buying a puppy, puppies, Responsible Breeding, Responsible Ownership, Selling puppies

Puppy buyer etiquette

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 recyle 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.


Tomorrow is Clue’s CERF exam. I’ve got the conditioners and silicones post half-written. I’ve got some rough sketches for structure illustrations. Kate and I have been talking about some very cool ideas. And, obviously, the above post isn’t the whole story; puppy SELLER ettiquette is next. So expect a lot of blogging from me over the next few days, hopefully useful stuff. See you soon!


Edited – good Lord, almost three years later: Thank you for the interest in this blog post. I am approving comments as fast as I can, but I have a new litter on the ground and barely have time to brush my teeth right now! The answer to the most common question is YES, you may absolutely cross-post and reprint.

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  • Reply Erika April 26, 2009 at 10:22 am

    Joanna, thank you so much for this post. I am a few years from buying a puppy, but I start to sweat when thinking about communicating with a breeder, like I’m going to say the wrong thing and then a BIG BLACK LINE CROSSES OUT MY NAME AND I CAN NEVER EVER GET A PUPPY.

    Also, is it proper etiquette to tell a breeder what color you’d prefer (all things being equal)? And what about preferring male or female?

    • Reply Carolyn Gist April 15, 2013 at 5:56 pm

      I thoroughly enjoyed your article. It was quite timely. And most books that people get to read about getting a puppy do say, look at the litter and the parents. In this time of reproductive science, the father could have been dead for 15 years! I should like to put this in my notebook for future reference since you made such good points.

    • Reply Nancy Troyer June 18, 2013 at 2:02 pm

      Erika–while you can certainly express a preference as to color and gender (and where gender is concerned, if you already have a dog and let the breeder know this and that you want a bitch, the breeder will likely accommodate you depending on breed(s) involved), it is best to be open to all options. Case in point was when I was looking at getting my first puppy to show. My breed is the Doberman and I wanted a black bitch (as everyone does). I had been a member of a local club for several years at that point as the owner of a rescued red bitch and a mixed-breed dog. I had moved away, but had remained in contact with several club members. I knew one of them was planning to do a breeding to a dog I particularly liked and while I wasn’t actually expecting a puppy from this litter, I called to see if the puppies had been born and how things were going. The first words out of her mouth were, “I have your dog. He’s red and he’s gorgeous and he is yours if you want him.” Needless to say I was taken aback. I wasn’t on a waiting list and as I said before I wanted my first show Dobe to be a black bitch. Well, I took that red dog and he became a champion, obedience-titled, register of merit titled and then some and because I did all of that, I had breeders offering me puppies when ever I was ready for my next one. I had proven myself as an owner willing to go that extra mile. So like I said, be open to the options and if you say you will show a puppy to its championship (assuming it turns out to be finishable), fulfill that promise and you will have proven yourself to all of the breeders of your breed. I have since come full circle and have another red puppy dog I am showing and looking forward to getting a bitch later this year out of my first breeding (as a co-breeder) after nearly 20 years of being in the breed. Yes, I have yet to breed a litter because I haven’t had the right bitch come along so far and that is a story for another day.

    • Reply Tanya April 30, 2015 at 6:50 pm

      I have a Tri male Toy Aussie puppy now that I want to breed in the future. So I will be looking for Blue Merle, Blue Eyed female Toy Aussie to grow with him in a few months to be his companion in life. Is that wrong of me to ask for specifics for this reason since I am wanting to help get this breed into the world? I am also interested into adding more Toy Aussie’s as I go and grow into a well known breeder. I will also be doing the genetic testing before I start any breeding program. Please give me your advise.

      • Reply Greta September 8, 2015 at 7:06 am

        You don’t know that you want to breed your puppy in the future. He is a puppy and you do not yet know that he is suitable for breeding. Having sex organs enables a dog to reproduce but if you want to take responsibility for bringing more dogs into the world, you should be looking for much more than that.

        There are a number of genetic and health checks that should be done on your breed. Some can’t be done until your puppy is older and done growing. Until you know about these issues you cannot say you’re going to breed him. And one of the most important of these is temperament. You really cannot know your dog’s true, adult temperament until he’s at least two years old. Deciding whether to breed him, let alone to whom, must wait until this. As a person who’s had a mini Aussie and a regular sized Aussie and did a decade of Aussie rescue, and is a dog behavior consultant who sees an awful lot of fearfully aggressive Aussies, I have to say that an awful lot of poor breeding decisions are being made out there in your breed. Please educate yourself a lot more about genetic health and temperament and about your pup before even deciding whether breeding is a good idea.

        Next, with a tri (solid, non-merle) Aussie, the LEAST important thing about any dog you later breed him to is the color. (If your dog were merle, then picking a solid mate is a very important consideration for health reasons.). Color is cosmetic. Health, temperament and (where applicable) working ability are orders of magnitude more important. If you have a boy who can create great pet puppies who do not bite strangers, do not bark incessantly, do not have luxating patellas,do not bite the kids or their friends, and do not end up in rescue… That is, puppies you would take back if their owners can’t keep them, and would be glad to live with in your home, as long as it took to find them another great home (because that’s what food breeders do)… And if you can find s female who can do the same (which you can’t do until your boy is an adult)… Then you can breed them. And color doesn’t matter. Those puppies will be good companions and those are the ones who stay in their homes and are happy and have good lives and make a good name for you.

        And let me just add: Aussie breeders HATE when people are looking specifically for a blue eyed, blue Merle girl. It pretty much red-flags the buyer as an ignorant person who is totally unprepared to have an Aussie and whose priorities are a mess.

        If the breeder does not hate such an inquiry it’s because she is breeding for color (not health or temperament) and charges more for merle girls.

        If your toy boy is wonderful he could make a great dad. I hope you will have the respect to do a whole lot more research before even deciding whether to breed him.

