Tips for Contacting a Dog Breeder

Puppy buying is a bit of an art. As a breeder, and being in breeder-communities, I know that breeders can experience a lot of frustration with enquiries.  Puppy buyers, I’m sure, also get frustrated, and perhaps don’t know that they are going about puppy buying in the ‘wrong way’.

I’ve compiled a list of tips for contacting a dog breeder.  These are broad and general, but hopefully will help anyone who is searching for a puppy.

Border Collie Puppy - Guide to approaching dog breeders

Don’t treat puppy buying as a financial transaction.  Don’t use commodified terms –  like “stock” or “product”.  Don’t expect to turn up, pay money, and get a puppy.  That is not how the process works.  We don’t need to get the puppy ‘off our hands’, so don’t bargain or haggle.  Don’t ask for a discount for any reason, not even if you’re a pensioner.  A puppy that is mis-marked, or ‘pet quality’, or older than 8 weeks took just as much work (perhaps even more work) than the show quality stars in the litter.  If you’re so concerned about price now, we are unlikely to have faith that you will put any money into treating medical conditions of the puppy or dog at a later date.

Politely ask any questions.  While it is reassuring that you have compiled a number of questions for the breeder, there is a polite way to present them.  Don’t ‘bombard’ a breeder with many questions at once.  Choose several highly relevant questions, and ask them.  The most important issues you to are probably health checks in the breed, the temperaments of parents, and the socialisation of the puppies.  While you may be interested to know how many litters per year they breed, or if they show their dogs, or how many times bitches are bred, it’s not actually highly relevant to your puppy purchase. If you are very concerned about these practices, then these are the kinds of questions you ask over time, not all at once.  This is a ‘play it by ear’ kind of thing – questions are good, but if you’re just going to rattle off your questions, not so much.  Subtlety placing questions into a conversation is a polite way to have you queries met.

Show off your knowledge on the breed.  Show the breeder that you’ve done your research, and explain why you’re attracted to the breed. (Note: If you like Dalmatians because of 101 Dalmatians this is not a good start, so do a bit more research than watching a celebrity dog on television or in a movie.)  Talk about all the bad things you know about the breed, too.  You should already know what health clearances are important from your research, so ask about them specifically.

Express your willingness to take guidance.  The breeder has probably been involved with the breed for at least several years, but perhaps several decades.  Listen to them!  Be willing to ask questions about their breed and their suitability to your lifestyle, and be prepared to listen to their answers.  Tell the breeder that it’s important that you find a breeder you ‘click’ with in order to build a long-term relationship, and so you can come to them for support and guidance when the puppy is older.

Go visit.  Make a time to go visit the dogs, even if they don’t have a puppy available immediately.  At the very least, you will get to know the breed better.  Hopefully, though, you are on the way to forming a solid relationship with the breeder, and that makes them more likely to sell you a puppy!  You will look pretty good if you make an effort to travel to visit the breeder. If you go and visit the breeder and they do have puppies, go and get dirty with the puppies!  Don’t keep the dogs at arm’s length, show that you like dogs and puppies.

Be prepared to answer questions.  The breeder is sussing you out as much as you are sussing them out.  Be prepared to tell the breeder about yourself, and don’t get offended by their questions – they just want the best home for their puppy.  Also, make sure you answer their questions – don’t try to avoid certain questions. You will be caught.  If you think you have answered a question ‘wrong’, then ask the breeder for advice in that area.  This goes back to asking the breeder for guidance.

Don’t hassle.  If you’ve sent a breeder an email and a phone call, and they haven’t replied, then they’re probably not someone you can expect ongoing support from.  And on phone calls, be considerate. Don’t call a breeder at 10pm or 5am.  Choose reasonable times for contact.  For many breeders who are not technologically savvy, using a phone is normally the best way to get in touch.

