Red Flags When Buying a Puppy - McCann Professional Dog Trainers

Red Flags When Buying a Puppy

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Picture it! The day has finally arrived after a long wait. You're all set to pick up your new 4-legged family member! So much excitement and anticipation that has been in the works for months now. The kids have finally agreed on a name, everyone is on board and ready - you've got all of your supplies and now, all you need is the puppy!!!! Imagine the heartache to show up and ring the bell, only to be greeted by a person with no idea what you are talking about... 

This scene and others like it happen more often than we'd like to think. As with anything, there are always people looking to manipulate and scam others out of their money and manipulation with dog purchases is no different. Here are some good rules to stick to to avoid becoming a victim of this or similar scams.

Make Sure the Puppies Exist

There are a lot of reasons to not allow visits during the puppy's first few weeks. Their immunity is limited. Guests could cause extra stress for mom, etc, but after the puppies have gotten a bit older, you should be able to meet the breeder, mom and pups. This is a great time to see how the pups are being raised. It's important that young puppies are exposed to the hustle and bustle of life inside the home. They should have safe areas, but shouldn't be isolated from family activity.

If you find a litter of pups and the breeder won't let you see them, consider it a red flag. There are, of course, exceptions to every situation. Perhaps they've had health issues in the home or have some other legitimate reason to not allow visits, but procede with caution at this point and even consider looking elsewhere. Don't assume pictures are proof - pictures are very easy to find and fake these days.

Don't Just Hand Over a Deposit

Breeders will often ask for a deposit before they will add you to their list and often it's legitimate, but before you hand over your hard earned money, make sure all details are very clear, especially if the pups have NOT been born yet. If pups are already on the ground, it's easier to agree to a deposit since you will know at that point if there is a pup available for you or not. If you are considering the purchase of a puppy who hasn't been born yet or for a future breeding, make sure you've ironed out all of the details. Often, breeders will take non-refundable deposits on future breedings and often, that's okay, but sometimes it's not. If the number of pups and their viability is unknown, what will happen to your deposit in the event that there aren't enough pups in the litter to send one home with you? 

Map out the conditions ahead of time to avoid misunderstandings and hard feelings down the road. Remember, we all have different opinions on what constitutes fairness. Make sure you get some sort of physical receipt with all of the details and answers to any of your questions.

  • Will the deposit be returned in the event that there is not a pup available for you in the litter?
  • If there is not a pup for you and the deposit is non-refundable, will it carry over to the next litter?
  • What is the timeline for that litter and is it suitable for you?
  • Will the deposit be returned if the breeder can't provide you with a puppy within a certain amount of time?
  • What happens if you don't find the puppy offered to be a suitable pup for your family?

Be sure you and the breeder have worked out an agreement to all of these questions and put it down in writing before you hand over any amount of money for a deposit. If the breeder decides not to return your deposit and you're still without a puppy, it may mean a trip to small claims court to try to recover your money. The more details you have in writing, the more likely you will be to come to a successful conclusion. 

Ask Questions

If you are working with a breeder to find your new pup, be sure you ask about health clearances and temperaments of the parents. Health clearances will vary with different breeds. For example, some breeds are prone to heart problems, so parents should have heart health tests done prior to being bred. Do your homework to ensure you know what health problems are an issue in the breed you're looking for. 

Ask For References

If you don't know the breeder personally, it's a fair move to ask for a couple of references. They should have puppy buyers who are willing to give you a solid opinion on their experiences. There is also potential to see online reviews if the Breeder has set up a Facebook page or website. See what kind of history they've established with the breed. Do they belong to Breed Clubs and follow their Code of Ethics? Check with the Clubs that are local to the Breeder. Are they a member 'in good standing' with the Clubs?

No Price Shopping

Prices may vary greatly when you're trying to find a puppy, but choosing a puppy based solely on price is almost certainly a bad idea. Looking on Kijiji, you see Golden Retriever puppies for $250 and on another breeder's website, you find them for $1200. What could possibly be the difference? Well, maybe nothing, but likely - there's a lot! The $250 pup is likely a backyard breeder, which is someone who just decided to have puppies and likely, they've done so carelessly with little thought about health or temperament. At $250, they're not likely testing for the major health issues, which could leave you with a puppy who is vulnerable. If your pup develops a heart condition during his life, thoses costs will add up quickly. The initial savings of $1000 could cost you several thousand down the road on top of the potential heartbreak of having a sick dog.

As exciting a time as it is, remember that this decision is one that you'll be living with for a decade or more, if you are lucky. Spend the time researching and choosing the right breeder and you'll never regret it.

As always, Happy Training!

Hi! I'm Shannon Viljasoo and I joined the McCann team in 1999 while training Quincey, my wonderful and spirited Rottweiler, to have good listening skills. I'm the Director of Online Training and Content for McCann Professional Dog Trainers and I enjoy writing about dogs and dog training for the McCann blog. I currently share my life with 2 Tollers (Reggie & Ned) and I love helping people develop the best possible relationship with their 4-legged family members.

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