    • Reply Xanthia September 9, 2015 at 2:03 am

      To anyone who is not obsessed with dogs to the exclusion of a normal life, this stuff is absolutely over the top CRAZY!
      “Communicating with a breeder” – they are people selling dogs for MONEY! They are not doing you or anyone else some huge favour. It is a commercial venture, whether or not the person loves the dogs and cares for them perfectly.
      Also you are in no way acting inappropriately to ask for a specific colour or sex you like. You will be paying a huge amount of money and are entitled to have the dog you choose.
      And as for waiting for the right puppy to SUIT you… yes the type of breed should suit your lifestyle eg if you live in a tiny place with no room for an active dog to lead a happy life, fair enough.
      But this ‘personality’ BS makes me laugh. Well adjusted puppies will attach to anyone who cares for them. They don’t need blankets with the future owner’s smell to be prepared. Gawd, they’ll be putting THEIR smell all over your place as soon as they arrive.
      I love dogs and have always had one but they are DOGS. If I died tomorrow, my dog, who is devoted, gentle and loving, would get over me and attach to someone else with ease. WE are the ones who get attached to THEM.
      If dogs needed all this coddling, how would rescue dogs ever adapt to a new home? Thousands do and are perfectly happy. And IMHO, the ones who have been mentally damaged through cruelty should probably be euthanised to save the risk of harm to small children or other harmless pets. As my vet said once as she administered the ‘green dream’ as she calls it, to one of my ancient dogs, “It’s a pity humans can’t go this way. It is kinder.” She is a great, practical person. Of course, I bawled my eyes out and she sat me down, gave me a cuddle and made me a cup of tea.
      So my friend, Erika, you choose the dog YOU want and don’t take this authoritative BS from any of these air headed breeders. And let it be a dog that has fun. And don’t make it perform in a ring on the end of a stupid lead to make its owner feel good.

      • Reply Joanna Kimball September 9, 2015 at 2:56 am

        Xantia, it’s obvious that you’re not owning or breeding dogs in the same way that I am, or that other show/trial breeders are. That’s fine; it is your choice. But you need to understand that some people really DO put that much thought, that much care, and that much effort into breeding and owning a dog. And for those people – both the breeders and the buyers – the right match between puppy and human is incredibly important. FAR more important than whether somebody gets the color or gender they think they want.

      • Reply Michael Romanos September 9, 2015 at 3:04 am

        Xanthia – you have little knowledge about dogs otherwise you would never state that they ‘get over their owner with ease”. Dogs have ALL the EMOTIONS of humans and as Pope Benedict said, dogs too have a soul. So when things happen that are not pleasant, dogs suffer mostly in silence but many can and do show signs of sorrow,stressfulness, sadness, loss, fear, anxiety and so on. Dogs have fantastic memories and they can cry inner tears.

      • Reply TJ September 9, 2015 at 3:06 am

        Well said … I posted yesterday … and my thoughts were exactly the same as you. The “snobbish attitude” shown by these prima dona breeders and show people disgusts me !! But what do we, the commoners, know. We just provide the MONEY for their overpriced “prima dona ” show type dogs.

  • Reply K. B. April 26, 2009 at 11:00 am

    Ooooh Erica – there’s an idea (male vs. female) for a post for Joanna (’cause she doesn’t have enough to do, right?).

    My question – when you are thinking about adding a second (or third) dog to you home, does gender matter? I’ve been told numerous times that 2 bitches and one dog is the ideal combo – is there any basis to that? I’m starting to look for an Irish Terrier breeder (don’t actually want the pup for another year or so, but I’m starting to look for breeders), and I personally don’t care about gender, but with a male dog (neutered) already in the house, I’m being told I should only accept a female pup (which to me, limits my choices by ~50%!). True or false?

    • Reply Carolyn June 18, 2013 at 5:21 pm

      It depends. I have two neutered male dogs and one unspayed female, each a different breed. Though I’ve heard people say that the only way to go is have one male and one female. I personally think personality matters more than gender (a really hyper playful dog is going to drive a calm and serious dog nuts). But your best resource for this is going to be the breeder you get your dog from. Also, introductions are important, and should be done outside of the adult dog’s territory so he/she doesn’t feel threatened. Training helps a lot too (using a happy voice for good interactions and don’t let the older dog get overwhelmed by a puppy’s energy — allow him to have quiet time to relax).

      • Reply Gwendolyn August 12, 2015 at 2:11 am

        Personality be damned. I currently have two females-a timid, shy 7yo Chow mix, and a rambunctious, in-your-face 2yo beagle mix. They get along perfectly, and the two were actually introduced when I was away at college. Complete opposites (and not just in color, background, history, purchase location, etc). The chow was a rescue by her previous owner, and after saving my life became a permanent family member. The beagle was from an “accident” knock-up litter. The beagle actually stops my cats from fighting (two male littermates), and quickly became a permanent addition as well.

        TL;DR: You never know the perfect duo until they ARE a duo.

        • Reply Michelle September 8, 2015 at 4:20 pm

          I have two dogs, similar mixes (both BC mixes of some sort) who are totally opposite in personality. My older girl (9ish) is very mellow and very serious. My younger boy (2ish) is very active, very silly, always on the go. You’d think that he would drive her batty. But the truth is she adores him. He brings out her playful side and she brings out his calm side. They perfectly complement each other despite having wildly different personalities.

    • Reply Jude Samuel June 20, 2013 at 12:10 am

      Male or Female?

      While there are always exceptions, the general rule is this: if you’re going to have multiple dogs, males get along with each other and females don’t. Major exception – intact dogs. Two intact males will bring a whole new meaning to the term “pissing contest” in your home. Now I have three males (one intact) and three intact females. The females get along alright, so so much for Rule #1.

      Probably more pertinent is what you want from a dog. In general, male dogs are in your lap and are your affectionate boy. Females are more independent and tend to lay by the door. If a girl gets loose, she will probably stay quite close to home. A boy will wander far and wide, despite being neutered. I’ve thankfully only had one escape, about three years ago. Nell was in the bushes in my front yard hiding and Jack was four blocks down in another dog’s yard. Typical.

