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The Internet is full of advice on evaluating breeders, but there is almost nothing on how breeders view potential puppy buyers. Curious, I put together a questionnaire, and eleven breeders responded.

Asked how they begin to weed out buyers, breeders agreed on the basics. The most critical requirement is that a buyer has the financial means to meet the dog’s health care needs. And this was also the beginning of a theme I heard over and over again: Listen to what your gut is telling you. Other basic requirements are a fenced yard, and no more than two dogs in the family already.

Asked what are major red flags in the initial interview with the buyer, comments were closely aligned. A buyer in a hurry; a buyer who balks at a spay/neuter contract; and a buyer who wants a bitch to breed, or even a breeding pair—all are major negatives.

Another red flag for breeders is a family with small children. Small children run, wave their hands, and don’t have fine motor coordination. Puppies take all of these as signals for play. Busy mothers don’t have time to supervise every child-puppy encounter, and there is a high potential for injury to toddler or puppy or both.

Without question, 100 percent of the breeders I heard from guarantee that they will take back any and all dogs they have sold when a buyer’s circumstances have changed. One said that she thinks of herself as the birth mother, and that now she had an extended family. Once you have this extended family, you stay in touch with them. Ask for photos and updates. Continue to send them articles and encourage questions. This type of support helps to maintain the contract and you will never need to enforce it.

Asked what advice they would give a first-time breeder selling puppies, these experienced breeders were again unanimous. Screen buyers as thoroughly as you possibly can, with interviews, background checks, home visits, and lists of written pros and cons of the breed. Do your homework! And most of all, trust your gut. Spend a lot of time listening to people, because they will eventually reveal themselves. Don’t make hasty decisions, because you will regret them.

Overall, the major concern of breeders is that the buyer be educated. They all send the buyer to the club’s website for resource material. They send them articles and provide educational packets. They have frank discussions regarding the health issues. Choose buyers who are listening to you.

The best advice I heard for breeders came from an exchange on Facebook. Several breeders were discussing a potential buyer who desperately wanted a puppy to love. Her last two dogs had perished. One died from heatstroke, and the other one got out of the house and was hit by a car. The breeders were criticizing her and declaring that she would never get one of their precious puppies. “Never, ever!”

Another breeder posted and agreed that the potential puppy buyer is a disaster, but she then pointed out that the person wasn’t trying to hide anything. She was hurting and wanting a puppy. The breeder pointed out that as breeders, they were all missing a huge opportunity to educate this potential buyer. She will find a puppy, but maybe without ever learning anything.

Of course, both sides have valid points. This buyer clearly has problems, and some breeders find her too risky. However, other breeders might take a chance on getting to know her to see if she can be educated. For both points of view, the key is education. All agree that education is the key to the survival of our breed.

Sande AbernathyFrench Bull Dog Club of America 

September 2014 AKC Gazette
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This article was originally published in AKC Family Dog magazine. Subscribe today ($12.95 for 6 issues, including digital edition) to get expert tips on training, behavior, health, nutrition, and grooming, and read incredible stories of dogs and their people.
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