Breeding puppies for pay sounds like a great idea. But think twice.

Although it’s normal to pay hundreds, or even thousands, of dollars for a purebred dog — and a litter is likely to produce several animals — the expenses of breeding responsibly are so high that many professional breeders barely break even.

Breeding puppies for pay

“There is no money to be made in responsible dog breeding,” says Debora Bean, a California breeder who has a side hustle making canine-oriented products to support her breeding habit.

Unfortunately, if you breed irresponsibly, you might make money. But you’d have to hate animals to play in that game.

Indeed, according to, there are only three ways to make money as a dog breeder: Breed more often; breed more cheaply; or elevate the quality of your bloodline, making it possible to charge more for each animal.

Puppy mills

Either of the first two options mean that you could be putting the health of your dog and its puppies at risk. Irresponsible breeding is why so-called “puppy mills” produce sick dogs with genetic woes, such as trick hips and chronic medical conditions, experts note. Breeding too often can also weaken your female and make her life miserable.

If you want to breed healthy and happy dogs, it requires time, training, expertise, and attention — so much commitment that it’s tough to do it as a side hustle.

Healthy dogs

Why is responsible breeding so costly and time consuming? Start with the female dog. If she’s a healthy purebred, you probably paid anywhere from $1,000 to $5,000 for her. Although she may go into heat as early as 6 months, the American Kennel Club won’t even provide papers if you breed her before she’s at least eight months old. And breeding that soon is not recommended, since you’re more likely to have medical issues with an immature female, who is still growing herself. It’s best to wait until your female is at least 18 months to two-years old and has gone through several fertility cycles.

Naturally, you have all the expenses associated with raising a healthy dog during that period, including vaccinations, check-ups and food. But you also have some extraordinary costs. For instance, during each fertility cycle, your dog is likely to bleed (on your carpet and furniture) and need to be guarded from random males that are going to want to jump your fence and derail your purebred breeding program, so you can’t just keep her outside until she’s less messy. (As a dog breeder, you might as well just buy, rather than rent, the carpet cleaner. It’s okay. It’s a deductible business expense.)


And, if you want to get the best price for your puppies, you’d be wise to join the AKC and potentially start paying to show your dog. This step can also help you get educated about bloodlines and find an appropriate stud. Medical tests to ensure that you’re not breeding a genetically flawed line can cost several hundred dollars each. And, be sure to pay attention to your dog’s disposition before you decide to breed. Dispositions are inherited, according to the AKC. Never breed a biter.

When you finally find the right mate for your girl, you’ll need to pay a stud fee, The stud fee could amount to as much as you paid to buy your dog —or could involve giving the sire’s family a pup or two. Even arranging the day of the dog’s tryst could involve vet bills.

Limited fertility

Why? People who breed puppies for pay know that females are only fertile during a set period during her cycle. And this perfect time for romance may not be patently obvious to even a trained observer. “To catch the peak fertile period, a veterinarian may need to perform hormone tests or examine vaginal smears under a microscope,” the AKC advises. Not cheap.

Sometime before the babies arrive you need to build or buy a “whelping box,” too. Get your dog used to it before the blessed event, the AKC advises. Otherwise, she might have her puppies someplace inappropriate, like your closet. (So long, Jimmy Choos.) Figure on sacrificing a few towels, some carpet or a bathmat and possibly a heating pad or electric blanket to the effort, as well. You might want to have a veterinarian’s number on speed dial, just in case something goes amiss with the delivery.

Assuming the delivery is smooth, you’ll still need to spend money getting your pups checked for parasites and vaccinated before they’re weaned. In the meantime, the puppies’ mom is going to need some TLC and extra nutrition to keep her healthy. And you’re going to need to spend a lot of time picking up puppy poop  and buying soap for that carpet cleaner you wisely invested in.

Male dogs

But what if you have a male dog? That’s certainly cheaper and easier. But to make your stud attractive to other breeders, you should probably be showing your dog and winning awards. Naturally, that’s time consuming too.

If you don’t want to end up with a household of grown dogs, you’re also going to need to market those cute little canines. Ads on CraigsList and LetGo are free, of course. However, these sites are filled with bargain-hunters. That’s generally not the sort of buyer who is willing to pay a premium price for purebred puppies.

