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What's a Chihuahua Puppy Actually Worth?

The COVID pandemic has had many unintended consequences, the most worrying for us is the escalating price of Chihuahuas and even Chihuahua-cross puppies available for sale on sites like TradeMe.

It’s alarming, because we have seen this before and there is a lesson to be learned from French Bulldogs and how – even without a pandemic thrown in - they progressed from an exotic pedigree breed a few years ago, to a breed so riddled with health problems, that eventually TradeMe banned their sale from the site, altogether, stating on their website that “This is not a decision we’ve made lightly, as we know how popular and well loved these breeds are, however we cannot in good conscience allow the sale of these animals any further.”

They also state “We estimate this will affect approximately 40 breeders from listing on site each month.”

French Bulldogs, back in 2011, cost about $2000 for a Dogs NZ papered puppy (we know, we thought about buying one). In 2021, the site (one of the many sites that popped up after the TradeMe ban), is selling Frenchies for as much as $8000.

So do the math – the average litter of Frenchies is 3 puppies. At $8K, that’s $24,000 tax free for each litter. Even with veterinary expenses taken out, you could still net around $20K.

40 breeders A MONTH were impacted by the TradeMe ban? Think about what that means. 40 x $20K x 12 months? That $9.6 MILLION a year!

Even if you look at the same numbers for pups sold at only $5000, it’s still $7.2 million per annum in Frenchie sales.

It is any wonder, then, that so many backyard breeders saw the $$$ signs, jumped on the Frenchie bandwagon and started breeding and selling these pups in ridiculous numbers. The result of these high profit puppies was the proliferation of “for profit” backyard breeders (aka Greeders), with no care or understanding of the critical health issues that responsible breeders manage as a matter of course and the near decimation of the breed. They can’t even be flown with a commercial airline in Australia, now, because of the health risks.

This does not even begin to address the issue of the dogs’ welfare, either. Dogs NZ registered breeders are limited to 4 litters, but a backyard breeder can breed a bitch until she drops.

Sadly, we are witnessing a similar trend in Chihuahuas. Five years ago, a Dogs NZ papered Chihuahua might cost anywhere between $800 - $1500. A quick look on Trademe today, there seems to be a crop a of new breeders popping up (we’re assuming this by the low transaction count on their profiles). These “breeders” are selling their pups for as much as $3500 for both papered and unpapered dogs (and even crossbreeds), and we’ve seen dogs for sale in Australia (on the Dogzonline site, which only allows ads from registered breeders) for as much as $4500 AUD.

This price explosion is not a problem limited to New Zealand, or indeed, to Chihuahuas. Stuff posted an article in April this year, Puppy prices as high as $6000,..”, raising the alarm. A similar story appeared in Australia on the ABC website. In the UK, according to Tattler, a French Bulldog is now going for as much as £10,000 (that’s roughly $19,600 NZD).

The trouble for legitimate breeders (and the breed) is that the “for profit” breeders follow them when it comes to price.

Which brings us to our own dilemma.

Kitaco has been the largest producer of pedigree papered Chihuahuas in New Zealand for the past couple of years, which puts us in the position of market leader, whether we want to be or not. We don’t advertise our prices, but it’s easy enough to find out if you talk to us, and the $$ creep we’re seeing seems to be following alarmingly close to our prices.

The result of this, we’re starting to think, is that if we were to put an listing on TradeMe tomorrow saying we had a litter of fully vaccinated, well-socialised pups from DNA health-tested parents that came with 13 months full pet insurance, an airline travel crate, 24 hour on-call veterinary advice and a lifetime rehoming guarantee available for $5000 per pup, the following week, there will be a backyard breeder offering their unpapered litter for $5000 per pup (complete with a toy, blanket and a six-week vet check).

And in the background, there will be a flurry of wannabe "Greeders" suddenly rushing to find themselves a couple of Chihuahua bitches, because hey, Chihuahuas can have up to 5 pups in a litter, and at $5K a pup, that’s $25K. 2 Litters a year for each bitch? $100K? Wow, that’s more than a lot of people earn in a legitimate day job.

Of course, the reality is nothing like that. Nobody who goes into breeding for profit is going to put the welfare of their dogs first, because the two are, in many cases, mutually exclusive. Bitches rarely have the required number of pups, health problems crop up, a litter can be lost, the bitch might be lost too, and they frequently need C-sections (invariably afterhours) so the profit margins evaporate, but not before a lot of unnecessary suffering for both the bitch and the breeder.

As a result of this, we have made the decision to not only cap our prices, but to reduce them (happy news for those on the waiting list!) to what we consider a fair price for a Chihuahua puppy that comes with everything we offer. We do not intend to feed this price monster by giving the impression there is a fabulous profit to be made breeding Chihuahuas in NZ. There are plenty of legitimate, long-standing Chihuahua breeders in NZ who breed for the love of the breed and have a deep understanding of their dogs and their craft, who are not charging exorbitant prices.

But being the cheapest, doesn’t help the situation, either. The Australian Association of Pet Dog Breeders president, Tracee Rushton, warned that registered breeders had to match market rates to avoid creating a secondary puppy market. "The problem is if we don't price our puppies in accordance with the current market rate, what we have found is that we get people purchasing puppies for a cheap price, then turning around and immediately reselling those puppies for a greater amount," she said.

We are not reducing the health testing we do – in fact, we are increasing our testing regime with the addition of PennHip scoring and specifically testing for Legg-Calve-Perthes disease which is a problem we have seen in some NZ lines and are the only NZ Chihuahua breeder to offer this. We still include 12 months full coverage pet insurance with Petplan (click here for details) and all the other benefits that come with a Kitaco puppy (see full list here).

Our new price will be the median, not the most expensive, nor the cheapest. It is up to the puppy buyer to do their homework and decide what they want and what they consider value for money.

And if other breeders still want to price their dogs like Frenchies? Well, that’s what a free market is all about.


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