Adding a puppy to your family is a big decision that comes with lots of preparation. One thing you may not be prepared for is an interview with your prospective puppy’s breeder. Responsible breeders want to place puppies with families that are a great match for the dog, so these interviews help both breeders and prospective puppy owners gather enough information to answer the ultimate question: Is this the right dog for this home?
In a breeder interview, families should be ready to answer questions about their home, other pets, and the activity level in the household. More specific questions can help determine how prepared a puppy buyer is to welcome a particular breed into their home and lifestyle. Purpose-bred dogs have predictable traits and temperament that prospective owners should be ready for, like the grooming needs of an Afghan Hound or the energy and intelligence of a Border Collie.
Research Breeds & Breeders
If there’s one thing all breeders agree on, it’s that puppy buyers should be properly educated. With hundreds of dog breeds to choose from, it’s important for puppy seekers to know what life with the breed they’ve chosen will be like. Often, people become enamored by the look of certain breeds, then decide they want one without knowing enough about the breed’s temperament, grooming, or compatibility with other animals. The parent club of a breed is an excellent resource for the kind of information and feedback you need before deciding to add a particular breed to your household. Parent clubs are organizations dedicated to the betterment of breeds, education, and preservation.
“A national parent club website can be a wealth of information about the history of the breed and its current state,” says AKC Breeder of Merit Vincent Fleece of Ven-Mar Pekingese.
Prep For Your Interview
Researching a breed online is a common first step for people seeking a puppy, but it’s far from the only thing to do ahead of a breeder interview. Once you’ve chosen a breed, the next step is to find a responsible breeder, like those on the AKC Marketplace. Puppy buyers browsing there can see which breeders have earned Breeder of Merit distinction, and which are members of an AKC-licensed club, for example.
Beyond basic breed research, puppy seekers should be ready to talk about the lifestyle they have in mind for a new dog. You may be looking for a show dog or dog sports athlete, a jogging partner or a calm companion — and all of this is important to share with a breeder. Breeders often require puppy buyers to sign a detailed breeder contract when they purchase a dog. This helps to ensure that both breeder and buyer are on the same page about the puppy’s future home, lifestyle, and expectations.
“We are looking to make the best placement for the available pup,” says Fleece. “We want the owner to be happy with the pup, but we are serious about the pup being happy in its new home.”
Meet The Breed(s)
Admiring dogs on Instagram is fun and especially exciting for puppy-seekers, but it’s not enough if you’re planning on bringing that breed into your family. Make it a point to meet dogs of the breeds you’re considering in person. Local dog shows and events are an excellent opportunity to meet dogs, owners, and club members who can answer your questions about the breeds they know and love. Ask to meet breeds that catch your eye on social media, or watch them compete in sports that you’re interested in trying. The annual AKC Meet the Breeds® is an ideal event to interact with and learn about scores of different breeds, all in one place.
“In addition to asking and answering questions, we may require that potential buyers drive to meet us (or perhaps someone else we know) with experience in our breed so that a hands-on discussion about care, feeding, grooming, and training can take place,” says AKC Breeder of Merit Jo Lynn, of Tipperary Farms Glens.
In some instances, meeting a breed in person can open your eyes to the amount of work that raising, grooming, and caring for such a dog might take. For others, it may simply confirm what your breed research has already suggested — or open your eyes to another breed that’s similar but better suits your lifestyle.
“I had heard that the German Shepherd was the ‘SUV of dogs’ because of how versatile they are,” says GSD owner Julianna Crozier. “After I met my friend’s new GSD, I fell in love, and that was that.”
Ask Any & All Questions
Breeders love to talk dogs. The AKC has 195 recognized breeds, with breeders across the country championing their beloved breed to anyone who will listen. For prospective puppy owners, that wealth of information is an incredible resource. So, breeders encourage buyers to ask anything and everything that they might want to know. This includes questions about temperament, training, care, nutrition, exercise, or anything else.
“Don’t hold back!” urges Lynn. “There are truly no stupid questions. If anything is a concern to you about our specific breed or puppy care in general, just ask. We love to talk about our dogs. And we want to help you decide if they are the right breed for you.”
A good breeder interview is a two-way street. Breeders love to meet eager and engaged puppy seekers who want to learn everything they can about the breed before bringing a dog home. This demonstrates that the family coming to meet a breeder’s treasured litter is committed to giving one of their puppies the best life possible.
Be Honest With Breeders
Honesty is key when you’re talking with a breeder about your home, your needs, and the kind of lifestyle you can provide to a puppy. Responsible breeders always want to ensure that the homes they’re selecting have their puppies’ best interests in mind. Prospective owners may not even realize that omitting information can be bad for the dog or their family.
“I’ve had people be untruthful with information [about their household] because they felt it was none of my business or not relevant,” says AKC Breeder of Merit Stephanie Mazzarella, of Amoroso Xolo. “But that information is important to know because my goal is to get the right Xolo into the right home.”
Mazzarella recounts her experience with a family who wanted to purchase a specific dog from her. The family showed up with an especially hyperactive child. After talking through the temperaments of each puppy with the family, she brought the litter out. The family had their sights set on a certain black puppy, but that dog ran and hid after being frightened by the child. An honest conversation upfront about family dynamics could have helped this breeder know how to steer them from the start. Clearly, the puppy the family had fallen in love with from a photo wasn’t well-suited to their family or lifestyle.
At the end of the day, breeders and buyers have a mutual goal: puppies living happy lives with happy families. Prepping for and acing your breeder interview is an important part of everyone working toward meeting that commendable goal.