Friday, October 5, 2012

Puppy Buyer Etiquette

This is a great article re-posted from  which originally appeared on her wordpress blog at

Reprinted from (which is currently down due to Malware attacks!)

I am post­ing this specif­i­cally because I do NOT have any pup­pies here now, and don’t antic­i­pate any for a while. So you know that I’m not sin­gling any real per­son out. This is because it seems that there’s a lot of con­fu­sion about the whole “proper” way to go about things. So, puppy buy­ers and any­one else think­ing about maybe some­day approach­ing a good breeder about a puppy, here you go:

1) STOP LOOKING FOR A PUPPY. The clas­sic mis­take puppy buy­ers make is say­ing “I need an xx breed puppy at the begin­ning of the fall” or what­ever it may be. So they go out look­ing for lit­ters due in August.


Pup­pies are not inter­change­able; one is not the same as the oth­ers. This is largely because every breeder has their stop-the-presses cri­te­ria for breed­ing or not breed­ing, and each has pref­er­ences for size, per­son­al­ity, work­ing abil­ity, etc. Breeder X’s “per­fect puppy” is not the same as Breeder Y’s.

Stop look­ing for a puppy; look for a BREEDER. Make a per­sonal con­nec­tion with a breeder you feel shares your top cri­te­ria, and then wait for a puppy from them. Maybe they even have a lit­ter on the ground, which is won­der­ful, but maybe they’re not plan­ning any­thing for a few months. Or maybe they’re not plan­ning any­thing for a year; in that case, ask for a refer­ral to another breeder that shares those same pri­or­i­ties and has a sim­i­lar (or just as good) per­son­al­ity and sup­port ethic. How­ever it works out, screen the breeder first, then ask about a puppy.

1b) EXPECT TO WAIT FOR A PUPPY. It’s VERY rare to wait less than a cou­ple of months; four to six is nor­mal. I’ve waited a year on a cou­ple of occa­sions; no, even we breed­ers don’t walk through the field, able to pick pup­pies like tulips. We ALL have to wait, and we ALL have to get matched up by the pup­pies’ breeder.

2) INTRODUCE YOURSELF THOROUGHLY. The ini­tial e-mail should be sev­eral para­graphs long; block out at least an hour of quiet for the first phone call. When you ini­ti­ate con­tact, clearly com­mu­ni­cate three things: You are ready for a puppy, you are ready for a puppy of this breed, and you under­stand what sets this breeder apart from the oth­ers and you share that com­mit­ment. Specif­i­cally describe your plans for this puppy; be truth­ful. If you are not going to be able to go to four train­ing classes a year, SAY SO. Don’t say “Of course, train­ing is a huge pri­or­ity around here,” or you’re going to end up with a puppy who’s flush­ing your toi­let sixty times a day because he’s so bored and you’re not chal­leng­ing him.

The ideal first con­tact e-mail usu­ally goes some­thing like

“Hi, my name is X and I’m writ­ing to inquire about your dogs. I’ve been doing a lot of research on [breed] and I think they’re the right one for me because of [these four rea­sons.] I know pup­pies are a huge com­mit­ment, and I am plan­ning to [accom­mo­date that in var­i­ous ways.] I’m approach­ing you in par­tic­u­lar because of your inter­est in [what­ever,] which is some­thing I feel is very impor­tant and plan to encour­age in [these three ways.]”

That’s the kind of e-mail that gets a response, and usu­ally pretty quickly. If I get some­thing that says “I hear you have pup­pies on the way; how much?” it goes in the recycle bin before you can blink.

2a) Bring up price either at the end of the first con­tact (if it’s been suc­cess­ful and you feel a con­nec­tion to this per­son) or in a follow-up con­tact. It’s nice to say “If you don’t mind me ask­ing, about how much are [breed]s in this area, if there is a typ­i­cal price? I just want to be pre­pared.” The breeder will usu­ally give you two pieces of use­ful infor­ma­tion: Her price, and the median prices around you. That way, if you decide to go a dif­fer­ent way, you know about what to expect. If the sec­ond per­son you con­tact names a price that’s dou­ble the median, try to dis­creetly find out why. A very dif­fi­cult preg­nancy, nation­ally ranked par­ents, a sur­gi­cal AI, c-section result­ing in very few live pup­pies, those are some rea­sons a breeder could be ask­ing more and it’s rea­son­able. If there’s no real dif­fer­ence from the other breed­ers except price, think carefully.