      In the past, I had six neutered boys and one spayed female and everyone got along fine. Still, I have met others who have two girls who adore each other and had two boys in the past who didn’t get along, so they extrapolate from their experience. In truth, age, breed, personality, dominance, your training – all these components make up the success of your multiple dog household.

      However, if I had to add another dog, you can bet it would be a neutered boy.

  • Reply Tammy Kozoris April 26, 2009 at 12:14 pm

    I loved this post. LOVED it. I waited for 8 months for a blue show girl. 8 MONTHS. On ONE waiting list 😉 Worth every single second that I spent waiting.

  • Reply Kate April 26, 2009 at 1:16 pm

    You are my hero. You put into words what I think and (less articulately) spend 2 hours a night chatting to you about.

  • Reply Stephanie April 26, 2009 at 2:47 pm

    The ‘every breeder knows every other breeder’ thing is hilariously appropriate. Yesterday, we took our two dogs to a tracking class with our good trainer friend. Another person there breeds dobermans, and we had a nice chat about the breeders of our girl who live in the next province over.

    I’ve never had an immediate ‘puppy now!’, but I’ve been lucky enough to get in contact with two breeders shortly after the bitch was bred, which has lessened the waiting time a bit. :)

    And, in both cases, got the puppy I wanted originally, not because of magic picking but because they were the right one.

    This is a great post.

  • Reply B April 26, 2009 at 3:55 pm

    Loved it, all good to know to store away in my ‘someday’ toolkit…I would love to see this among the Most Important Posts so I can find it again when I need it later. 😉
    Also, I’m the weirdo who saw Kate’s puppies yesterday; they are gorgeous and we loved meeting them, and the big dogs are pretty impressive too. I felt honored to meet them all. 😀

  • Reply sandra June 30, 2009 at 12:00 pm

    i love this post -it’s so educational and fair-minded. as a conscientious puppy-buyer (more than once), i’m curious as to how breeders deal with a well-intentioned client who wants to SEE the puppies and meet the sire and dam without making a commitment. I traveled two hours to meet the sire and dam (and breeder!) and was asked to mail her a deposit check before i even got there. She was a nice lady with good dogs, but i wound up with another breeder (also hours away) whose dogs i loved. I gladly forefeited my deposit check because i didn’t want to cause the first breeder any consternation (though i told her when the pups were 6 weeks old that i would not be taking one). I was never disingenuous, but felt i had offended her anyway.

    this is a 12-15 year commitment of love and resources for the puppy buyer; we ought to be as responsible in our way as the breeders are. I felt bad about this encounter for months afterward, because the first breeder cashed my deposit check and never bothered to answer my email saying i was going in another direction. Of course all the good breeders know each other (and i know her dogs came from the line i wound up with). But did i do something wrong by WANTING to meet more than one litter and breeder? Would appreciate any comments on this tricky subject.

    … Sandra

  • Reply How to get a puppy from us (or another good breeder) | ruffly speaking January 6, 2010 at 7:32 am

    […] read this post and this […]

  • Reply Chris R November 7, 2011 at 5:38 pm

    Well, that was great fun. I have no intention of buying a puppy any time in the near future but a friend posted this on Facebook. This was a great read and a charming insight into the industry, both of buyers and sellers. Very well written – love the Horace Green part. Am half-tempted to get the T-shirt printed.

  • Reply Jason December 5, 2011 at 2:32 am

    I am glad to have found this site! I am researching dogs and need to learn all that I can so that I am a positive pet owner. Thanks to all who share their experience and knowledge!

  • Reply Heidi McKeon February 15, 2012 at 8:03 pm

    May I please repost this on my website? I think this is something good for everyone who is looking for a dog to read


    • Reply rufflyspeaking February 15, 2012 at 8:59 pm


  • Reply Shelly February 15, 2012 at 8:58 pm

    LOVE IT!!

  • Reply Annie Navarro February 15, 2012 at 9:41 pm

    What a wonderfully well thought out and well written article. Is there any circumstance where you would allow it to be used, with proper credit, links, etc.? I am asking for my friend who is a professional dog trainer, a hobby breeder of Rottweilers, and an all breed handler (but she mostly trains and handles what she has bred). I have sent her the link to your article and asked her if she is interested in it for her website. If she is, I’ll get back in touch with you.

    Keep up the great work!

  • Reply Kate February 16, 2012 at 10:07 am

    Four years on one waiting list. Hoping to get my puppy soon 😛

  • Reply Rachel February 16, 2012 at 10:19 am

    This is wonderfully written, and I’d love to repost it on my blog, if you’d be so kind as to allow it. Your post –> hammer –> nail –> head!

  • Reply Bonita Snodgrass February 16, 2012 at 12:05 pm

    Just wanted to tell you how refreshing it was to read your blog on Puppy Buyer Etiquette. We have been in our breed for 30+ years. I’ve lost count of the emails or calls with a potential buyer telling me WE are the “Only Ones” who think the way we do. People are floored when I tell them I do not allow them to pick their puppy! I’ve been communicating with you for months, and I’m living 24/7 with the pups. Trust me, I know that sweet, retiring puppy that captured your heart is NOT the running buddy that you have been dreaming of. Just as I know the outgoing puppy that was awake when you visited is not the pup that will be happy hanging out at your office with you all day while you work.
    One small note that may be worth mentioning, We do not talk about prices until we have an acceptable application on file. With the advent of BYBs and Millers taking to the internet to sell their endless litters of pups, we have found it is not uncommon for them to call around pricing what fees Ethical Breeders can ask. We will , as you mentioned, discuss a Ball Park figure, with an explanation of what the buyer should expect for dogs of this quality from like minded Breeders should run.
    In an “I want it , and I want it Now world” the struggle to explain to people contacting you how a real Breeding Program works can be exhausting. Opening your email and finding a post from someone who makes the effort you outlined is wonderful! The email received this morning that read, ” I understand you breed Ridgebacks, what can you tell me ?” left me grining at ALL the things I COULD tell this person!
    Thanks again for the morning smile, it’s great to find a Person who “gets it” !