Consider your resume.  Speak about your existing pets in a kind and loving way.  Refrain from telling horror stories about your pets dying or becoming maimed through negligence, like being hit by a car or eating snail bait.  If you’ve had any big vet bills to your credit, mention them in passing – breeders like to know that their dogs will be well looked after if they do happen to get sick.  Think about your experience with the breed or with dogs, and talk about your achievements – if you have got obedience titles on your dogs, or if you’re a vet nurse, these are good things.  Then go into what you will do with this puppy: You will socialise, take it to puppy classes, and then take it to training classes.  Show a commitment to making this puppy’s life awesome.

Don’t ask for specific colours.  The colouring is just a packaging to the breed you have spent time researching and selecting for your family based on temperament and personality.  Though you may have a colour preference, do not go into this preference straight away, and certainly don’t go into specifics like “I’d like one with white on it’s chest and one ear black and the other white” or “I want one just like my old dog”.  The breeder cannot colour-order for you.  It is fine to mention if there is a particular colour you find appealing, but otherwise you may be wiser to keep your specific colour dreams to yourself.

Approach breeding with caution.  The breeder you’re consulting with has probably spent a long time in the breed, and are likely to be protective of their breed and perhaps their bloodlines.  If you are interested in breeding, don’t mention this straight away.  What you can mention is your interest in partaking in conformation dog shows, or other dog sports, and how you would appreciate finding a ‘breeder-mentor’ to help you in your process.  This leads the way into a conversation about dog breeding, and hopefully won’t set alarm bells ringing for the breeder.

Show your patience.  Express that you know that the ‘right pup’ might not be the ‘right now pup’, and show a willingness to wait.  Puppies cannot be ordered to arrive at a particular time, so puppies for special occasions (like birthday or Christmas presents) are out, particularly surprise presents.

Show that you’ve researched the breeder.  Visit the breeder’s website and learn the names of some of their dogs, and take note of any recent updates.  If you are enquiring regarding a particular dog or puppy (i.e. responding to an ad), then ask specific questions about that puppy or dog.  What do they like? Dislike? How do they play? Where are they used to sleeping? What does it think of other dogs? And so forth.  Show an interest in the individual dog at hand, if relevant.

 

All the best for those of you breeder hunting. Remember that this process will be worth it when you have a highly suitable, sociable, and healthy puppy in your care.

If you enjoyed this post, you might want to visit Ruffly Speaking’s blog post on ‘Puppy Buyer Ettiquette‘.

For breeders reading, what really appeals to you in puppy buyers? What really puts you off? Please comment.

And for puppy buyers, have you found any strategies more successful than others?

30 thoughts on “Tips for Contacting a Dog Breeder

  1. This is a great post! I’m currently interviewing people for 2 of my Doxie puppies and cannot stand when people are like “is this dog still available? Will you take X amount?” Grrrrr so annoying.
    What I look for in a potential puppy parent is someone fairly knowledgeable about the breed, someone polite, someone who is truly serious about making a 15+ year commitment. I don’t allow families with young children to get one of my puppies, simply because of Doxies backs and how they tend to bond with just one person. I expect to be asked questions, the more the merrier, and the potential puppy parent should not be in any way offended when I ask about their lifestyle and plains for the puppy.
    Dachshund Nola’s Mommy

    • Hi Nola’s Mummy. Glad you agree! I am quite happy when people contact me and ask “How much?” and, once I’ve told them, they say “Oh, I can’t afford that” – and then I can direct them to rescue avenues! They seem happy with that, and I hope I’ve helped some rescue dogs in the process. :)

  2. When I was interested in getting a purebred Shiba Inu, I was really nervous about speaking with a local breeder because I felt that getting a puppy is like interviewing for a job and I was walking on egg shells to seem like a good potential parent. It was also nerve wrecking because they were very slow to respond to email and phone inquiries asking about availability and their breeding program, even after meeting them in person at a dog show. So, that turned me off quite a bit.

    • Some breeders, unfortunately, are a bit lacking in customer service. Slow, and grumpy, responses aren’t great from breeders, either!

  3. Good tips, but unfortunatly it’s this idea of a strict “code of conduct” we have to adpot when approaching a breeder for a pup that sends people to pet shops.

