Dogs trained for a specific purpose, whether as gundogs or guard dogs, can raise extraordinary prices, Charlotte Lycett Green reports
Dogs are amazing creatures and some are worth a lot of money. We’ve been reading about the high prices puppies have reached during the COVID lockdown as everyone decides they want a canine companion. A border collie from Wales has just become the world’s most expensive sheepdog after being sold for £19,451. But what is the usual price of trained dogs?
Price of trained dogs
Guard dogs and protection dogs are in a different league altogether, according to Matt Wiggins from Staffordshire-based WKD Trained Dogs, which trains, supplies and breeds family and working dogs. “They range from anywhere between £2,000 and £40,000, depending on a client’s requirements,” he said. “We train a lot of dogs to be family pets, and this usually takes us about six weeks. Many of our clients are country people, but not necessarily devoted to fieldsports.” Matt says that he takes on a lot of failed gundog breeds because even if they don’t have the drive to hunt and find game they make the ideal family pet.
Matt continues: “The police will pay about £3,000 for a quality, untrained German shepherd and spend 12 weeks training it. They need a dog that has a good nose and can be trained to bite. A protection dog will take six months to train. I usually source them from Europe, and will look at 50 or so dogs before I find the right one. It has to have a natural guarding instinct as it will be trained to bite or show aggression on command. However, it has to have the right temperament and be well balanced and sociable, as it will be a family dog essentially for the majority of the time. It must be tolerant of everything until it is commanded to flick the switch.”
Irish terrier breeder Jean Soeters recently sold one for £10,000 and another for £13,500, which went to a Swiss watchmaker. Jean took six months to train the dog to the client’s exact requirements.
What of working gundog breeds? A senior spaniel judge, who preferred not to be named, said: “Cockers are very popular. A good price for a trained cocker would be about £3,500, but I have never known anybody sell the best dog in the kennel, and I’d be wary of anyone who said that they had too many dogs.
“For a part-trained spaniel, at about 15 months old, I’d expect it to be stopping on the whistle, taking directions left and right, and to be under control. I’d also expect it to have picked game and to be steady. It shouldn’t be as wild as a kite. If I were to buy a fully trained dog, at around three years old, I would expect it to be able to do everything. For hunting spaniels to win field trials, they have to be on the edge. A dog should be able to think for itself. A handler should only be there to guide it. The dog must be able to go out and find game. The most important thing is that the dog has the right attitude and temperament. It has to have an interest.”
Fit for purpose
For the Duke of Buccleuch’s gundog trainer David Lisett, the correct temperament is the key attribute when he is training a dog, as is being fit for purpose. “We don’t sell a lot of dogs,” he said, “but when I am contacted by people who are looking for a trained dog, the first question they ask is how much will it cost. I always say that the hardest part is finding the correct dog for the client.
“The dog must be fit for purpose. Make a wish list of what you expect the dog to be able to do and try to arrange to see a demonstration on the shooting field so that you can watch it being put through its paces. Consider its age, too. The amount of experience it has had in the field, how much game experience and how much life experience it has will also play a big part in how much the dog is worth,” he added.
“If I were looking for a fully trained peg dog, I would like it to have at least one season under its belt to give the dog the experience and patience to be in the shooting field. A part-trained dog should be a good bit cheaper, but you need to be prepared to put in a great deal of work to finish off its training. There is no guarantee that the dog will meet your expectations, whereas you can see what you’re getting with a fully trained dog.”
Price of trained dogs does add up
David also makes the important point that if you were to give an hourly rate to the hours spent training a dog, the true cost would soon add up to an astonishing amount. “Anyone looking to buy a trained dog should consider that fact,” he said. “The most important thing, though, is to make sure the dog has the correct temperament because it will learn quickly and will always want to be a team player. A dog with the wrong temperament will be wilful and harder to train, and temperament is a hard thing to gauge because training can mask imperfections.”
A dog’s temperament must match the capabilities of the handler, according to David. “A dog that is a bit softer may take longer to train but it will stay trained for longer. And it is important to consider whether the dog will be kennelled or whether it will live in the house and be the family pet. Dogs that are highly strung all the time need to be trained to switch off.”
How much are dogs?
- Police forces will pay around £3,000 for a good-quality untrained German shepherd puppy.
- You should expect to pay around £3,500 for a trained cocker spaniel.
- The record price for a sheepdog is £19,451.
- A good guard dog, fully trained, could costs as much as £40,000.
- The record price for any sort of dog was realised by an 11-month-old Tibetan Mastiff named Big Splash. He was recently purchased by a wealthy businessman in China for $1.5million (approximately £1,133,716).