3) BE WILLING TO BE TOLD NO. Not every per­son is the right match for every breed. That’s just fact. There is no way on earth I could make our home appro­pri­ate for a Mala­mute puppy, and I’d have to lie through my teeth to get approved for one. And I have my entire life devoted to keep­ing dogs happy. I don’t expect you to have any­where close to the obses­sion I have, so that means there will be some dogs that are just plain wrong for you. If a breeder says no, ask why. If the answers make sense, don’t keep call­ing peo­ple until you finally get one who will sell you a puppy of that breed. Go back to the draw­ing board and be very hum­ble and hon­est with your­self about what kind of dog really would be right for you and your family.

4) PLEASE DO NOT GET ON MORE THAN ONE WAITING LIST unless you are VERY hon­est about it. This goes back to rule 1. You need to under­stand that we think our puppy buy­ers are just as in love with the pup­pies as we are. We’re post­ing pic­tures, writ­ing up instruc­tions, burn­ing CDs, research­ing every­thing from pedi­grees to nail grind­ing, all so we can hand off this puppy, this supreme glo­ri­ous crea­ture of won­der­ful­ness, with the absolute max­i­mum chance that it will lead a fab­u­lous life with you, and we’ve built all kinds of air cas­tles in our heads about how happy this puppy will be, and what it will do in its life with you, and so on. Find­ing out that you had your name on four lists shows that you don’t real­ize that pup­pies are not pack­ages of lunch meat, where get­ting one from Shaws is basi­cally the same as get­ting one from Stop and Shop.

Also, as soon as your name is on one of our lists, we’re turn­ing away puppy buy­ers. If we’ve sent ten peo­ple else­where because our list is full, and then sud­denly you say “Oh, yeah, I got a puppy from some­one else,” it really toasts our bread. So just BE HONEST. If some­one came to me and said “I’m on a list with So and So, but she’s pretty sure she won’t have a puppy for me, and I’d love to be con­sid­ered for one of your dogs and I’ll let you know just as soon as I know,” I’m FINE with that. I under­stand how this goes. It’s not a dis­as­ter for me to have a puppy “left over” at eight weeks because you ended up get­ting that So and So puppy; it’s just frus­trat­ing to have the rug yanked out from under me.

5. PLEASE DO NOT EXPECT TO CHOOSE YOUR PUPPY. This one dri­ves puppy buy­ers CRAZY. I know this, trust me. I have a lot of sym­pa­thy because I’ve been there. But the fact is that when you come into my house and look at the eight-week-old pup­pies and one comes up and tugs on your pant leg and you look at me, enrap­tured, and say “THIS IS IT! He chose ME,” I’ve been look­ing at peo­ple com­ing into the house all week, and every sin­gle time this same puppy has come up and tugged at them and every sin­gle one of them have said to me “THIS IS IT!”

What you are see­ing is not real­ity. You are see­ing the most out­go­ing puppy, or you’ve fallen in love with the one that has the most white, or the one that has a dif­fer­ent look from the rest of the lit­ter (when I had one blue girl puppy in a lit­ter of black boys, every human that came in the house wanted her; when I had one black girl puppy in a lit­ter of blue boys every­one kept talk­ing about how much they loved HER), or the one that’s been (acci­den­tally) fea­tured the most in the pic­tures I’ve posted. Or, some­times, you have a very good instinc­tive eye and you’re pick­ing the puppy that’s the best put together of the lit­ter. And that puppy, of course, is mine, and you’re going to have to pry him out of my cold dead hands.

My respon­si­bil­ity is not to make you happy. And that, dear friends, is why I am post­ing this now, and not when I have a bunch of actual puppy buy­ers around :D. But it’s the truth. My respon­si­bil­ity is to the BREED first. That’s why my first pri­or­ity in plac­ing pup­pies is the show own­ers, because they are the ones that will (if all goes well) use this dog to keep the breed going. It’s not that I like them bet­ter than I like you; it’s that I have to be extremely care­ful who I place with them so that they can make breed­ing deci­sions with the very best genetic mate­r­ial I can hand them. My sec­ond respon­si­bil­ity is to the PUPPY. I will place each puppy where I feel that it has the best chance of suc­cess and the opti­mal envi­ron­ment to thrive.

So while I do care, and I will try to take your pref­er­ences into account, do not expect to walk into my liv­ing room and put your hand in the box and pick what­ever puppy you want. And do not expect to be given pri­or­ity pick because you con­tacted me first; con­versely, do not expect that because you came along late you some­how won’t get a good puppy. Some­times the per­son who calls me when the pup­pies are seven and a half weeks old ends up with what I’d con­sider the “pick” for var­i­ous rea­sons (some­times because some­body called me up and said they’d got­ten a puppy from some­one else; see rule 4 above). I am going to try to do my absolute best to match pup­pies to own­ers as objec­tively as I can, not accord­ing to who called first.

