How much does a Labrador cost to buy as a puppy, raise up and care for during their lifetime? The average price for a Labrador Retriever puppy is usually around $1200. But, ongoing costs can bring the total price much higher! Your pup will need feeding, grooming and bathing, but they’ll also need a bunch of kit like beds, toys, chews, leashes, collars, harnesses and much more. Today we’ll help you to estimate what the cost of a Labrador puppy will be to your family, and whether you can afford it.
- How much does a Labrador cost?
- Breeders vs rescue centers
- What do I need to buy before getting a Labrador puppy?
- The ongoing costs of Labradors
The Labrador Retriever is one of the most popular family dogs across the entire world. Labs make popular pets and thrive in working roles. They’re also highly recommended as a first-time dog, thanks to their easy-going, affectionate temperaments. But, a lot of people don’t realise how expensive Labs can be! So, how much should you expect to fork out for a new Labrador puppy?
How Much Does a Labrador Cost?
As a general rule, Labrador puppies cost somewhere between $800 and $2000. But, some can be found cheaper, and some can cost up to $3000. And, this is just the upfront cost of the puppy. You’ll also need to spend money preparing for the pup’s arrival, and on maintaining their health. This includes the cost of food, veterinary bills, grooming, bedding, and so on.
We’ll take a closer look at the ongoing costs of a Labrador Retriever later in this guide. But, for now, let’s examine the factors that can influence an individual puppy’s price. Things that can impact the cost of a puppy include:
- Quality of the breeder
- Quality of the parent dogs
- Type of Labrador (eg. show or working)
- Coat color
- Time of year/current demand for puppies
You can control some of these factors to try and bring down the upfront cost of your puppy. For instance, puppy prices tend to be higher before Christmas, so buy a puppy in the spring, instead. But, other factors will depend on the type of Labrador that’s right for you.
The Cost of Different Labrador Colors
One element that can impact puppy price is the color of a Labrador’s coat. Though, this factor isn’t as influential as it used to be. Originally, black Labs were favored above other colors. Brown and yellow Labs were extremely uncommon, and were not at all desirable.
Over time, this opinion changed and brown and yellow Labs became more accepted. Shooting communities still tend to prefer the black Lab, but yellow Labs are very common in other working roles, like as therapy dogs and guide dogs.
On the whole, each official Labrador color will cost a similar amount. But, yellow and brown Labs may cost slightly more than black Labs, since the genes that cause their coloring are recessive and therefore are less common.
Another way that color can impact a puppy’s cost is when it doesn’t align with the breed standard. For instance, dilute shades or mismarks.
Dilute coloring is recessive and highly controversial in the Labrador community. The genes that cause these shades will dilute pigmentation, turning black Labs into charcoal Labs, chocolate Labs into silver Labs, and yellow Labs into champagne Labs. Some believe this color results from cross-breeding. But, others believe the recessive genes simply remained hidden over generations, like original yellow and chocolate coloring.
Dilute colors are not accepted in the official breed standard. So, many breeders will not adjust their price, and some may even lower it for unexpected dilute puppies. However, disreputable breeders may try to charge considerably more for these colors, instead marketing them as ‘rare’.
The same is the case with mismarks. Mismarks can include white patches and spots, brindling, and even tan markings. Extensive mismarks will disqualify a Lab from show.
American Lab vs English Lab Cost
English and American are two terms used to also describe the show and field Labrador types. Show type Labs are bred to fit the Labrador breed standard. They are usually slightly stockier and less active than field types. Field types are more often bred for their working ability than for any specific appearance.
Labradors who are bred for show are typically slightly more expensive than others. English, or show type Labradors, usually cost at least $2000, though you may find some that are cheaper.
Field Labs tend to be cheaper than Labradors bred for show. But, you should consider which type is best for you, rather than just going for the cheapest Labrador you can find. Field type Labs can be much more energetic and active than show types. First time owners may find the English Lab slightly easier to raise and train!
Breeders vs Rescue Centers
Labrador puppies from reputable breeders will cost more than dogs from a rescue center. Whilst Labs from breeders can cost thousands of dollars, Labradors from rescue centers can only be a few hundred dollars. So, if you’re seeking a cheaper upfront cost, check local rescue centers for your new companion.
A major difference between Labs from a breeder and Labs from a rescue center is the history of the dogs. Puppies from a breeder will stay with their mom and siblings until 8 weeks old. At 8 weeks, puppies can go to their new home. Rescue center dogs can have unknown histories, or even histories that involve abuse.
Labs from rescue centers are usually older, and have often lived with other families. However, many Labs are given up for non-behavioral reasons. They can be just as wonderful pets as puppies from a breeder. And, many dogs from rescue centers will have basic training, including house training, obedience, and potentially recall. But, before bringing home a rescue dog you will usually have a home visit, and an interview to make sure you’re suitable.
Why Are Breeders So Expensive?
Reputable breeders tend to cost more than any other puppy source. But, that price isn’t all profit. In fact, reputable breeders often won’t make enough money from their puppies to rely on them as a source of income. They won’t constantly have litters available, and will often have waiting lists until the time is right for their dogs to breed.