    • In some ways, I agree. I think some breeders can be very off putting. I remain polite and do talk to many people that break these ‘rules’, but that’s not to say all breeders do.
      On the other hand, breeders have every right to be choosy with their new homes, as they want to ensure they get the ‘right home’ the first time round.

  4. Very insightful post, but unfortunately in my case, due to the lack of response from any of the breeders I contacted, I really have no choice but to go to a pet shop. I think if I go to the trouble of filling out an online form, sending an email or leaving a ph message, it is deserving of acknowledgement and a reply at the minimum.

    • Becca, if I was you, I’d certainly not go to a pet shop, but perhaps pursue a rescue group that might be able to help you.

      • Yes, that is another option I have also looked into. Oh well, I shall not yet give up, and hopefully have some luck in finding a dog to add to our little family :)

  5. I’m sorry, but I find the behavior of most dog breeders inexcusable. Although I can appreciate their frustration with non-serious inquiries and their desire to work in the best interests of their dogs and the breed, the chronic non-response and runaround is insufferable. Over the past 30 days, I have researched and contacted six AKC breeders who appear to be responsible and active in showing and developing their respective breeds. I am very serious about getting a healthy, well adjusted dog. But so far, not one response. And frankly, I doubt that I’m saying or doing anything wrong. We are a middle aged couple of reasonable means with a long history of responsible pet ownership. If this is the template, and it appears to be, they are doing neither themselves, nor their breeds any favors. Their non-response to people who are striving to be the best pet owners they can be and who are eager to patronize responsible breeders is doing nothing but leaving a bad taste in the mouths of a lot of good people and essentially forcing them into the hands of irresponsible and unethical breeders. An appalling state of affairs, but one that is largely of their own making. They should be ashamed.

      • I’m starting to feel the same way. We had good responses from local breeders when we asked for meetings and information, but quickly found that they had no spots on their waiting lists for at least a year. Branching out further afield, though, zero response. I’ve explained how we plan to care for the dog, how long we’ve been researching the breed, talked about our family, and asked what I thought were intelligent and non-”demanding” questions, but not a single response from anywhere. I even explained why I was looking far from home, just in case they wondered. So now, do we wait another whole year for our first choice breeder? There aren’t any of our chosen breed in our province’s spca, and I’m not experienced enough to consider myself capable of managing the potential issues of a rescue. So now what? I’ve even explained that I’m willing to wait if I need to, I just wish I didn’t have to wait so long. We’ve been without a pet for a whole year now, and unfortunately, to do it right, means to be without. :(

        • “For many breeders who are not technologically savvy, using a phone is normally the best way to get in touch.” – Phone calls are often better to get replies to, rather than emails.

          I normally recommend people contact breeders as soon as they know they want a puppy, not when they’re ready. This way, a puppy will hopefully be available to them at a convenient time. It is very rare, especially in my breed, to have puppies available right now for enquiries. Most of my puppy enquiries wait 6 months to a year. However, some get lucky – and those lucky ones are those that visit me and talk to me about my dogs when I don’t have puppies available. Those that want to meet me despite me not being able to offer them a right-now-puppy.

        • We are in the exact same situation. We have been researching breeds and their breeders for several years and have found the one we want to go with. While the breeder was quick to respond to our initial inquiry for more information, (and we have since been happily informed that we are on the waiting list) we have been waiting in agony for news ever since. We don’t know how far we are on the waiting list, we don’t know when they plan on breeding their next litter, and even if we did know, we wouldn’t know if we are close enough to the top of the list to have the opportunity to acquire a puppy from that litter. We don’t want to aggravate the breeder by keeping on attempting to contact them, we know they have their own lives, and are probably very busy. In short, this means we have no idea when we will be able to add a dog into our lives, it could be anywhere from six months to several years! We are more than willing to wait for as long as it takes, but it is torture being in the dark like this, and putting our lives on hold until some unknown date in the future when it will all hopefully come together.

          • Hi Dawn. It seems like you’ve found a dog breeder that you’re not entirely comfortable with, seeing as you are not willing to ask them questions, etc.

