Screening Puppy Buyers—How Top Breeders Find the Best Homes

screening puppy buyers header


Header photo courtesy of Karen Moureaux, Contact Point Border Collies

You finally decided on the breed of your dreams. You researched and found a potential breeder of your ideal dog on AKC Marketplace.

Ready to pick up your new addition? Not so fast!

Responsible breeders do as much interviewing and questioning as the buyers to make sure their puppies go to the homes best suited for their breeds’ temperaments and energy levels.

“My goal is to match a puppy’s personality with a person’s lifestyle,” said Papillon breeder Margaret van Cleave of Virginia. “An extremely active puppy needs to be in a home that will give lots of stimulation. If a person is sedentary, I might suggest an older, less active Papillon.”

papillon puppies 1
Photo courtesy of Margaret van Cleave


Puppy buyers can expect to fill out a questionnaire or have a telephone interview with the breeder – and sometimes both. Breeders want their puppies to be happy and the new owners to be happy, so assuring they make a good match is crucial.

Some sample questions might include:

  • Why this breed?
  • Where do you live? In what conditions will the dog live? Do you have a fenced yard?
  • What other pets do you own now? Breed? How many?
  • Who will be the primary caretaker of the dog?
  • How many hours a day will the dog be left alone?

“I use the questionnaire as more of a guideline. I always speak to new buyers over the phone, so they can hear me and my tone and vice versa, and I can guide my questions and interview from there,” said Dachshund breeder Lexa Richmond of Texas. “For me, one of the most important questions is ‘Have you had a Dachshund before?'

“Since they are such a different breed, I find that people who have had them before know what to expect. If they have not owned one before, I always ask about their living situation,” Richmond continued. “Dachshunds aren't always the best apartment dogs and really need an enclosed fence since they are diggers. If the person has children, how many and how young? Dachshunds can be finicky with young children.”

dachshund puppies 1
Photo courtesy of Lexa Richmond


Contact Point Border Collie breeder Karen Moureaux, 2014 AKC Agility Breeder of the Year, produces top-performing sports dogs. She has a questionnaire for potential puppy buyers posted on her website.

“It asks for basic information: name, address, phone, email, etc., as well as information on their living situation, previous and current dogs, what the future plans are for the puppy, and references,” Moureaux said. “I'm interested in what they expect from their puppy and what they will be doing with the pup, as well as if they have had previous experience with dogs and what that was.”

Barbara Lombard of Rockstar Shetland Sheepdogs breeds high-drive dogs that excel in conformation, agility, and other sports. She carefully screens for homes that will provide the life that her dogs need. Once interested owners contact her, she asks them to send a detailed email.

“I would like to hear about them on both a personal family level and what their current and future goals are with their new pup. Most people tell me their life story. Those are the buyers I know are truly interested for the right reasons in owning a Rockstar pup,” Lombard said. “I then speak with them by phone to answer any questions they may have and to also be honest about our line of Shelties. I explain all testing that has been done, past accomplishments, and what we love about our dogs, and anything that might be of concern to a new owner. I do advise them that these pups are not your normal, sedate Sheltie.”

Lombard also requires references, such as a dog trainer, mutual acquaintance, or current owner of a Rockstar Sheltie.

“I do check with references to see how they feel this person would be owning a Rockstar. If there is anything that bothers my reference, I let the buyer know that our pups aren’t for them. I keep the references confidential. “

Moureaux calls on her large network of dog sports friends when checking on the suitability of her Border Collie puppy buyers.

“I am fortunate that many people who contact me participate in dog sports, and I have been in the agility world since 1989 and know a lot of people. I also have many great puppy owners all over the U.S. and Mexico, Canada, Spain, Germany, Japan, and Russia. So I have a network of people who I can query if I get an application from someone in their area. If I don't know someone and don't have any friends or puppy owners that know them, I will email or phone one or more of their references, starting with their dog trainer, if listed, and then friends that have been listed.”

When a breeder decides that her dogs are not the right choice for a person, then what is the next step?

“I will always recommend what I think is best for the potential buyers. If a Papillon is not the right breed for them, I will recommend a different breed,” van Cleave said. “If I think they will make a good home for a Papillon, but I don’t have a puppy for them, I will refer them to another Papillon breeder.”

papillon puppies 2
Photo courtesy of Margaret van Cleave


Moureaux also will recommend a different breed or “if I think they are OK for a Border Collie, just not a sport bred/working type, I will refer them to a breeder that breeds a different ‘type’ of Border Collie than I do.”

Lombard said she is “very up front and honest. After speaking with people on a personal basis, I have no qualms letting them know that one of our pups isn't right for them. If anything raises a red flag to me, I will not sell a pup. On that same note, if they really want a pup, but I am not feeling a connection, I will put them on our list. I will see how much further involvement they show in wanting a pup.”

Although all these breeders produce dogs that can excel in dog sport competitions, they agreed their top priority is that their puppies be beloved family members.

dachshund puppies 2
Photo courtesy of Lexa Richmond

“I look for someone who will love and appreciate the pup. It's always nice to get a great sport home for my pups because that's what my focus is geared toward, but I don't discriminate if people are not actively involved in dog sports,” Moureaux said. “Most important is to get the pups placed in an active and loving home where they will be appreciated and considered a member of the family.”

Van Cleave said her ideal owner is “one that spends lots of quality time with her Papillon. The puppy needs to be part of the family. I want owners who will not hesitate to call me with questions and keep in touch.”

If you’re considering getting a puppy, AKC Marketplace is a proven resource to research breeders and find the right puppy to welcome into your home. As a breeder, you can begin connecting with potential puppy owners by listing your litter or setting up a breeder page.

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