  • Reply Yvonne Sovereign February 16, 2012 at 12:07 pm

    Someone on the whippet sanity list posted this and I really enjoyed this well-written post Johanna! I just went through frustration with a potential puppy buyer myself. I sure wish he had read this!! I THOUGHT he was on my list and not only did he buy from someone else (another breeder I know of course) but did not communicate that he did so and left me thinking he still wanted one of my pups. Grrrrr

  • Reply Janet Warner February 16, 2012 at 1:12 pm

    This was very well put together and said. Would it be OK for my club to post this to our newsletter?

  • Reply Beowulf rottweilerS February 16, 2012 at 1:37 pm

    Great piece!!

  • Reply Stephen Sayad February 16, 2012 at 4:41 pm

    There is a significant amount of arrogance of presumptuousness in some of the things you say.
    They may be proper for a first time buyer but you overlook the fact that there are non-breeder owners who may have been in the breed far longer than you and know more than you.
    Why should it irk you if a buyer is looking at more than one breeder, particularly when several breeders may have very related lines and there is no certainty that one would get a puppy from “you”? Just your ego being clipped a bit? The likelihood of getting pick boy or bitch is always very small when breeders are swapping between themselves to get the very thing you find offensive about non-breeder buyers.
    Sure, you are entitled to your opinion; just don’t try to pull it off as “fact” because it flied, in many respects, in the face of reality. I’m not suggesting you should not be very careful in choosing the best buyers for your puppies; just that there is far more to be said in a much less presumptuous way.

    • Reply paul November 3, 2014 at 7:25 pm

      thank you, at least someone saw the arrogance of that post, buying a dog is buying a dog, not a spiritual journey I take for growth or to make the breeder feel good. If you have been a life long dog owner, with 30-40 yrs of raising and loving dogs, than these guidelines are truly outrageous. I love dogs, I see a dog, I buy a dog I love the dog til it dies, repeat.

  • Reply Cross Posting: Article on Puppy Buying Etiquette - Maltese Dogs Forum : Spoiled Maltese Forums February 16, 2012 at 8:17 pm

    […] written and a nice description of the puppy buying process from a "breeder's perspective" Puppy buyer etiquette | | Ruffly Speaking: Dog photography and general dog nuttiness of all kinds. K… __________________ ~ Carina & the CloudClan […]

  • Reply Richard Christy February 16, 2012 at 10:26 pm

    To whom it may concern, cc.Joy or Diane. Speaking of etiquette in search of a dog, whomever placed this on the web regarding our situation, I find it totally unethical of breeders or referall parties, to question my manner of searching for a new pet. Everyone is entitled to ther own opinon as Joanna, but not everyone agrees with her, I certainly do not. Please keep your opinon to yourself, not share them on the internet. If I offended anyone in my search of a new pet, so be it. If question”s regarding prices, and availabilty, make you uncomfortable, then I suggest get out of the business of breeding dogs, you are not above anyone else who does business in any field!

    • Reply Debbie Prather June 21, 2013 at 7:11 am

      Richard, who probably will never read this, has evidently missed a very important point – to Joanna, as to most ethical breeders, breeding is NOT a business! Breeding puppies is nothing like businesses such as selling cars, or even creating art to be sold – none of those products can ever feel boredom or frustration or loneliness, no matter how long they are ignored or how many owners they may have. She is trying to perpetuate the best characteristics of her chosen breed, which she LOVES, and for the ones she can’t keep herself find the very best compatible homes for these loving, social companion animals who enrich our lives. It sounds rather like he sees puppies as animate toys – he will treat them humanely (hopefully) but their primary value to him is based on price and appearance, not personality and potential. He doesn’t need to worry about her opinions, for he will never own a puppy of hers or anyone like her!

      • Reply Dee Handy June 21, 2013 at 2:10 pm

        I have “maybe” one litter a year (I have 3 intact females and one intact male) and I’ve never made a “profit” off the litters I’ve bred. The money (plus a lot more of my paycheck each week) goes back into the dogs to help defray the cost of health-testing, vet visits, training classes for Competition Obedience, food, vaccinations, micro-chipping, goodies for puppy packs, toys, clothes (doggie boots, raincoats, sweaters and jackets…..for the dogs of course) and anything else they need. I didn’t include food, although with 8 dogs eating a raw diet, it’s a BIG expense; but I don’t care…..they’re healthy and that’s what matters most to me.

        I also didn’t include the hours and hours that I spend with my puppies each time I have a litter on the ground, socializing….evaluating….grooming, etc. Plus the time I spend with my adult dogs! I work, have a handicapped daughter, disabled husband, my cousin, son/future daughter-in-law (all living with me) and a big house to take care of; it’s not like I have tons of free time to goof-off. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not wealthy and sometimes I have to pinch pennies to make ends meet. But whatever sacrifice I make that benefits my Poodles far outweighs any negative aspect that may appear.

        Realistically, I know that working with the best dogs possible (health, temperament and testing), you aren’t going to always have that one special puppy you just know is going to set the world on fire in every litter. As much as I’d like to, I can’t keep them all! So I have to take some comfort in knowing that I’ve helped a very carefully chosen family to have a healthy, intelligent and happy member of the beautiful Miniature Poodle breed.

        If Richard is making money being a responsible breeder, please share his secrets with the group! My one litter for this year, produced only two puppies, so I figure I’m in the “red” over $1,000 already and both puppies are too “mellow” to consider taking one of them into the Obedience ring But I don’t care!

        • Reply Judy June 22, 2013 at 2:02 am

          Dee, Compassionate, caring school teachers do what you do, spending lots of their own $ on their students’ needs. Giving their all. Bravo to you! But . . . if a person has bee the guardian of 2 aussies for 15 years, then wants to select a specific fur or eye color of pup, as well as one that has the right temperament/personality to fit into their lifestyle, then I say that person(s) has the right to request a specific gender and color of pup’s fur/eyes, provided s/he passes the qualifications for a pet parent. One’s vet and groomer should be the ones to give input to the breeder re: the buyer’s qualifications. Obtaining a pup should not be a 1-way street, with only the breeder giving input, making all the decisions.