What about sites like PuppySpot and PuppyFind? We don’t recommend them. First, they market nationwide, which means you may have little or no chance to screen buyers. Secondly, you may have to ship your dog, which is not always legal. (There is a wide array of state and local laws related to shipping animals.) Sellers also complain that PuppySpot doesn’t necessarily charge you to list your dogs, but it marks-up the price of your dogs, sometimes dramatically, without providing any additional compensation to you.

Selling puppies

PupLookUp is free to advertise, but may also present the shipping dilemma. The AKC may offer the best option, which is to list and sell your dogs through the AKC Marketplace, which charges $29 per 90 day listing, and sorts by zip code. (BTW, this is our top recommendation if you want to buy a purebred puppy, too. Though a handful of AKC breeders inspire complaints, the organization attempts to screen breeders and protect animals.)

However, if you don’t intend to breed or show dogs, California breeder Deborah Bean urges you to get your dog at a local animal shelter.

“If what you’re looking for is a wonderful pet, please consider adopting a dog from your local shelter,” she says. “Too many times people miss the obvious. There are wonderful dogs waiting to be adopted.”

If you’ve been adding all the costs (and potential costs) of breeding in your head, you already know that breeding profit margins are likely to be slim. If anything goes wrong that requires expensive veterinary bills, you could to lose money.

Love dogs

So why breed at all? For the love of the dog.

“It’s a hobby, passion and a commitment,” says Joyce Weichsl, co-owner of Carousel Kooikerhondjes in Fair Oaks, Calif. “I love this breed of dogs. I bought my house to accommodate the dogs; I bought my car for them – I worked as a server for 40 years to support them. English Setters are not well known, but they are the most fabulous pet you can imagine.”

26 responses to “The ugly truth about breeding puppies for pay”

  1. caryl Freeman Williams Avatar
    caryl Freeman Williams

    im a breeder and reading this article which is sooo very true, in the last 4 years because my breed became popular, Ive lost 25000.00 a year breeding. Im trying to figure out why people are breeding non akc recongnized colors for higher prices than Akc champions. Why do they want to breed these dogs and who are they selling to?

    1. Renee Avatar

      They are selling to people like me, who want a wonderful family pet with certain characteristics. I decided to justify paying a month’s house payment for a dog as being my birthday, Mother’s Day, Christmas and every other holiday of that year’s gift to myself! Akc vs non akc recognized colors?… Didn’t know that was even a thing. I thought it was hilarious that my dog had a registered name of someone that sounded like some Prince in a far off land! Anyway, I think my point is that a lot of people are paying more attention to the traits they want in a pet and aren’t necessarily concerned with titles.

      1. Dog lovers Avatar
        Dog lovers

        You are not alone, some care about the bloodline but i only want a dog because i love dogs. My last dog without any paper but lived 18 years happily with me. It was a lab and pit mix

  2. Sharon Azar Avatar
    Sharon Azar

    I am told there are some good breeders; but for me, the idea of ‘breeding’ is a negative thing simply because its chief ‘driver’ is money. I’ve witnessed many horrific cases of breeders not attending to the mother dogs and leaving them in bad condition. There are so many dogs perfectly healthy who had to be put down (killed) because no one wanted them. If there were no breeders, maybe the strays would have a better chance. Please stop breeding. And if you love the breed so much, then give the dogs away for free and support the rescue groups. You would be saving lives. Thank you.

    1. Janet Avatar

      Sharon Maybe you can help. my son has purchased 2 purebred dogs for breeding only for profit and he keeps breeding the female. I told him dogs are “family” to be loved also my concern is that he does nothing for the pups –turns them over to a man he says he has a contract with –that pays him the money for the pups. last litter had 8 and supposedly all the pups sold. in this time of financial pandemic –i cannot imagine all those pups went to good homes. plus these dogs are very big dogs -big heads and bones not apt size breed. i worry that they might be sold for dog fighting or some other horrible hell. i want info on this to show my son but hate to get involved with Peta or ASPCA as they might investigate too much and do not want my stupid son to get into trouble. I have no printer but want someone to print out some info on dog fighting and breeding laws of NY can you help??? I know i am asking a lot from strangers –my neighbor wants to help too but does not know how any more than i do. please–

