We’ve talked before about the “Lockdown Puppy” phenomenon – as the country goes into lockdown, so more and more people get puppies. And, of course, a percentage of those purchases were from very poor backgrounds, leading to a lot of concern over a possible spike in puppy farming. But here’s something that’s also been reported – the price of puppies has doubled in the last year. So what’s going on there? Is it puppy farmers cashing in? Or greedy breeders exploiting desperate people? Or is there something more complicated happening?

Puppy Farming?

Yes, it really does happen. Sadly, there really are people out there who see dogs as disposable commodities, to be bred to death for profit. However, while there may well have been a bit cashing in on the part of these disreputable individuals, it almost certainly isn’t the main driver of the rise in prices.

Indeed, the BBC got into hot water for their planned documentary – Will My Puppies Make Me Rich? Understandably, being seen to promote puppy breeding as a pure business decision wasn’t universally popular.

Supply and Demand…

As the FT reported, demand has sky-rocketed. The number of potential purchasers per dog available doubled in the first half of 2020, and has spiked again this winter. And just as with anything else – the more people are trying to buy something, the higher the price goes. 

So is it that easy? Greedy breeders putting up the prices?

That would be an easy answer that would nicely lay the blame equally across all dog breeders in the country. And certainly I’m sure there are a few who think of nothing but the bottom line. But, and it’s a big but, life is never that simple. The majority of dog breeders in the UK are responsible, and love their dogs. That’s one of the major incentives to breed for them, after all! And they’re desperate to make sure that their dogs go to the best homes. So while prices have gone up, we’ve got to factor in…

…rising prices…

Having a dog is expensive. Breeding from your dog, even more so! And in lockdown, everything was more difficult, and generally more expensive. Vets were seeing only emergencies, and that often by curbside vetting. The discounts on supermarket and pet supplier food and supplies dried up as the retailers struggled to maintain a covid-secure retail environment. That said, not everyone faced that – some breeders report that their bills had fallen – so this argument is certainly not the whole story.

However, across the country, people have suddenly found that their “hobby” had to make them a living as they were furloughed or made redundant. So it’s inevitable that prices went up. 

…and, in a Covid year, safety.

The RSPCA reported a 600% increase in people wanting to foster or adopt, and other rescue and shelter charities have reported the same. However, in the first lockdown, this wasn’t allowed. And even when the regulations were relaxed, it was more complicated, slower, and overall more difficult to get accepted as a fosterer or rehomer, as everyone tried to maintain high standards and be covid-secure. It’s even possible, to be honest, that my profession didn’t help this: we were so worried about puppy farming and rehoming by people who didn’t know what they were doing that we might have inadvertently encouraged shelters to be even more stringent in their requirements than usual.

So why did the price rise?

There’s no one answer. Yes, there were profiteering puppy farmers, and greedy less-than-scrupulous breeders. But the bulk of the increase was due to more people, chasing more expensive dogs, with no-where else to go. Sadly, it’s simple economics.

The bigger question is this – those Lockdown Puppies are growing up fast. Are they getting the good forever homes that they deserve? Or are we going to see a surge of abandoned dogs this spring?

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