          • Dianne Handy June 22, 2013 at 2:20 pm

            Judy. I didn’t mean to make it sound like I have a dictatorship when it comes to choosing puppies. I do take into consideration what families want in a puppy. I try to match personality and temperament more than hair or eye color. In this day and age, Poodle breeders are breeding for specific color and we have a wide spectrum to choose from….ice white to black and everything in between. Even with the color “white”, there is so much variation in shading, a puppy can go from ice white to cream color.

            When people contact me about puppies, I explain to them up front that I breed specifically for blue, black and silver. With the exception of a black, blue and silver Poodles have as wide a range of color shades as a human; because Poodles have hair, not fur. Someone could want a platinum puppy; but how can I guarantee that when the puppy is born black. Not to mention that breeders of yesteryear mixed colors without much thought as to the impact it would have in the future. The same is also true in red, apricot and brown. Our breed standard does not acknowledge the Parti, Phantom or Abstract, as well…..they can’t be shown in conformation. Which is a pity! We’re loosing the ability to have a wider gene pool and genetically clear dogs; because of hair color. But I don’t make the rules, so I have not option other that to strive to breed according to our breed standard. My personal opinion for MY breeding program is that if I’m not going to strive to breed according to the breed standard, try to contribute to a healthy gene pool and make a contribution to improving the Miniature Poodle for the future; then I’m nothing but a back-yard breeder and shouldn’t be breeding dogs.

            With Poodles, our standard is pretty rigid, so allowing a family to choose hair and eye color isn’t always a viable option. According to the Poodle Club of America breed standard, eyes should always be so dark that they look black and that’s one of the criteria that we breed for. If your dog has say, amber eyes, it’s not one that you would even want in your breeding program. Even though it does happen, no matter how conformationally perfect a puppy is, any eye color other than black is basically a fault and can’t be shown in conformation.

            So even when we pour over a prospective breeding pair’s pedigree, there’s a 99.9% chance we’re going to get something we didn’t expect. For example, I bred my black out of black, with all black showing in the pedigree and ended up with 2 cream colored puppies! Started researching back even father in the pedigree and there was an apricot in the dam’s pedigree about 10 generations ago. I STILL don’t know where the cream came from. Breeders back in the ’50’s and 60’s were notorious for culling anything that didn’t meet their approval; but the genes were still passed along with the other pups.

            I hope I don’t sound self-righteous! I have set a very high standard by which to breed my dogs and if I’m to look myself in the mirror each day, I have to adhere to that standard.

          • Judy June 22, 2013 at 5:45 pm

            Thank you for explaining. We have owned australian shepherds. They come in fewer choices of colors that what you have described to me. At the end of our block is a retired kennel owner/groomer/poodle breeder. We had NO idea that poodles came in so many colors or that eye color was a conformation issue. A month ago, I saw apricot and red poodles for the FIRST time, at a dog park. (Yes, I know you probably do not like dog parks, but our young dog needs to socialize with other dogs, and there we have met many nice dog owners who are in control of their dogs and have taught them to behave properly.) I am so sorry that “the rules” do not allow for the variations in color. My husband is an artist. To us, the more colors to choose from, the better. Did not realize the rules that guide your breeding. 20 days ago, we had to have our red merle aussie out down. Today would have been his 15th birthday. We do a LOT with our dogs, as they are our kids. They camp, kayak and hike with us. 15 years ago, we bought a red merle w/blue eyes and a blue merle with marbled eyes. They have added so much to our lives. We bought them from a dairy farmer who uses aussies as work dogs. There were 2 litters of pups and we were allowed to choose the pups we wanted. We could not decide between the 2 dogs, so we ended up buying both of them and were never sorry that we did. They have been wonderful company for one another. Our groomer told us of a dog she was getting back; he needed re-homing. We tried him out (a black tricolor). He is a gem. So, yes, our groomer/breeder felt that he would fit right into our family. But now, we WANT another red merle like the one we just lost. We see nothing wrong with asking our dogs’ groomer to keep her eyes open for a red merle w/blue eyes. We do not expect the same personality, but we love the aussie temperament. We do not feel in any way that we are wrong in searching amongst good breeders to find a pup who does not qualify for showing but would need a wonderful home. Of course, the breeder would interview us and let us know if that pup’s personality would match ours and that of our lifestyle. That is a given. But would never want to accept just ANY aussie because that is what the breeder has to offer at the time. Right now, we have a 2 year old aussie who has lost Cream. We are searching for a partner for him.
            Your article layed out many thoughts that we had never heard of before, so we are glad that you stated them. We had no idea. But then, we would NEVER put a deposit down on a dog, then go searching for other breeders to see what they have. That is dishonest and unfair to the hard-working breeder.

    • Reply TJ September 8, 2015 at 4:16 am

      Richard, I fully agree with you. This supposed artcle is the biggest [piece of “snobbery” I have ever read. This “I know better than you” attitude is now rampant with the dog world … including so-called “rescue organization” that have illegally stolen dog from owner or have refused to return dogs to their rightful owner.

      This “snobbery” stinks …

      • Reply Joanna Kimball September 8, 2015 at 12:44 pm

        TJ, if good breeders acted this way, and had this set of expectations, because they thought they *were* better (on a cosmic level) than their buyers, that would be snobbery. If they act this way because they *know* better than their buyers, then that’s just an accurate assessment of the facts.

        My puppies are MY puppies. Not a product that I have a responsibility to move, not rescues, not homeless or needy dogs. I’ve spent eight weeks raising them, I raised their mom, I usually raised their grandmother and their great-grandmother too, and all their aunties and uncles and cousins. That’s kind of the dictionary definition of “know better than you” about my dogs, and therefore I get to make the rules about where they end up.