      1. Alyssa Avatar

        Janet I’m so sorry please stop him! I’m an owner and breeder of large mastiff breed dogs .I can tell you if it’s pit bulls it most likely for fighting. The pups should never separate from mom before 7-8 weeks or your already cutting that dogs chances at a good life in half. Do the right thing and talk to him, if he lies to you call your local spca and ask for help! Good luck God bless those poor babies

      2. Peggy Avatar

        Hi ! Thanks for sharing. I’m a breeder and I wanted to say that although I breed inside my home and care for pups and find great homes for each one of them even through this pandemic, people ARE still buying pups and spending a good amount on the pups. I don’t know your sons position and if he’s caring for the pups and the mama dog but the breeding program we have has been even more successful in the sense of growing our clientele throughout the pandemic . It might not necessarily be that these folks are fighting the dogs.

      3. Sharon Azar Avatar
        Sharon Azar

        Hi Janet, I just aw this, maybe too late, but I was wondering if you were able to do something about your son. Sharon

      4. Penny Resh Avatar
        Penny Resh

        They probably did go to good homes. With a lot more people than ever before are working from home. These people never thought they could have a dog inside because no one was home. Now lots of people are home and buying a lot of dogs.
        I bred a couple litters of Bichons 15 years ago. I enjoyed it. Everyone ohhs and awws over puppies. I get the first puppy stage. Then as families adopt one by one. I’m left with only my 2. They are big babies and now they want the attention those babies got. Now I only adopted to people I knew and as of today 1 is the only 1 left. All leaving at 14. I never breed dogs to get rich. Sure I was a single mom of 2 so any extra money always had a purpose. $500 and normally we got 4 pups pet litter. All vet check wormed and shots. Given a clean bill of health. The parents are registered and pups will be to before leaving here. They all have been spoiled and come with a toy or blanket from their kennel so it smells like mom and helps the puppy adjust to its new home. They are kept in their crates door open but if they want they can come out. Having them in as much as you can helps them get used to it. So hopefully new moms sleep with pup safe in a crate. They end up feeling that’s their safe place. If they have gone in and aren’t whining or anything always leave them in. They go in to rest or just want their comfy zone. Don’t mess with that time. They will come out when ready but leave them be as long as you have a healthy little pup. It will come looking for some loving son enough

      5. John Avatar

        All you basically said was your son bought two dogs and is breeding them and then once the pups are born he turns them over to someone to sell them? What exactly is wrong with that. Maybe he doesn’t want to deal with the part of taking the puppies. Maybe he gets charged a fee and just uses a seller who handles all the expenses with the puppies. Also I have two pit bulls in a loving home. Just because someone breeds pit bulls and turns the pups over to be sold doesn’t automatically mean they’re going for fighting. Some of y’all are too judgmental

    2. Lys Avatar

      How can you afford to pay for all the vet care, testing etc… if you don’t get paid for these expensive. Also how are historic breeds of animals going to survive if no one is tying to help keep them on the planet. What needs to happen is that people need to breed responsibility but just let their pets go out to breed on the streets.

    3. Chrys Kay Avatar
      Chrys Kay

      I purchased a beautiful female Havanese and brought her home on 12/8/2022. This has been our only breed in the last 20 years. I thought I had done my homework and knew what I was doing. I purchased her just a few days after my little 14-year Mila passed away. Our new girl ROXY brought life and happiness into our home. But when she was about 4 months, she lost weight instead of gaining. I went nuts looking for the right dog food. I was concerned and asked my vet if there was something wrong. His stupid suggestion was to feed her more. After that statement and 25 years of loyal service, I found another vet. The blood results showed that her liver enzymes were at 6000. Liver disease and liver shunts are common in small breeds and are hereditary. Before I called my so-called great breeder, I found out that she was a small puppy mill pretending that she was a loving dog breeder. She breeds her females every six months; her stud was 12 years old. Now after spending $2,500 for her and another $2,000 on testing, I will give her the best life until the day she dies. And the breeder tried to blame me for her health problems and refused to take any responsibility. And there she goes, still breeding the same ten females using the same stud. And when I posted my dilemma on her Facebook, the haters came after me with a vengeance.

