As a lifelong dog owner and breeder for several years, I have found a great need to educate people in the process of buying a puppy online. There are so many breeders with so many options that it can all become overwhelming in no time. I support local shelters, but realize that there are many families who want a healthy puppy that has been raised with children to add to their family. If you have decided that a puppy like this is what you want for your family, then you will be on an adventure to find the right one for you. Once 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 him soon after you start communication. You can tell a lot by the attitude of the person and you will soon know if they have knowledge and experience in what they are doing by asking a few questions. Here is a list of questions to ask first of all:
1. Do you have a state license? – If a person does not have a state license, then he is raising dogs as a hobby or illegally. You want to find a puppy that has had research and planning going into their breeding, not just two dogs together to produce a puppy. If they don’t have a state license, don’t consider them. Many states have or are in the process of vastly improving their canine laws, making it impossible in many states to run a puppy mill and obtain a license.
2. Is this your full time business? There are many breeders who have OTHER full-time jobs in addition to their kennel. This makes it almost impossible to properly focus on your dogs and puppies. In our kennel, my husband and I work full time, as well as two part-time employees. Chances are, if your breeder has another job, your kennel is not the top priority and your satisfaction is not the top priority either.
3. Do you only sell puppies raised by you? There are many, many people advertising on the internet for other people and you can never see where your puppy was raised and raised. If you can’t physically see your puppy’s parents, don’t buy it. This is especially important when buying a designer (mixed) breed, as many people think they can get away with breeding anything and then adding a designer name to it. You also don’t want to support a puppy mill without knowing it by purchasing a puppy from a dealer. Often times, the reason people don’t sell their own puppies is because they have something to hide in their own place or because they don’t want to be responsible for any future problems. A good breeder will stand behind their puppies and offer a decent guarantee. If there is no guarantee with your prospective pup, walk away!
4. Do you wholesale your puppies? There are quite a few puppy mills that sell only some of their puppies and then ship the rest to pet stores, sometimes across the country. A good breeder will meet, or at least talk to, every new puppy owner. Responsible breeders care about their puppies and where they are going. A good breeder will also offer to carry the puppy throughout its life instead of the puppy or dog going to a shelter due to the inability to care for the puppy.
5. Are your puppies AND adults regularly checked by the vet? I am appalled at the number of breeders who do not veterinarily monitor their puppies or adults. This is the most important step to take to ensure a healthy puppy is produced. Even breeders who control their puppies do not bother to control their breeding dogs. EVER. To deliver the best quality puppy, healthy parents are essential. Request proof of the parents’ veterinary reports. You may not think you should ask, but make sure puppies have all applicable vaccinations and deworming and ask for tests.
6. Can I see where your dogs are kept? An irresponsible breeder will tell you no. You may not necessarily be allowed into a kennel for a number of reasons, including biosecurity and health reasons, but you should at least be able to see adult dogs.
7. Do you have references from previous clients? This is a very important step. Don’t overlook it!
There are many more questions to ask your potential breeder. If your breeders show signs of good communication and a willingness to help you in your search and try to work with you, you have found something special. Quick responses mean they care about you and would like to help. If you do not receive responses via email or phone calls, it probably means that you will also not get answers to your questions after the sale. 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 who knows who and are probably putting a huge margin on the pups. Also be wary of websites that offer 10-year warranties. This seems too good to be true and generally is. Read the fine print and see their outrageous requirements for this warranty to be in effect. Pet stores are out of the question. As cute as the pup may seem, refrain because you could be signing up for a lifetime of headaches and vet bills. Chances are, you’re supporting puppy mills by shopping at a pet store anyway.
When you go to the kennel to meet the puppy and the breeder, if you have a feeling that is not good when you arrive and when you leave, stay with him.
Despite all the risks and heartache that buying a puppy online can bring, there are many good and responsible breeders who offer quality puppies and lifelong support. Don’t be afraid to shop online, just be smart!