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After the pandemic boom are dog prices returning to normal?

Home » After the pandemic boom are dog prices returning to normal?

The pandemic saw the first time dog ownership rise at unprecedented levels. 3.2 million pets were bought during the pandemic with many going to young first time owners. The under 35’s accounted for 59% of these new pets and 56% of them had children at home. Most upsettingly, 5% (c.160,000) of all these pets were given up within the first year. Prices spiked as a result and suddenly those looking for working dogs were priced out.

What happened in the Pandemic

Pre pandemic prices had been fairly stagnant for some time. Depending on who you knew a Labrador or a Spaniel could be had for £500. From a KC registered breeder up to £1000 with more than that being trial champion litters. Finding a dog wasn’t an issue and buyers were under no pressure to buy any dog. The president was to ensure that the dog was from a healthy litter and to see both parents.

Come into the pandemic in 2020 and these prices stored past £2000 regularly. People began breeding from their family pets and selling to the highest bidder. In some cases, breeders looking to not add to the problem sold their dogs at pre covid prices only to see those puppies listed at a premium just days later. Equally, buyers felt the pressure to put down deposits straight away without doing the recommended checks for fear of missing out.

Unscrupulous breeders also took this opportunity to steal dogs and breed from them. Dogs that have been imported or bred in a puppy farm are passed off as family pets. Unsuspecting first time buyers who didn’t realise were quickly fooled into believing just that. The result was many people were missold breeds and dogs became seriously unwell soon after they arrived home.

Consequences for first time buyers

First time buyers were put at a disadvantage when it came to buying a dog during the pandemic. Choosing to buy a dog is the easiest decision while which dog to choose is impossibly difficult. Whether that’s what breed or which pup from the litter there are decisions at every turn. Breeders knew this better than anyone else and wanted big deposits upfront and putting off house visits until a later date. With that said, the buying etiquette changed to promote quick sales rather than good homes.

For first time owners, the FOMO was very apparent and people made quick decisions just to get their dog. The competitive nature meant people rushed into decisions and rarely had the opportunity to visit the home and meet the parents. This played into the hands of the aforementioned crooks who pressed buyers for deposits on deceptively cheap dogs. Equally, those using puppy farms took this opportunity to sell poorly bred dogs.

This transpired into some really unfortunate and ultimately avoidable situations. People were sold dogs unsuitable for their lifestyle and ultimately gave up these dogs. Equally, some dogs were sold under the guise of a sweet family dog falling pregnant while the truth was the complete opposite. In many cases, these dogs became sick or were revealed to not be the breed they were advertised as. Most of this could have been avoided with proper due diligence but the market didn’t allow for this to be done.

What this meant for those that work dogs

The consequence to the working man was quite stark. The biddable labrador and the pocket rocket spaniel soon found homes across the country. Historically these have been go-to breeds for beginners and this was evidently true in lockdown. Just getting the opportunity to look at a dog became difficult. Consequently, those looking to add to their pack either had to stump up the cash or wait. For those looking to retire a dog it became a really tricky period to replace them.

The provenance of a dog has always been important but this quickly became unaffordable during the lockdown. It soon became incredibly difficult to find a well bred dog that was suitable for working life without huge financial outlay. Knowing your dog has working lineage acts as a small insurance policy that your pup would follow suit. With so many people claiming working lineage it became hard to see the wood from the trees.

Compounding the issue was that some of our favourite breeds become the most expensive. While some communities were able to buy dogs from their connections this wasn’t possible for many. Trying to buy a working breed through standard channels became a bidding war. Even crossbreed dogs were superseding the previous price of a pure breed. Inevitably some took the opportunity to breed from their own dogs to try and fill the gap.

What’s the situation now?

Thankfully the bedlam that took place during COVID looks to be finally slowing down. After 2 years the lofty prices are on the way back to normality. Excluding “silver labradors” the most expensive lab pups are those with 0/0 Hip scoring parents at 3,000£. However, the average price looks to be between 700£ and 1200£. The same is true with Spaniels where the peaky prices have returned to more sensible levels between 800£-1200£ for a cocker and Springers 1000£ and below.

While the majority are probably 20% more than pre lockdown prices this may be a reflection of how stagnant the prices had been before hand. While some may contest this but 1000£ for a good dog isn’t overly expensive especially considering the course of the dog’s life. Equally, considering the other expenses, the initial purchase price is soon forgotten. The purchase should be dictated by which dog is the healthiest rather than which one is the cheapest.

Springer Spaniel

Back to reality?

Yes and no is the answer to this. After what went on in COVID we believe the best port of call is building relationships with local breeders. While the internet is great you don’t always get what you think you will. While adverts are getting better we believe to get a good dog you have to do it the old fashioned way. Good dogs will always be available provided that you’re in the know. Contacting local breeders ahead of time should be the first port of call when looking for a dog.

In terms of pricing, we doubt the prices will return to pre pandemic levels, especially on the open market. With that said, we expect a good dog to cost 15% either side of 1000£. This will depend on region and provenance but anything more or less should be questioned. For Gundog owners, this is a welcome change. Working dogs take up a huge amount of time and become part of our lives and lifestyle. We think this will translate into more dogs going into good working homes.


Buying a dog during COVID became a minefield of potential scams, dubious history and high prices. This went on for over 12 months with little sign of anything changing. Looking at the situation two years after it started we can see that this was a bubble. While we always thought this we never knew when we’d see the return to normality. Thankfully it seems that the breeders out delivered to demand and prices have returned to where they should be.

Those looking to add to their pack or to buy their first dog can look with a little more comfort now than they could a few years ago. Equally, with the amount now written on the topic, first time dog owners can go into a buying decision armed with the right questions. We’re thankful to see the prices returning towards normality. Hopefully we will now see breeders becoming more scrupulous in deciding who buys their dogs rather than who will pay the most.

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