Breeders have to spend a lot when breeding a litter, and all of this will lower their profit margins. Some of their costs include:
- Health testing and certificates
- Stud fee
- Birthing supplies
- Emergency supplies for birthing complications
- First vaccinations for puppies
- Veterinary check ups for puppies and mom
- De-worming for puppies
- AKC registration
- Bedding for puppies and mom
- Food for puppies and mom
- Any other puppy supplies, eg. puppy pads, collars, teething toys
- Advertising costs
A high price isn’t an automatic indicator of a good breeder. But it’s worth bearing in mind all of the things that a good breeder should be paying for. If you see Labrador puppies selling for a very low price, it’s worth asking yourself if that price would cover all of the above.
A Note About Puppy Mills
Puppy mills and backyard breeders are a common source for cheaper Labrador puppies. Pet stores also often source puppies from these places. But, all three of these options should be avoided.
Puppy mills and backyard breeders will most often give their dogs the most basic care and will not pay out for things like health tests before breeding. Puppies and dogs are often not kept as a part of the family, but as a source of income. Mother dogs can be bred too frequently with little regard for health, and puppies can be separated and given to new owners too early. This can lead to behavioral problems and expensive health issues.
Puppy mills tend to jump on trends, such as the increasingly popular Labradoodle. However, since Labs are an all-time favorite, they’re a common sight at puppy mills. Puppies from these sources will often be cheaper than those from a reputable breeder because less money is spent on their care and health. But, they will likely have higher lifetime costs, including veterinary bills. So, that lower upfront cost is not worth the risk.
What Do I Need to Buy for a Labrador Puppy?
Labrador puppies cost more than just the fee for a puppy. Before you bring your puppy home, you need to make sure you have all the correct equipment. This can be a surprisingly long list. But, you should consider this cost, as well as the cost of a puppy, as it will increase your total spending. Here’s a list of equipment you need, and the potential cost of it.
|Dog bed||$30 – $100|
|Crate and divider||$50 – $100|
|Food and water bowls||$15|
|Poop bags||$5 – $10|
|Toys||$10 – $100|
|Puppy food||$25 – $50|
These supplies will all need to be in your home before the puppy comes home. And, this can add over $450 dollars onto your purchasing list. You will also need to pay for other things after your puppy comes home, such as more vaccinations, a microchip (if your breeder hasn’t already), pet insurance, and so on. So, the price of a Labrador puppy can easily go up several hundred dollars by counting the preparation you must do, and the cost of that first week together.
The Ongoing Cost of Labradors
Bills can add up when you’re first bringing home a puppy. But, they don’t stop after that first week. You should also consider the ongoing cost of keeping a Labrador before committing. Some things you will have to pay for throughout your Lab’s life or puppyhood include:
- Veterinary bills
- Puppy food, adult dog food, senior dog food
- Dental chews or toothbrushing equipment
- Replacing old toys
- Larger bedding and crate if you started with one that fits your puppy
- Larger harness
- Trips to the groomers
- Training lessons or an online course
- Equipment for training, eg. whistle and long line leash
These prices can really vary depending on the dog. But, puppies from disreputable sources like puppy mills and backyard breeders are likely to cost you more in the long run with health complications and behavioral issues.
Over the course of a Labrador’s lifetime, many sources estimate that owners spend over $20,000 on their dog.
How Much Does a Labrador Cost?
The upfront cost of Labradors can seem like a lot. But, many people forget to include the cost of puppy supplies, veterinary trips, and other ongoing fees in this calculation. So, a Labrador puppy can cost more than you’d first expect.
There are plenty of ways to bring down this cost. For instance, choose a rescue dog. Or, look for toys and dog products from cheaper sources, like garage sales or second hand stores. If you’re really struggling, there are also companies that can help you with veterinary bills and the cost of dog food.
However, you shouldn’t support puppy mills and backyard breeders. Even if their puppies are cheaper up front, they will often have health issues and behavioral problems that result from their poor early treatment. And, these can be more costly to fix later in life. Rescue dogs are a better alternative if you’re looking for a low upfront cost.
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References and Resources
- Holland, K. ‘Acquiring a Pet Dog: A Review of Factors Affecting the Decision-Making of Prospective Dog Owners’, Animals (2019)
- Daiker, M. ‘How Much is that Doggie in the Window: the True Cost of Puppy Mills’, Ball State University Libraries (2016)
- Harris, L. (et al), ‘Impact of Socio-Economic Status on Accessibility of Dog Training Classes’, Animals (2019)
- Waters, A. ‘Pandemic Puppy Phenomenon is a Reality’, Veterinary Record (2021)
The Labrador Site Founder
Pippa Mattinson is the best selling author of The Happy Puppy Handbook, the Labrador Handbook, Choosing The Perfect Puppy, and Total Recall.
She is also the founder of the Gundog Trust and the Dogsnet Online Training Program
Pippa's online training courses were launched in 2019 and you can find the latest course dates on the Dogsnet website
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