Reading through posts on social media, breeders seem to agree that dealing with puppy inquiries can be frustrating. It is certainly a time-consuming aspect of raising dogs and having a public presence; it always has been. But compared to decades ago, before the Internet and personal computers, when breeders had to type individual responses, perhaps pedigrees as well for show puppies, and include photos that might or might not be returned, we have it relatively easy today. Instead of complaining, think back to when you were starting out. With many of us sidelined during the pandemic, taking a few minutes to turn an inquiry into a teachable moment is an important contribution you can make to our sport.
You have no puppies available
If you’re just catching your breath as the last of your litter has left for a great home, it’s tempting to delete an anonymous email from someone looking for a puppy. You may think you owe them nothing. But what do you owe your breed? What breed wouldn’t benefit from an enthusiastic new owner, who might in time be interested in doing Agility or Rally with her dog, joining your regional breed club, and volunteering some time at a Meet the Breeds event? All this potential will be lost if you delete that inquiry. Instead, why not take a few minutes to reply, providing contact information for a few breeders who do have puppies, or sending them to the parent club where they can be directed to litters in their part of the country?
When a prospective puppy buyer asks for information about the breed, have a few fact sheets on your computer that you can send them. Even newer exhibitors know the basics of their breed’s history, grooming and exercise requirements, and can send a kind reply to pay it forward.
It’s not the right fit
Sometimes it feels like we spend as much time dissuading people from buying a puppy of our breed as we do welcoming them into the fold. That’s part and parcel of being an advocate for our breed. We’re basically matchmaking. We might get an inquiry from nice people who tell us just enough about their family and lifestyle that we know our breed isn’t the dog they should be shopping for. Maybe everyone is too busy to care for a high-maintenance coat; or the parents of toddlers are looking for a fragile Toy breed or a strong, boisterous breed that will knock the little ones over with every game of fetch. Whatever the mismatch, tough love doesn’t have to mean rude, cruel love. Educate those folks as to why your breed isn’t the right one for them, and suggest a few others that would be more suitable. We all have extensive networks of fellow breeders, as well as some basic dog knowledge. At the very least, we can send them to the AKC website.
One of the misconceptions that we in the purebred dog world hear often is that we are all snobs, with no time to offer the “mere” pet owner. Any dog lover who has attended a Meet the Breeds event knows how generous breeders can be as we staff the booths, hand out literature, and let the public interact with our dogs. Prospective buyers who email us should be treated just as politely. Let’s maximize the value of that first contact between the inquirer and the breeder. Share your knowledge so that the inquirer comes away from the experience more educated and with a better impression of good breeders.
A note for buyers
By now, it should be clear that there is a right way and a wrong way to send a breeder an inquiry. So let’s end with a few tips to guide you, should you be looking for a show prospect.
Whether it is a pet or a show puppy, never begin with “How much?”. Breeders pour blood, sweat, and tears into their puppies, and selling them to qualified homes is not an easy thing. Whether you pay $50 or $5,000.00 that will be the cheapest investment you make in a dog, when you factor in good food, veterinary care, grooming, supplies, and boarding over a lifetime—and that’s not even getting into dog show entry fees. A good breeder is far more likely to respond well to a few time payments than to a crass “How much?” at the outset. Puppies aren’t big-screen TVs.
If you are new to the sport and breeders don’t know you, don’t be cocky and demand their best. That sense of entitlement is rampant in all areas of society today, and we don’t respond well to it. The third pick from a consistent litter is a far more appropriate choice to learn on than expecting the breeder to part with her best, a puppy that it might have taken her 30 years to produce. Don’t be pushy. We won’t be impressed with a “Name your price” bluster. We will be impressed with your humility.
Nice show prospects don’t grow on trees. One of the best things you can say, and only if you mean it, is: “We really like your dogs and we are in no hurry. Please keep us in mind when you have something special. In the meantime, we’d like to stay in touch with you, and we hope we can spend some time together at shows once they begin again.” Most breeders would really appreciate that kind of polite, patient approach.
Cultivating relationships with newcomers to the sport is a hugely important responsibility for all of us. It often begins with a kind response to a first email.