PUPPY POWER: THE COSTS AND PITFALLS OF BUYING A DOG

Source: The Guardian (Extract)
Posted: October 10, 2020

The dos and don’ts of getting a ‘Covid companion’ – and the kit you need once they’re home.

In the past few months there has been a surge in the number of people welcoming the patter of tiny paws into their home.

Research published by Direct Line’s pet insurance arm claimed that 5.7m new pets were bought between the beginning of lockdown in March and the start of September, including 2.2m dogs. It said the average amount paid for a dog was £801 and that pugs were the most popular breed.

However, many have paid much more for their “pandemic puppy” or “Covid companion”. Many in-demand breeds are changing hands for much more than before lockdown began, with the charity Dogs Trust reporting an 89% leap in the price paid for some in the space of only three months.

High demand and the large sums at stake have created a lucrative market for puppy smugglers, who illegally import dogs into the country, often from central and eastern Europe. Meanwhile, online scams and rip-offs involving puppies have “skyrocketed” during the pandemic, the Kennel Club has warned.

One bit of good news is that commercial third-party sales of puppies (and kittens) were banned in England from 6 April this year – hopefully spelling the beginning of the end for puppy farming. “Lucy’s Law” means anyone wanting to get a new puppy or kitten in England must buy direct from a breeder or consider adopting from a rescue centre instead.

On the (p)up – soaring puppy prices

Dogs Trust research revealed that asking prices for five of the UK’s most sought-after breeds shot up between March, when lockdown was announced, and the end of June. It found that average prices for dachshunds increased by 89% to just over £1,800 in June, compared with £973 in March. Other big rises over the same period included 67% for chow-chows (£1,872 – up from £1,119); 56% for pugs (£1,064 – up from £684); 52% for French bulldogs (£1,905 – up from £1,251); and 31% for English bulldogs (£2,140 – up from £1,637).

However, a price check carried out by Guardian Money this week suggests that average costs for those breeds are now higher than that and have also soared for other in-demand breeds.

We logged on to Pets4Homes – which claims to be the UK’s leading free dedicated pet advertising website – and checked out the five breeds above, plus five other popular ones: cockapoo, labrador retriever, springer spaniel, cocker spaniel and Staffordshire bull terrier. We searched for puppies for sale under four months old across all sellers and all locations. This is what we found:

  • Dachshund: typical price £2,500. Lowest: £1,000. Highest: £5,000.
  • Chow-chow: typical price £2,500-£4,000. Lowest: £2,000. Highest: £7,000.
  • Pug: typical price £1,500-£2,000. Lowest: £850. Highest: £4,000.
  • French bulldog: typical price £2,000-£3,000. Lowest: £900. Highest: £11,000.
  • English bulldog: typical price £2,500-£3,000. Lowest: £1,000. Highest: £10,000.
  • Cockapoo: typical price £2,500. Lowest £1,500. Highest: £4,500.
  • Labrador retriever: typical price £2,000-£2,500. Lowest: £750. Highest: £4,500.
  • Springer spaniel: typical price £1,500-£2,000. Lowest: £750. Highest: £2,500.
  • Cocker spaniel: typical price £2,000-£2,500. Lowest £1,400. Highest: £3,500.
  • Staffordshire bull terrier: typical price £2,500. Lowest: £600. Highest: £3,500.

The upfront cost depends on the breed and where you get it from. Mixed-breed dogs tend to be cheaper than pedigrees, unless you opt for an in-demand “designer crossbreed” such as a cockapoo or cavapoo.

Puppy-buying dos and don’ts

Do your research. Have a look at the seller’s profile and search for their name online. If they are advertising many litters from different breeds, this is a red flag. Fraudsters often give fake addresses, use a variety of different mobile numbers and have multiple ads online. Be aware that, for example, Pets4Homes doesn’t visit its advertisers’ homes or carry out checks on them – it says this is the buyer’s responsibility.

  • Do consider a Kennel Club assured breeder – to find out more, go to org.uk/dog-breeding/the-kennel-club-assured-breeders/.
  • Don’t ever get a dog that you haven’t seen with its mum, says the Dogs Trust chief executive, Owen Sharp. Make sure you see them together at their home and beware of the seller making excuses as to why mum isn’t there, such as “she’s at the vet’s”, “she’s asleep” or “she’s out for a walk”. Also, if the mother is there, check it’s not a “fake” mum – most fake mums don’t interact with the puppies as they fear the real mum returning.
  • Do make sure to visit more than once, even if it is via video call because of the coronavirus restrictions.
  • Don’t – if at all possible – pay a deposit until you have seen the dog in the flesh. Pets4Homes has a service where a buyer can put down a deposit that is held in escrowuntil the buyer and seller have finalised the transaction – although sellers can choose not to use it.
  • Do ask lots of questions and make sure you see vital paperwork, such as a puppy contract, which gives lots of information about their parents, health, diet, etc.
  • Don’t agree to go and pick up a dog somewhere “convenient” such as a car park, service station or layby.

There is lots of help and advice out there. The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) is running a campaign to help the public avoid being “petfished” by dodgy sellers (it’s a play on catfishing, where a stranger creates a fictional online persona to lure someone into a relationship). Similarly, Dogs Trust is running the Don’t Be Dogfished campaign and the Kennel Club has launched the #BePuppywise campaign.

Costs

The initial shopping list

  • Bed and bedding
  • A dog crate (also known as a dog cage or indoor kennel), if needed
  • Lead(s)
  • Collar
  • ID tag
  • Possibly a harness
  • Food and water bowls
  • A toothbrush, if needed
  • A crate/carrier/pet seatbelt for the car, if needed
  • A GPS dog tracker, if needed
  • Some breeds such as whippets may need a coat during the colder months – and possibly pyjamas
  • Initial course of vaccinations and worming tablets
  • Paying for your pet to be neutered or spayed

The veterinary charity the PDSA puts the basic initial cost (not including the dog) at £370 for a small breed, £395 for a medium-sized one and £425 for a large one.

Ongoing costs

  • Food (there’s a vast array of options: raw meat, dry kibble, various tins and sachets …)
  • Poo bags
  • Occasional treats
  • Occasional new toys
  • Toothpaste, if needed
  • Yearly health checks and booster vaccinations
  • Regular flea and worm treatments
  • Pet insurance (if you decide to take it out)
  • Vet fees if your dog becomes ill (these can be costly if you don’t have insurance)
  • Walks and/or doggy daycare while you are at work.
  • Paying for boarding kennels, if needed
  • Paying for training classes, if needed

The PDSA estimates the basic monthly cost is £50 for a small dog, £65 for a medium-sized one and £80 for a large one.

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