By Paul Sullivan
For dog lovers, watching Rumor — the German shepherd named best in show this week at the 141st Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show — glide around Madison Square Garden with her owner was thrilling. They were man and dog in harmony.
But that harmony — never mind a victory at an event as grand as Westminster — does not come cheap.
Most owners spend tens of thousands in the year leading up to the competition — some breeders place the figure at more than $100,000 for certain dogs with deep-pocketed backers — to get their dog ready and recognized by the judges.
It may seem like the ultimate indulgence for the uninitiated, and it very well may be. Unlike with racing horses, another favored investment for animal lovers of means, there isn’t even a guarantee that winning will bring riches in the puppy world.
“It’s very unpredictable,” said Mary Wiest, who for the past 50 years has been breeding and showing Labradors from her kennel, Beechcroft Labradors in Warren, N.J. “If everything goes right, you’ll make money. But if something goes wrong, you can lose a lot.”
“In all the years I’ve been breeding, probably five of those years I’ve made money,” she said. “The rest of the time, my husband supported my hobby.”
It is the hobby aspect that attracts many of the people who watched Westminster this week. Wouldn’t it be great to be out there with your dog? It probably would. But getting there takes as much time as it does money.
The first cost is the dog itself. A purebred dog can range from $1,000 to $5,000, said Dr. Jerry Klein, chief veterinary officer of the American Kennel Club. The rarer the breed, the more expensive the dog. And within breeds, dogs meant for the show ring (and not just the couch) command a premium.