It is really easy to be deceived when you make a purchase on the Internet for a dog. Once you see a cute photograph, your emotions take over; and you’re very interested in getting a puppy as soon as the timing works with your family situation. Recently, I consulted with a family who had to return a puppy after four days because it was a bad match for their family and showed signs of aggression that should’ve been picked up by the breeder who refused to do a temperament test. Now is the time to share information with other people who are searching for a puppy (or dog) to help them avoid the same mistakes. Here are some red flags you should be looking for when you interview breeders:
- You have no recommendation from someone who has purchased a dog from this breeder. If you don’t know somebody that has a dog from this particular breeder, ask the breeder for referrals to people to whom they have sold their puppies.
- You can’t see the parents of the puppy. (Reputable breeders will also let you see health certificates for both parents.)
- You’re not able to see the site where the puppies are raised. If the breeder insist that you meet off-site and uses that as an excuse to not be able to see the parents of the puppies, then how do you know the dog hasn’t been raised in a kennel situation for all the first eight weeks of his life with no socialization and no exposure to the outdoors?
- The mother of the puppy has been bred for more than four litters. You are most likely dealing with a puppy mill.
- The breeders insist on cash-only to pay for the transaction.
- There is no written option for refund or return of the dog within two weeks if the dog doesn’t work out with your family. It should be possible to return the dog within two weeks if the dog doesn’t work out with your family.
- A written contract for the transaction is not provided.
- If you’re buying a dog because you’re worried about allergies, has the breeder tested the dog saliva, hair, and dander for allergens at a lab? Do they have paperwork to show you? Crossbred dogs such as Labradoodles can have either fur, hair or a combination of both in pups in the same litter depending on the genetic makeup of the individual pup. Do not assume that you will not have allergies to a specific breed if this is an important consideration.
- There are no written vet records of puppy shots and examinations. Initial examination by a vet may reveal medical problems such as heart murmurs, eye problems and joint or dental abnormalities.
- There is no guarantee of health at the time of the delivery of the puppy. If your vet discovers any physical problems with the dog what recourse do you have?
- The breeder doesn’t ask questions about your situation but merely tells you that you need to get your name on a waiting list right away because are a lot of people looking for these puppies. A reputable breeder should ask you lots of questions about your family, the age of the caregivers, the number of children and presence of other pets on the premises. Do you have a fenced yard? What are your expectations of what the dog will do with you: running and hiking, therapy work, service dog training or just become a sedate companion? How are you fitting the dog into your busy life? Have you planned for training, exercise, vet care and boarding expenses when you travel?
Questions you should ask:
- How much socialization have the pups had? Are they outdoors occasionally or just in a kennel? Have they been exposed to children, men and women?
- Have they done temperament testing on the pups which would reveal any aggressive tendencies or a high energy level that would not make the dog a suitable for your situation?
Reputable breeders want to make sure that the health and temperament of their breeds are maintained. They want to make sure their dog goes to a loving home where there’s a good match for the activity level of the family. That way the dog doesn’t end up being dumped into a shelter when the dog goes through the high energy phases of adolescence. If you have a particular breed in mind, talk with people at a dog show who are showing this breed in competition for obedience and agility as well as for conformation. They will give you great advice about the pitfalls of their particular breed and recommend good breeders. You can also talk with the people that run the rescues for that particular breed. You are selecting a new family member who will be with you 10 to 18 years. Make a wise decision, not just an emotional decision.