People often ask why the price for a registered Labrador Retriever puppy varies. My explanation for this references the different types of breeders. One type is composed of people who are uneducated about the breed and breeding in general. They know that they need a male and a female, but that's often all they know about breeding. Most of these people mean no harm and with proper mentoring and knowledge could become good breeders. The people in this group usually do not know about hip dysplasia, bites, pedigrees, movement, type, size and genetics. Some have heard about these things, but don't want to screen their stock for fear that they will have to stop breeding dogs that they already have. Others find out about hereditary disorders and decide to breed better Labs by retiring their present stock and purchasing better.
These people then become the second type of breeder. This group wants to breed the best Labs possible. They spend time and money on reading materials written by experienced and knowledgeable people on the subject of breeding sound, balanced dogs. They are willing to give up dogs that do not grow up to be good stock and make new purchases of breeding prospects. They are willing to spend hours searching through pedigrees and studying stud dogs to find the best possible mates, no matter the distance. They realize that each breeding is a gamble and that genetics is a very complicated science of which man has limited knowledge. They are willing to replace puppies which are found to have a severe disabling genetic defect. Some of these breeders have built a nation-wide, even world-wide reputation. To build such a reputation, the breeder will enter his dogs at AKC licensed events, such as conformation shows. To attain show quality condition, quality food must be fed, entry and handling fees paid, transportation costs paid, and show wins advertised. Winning at shows is not easy as there is much tough competition. A breeder must not only have dogs that move well but those that appeal in type and substance to the judge. Even then it takes thousands of dollars to raise and show a dog to its championship.
A reputable breeder would be a fool to sell the puppies produced by her quality stock at a reduced price. She would be giving away all her time, effort and resources that have been invested for many years. Also, if quality puppies are to continue from this line, then some financial compenasation is needed to cover stud fees, vet checks, medicines, and all the other expenses that are incurred during the planning and raising of a litter. On the other hand, breeders from the "don't know what they are doing" group do not have those expenses. They haven't had their stock x-rayed; they may use a little known stud dog without fees; they may feed a poor quality food that does not maintain adequate growth; they may raise puppies in a dirty environment where constant reinfestation from parasites occurs. Not only may the puppies be unhealthy, but they may grow up to look different from what a Lab should look like.
Now it is very true that all breeders do not fit exactly into one of these two groups. Through a genetic roulette you may get a beautiful, healthy Lab puppy from someone who has just bred their first litter with no planning and you may get a poor example of a Lab from someone who has been breeding successfully for years. Also, the breeder doesn't have to be big to be good.
When looking for a puppy though, you should realize that this purchase is like any other major purchase--you should talk to several different breeders, ask questions, and be comfortable with the person from whom you think you would like to purchase a pup. Do not simply look for a lower priced puppy that will be an expense and embarrassment to you for 10 to 15 years. Be observant when you visit the breeder. If the puppies are spindly and wobbly or if their environment is dirty, they probably are not healthy. If the parents do not look like good Labs and haven't the appropriate hip and eye clearances, the puppies probably won't look like much later and may have health defects.
Usually you get what you pay for.