  • Reply Amy McSwain February 17, 2012 at 12:20 am

    This article was amazing!! Thank you for every piece of it, for those of us looking to purchase puppies all of this information is vitale. There are alot of breed books and how to books but this is one of few articles I have seen on this topic, most cover how to find a good breeder but not buyer etiquitte. I will definitely be visiting this site more often!

  • Reply Amy McSwain February 17, 2012 at 12:21 am

    This article was amazing!! Thank you for every piece of it, for those of us looking to purchase puppies all of this information is vital. There are a lot of breed books and how to books but this is one of few articles I have seen on this topic, most cover how to find a good breeder but not buyer etiquette. I will definitely be visiting this site more often!

  • Reply Lin Hainlen February 17, 2012 at 3:24 am

    Very well expressed!

  • Reply Kipp February 17, 2012 at 7:53 pm

    What a terrific article! I am so glad that Carrie posted this on Facebook! I am relieved that by some miracle a year ago I followed your guidelines to the tee. You sound like my breeder Chris exactly to whom which I have forged a very close bond with and has become part of my family. I am definitely interested in helping her preserve her exquisite type as she has done for over 40 years! I Adore her care for the dogs and pups alike.
    Their personalities are even sweeter than I could possibly describe. Some of which are actually not typical for the breed.
    I am SO PLEASED to tell you that we will be bringing home our wonderful new pack member NEXT Saturday! After a little over a year we finally have the perfect match! Thank you for this article as now I know I did it correctly!

  • Reply Puppy Buyer Etiquette - Doberman Forum : Doberman Breed Dog Forums February 17, 2012 at 9:19 pm

    […] Puppy Buyer Etiquette Read this today and in light of recent threads, found it definitely worth sharing. Especially "Stop looking for a puppy; look for a BREEDER." Puppy buyer etiquette | | Ruffly Speaking: Dog photography and general dog nuttiness of all kinds. K… […]

  • Reply Dan Sadler February 17, 2012 at 9:41 pm

    Thanks. We are in the process of buying a puppy from a breeder we have worked with before and are happy with. I still learned some valuable things from you.

  • Reply Selma February 18, 2012 at 2:24 am

    Great post, got to it though a friend on Facebook today. No reply necessary.

    You are a great writer and the info here is excellent.

    Expect more traffic. You have been warned.

  • Reply Alison February 18, 2012 at 12:58 pm

    As a longtime breeder, I certainly could not help but smile at much of this piece and I’ve enjoyed your articles for years. I might add, though, that given the current anti-breeder sentiment, we must be very careful not to alienate puppy buyers that reach out to us. It is not unusual to hear stories about puppy buyers feeling as though we have an “holier than thou” attitude.This piece began as refreshingly informative, but took a ridiculing tone as it went on that I fear could just leave puppy buyers feeling trepidatious about working with us. If we want to keep potential puppy owners from heading for the internet with their Visa cards then we need to be approachable, flexible, informative and welcoming. In order to prevent puppies from being mass produced we need these caring clients.
    A recent Slate article “No Pets for You”,
    wrote about the treatment by rescue groups that drove the writer finally to “resort” to buying from a breeder (evil as we are). There were over 3200 comments following the article! Apparently many people could relate to feeling alienated during their adoption searches. We must be vigilant that we not engender the same feelings in clients, even though we may mean well. We do not have to compromise our goals nor the care of our animals in order that clients feel valued and respected.

  • Reply Valerie February 19, 2012 at 7:11 pm

    I agree with a great deal of your advice. However, if someone is willing to pay for a puppy or is planning to be ready for one in the coming year. AND is attached to any animals they currently have (they won’t ‘get rid’ of any they bring into their home) then why does anyone think they have the right to judge who is not ‘fit’ to have a dog? I am personally offended by anyone who would deny letting me purchase or have a dog or puppy. I would not go though with getting one if it didn’t fit. Also, the beginnings of a contact with a breeder shouldn’t take so much of the persons time. Until it turns to a more series inquiry. I think you skipped the part where you ‘shop’ for the right breeder. By seeing what kind, if any reply you get from them. When (and if) you are asked for more information about your home and what you are looking for and the breeder isn’t even polite enough to return that email, with a thank you for your interest….seriously?! Not someone you want to deal with. The only way to find that out is to contact many breeders. Also, take into consideration that not everyone who would take excellent care of their pet can afford to pay a high price and the ‘shipping’ cost that may be associated with getting one from a breeder you like. Some people are in more neutral areas that have limited breeders nearby. When you have little to chose from you can sometimes feel hopeless if you’re ‘rejected’ by the ‘one’ local breeder. And should anyone really buy from a breeder that just wants the money and has a ‘puppy mill’? Maybe, you want to help the dogs, but the health might not be ok. Consider the wants needs and feelings of the person you ‘reject’ before you say no. Or refuse to even respond to them. Seriously? Only professional buyers would know anything like your article suggests and you say you trash emails that simply inquire? Bad move. Just my two cents worth.

  • Reply Tips for Contacting a Dog Breeder | Some Thoughts About Dogs February 19, 2012 at 7:54 pm

    […] If you enjoyed this post, you might want to visit Ruffly Speaking’s blog post on ‘Puppy Buyer Ettiquette‘. […]

  • Reply Dee February 20, 2012 at 11:23 am

    This is FANTASTIC!! I saw the link on a friend’s Facebook page, and I plan to send the link on! Thank you for such an honest, well-written, informative piece!

  • Reply April February 20, 2012 at 8:44 pm

    Hi. I enjoyed reading your post. As a result, I would like to ask if you know of a responsible breeder in Georgia? If not, how about in any of the surrounding states? I am not currently in market for a puppy but want to find a breeder for when I am ready. I do not show. My kids are for my & my husbands companionship. We have a male and a female right. My boy is 12 1/2yrs old, my girl is 6 yrs. They are my kids. I work at home and they are inside dogs. We go for walks nightly and play daily. These are my second and third Akitas. My first girl hooked me on Akitas. I have trained my kids on my own. As well as socializing. Anyway, enough about us….back to point…do you know of a Good Akita breeder in Southeast area? Thank you for your time and for your post.

  • Reply Tony Bezenar February 20, 2012 at 11:37 pm

    Totally loved this! Spot on. Was wondering if I could use this on my website to educate buyers on the proper way to go about purchasing a pup. Check my site out at I thank you for being so insightful…

  • Reply Puppy Buyer Etiquette February 21, 2012 at 11:27 am

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    […] εκτροφεα προς υποψηφιους ιδιοκτητες Puppy buyer etiquette | | Ruffly Speaking: Dog photography and general dog nuttiness of all kinds. K… Απάντηση με παράθεση   Μοιραστείτε […]

  • Reply Glady Gates February 22, 2012 at 10:09 am

    What a wonderful article. I have bred Keeshonden for over 30 years, showing in Conformation, Obedience, Rally and a bit of Agility. Therefore, I have acquired a lot of Dog People as wonderful friends. I hope you don’t mind that I sent your article off to them.

  • Reply in search for a baby girl - Page 4 - Maltese Dogs Forum : Spoiled Maltese Forums February 24, 2012 at 5:05 pm

    […] to be done? I would suggest reading this excellent article on how to communicate with breeders: Puppy buyer etiquette | | Ruffly Speaking: Dog photography and general dog nuttiness of all kinds. K… __________________ […]

  • Reply Jenny Benjamin February 25, 2012 at 2:45 am

    I would like to seek permission to be able to print your article in our clubs (Irish Wolfhound) magazine ?

    • Reply rufflyspeaking February 26, 2012 at 5:14 am

      Yes, absolutely. I am sorry that I am so out straight with my current litter that I have not been able to always reply to every comment, but a blanket “yes” to all such requests.

  • Reply Sara March 5, 2012 at 1:17 am

    Oh this is great! I would love to plagiarize some of it and adapt it to refer to those looking to adopt rescue dogs. Would that be OK with you? Thanks so much! Sara – South Bay Purebred Rescue in San Jose, CA

    • Reply rufflyspeaking March 6, 2012 at 4:08 am

      Hi, Sara! Sharing the article in its entirety is absolutely fine. Adapting it, sorry, isn’t. It’s just too hard for me to control how the final product comes out and I don’t want anyone to think that I personally advocate (or don’t advocate) for certain aspects of dog care or buying or adopting or whatever. I do have a series on adoption here:

  • Reply Outi Piisi-Putta March 13, 2012 at 2:09 am

    Thank you for this post. Great! I ask the permission to translate it into Finnish. I should send it to the Finnish Irish Wolfhound magazine. We still have so many IW people (also others:)) who don’t understand English.

  • Reply Puppy buyer ettiquette May 28, 2012 at 8:29 am

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  • Reply Laurie Hunter March 18, 2013 at 12:47 pm

    Well written bravo

  • Reply Mary K. Chelton March 25, 2013 at 6:35 pm

    This is all over the Internet on various dog lists. I got it from a friend who did not know who wrote it while compiling a list of resources for puppy seekers. I would love to put it on our breed club website with attribution if you would grant permission.

    Great piece, thanks.

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  • Reply Wendy March 26, 2013 at 6:24 pm

    This was a great post!!

  • Reply Amy March 27, 2013 at 3:59 pm

    I LOVE THIS!!!! I’m posting on my FBbreeding page as I have two litters coming up. This may just be required reading for potential puppy buyers. Thank you for expressing this in a constructive and instructive manner :-)

  • Reply DEB April 1, 2013 at 6:29 pm

    Thank You So glad you posted this artical .People that are not aware of the right way of selecting a breeder should read this first. They would have a better understanding behind our actions of the responsible ethical breeding. :-)

  • Reply Adriana April 3, 2013 at 9:49 pm

    Great article, however I’d like to say that sometimes you don’t have to disregard the buyer for asking the price quick early on into the conversation. Most buyers (first timers) are looking for the best they can get out of what they have. I know bargaining is out of the question, but you also do have to consider that if the prices you want for the puppy doesn’t fit their budget, then it would be best to move on to another reputable breeder who offers the puppies as pets at a much lower rate without lowering the quality of the litter without delving too deep into the conversation.

  • Reply Sennenridge Bernese April 15, 2013 at 10:29 pm


    Absolutely fabulous article! With your permission I’d love to post on my website.

    • Reply Dee Handy June 19, 2013 at 4:07 pm

      I would love to add this to my web site!` Many times, I have to “try” to explain to people about my placement of puppies (those are my babies and my first responsibility is to them) and either they don’t get it or I’m not saying it correctly.

      • Reply Joanna Kimball June 19, 2013 at 4:09 pm

        Thank you! Yes, reprints are always allowed as long as the entire article is reproduced and the blog is given credit. Good luck!

  • Reply Deborah Ayer April 17, 2013 at 12:09 pm

    I love your article. May I put it on my website?

  • Reply What to look for in a puppy? - Doberman Forum : Doberman Breed Dog Forums April 22, 2013 at 10:19 pm

    […] read this short article, I think you will find it quite interesting, especially points #1 and #5. Puppy buyer etiquetteRuffly Speaking | Ruffly Speaking Good luck in your search! Be sure to post pics when the time […]

  • Reply Dee April 26, 2013 at 3:31 pm

    Ok, where was this article when I was sending emails to breeders?? 😀 I could’ve soo used this! Thanks a ton Joanna! Seriously… thank you! We’re in the middle of communicating for our first ever, new puppy… and it’s so hard… because of the wait, because of the fear of getting rejected, because of fear getting the horrible-st, meanest puppy in the litter (because of something we said..??), because of the fear of what if we miserably failed as puppy-parents and being on the breeder’s t-shirt….
    But now I clearly understand the breeders perspective… it’s just as uncertain on your end… and just as hard on you… Good luck with your dogs and keep posting! :)

  • Reply Lyne April 27, 2013 at 1:02 pm

    this is great
    may I translate it in french and share?
    with your original link of course
    bye bye xx

    • Reply Joanna Kimball April 29, 2013 at 2:23 pm

      Yes, you may.