  3. Desiree Avatar

    I disagree. Adoptions aren’t for everyone. I recently lost my 13-year old Maltese and thought I’d look into adopting my next dog. However, I knew it would need to be small and only certain breed mixes due to allergies. Almost every shelter I came across was full of big dogs like pit bulls. Each time I tried to adopt a small dog I basically got a response that small dogs go quickly and they already received the max # of applications for that dog. Not to mention how difficult and awkward they make it to adopt: home inspections, for small toy breeds they often don’t want families with children under 10 (even though my child, for example, grew up with my 6 lb Maltese), they almost don’t want you to have a full-time job, etc. That is not reasonable for everyone. Maybe if you are retired, a stay at home parent, and love big dogs. In my case, it is looking like I will have to resort to purchasing my next fur baby from a reputable breeder again.

    1. Bella Avatar

      Totally agree with you. I have four dogs which I purchased from breeders because of the same reason, my love to particular breed and when I tried to rescue same thing I was dissapointed when judge that my children are a risk to harm a dog, they also asked me all type of questions almost like buying a home etc, ridiculous in my opinion. I gladly will buy a dog again in the future to just not go thru the hassles rescues give.bottom line even rescues are also looking forward to money.

  4. Gary Avatar

    I’m honesty confused and am starting to think that breeders cry wolf about not making profit. The math doesnt add up for a loss. Maybe you can point out were my math is going sideways because I love shepards and collies and have been considering getting in to breeding.

    My ex wife just paid 1500.00 for a golden retriever. She drove almost 100 miles to pick it up because local breeders were selling for 2000 to 3000 dollars. There were 9 puppies in the litter. The breeder said she gets 2 litters per year from each of her females. The breeder said the goldies average 10 pups per litter. Sometimes 8 sometimes 11 but averages 10. For one female thats 20 puppies per year. Time three females that 60 puppies per year.

    So the math is this.

    60 puppies times 1500.00 equals f90,000 gross.

    Now each Goldie will eat about 1000 per year in premium kibble. Like the 60 dollar a bag brand. Maybe slightly more when welping. So let’s go high and say 3 females and one male will eat 6,000 dollars worth of kibble per year. Now we are down to 84,000 dollars. Let’s say vet bills are astronomical and go 10,000 dollars. Now we’re at $74,000.

    What on earth could the dogs need that would cost $74,000?

    I’m sure you might say you might not get 10 puppies per litter average, but most breeders in my area get 2000 to 3000 for a goldies so these numbers are super conservative.

    I really think breeders are trying to scare off competition.

    Am I missing something?

    Thanks in advance for your input.

    1. Kathy Kristof Avatar
      Kathy Kristof

      You’re missing the fact that this mother is no longer a pet. She’s a breeding machine. That number of babies will leave her weak and miserable. If you really love dogs, you limit the litter frequency. Here’s a bit of a primer:

      1. Gary Avatar

        Thanks for the article Kathy. It was super informative. I do want to keep my dogs healthy. My only question now is, if the moms say ran away and weren’t a pet, with no human interference, wouldn’t they breed on their own, almost every time they came into heat if they could find a male?

        As pet owners we are forcing them to ignore millions of years of evolution that makes them want to pass their genetics to the next generation.

        1. Isabella Avatar

          Dogs were not supposed to be strays. They are pets and should be looked out for. Again, a “breeder” who breeds a bitch twice a year is not a responsible breeder is the point. Since it’s just like a puppy mill. You have to let her rest and recover her health. She’s a for profit breeder, which in the end will results in puppy death, either by genetic behavior or health issues. It’s not a breeder who is investing on bringing only the healthiest pups and genetically favored; that would be a good breeder. Dogs that breed themselves on the streets, we already know how much they suffer, since dogs have been domesticated to be pets not wild animals. So they and their puppies are more prone to becoming I’ll and malnutritioned.

          1. Emily Avatar

            You are actually wrong. Most Veterinarian reccomend not giving a break between heat cycles until she is done breeding because it can actually cause more health problems for the mother. I dont do breaks between heats for that reason but I only breed my dogs 4 times so 2 years of their life then I stop and spay them so they are not weakened and are still young when they stop.

    2. Max Avatar

      Your absolutely right gary the “there is no money in breeding dogs” line is to scare away would be competitors. The dont breed back to back heats of the dam so you cant make money in a year has also been debunked by recent research that shows less uterine scaring on dams that were succesfully bred every heat. The key is treat the dogs with love and care proper feeding housing ect. isnt cheap but your math isnt too far off.

