Why Well-bred Puppies Are Expensive. 

Bonsaviour Retrievers


As long-time professional breeders with a reputation for producing excellent puppies, we are sometimes asked why our puppies are expensive compared to most. The short and simple answer, as is often the case for many purchases, is that you get what you pay for. When we say this though, it is no excuse, and we are not 'fobbing' anybody off – we really mean it and we would like to explain why. 

Breeding Stock 

A new breeder starting out with the best intentions of producing the absolute best quality puppies in terms of health, temperament and conformation must first search for the absolute best quality of foundation breeding stock. This is no easy task. We scoured all corners of the globe with an extensive list of strict criteria when deciding which breeders, we did and did not want to work with. Many breeders are not to be trusted, so this is a lengthy and involved process. Once a few breeders have made it onto the ‘approved’ list, it is a case of finding the absolute best dogs they have to offer. Another set of strict criteria, lots of analysis, patience, back and forth communications with information, photos, videos and often, a trip to meet the breeder and the dog they have available. Eventually, a dog is found that is a good fit and meets all the requirements – hooray! Overall, we have spent well over £5,000 to purchase this one dog and bring them home to join us, not to mention the hundreds of hours invested to find them. Now, we wait for him or her to grow up – we invest in training, socialisation, and health care. The dog reaches a year old, and we decide as to whether this dog is a suitable candidate for breeding or not. We do the health screening, Hip & Elbow X-Ray fees, British Veterinary Association scoring fees, DNA Blood Tests, Eye Screening fees, and we also assess temperament and conformation again. If this dog meets the high bar, they enter our breeding programme – great news! If they do not, they are a forever pet and we have sunk upwards of £12,000, but we have not compromised our breeding programme’s success. A new breeder starting out will do this several times over, re-mortgaging their house to do so! But it does not stop there… established breeders always need new bloodlines and repeat this process regularly to bring new lines into their breeding programme for better and stronger genetic diversity and health. 

Breeding A Litter 

One of our girls has a season due and we are planning to breed her, so we start searching for a suitable sire for her litter. If we are lucky, well-organised or a bit of both, we own a stud dog that complements her in every way. If not, we will search all corners of the globe once again in search of the best suitor. The stud fee that the stud dog’s owners will command will be in the region of £1000. We progesterone test our girl to track her season and breed at the right time – that is somewhere in the region of £350. (for several tests).  

If the dog lives in the UK, we can drive and have a natural breeding. Costs for the trip and accommodation will mount to £500. If the stud dog lives overseas, we have specialist reproductive vet fees and chilled/frozen transport fees for artificial insemination – likely to the tune of £1,000. 

The breeding takes place, and our girl may or may not conceive and become pregnant. If she does not conceive, we wait patiently for her to come into season again in 6 – 10 months. If she does conceive – great, we are expecting puppies, and her due date is 63 days from ovulation. We keep our fingers crossed that her pregnancy is smooth and uneventful. Complications can be dangerous and involve unbelievably expensive veterinary fees. 


The Puppies Arrive! 

We are now a few days away from her due date, so we start monitoring very closely and recording her body temperature at regular intervals. Her temperature drops, and she becomes a little restless, so we stay up with her all night just in case she starts delivering her puppies. She does not – false alarm. We have a vet appointment for our 7-week-old litter to have their first vaccinations and then we must bath our 9-week-old puppies that are leaving for their new homes tomorrow. We catch up with emails, return phone calls, take and send update photos/videos, feed, and exercise our adult dogs. We have been checking our due girl’s temperature frequently throughout the day and it is dropping again. By the time we have finished the paperwork in preparation for the puppies going home tomorrow, she starts delivering her litter. We diligently assist as each puppy arrives, hoping the whelping will be uneventful – particularly as we are running on empty already and have a litter of puppies going to their new homes in the morning. It gets to 4am and we are concerned that there has been a long pause, so we call the out-of-hours vet for some advice. We meet him at the surgery an hour later for a shot of oxytocin to help things along. We arrive home and the next puppy arrives in the car boot – not uncommon! We rush mum and puppy back inside to join the rest of the litter, the car boot can wait until the morning. Another puppy arrives, the last one we think, but we sit with her for another couple of hours just in case. We do not want to risk leaving her to deliver another puppy on her own as she is very tired and may not be quite as diligent as she was at the start of whelping. We perform an Ultrasound Scan on her to check if she has finished (the scanner costing over us £5,000 to buy).  We get everything cleaned up, get the laundry on and get the car boot cleaned. We give our dogs and puppies breakfast and then the doorbell rings – the first of our 8 puppy collection appointments. This sort of scenario is not uncommon. It could have gone a lot smoother, but it could also have been a lot worse – thankfully, our girl did not need a caesarean section (currently £3K - £5k for out of hours with all the risks of infection and of course now the puppies will have to be hand reared). We are also fortunate that we have a small family-run team and can support one another, but it can be exceptionally long and tough hours. 


