As a lifetime dog owner and a breeder for several years myself, I’ve found a great need for educating people in the process of purchasing a puppy online. There are so many breeders with so many options, it can all become overwhelming in a short period of time. I do support local shelters but I realize that there are many families out there that want a healthy puppy that was raised around kids to add to their family. If you have decided that a puppy like this is what you want for your family, then you will have an adventure finding the right one for you. After you’ve decided which breed is right for your family, you need to find a breeder. You can email your prospective breeder initially, but be SURE to speak with them soon after beginning communication. You can tell a lot by the person’s attitude and you will soon know if they are knowledgable and experienced in what they are doing by asking a few questions. Here is a list of questions to ask before anything else:
1. Are you state licensed? – If a person is not state licensed, then they are breeding dogs as a hobby or illegally. You want to find a puppy that has had research and planning gone into its breeding, not just two dogs thrown together to produce a puppy. If they are not state licensed, don’t consider them. Many states have or are in the process of greatly improving their dog laws so in many states, it’s impossible to run a puppy mill and be licensed.
2. Is this your full-time business? There are many breeders that have OTHER full-time jobs besides their kennel. This makes it nearly impossible to focus on their dogs and puppies properly. At our kennel, we have my husband and I working full-time, as well as two part-time employees. Mostly likely, if your breeder has another job, their kennel isn’t top priority and your satisfaction is not top priority, either.
3. Do you only sell puppies bred by you? There are many, many people advertising on the internet for other people and you never get to see where your puppy was bred and raised. If you can’t physically see the parents of your puppy, then don’t purchase it. This is especially important when purchasing a designer (mixed) breed since so many people think they can get away with breeding anything and then attaching a designer name to it. You also don’t want to support a puppy mill unknowingly by purchasing a puppy from a dealer. Many times the reason that people don’t sell their own puppies is because they have something to hide at their own place or they don’t want to be responsible for any future issues. A good breeder will stand behind their puppies and offer a decent guarantee. If there is no guarantee with your prospective puppy, stay away!
4. Do you wholesale your puppies? There are quite a few puppy mills out there that are retailing only some of their puppies and then send the rest to pet shops, sometimes all over the country. A good breeder will meet, or at least speak to, every new puppy owner. Responsible breeders care about their puppies and where they go. A good breeder will also offer to take the puppy back over the course of its lifetime rather than the puppy or dog going to a shelter due to inability to care for the puppy.
5. Are your puppies AND adults vet checked regularly? I’m appalled at the number of breeders that do not get their puppies or adults vet-checked. This is the single most important step to take to ensure a healthy puppy is being produced. Even breeders that get their puppies checked do not bother to get their breeding dogs checked. EVER. In order to offer the best quality puppy, healthy parents are a MUST. Ask for proof of the parent’s vet reports. You may not think you need to ask, but make sure the puppies have all applicable vaccinations and de-worming and ask for proof.
6. Can I see the place where your dogs are kept? An irresponsible breeder will tell you no. You may not necessarily be allowed into a kennel for several reasons, including Bio-Security and health reasons, but you should at least be able to see the adult dogs.
7. Do you have references from past customers? This is a very important step. Don’t overlook it!
There are many more questions to ask your potential breeder. If your breeders shows signs of good communication and willingness to help you on your quest and tries to work with you, you have found something special. Quick responses mean they care about you and would like to help. No email responses or phone calls returned probably means that you will not get questions answered after the sale either. Don’t expect immediate responses because responsible kennel owners are extremely busy, but 24 hours is a reasonable expectation.
Stay away from dealers and websites with 800 numbers. They are advertising for who knows who and are probably putting a huge mark-up on the puppies. Also beware of websites offering 10-year guarantees. This seems too good to be true and it usually is. Read the fine print and see their outrageous requirements for this guarantee to be in place. Pet shops are out of the question. As cute as the puppy seems, refrain yourself because you could be signing up for a lifetime of heartache and vet bills. You most likely are supporting puppy mills by purchasing from a pet shop anyway.
When you go to the kennel to meet the puppy and the breeder, if you have a gut feeling that isn’t good when you get there AND when you leave, stick with it.
In spite of all the risks and heartache that can be involved in purchasing a puppy online, there are many good, responsible breeders that offer quality puppies and lifetime support. Don’t be afraid to buy online, just be smart!