      1. Emily Avatar


  5. David Andel Avatar
    David Andel

    I agree with Gary here. It would be an added bonus if the author of this article did a quick balance sheet or showed some basic accounting because I don’t see how the costs mentioned add up to anywhere near the price of one decent purebred dog. My feeling is this article was written by someone who just wants to eliminate competition. Most people who breed dogs take good basic care of them and see that they go to good homes.

    1. Sharon P. Avatar
      Sharon P.

      She is not far off actually. Firstly I too wouldn’t recommend twice a year breeding. I’d rather once a year for 4 years then twice a year for 2. The person adding dog food has completely forgot about the 60 puppies he calculated from 3 females having 20 puppies a year. Which is also unlikely. A conservative number would be 8 puppies times 6 is 48 puppies. And puppies eat dog food from 4wks until they sell which may not be until 12-16wks. Conservatively lets say a month and a half and the whole litter is sold by the time the last pup is 10wks. That’s 3mos of feeding pups per female, so 9mos of feeding 48 large breed puppies. Puppy Food which is also fed to the mother dog is more expensive. You also forgot that between 1 day to 2 or 3 weeks the pups might need milk replacer which goes fast with large breed pups and isn’t cheap. I’d say one litter goes through 3 cans of powder if you’re also feeding a portion to the mother dog because it provides her extra nutrition. Vaccinations and dewormer since most breeders will have their puppies examined by a vet hut administer shots and dewormer themselves to save money since every vet visit cost an exam fee of on average $50-$100 per pet. So a litter of 8 puppies cost at minimum $400 base cost. Some vets however will do a litter discount, but then you add in fecal test and it’s still around $400 minimum. Forgot about advertising cost averaging $100 a month if putting in the local paper, a subscription month to month puppy website, the free puppy classifieds are usually reserved for rescues or they kick your ad to the back of the list and charge to bring your ad to the front where people will see them. Puppy pads are a couple hundred per litter or you could pay extra for water and detergent and use reusable pads with a higher initial cost that you’ll be changing out 2-3 times a day. Also need bones or chew toys so the dogs aren’t biting on each other to relieve their baby molars coming in. So much isn’t accounted for. Puppy pens/baby gates, or however the breeder is separating the pups from the rest of the house and other dogs during the first 4-5wks. Cages/Kennel possibly for night time. I left mine in an open area, but that’s another expense.

  6. Chrys Kay Avatar
    Chrys Kay

    Emily, I am glad you only breed your females until they are two years old. You are an exception! What about the poor female that is bred until she is 8-10 years old? What kind of life has she had? My vet told me never to again buy a puppy from anyone breeding the same female every year. Regarding the cost, my so-called breeder bred ten females in the fall, and the same ten were bred again this spring. My little girl was one out of a litter of six, the average was four, and many of her females had puppies that never lasted to be sold. But when I confronted her about my ROXY who had inherited liver disease, this did not stop her. She claimed that this had never happened before! And maybe it was her new stud. I begged her to stop breeding this male, and even my vet contacted her. Her stud fathered 35 puppies in the fall months, and she is using him till this day. Just because someone claims that these dogs are like family doesn’t mean squat. She is no better than a puppy mill; wait a second that is exactly what she is. A small puppy mill.

  7. Sharon P. Avatar
    Sharon P.

    Oh! And if you care about the health of the puppies aside from your cost purchasing them, is the cost to have health testing, Penn Hip can test before the female is 2yrs old. Then there’s genetic testing to make sure they aren’t carrying any markers for hereditary diseases. I did embark breeder dna which cost $200 for my boy and 1 female. I haven’t done my other female yet. AKC registration cost money, mine are a designer breed. I know, shame on me right. Also you have to pay for special upkeep to your yard or all of the dogs will trample out the grass and 50% of the year you’ll be dealing with buying fixes to get rid of the mud when it rains. Mulch or straw or maybe rubber mulch, but even though they say it’s safe if ingested by pets it still gives me pause. How about the cost of all the feeding and water bowls? The increased water bill? Dog brushes for grooming, flea & tick prevention, collars, leashes.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *