Puppies

Sector spending increase: 12%

At the start of the pandemic, Judy Lowery assumed she was screwed.

Lowery and her husband, Doug, run a dog breeding program out of their home in Salem, producing litters of English cream golden retrievers that sell for $3,000 a pup. She had a female going to breed in March and decided to hold off. With so much economic uncertainty, how many people would be clamoring for another snout to feed?

It immediately proved to be a miscalculation. "Requests just came pouring in," she says. "It's phenomenal."

The waiting list at Oregon Mist Goldens, the breeding program the Lowerys started in Montana in 2011, now extends for nearly the next year. She has one litter already born and two planned for spring, all reserved in advance. Purchase requests have quadrupled from previous years, she says. And the phone keeps ringing.

"If and when we have another litter," Lowery says, "it'll be snatched up in 48 hours."

In her nearly 10 years as a breeder, Lowery, 53, has never seen demand so high. She's hearing the same thing from others in the industry: In her main job at a pet nutrition company, she's in contact with animal professionals across the country. Everyone is reporting huge numbers.

DOGS, GONE: Salem dog breeder Judy Lowery with her English cream golden retriever puppies. She charges $3,500 per pup.
DOGS, GONE: Salem dog breeder Judy Lowery with her English cream golden retriever puppies. She charges $3,500 per pup.

It's not just purebreds attracting interest, either. A spokesperson for the Oregon Humane Society says that while adoption numbers are down due to restrictions on in-person shelter visits, inquiries have spiked in 2020.

Lars Schroeder, a Labrador breeder also from Salem, says for many of his recent clients, it's a matter of filling the extra time at home.

"Puppies take a lot more work than a grown dog," says Schroeder, who sold off his last litter almost as soon as they were born. "It's great if you can be home with them instead of coming home to a chewed-up dining room table."

In other cases, it's a diversion of funds. One of Lowery's customers told her the dog was a replacement for a planned European vacation. They named it London.

Whatever the reason, business is booming and the demand is driving up prices. Lowery now charges $3,500 for a retriever puppy—a less significant increase than she's seen from some other breeders.

"People are desperate to buy pets, so [the price] goes hand in hand," she says. "I've tried to keep it within reason."