When I was wait­ing for Clue, I think I ini­tially called Betty Ann six months before she was born. I waited through two other lit­ters, where Betty Ann thought she might have some­thing for me but then in the end told me no. Then I waited until 8 weeks when she thought this one might really be the one, and then another two weeks until she made her final picks and sent me a puppy. I was about ready to vomit with the ten­sion. I UNDERSTAND. But the rewards of wait­ing and being matched with the right puppy are greater than any frus­tra­tion with hav­ing to sit with an empty couch for a few more months.

6) ONCE YOU GET YOUR PUPPY, THERE WILL ONLY BE THAT PUPPY IN THE WHOLE WORLD. If you’ve been sit­ting around with your fin­gers crossed say­ing “Please, Molly, please, Molly, I only love Molly,” and I say “I really think Moe is the one for you,” you’re prob­a­bly going to feel dis­ap­pointed. But take Moe and go sit on the couch, and put your fin­ger in her mouth, and real­ize that she has a really cool white toe on one foot but none of the other feet have white toes, and let her try to find a treat in your pocket, and I guar­an­tee you by the time you’re five min­utes out of my dri­ve­way Moe will be YOUR puppy. And a year later you may remem­ber that you thought Molly was so pretty, but Moe… well, Moe could prac­ti­cally run the Pen­ta­gon she’s so smart, and her face turned out MUCH more beau­ti­ful than Molly’s did. And so on.

7) PLEASE FINISH THE ENCOUNTER WITH ONE BREEDER BEFORE BEGINNING ONE WITH ANOTHER. If you end a con­ver­sa­tion with me say­ing “Well, this just all sounds won­der­ful, and I’m going to talk it over with my wife and we’ll call you about get­ting on your wait­ing list,” and then you hang up and call the next per­son on your list, that’s not OK. If you don’t feel like you click with me, or you want to keep your options open, a very easy way to say it is to ask for the names and num­bers of other breed­ers I rec­om­mend. That way I know we’re not “going steady,” and I won’t pen­cil you in on my list. If you are on my wait­ing list, and you decide that you don’t want to be any­more, call me AS SOON AS YOU KNOW and say “Joanna, I’m so sorry, but our life has got­ten a lit­tle crazy and I need to be taken off the puppy list.” And I make sym­pa­thetic noises and take you off. If, then, you decide you want to get a dif­fer­ent puppy, be my guest. Just keep me apprised and let me close off my com­mit­ment to you before you open it with another breeder.

…Which brings us to some­thing that is super impor­tant and most puppy peo­ple don’t realize:

8 ) EVERY BREEDER KNOWS EVERY OTHER BREEDER. Now of course I don’t mean the bad breed­ers, but the show breed­ing com­mu­nity is VERY small and VERY close-knit. If you’ve been on my list for three months, I’ve kept in con­tact with you, I think you’re get­ting a puppy from me, I’m care­fully con­sid­er­ing which one to sell you, and finally I match you with a puppy when they’re eight weeks old, and THEN you e-mail me and say “Sorry, I got a puppy from Ari­zona, bye,” my instant reac­tion isn’t going to be “Oh noes!” My instant reac­tion is going to be “From Jill?” I prob­a­bly e-mail Jill sev­eral times a year, if not sev­eral times a month, and I’m prob­a­bly going to pick up the phone in the next sixty sec­onds and say, “Did you just sell a puppy to Horace Green from Topeka? Did you know that he put him­self on my wait­ing list three months ago and has been say­ing all along how excited he is?” And two min­utes after that she’ll get a call from Anne in Ore­gon and Anne will say “Did you just sell a puppy to Horace Green from Topeka? He’s been feed­ing me lines for eight weeks! I had a puppy ready to go to him next week!”

And we will take your name in vain, Horace Green from Topeka, and Jill will feel bad that she sold you a puppy, and oh the bad words we will say. And Horace Green from Topeka will be a topic of con­ver­sa­tion at the next Nation­als, and t-shirts will be made that say “DON’T BE A HORACE,” and some­one will name their puppy Hor­ri­ble Horace and every­one will get the joke and laugh.

In the end, “Be excel­lent to each other,” as Bill and Ted so cor­rectly ordered us, is pretty much the par­a­digm to fol­low. If you err, err on the side of this being a rela­tion­ship, not a trans­ac­tion. Try to act the way you would with a good friend, not with an appli­ance sales­man. And the end­ing will be as happy for you as it is happy for us.

1 comment:

Sagira said...

What a great post. Now I need to go back and read my first email to you before I knew you to see how I screwed up, LMAO!