy that last year would have sold for $1000 or $1200. Without debating the ethics involved, remember that a fair price is one the buyer and seller agree on. It behooves the puppy buyer to decide for themselves if price gouging is occurring, and to look elsewhere if it is by researching several breeders in their area, not just one.
Myth 3: At these high prices, breeders make a huge profit.
The truly responsible Kerry breeder does not make a profit on the puppies she sells. In fact, that's part of the definition of a responsible breeder--they are "hobbyist" breeders with a passion for improving the breed, not cashing in on it. When done right, the cost of breeding a quality litter is barely covered by puppy sales. Prior to breeding, a responsible breeder has the expense of showing her breeding stock and earning championships. Add to that the cost of pre-breeding testing on the dam and sire, stud fees, veterinary fees, the care and feeding of the puppies, innoculations, and more, and it's obvious that this is not a profit-oriented endeavor. It is not a business or a livelihood. It's a hobby--one that's dedicated to improving and protecting the breed, and nothing else.
Myth 4: Pet stores offer the best prices on Kerries.
There is no worse place to purchase a Kerry than a pet store, . . . unless you want to buy directly from the puppy mill, which is where ALL of these puppies come from, despite what the store owner will tell you. The only way to stop the abuse of puppy mills is to not perpetuate it by buying a dog from this source.
But there are other reasons not to buy a pet store puppy. Most of them are described in "Why You Should Never, Ever Purchase a Puppy from a Pet Store," including unsound health and temperament, genetic diseases which may last a lifetime, lack of proper socialization with people and other dogs, and such poor conformation that they no longer resemble the breed they're supposed to represent. Most of these problems can require extensive, and expensive, training and health care to solve, if they can be solved at all. None of this would be necessary in a properly bred puppy from a responsible breeder.
But are the purchase prices really cheaper than those of a respectable breeder? Surprisingly, the answer is no. Kerry Rescue has tracked numerous puppies in pet stores in the U.S., with prices starting anywhere from $1199 to $1499. Most of these dogs are not even registerable with the AKC (the only legitimate registry for this breed in the U.S.), and have not a single champion in their pedigrees (which says something about the quality of the dogs). Puppies that don't sell are discounted, with reported prices from $999 down to $650 or less. But a pet store puppy at ANY price will likely be the most expensive dog you will ever own.
Myth 5: The puppy price is the biggest outlay I'll make on the dog.
Over the life of the dog, hopefully 12 years or more, the purchase price represents a fraction of the cost of maintaining it. Indeed, the purchase price may represent the average annual cost of owning the dog (if it remains healthy), and only half the cost you will spend on the puppy the first year you own it.
So this leads to the next price consideration--the price of owning a Kerry.
The Price of Owning a Kerry
Every new puppy owner faces one-time expenses during the first year of ownership, along with the ongoing maintenance costs that will continue throughout the life of the dog--things like food, grooming, and veterinary care. Additional expenses, considered optional by some and essential by others, may occur once each year, such as pet insurance, dog magazine subscriptions, or dues/donations to breed organizations. Other expenses occur occasionally over time, such as veterinary treatment for specific medical conditions, boarding or petsitting for your dog when you're away, acquiring dog books on topics of interest, or enrolling in a training class like novice or advanced obedience, agility, or ring handling. Some expenses may never occur for some owners, but will represent a huge investment for others--things like showing a dog to its championship (generally $1000 and up if you hire a handler), acquiring your own grooming equipment ($400 for starters) if you plan to groom the dog yourself, or providing chemotherapy or other major medical care and treatment in case of sickness or injury.
Estimating the costs of these expenses is fraught with peril--no two people will every spend the same amount on any item, no two dogs will ever cost the same amount, and no two places in the world will offer comparable pricing on all things. The variables are immense. But to make sense of the true cost of Kerry ownership, actual costs were collected from several Kerry owners in different parts of the U.S., and the ranges presented in the table below. These ranges were then totaled and averaged by category to even out the highs and lows, then amortized over a year to provide meaningful data for the purpose of discussion, rather than for line-by-line comparison. Actual costs will surely vary considerably, but taken as a whole, nationwide yearly averages reflect the reasonable cost an owner may expect to pay for each year of owning a Kerry. The itemized expenses may also useful for budgetary purposes.
AKC Registration $15 - $40 Veterinary exam, puppy vaccinations $150 - $200 Spaying/Neutering $50 - $100 Microchip implant and enrollment $45 - $50 Earsetting ($0-$30 per setting) $0 - $120 Puppy Kindergarten class $40 - $50 Basic Obedience class $50 - $65 Health care items: (toothpaste, eye wash, ear cleaner, shampoo) $10 - $50 Incidentals: (bed, crate, brush & comb, toys, collar & leash) $50 - $150 Total range: $410 - $875 Average total: $640
Ongoing expenses (per year)
Premium food & supplements ($25-$30 month) $300 - $360 Grooming ($45-$85 month) $540 -$1020 Heartworm preventative $45 - $55 Flea/tick preventatives $45 - $55 County dog tax & license $10 - $20 Veterinary titers/vaccinations, annual exam $100 - $250 Pet insurance $115 - $210 Health care items (replacing) $10 - $50 Incidentals (replacing) $10 - $50 Dog magazine subscription $20 - $35 Dues/donations to Kerry organizations $25 - $50 Total range: $1220 -$2155 Average total: $1690
Veterinary treatment, meds $50 and up Dental $50 and up Boarding/petsitting costs ($15-$30 per day) $15 and up Training course $50 and up Books (training, psychology, breed, etc.) $10 and up
Showing $1000 and up Grooming equipment $400 and up Major medical $500 and up
Suppose a new puppy buyer were to purchase all the one-time items listed here, as well as all the ongoing yearly items. The first year expenses could be anywhere from $1600--about the purchase price of the puppy--to $3000! Anything purchased from the list of occasional or optional items would add to the total. Since good shoppers will find discounts on spaying/neutering, microchip implantation, and equipment and supplies, and since many buyers will get free or low-cost help with earsetting and grooming from their breeders, perhaps a more reasonable expected first-year cost would be closer to the low-end estimate.
Is the second year of ownership any easier? An owner has none of the one-time expenses; only the yearly expenses, and some or all of the occasional expenses. Suppose an owner purchases all the yearly items, and, say, has the occasional expenses of boarding the dog for a week and buying a few books. The second-year expenses would total roughly $1300-$2300--not likely much less than the first year. Subsequent years will likely be comparable unless the dog is shown, or incurs a major medical expense (ncovered by pet insurance). Then costs go up. And, unfortunately, as the dog ages, veterinary expenses go up.
So, could we send a child to college for the amount we will
pay to own a Kerry? For simplicity, suppose an owner pays $1500
to purchase a puppy, then spends $1500 every year for the life
of the dog. In 12 years, expenses would total $19,500, unadjusted
for inflation. But rather than getting a year of college education,
you have received a lifetime of love, loyalty, and joy. And all
that time you've been owned by the brightest, most beautiful dog
on earth--a Kerry Blue Terrier.