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Puppy prices go down

The record costs seen over lockdown have come to an end, and David Tomlinson investigates what the current market looks like

spaniel puppies

English springer puppies

It is a question that, until a decade or so ago, would have been easy to answer simply by looking at the classified advertisements for dogs in the back of Shooting Times. The rise of the internet led to the death of the classified ads we all used to love trawling through, so now you have to go online to get an idea of current puppy prices.

Dominating the online puppy market is Pets4Homes, a site that carries a huge number of advertisements for puppies of virtually any breed. I’m writing this in February, and today I see that it has no fewer than 655 cocker puppies for sale, 136 English springers, 87 sprockers, 600 labradors and even three Clumbers. It’s a well-organised and easy-to-use website: there are filters for both price and age, along with the type of (individual, rescue/charity, breeder, company), while you can also specify only Kennel Club-registered puppies or those from council-licensed breeders. With the gundogs it would be good to have a filter for working type and show-bred dogs, but that’s a bit too much to ask. (Read more on buying a gundog puppy.) 


Most of the sellers are individuals, and this is reflected in the unprofessional wording of many of the ads. Almost every puppy is described as wonderful, beautiful, lovely or gorgeous, the plural of puppies is frequently spelt “puppy’s” and most are looking for “forever homes”. I’ve no doubt that most of the advertisers are genuine people who really do want their puppies to go to good homes, but they are hoping to make a useful sum of money at the same time.

What is instantly apparent is that the hugely inflated prices commanded during lockdown have fallen back. Last season I chatted to a Gun on a shoot who told me that his working cocker bitch had produced a litter of cockerpoo puppies in 2020. He had bred the litter for friends and family, with no thought of making money out of the puppies. However, the litter was larger than expected, so there were two he decided to sell. Even at £3,000 each he was inundated with potential buyers, so he put the price up to £3,500 to reduce the demand. Once he had two buyers he liked he reduced the price he charged them by £1,000, which was a sporting gesture. (Read cockerpoo as gundog.)

One of the problems of the inflated puppy prices was that any puppies sold at what seemed at the time a bargain price were liable to be purchased by unscrupulous buyers and then sold on at a fat profit. That’s one money-making scheme that no longer works, as prices have fallen back to more modest sums, and there are indications that some sellers are struggling to find buyers. I noted one seller of English springer puppies who was going to offer them to Hearing Dogs for Deaf People if he didn’t get a buyer for them very soon.

Intriguingly, prices for cocker puppies are now, on average, slightly lower than those for English springers, probably because there are far more of them available. For £750 or £800 you should be able to buy a cocker from working-bred, health-tested parents, though docked puppies are in short supply.

spaniel puppy

Puppy prices have now fallen across the board

English springer prices are closer to the £1,000 mark, or somewhat more for puppies with field trial champions in their pedigree. But there are still some old-fashioned bargains there, such as a trio of unregistered but good-looking springers for £300 each. They appeared to have been docked, too.

During lockdown, labrador prices were nudging £3,000, and I remember seeing a litter of 10 fox-red labradors priced at £2,950 each, all of which had sold. This, I’m sure, wasn’t unusual. However, the chances of making a cool £25,000 or more from a litter of labrador puppies aren’t great any more. While there are some optimistic breeders asking as much as £2,500, there are plenty of more modestly priced puppies out there for as little as £700 or £800.

If you are buying a puppy and want a pedigree dog, then the Kennel Club (KC) Assured Breeder search on the KC website is well worth a look. However, somewhat frustratingly, many puppies advertised there aren’t priced, while those that are tend to be more expensive than puppies on Pets4Homes. If you are prepared to negotiate on price, then look for puppies that are over 12 weeks old. At this age most breeders are keen to find homes for their fast-growing puppies, and prices can and do drop sharply.

Perhaps the biggest test of puppy prices is that of cockerpoos, the cross-breed that may well be Britain’s favourite dog (nobody knows, as they are not KC-registered). I found over 700 cockerpoo pups on the Pets4Homes site, with the average price around £1,200.

Two years ago it was a seller’s market for puppies, but it’s clear that’s no longer the case. I doubt if prices will ever drop back to their pre-lockdown levels, but that’s no bad thing. If you are buying, proceed with caution, consider as many litters as possible and make sure that your puppy comes from health-tested parents.