Caring For Newborns 

So, our new-born litter has arrived safely, and we are weighing those multiple times daily, tracking their progress and making sure that they are getting plenty of time at the milk bar. One of the puppies is not gaining weight like her siblings, so we supplement her feeding by hand with Goats milk every 2 hours, 24 hours per day, 7 days a week for 3 weeks. It takes up a serious portion of each day and we lose a lot of sleep, but we are responsible for every puppy we bring into the world, and we will support any struggling puppy to give them the absolute best chance. We are feeding mum about 400% of her usual diet and monitoring the room temperature carefully so that the puppies are warm enough (they cannot regulate their own body temperature yet) but mum is not too hot. We are cleaning and disinfecting the whelping box with expensive "Formular H"  every day to safeguard the puppies from infection. 

Caring For Mucky Pups! 

The puppies have their eyes open, and they are up on their feet. The little one that was struggling is now the same size as her siblings and is thriving. We start the puppies on a high-quality RAW homemade natural puppy food and Goats milk. This means lots of mess at mealtimes – they get it all over their faces, their paws, all over their clean bedding. And solid food means they are pooping more, and mum is not interested in cleaning up after them! The puppies are fed 4 times per day which means 4 ‘big cleans’ with ‘poop scooping’ in between. Messy puppies get bathed as required. We start to handle the puppies even more now and they begin to engage with us when we make eye contact and hold them. 


Setting The Puppies Up for Life 

We introduce the puppies to basic obstacles and challenges in our puppy playroom. They play in the ball pool, they clamber over and under soft play obstacles, they learn about edges and steps, and they negotiate their way in and around our adventure box. We spend hours supervising and interacting with the puppies as they learn and play and after each play session, we clean and disinfect all of the play equipment. Yes – each and every ball in the ball pool needs washed and disinfected! 

The puppies are doing well on their solid food now and manage to eat their meals without getting food everywhere, so we start to invest more time in training and persuading the puppies to go to the toilet in the right place. They now have access to two areas – a dedicated sleeping area which is cosy with fleece bedding and a dedicated toilet area with absorbent paper bedding to keep them clean and dry. Every time a puppy starts toileting in the wrong place, we pick them up and move them through to the correct area. There are no shortcuts here, they learn with lots and lots of repetition! This really helps with toilet training once they go to their forever homes as they already understand that to go to the toilet, they need to go through a door to a dedicated area where the footing is soft (like grass!). 

The puppies have their first vaccinations and vet health check-ups. They all pass with flying colours. We also worm them several times and microchip them, so they have their permanent ID. 

The puppy visit day is taking place today, so we bath all the puppies in preparation. We also thoroughly clean and disinfect everything between the front door and the puppy visit room. The visit lasts a couple of hours, then we re-clean and re-disinfect after everyone has left. Overall, this is about 6-7 hours work. 

We have a couple more weeks of caring for the puppies before they go to their forever homes. They are quite big now and becoming quite a handful! They are eating well and toileting in the right place but pooping more than ever – so lots and lots of cleaning! As they get older and their brains become more developed, they requireincreasingly one-to-one attention and socialisation. 

Placing The Right Puppy in the Right Home 

At 7 weeks old, we conduct the temperament assessments which are used to allocate the puppies to their families. Each puppy is placed into the same series of scenarios, and we gauge their response to each situation. This is a slow and time-consuming process, but it is the best way to get an objective view of each puppy’s adult temperament. Better puppy-family matches make for happier dogs and happier owners, so it is well worth the time invested. 

Kennel Club Endorsements. 

At 8 weeks old, the puppies are Kennel Club Registered with Endorsements. This is a substantial cost for a litter, but it safeguards the puppies and is the only fool proof way we have of knowing that they will never end up being indiscriminately bred from in a puppy farm. It is also the only fool proof way we have of ensuring that the breed is protected and is not compromised by low standards of breeding. 

The Puppies Go Home… 

The puppies are going to their new homes today – always bittersweet.We have poured our hearts and souls into their care and development for over 8 weeks, so it is tough to let them go, but wonderful to know they have such a great life ahead of them in a home that we have thoroughly vetted. We bath the puppies for the final time, prepare the collection paperwork and make sure that they are all set to go! 

In addition to the time and money spent breeding and raising the puppies, we have spent countless hours communicating with our clients by email and on the phone – educating them, providing information, sending updates and photos. And this does not stop at the time of sale, we continue to support our clients, answering their questions for the lifetime of their puppy. More than half the emails we receive every day are from previous clients. 

This Is Our Job! 

We do not have other jobs; we are professional breeders, and we spend more hours of the week working than most. We do turn a profit, and this is our income – this is not a secret or a crime. We do this because we love it, and we would not do anything else. We love dogs, we love our dogs, and we love bringing puppies into the world that go on to thrive and enhance the lives of others. We take immense pride in what we do, and we love helping people to find the perfect dog for their family. You will never find us cutting corners or compromising our standards. 

We invest a lot of time, (up to 18-hour days, 7 days per week), money, and emotion in our breeding programme, as does any professional breeder. 

 This is why well-bred puppies are expensive.