            Personally, I ask my puppy buyers to keep in touch with me and contact me every couple of months – though I don’t keep a waiting list, so my process is different.

  6. Hi, my husband and have decided we would like to add a puppy to the family this spring or early summer. We’ve picked/researched our breed and are very excited about the whole process. There don’t seem to be a ton of breeders in our area for that breed and even fewer who are active and planning spring litters. When is too early to start contacting them to show interest? Do you have to get on a “waiting list” so to speak? We don’t want to miss out by dragging our heels!

    Thanks! Great post!

  7. i absolutely love this post! But I too have had the trouble of finding a breeder to give me the time of day until yesterday! I am very lucky to have finally met a breeder I can ask and tell anything! I’m wanting to become a breeder myself as I want to be a part in “bettering” my breed then if I do decide to breed I know I am doing it for the right reasons. I’ve had 3 of my particular breed only one which was not purebred and registered and I have loved every single one! I have spent months and months emailing breeders and looking for one to give me the time of day.. I even saw one at a local show and was complimenting their dog and trying to ask questions.. She completely ignored me and made me feel as though I was unworthy of speaking to her! This is a breeder I don’t want to be! I want to be the type of breeder that will happily educate anyone and help anyone I can! Just like Sue the lovely lady I finally found! Luckily I’m very determined and passionate about the Great Dane otherwise my bad negative experiences would have detered me and I possibly would have just gotten an unregistered Dane! So I guess my point is that no matter how many breeders let you down it only takes one to help you willingly!

  8. When breeding your female dog with someone else’s male dog how does it work when litter come? As far as do you give them only one puppy out the litter or split litter down the middle?

    • There are two classic options. The owner of the stud receives a fee for the use of their dog (called a “stud fee”), or they receive their choice of a puppy from the litter free of charge. It should be discussed ahead of time and put in writing so there is no misunderstanding or confusion.

  9. I agree that buying a puppy should not be treated as a financial transaction! Like you said, even if it is a show dog, it still shouldn’t be referred to as “stock.” I’m looking for a husky breeder, because that is the kind of dog I used to have as a kid. I’ll be sure to research breeders before I choose who to buy my puppy from.

  10. I was interested to know that you suggested being willing to take guidance in raising the puppy. I was surprised by the suggestion to also stay in contact with the breeder in case there is a need for further help in raising the puppy. My dog is currently 3 years old and has grown up to be a very loyal and obedient member of the family even though we have had little to no interaction with her breeder. Though I understand that some pet owners don’t know how to care for the animal right off the bat, but they should be able to figure it out later in the animals life. I really appreciated what was said here. Thank you.

  11. I’m glad this is still has a current thread going. I’m going through the same thing trying to find/contact a Stafford breeder. I get quick responses from kennels breeding champion show dogs, but I feel that they’re asking way to much just based on presumed pedigree. The small, family breeders I try contacting are very slow to respond. So how long do I wait until I follow up with someone who hasn’t responded?? Do we wait 3 days, a week, or until they maybe get back to us? I’m not in a rush to find a dog, but it sure wasn’t this hard finding our first dog (beagle).

    • I would suggest phone calls instead of sending an email and waiting. Many breeders are not very savvy with the internet and email enquiries.

      I don’t think ‘kennels breeding champion show dogs’ are a bad thing, and I think many ‘small, family breeders’ are what I call registered backyard breeders – people breeding for money instead of bettering the breed. That being said, there are many small family breeders breeding champion show dogs – that’s the ones I’d be going after.

  12. Hi Leema! Thank you for this post, is great. Is ok for you if I try to do a translation and adaptation in my native language? I think this will be very heplful for a lot of people. I’ll give credit to you, of course.

  13. I appreciate your tip to express your willingness to take guidance when working with or trying to find dog breeders. I think they are more likely to work with you and communicate openly with you if you express your openness to learn from them. I also like your tip to prepare to answer questions as well, and not to be offended by them because the dog breeders are just trying to find a good home for their puppy!

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