    • Reply Robyn June 20, 2013 at 1:12 am


      Si tu as traduit cet article en francais, je voudrais bien en recevoir une copie, s’il vous plait….

  • Reply Lauren May 3, 2013 at 1:33 pm

    This is a great post! Thank you. I have a question re: breeder etiquette. If I have found a great breeder, but she removes dewclaws, and I really want the dewclaws left intact, what is the best way to broach the subject?

  • Reply Ramune Tovstukha June 18, 2013 at 10:53 am

    Dear Johanna, can I ask for permission to translate this “essay” into Lithuanian language and spread it for the puppy buyers in my country? Lithuania is the country there people do all the wrong things you have mentioned here, and very few understands the etiquette. So I would be happy to make a translation of this guidelines pointing out the author and the source. Thank you & waiting for reply!

  • Reply Puppy Buyer Etiquette - Doberman Forum : Doberman Breed Dog Forums June 18, 2013 at 1:33 pm

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  • Reply Brenda Newlove June 18, 2013 at 3:37 pm

    LOVE your article. May I have permission to post on my website?

  • Reply Leslie R. June 18, 2013 at 4:25 pm

    Exceptional post. Thank you for writing it.

  • Reply Jodi June 18, 2013 at 5:02 pm

    I agree with a lot of this, but also think one point in particular ignores the reality of life these days. There are a lot of really great breeders out there – as long as you are careful about the breeder and make sure to avoid back yard breeders and puppy mills, I see no problem with shopping breeders for the timing of a puppy you need. I wanted to do this with a puppy that I acquired recently because there was a particular time period that I was going to be taking a leave of absence from work. This was obviously the best time to get a puppy and spend a lot of time with it during 6 months. I researched a ton and called a lot of breeders and found an excellent one with a pup that would be available for the time period I needed. They are a superb breeder and I would go to them again in a heartbeat – although I also now know of a number of excellent breeders for this breed of dog. They picked the puppy for me and I couldn’t be happier. This dog is the apple of my eye. All other points I agree to 100%.

    • Reply Steven Christ January 19, 2014 at 8:54 pm

      I agree completely- Timing was very important for us… We had a specific time frame for when we wanted to bring home the puppy- just like you would plan for having a baby. It’s a responsible and sensible thing to do and has the puppy’s best interest in mind. So I absolutely don’t agree that you need to be on the breeders time table- if that doesn’t work for you find a good breeder who does have puppies when its best for you and ultimately best for the puppy. Also I think puppy buyers should take this with a grain of salt- be yourself and if that’s not good enough for said breeder move on… Remember you will be dealing with these people for a very long time after you get your puppy and if they are rude or elitist you probably won’t want to communicate with them much after the fact. Breeders need to remember they have to have good people skills as much as they have to be good responsible breeders.

      • Reply Robyn January 21, 2014 at 6:20 am

        Steven, I agree with your comments on being practical about timetables and breeders needing good people skills. I also agree with the article about buyer ettiquette. I breed dogs as well as working professionally in personal services in the corporate environment. I treat buyers as I would any other client – courteously, trying to present information in a palatable manner etc. Interestingly, a number of buyers treat me as though I am just a shop, with little brain, and certainly little right to form any opinions or God forbid suggest that they might need to learn anything or do anything differently. Their approach is once they approve my wares, I am expected to sell to them. While it is right to expect breeders to have good people skills, those buyers who want to treat breeders as being at their beck and call should perhaps consider 1) good manners cut both ways and 2) if you have trouble finding a breeder willing to commit to you, maybe they’re just letting you down gently.

  • Reply DeAnne June 18, 2013 at 7:51 pm

    Loved everything about your writing. Very well thought out and presented in an easy simplified manner for the novice dog person seeking their first puppy from a breeder. I am impressed.
    Since you allowing people to share, I will try and share this on our website and facebook page for our clients. If you write more articles like this, please add me to your cc list or tell me a way I can subscribe.
    Again, great job.
    DeAnne Hawkes

  • Reply Jennifer June 19, 2013 at 3:24 am

    This is a great post. I searched for 7 years to find my lab breeder. I know have the senior home going on for 3 labs. My breeder is now a dear friend and the most amazing breeder. Thanks to her, I have the most amazing dogs.

  • Reply Jill Warren June 19, 2013 at 2:30 pm

    Hi Joanna,
    I would like to post your excellent article on responsible puppy buyer etiquette on the English Setter Club of Phoenix web site. Would that be OK?
    Jill Warren, club president

    • Reply Joanna Kimball June 19, 2013 at 2:57 pm

      Yes, reprints are always allowed. Thanks so much!

  • Reply Ellen M. June 19, 2013 at 3:39 pm

    This article says it all! Good breeders all have the same ideals and practices in common, no matter what breed they own. You’re so right…we spend hours on the phone comparing puppy buyer emails and phone calls! The “color” and “how much” and “I’m looking for a puppy in August” calls get flushed instantly! Thank you for saying what we have spent years learning and practicing – how to do the right thing for the breed we love most.

  • Reply Katy Upson June 19, 2013 at 5:49 pm

    Joanna, I always enjoy your posts, but this is outstanding, like they all are, but I wish every puppy person could read it before they even consider puppies. I am passing this along to all I can think of who could read it. Thanks again, Katy and Chester

  • Reply ils June 19, 2013 at 6:09 pm

    All puppy buyers should read this. Far to many people are thinking that you just can go to a breeder and pick out a puppy, like you go to the market and buy a TV. They think, oh I want a dog, and thay want it…yesterday.

  • Reply Hanne June 19, 2013 at 6:25 pm

    This is really fantastic – just the type of text I have been trying to find. Can I please translate it into Swedish and publish it on my website? Of course with author’s name and everything published with it. Very very well put!

  • Reply Patty Storkel June 19, 2013 at 6:30 pm

    This is a very excellent article. I’m one of the Rescue Coordinators for the Irish Wolfhound Club of the Willamette Valley, and in that capacity, also give out referrals to breeders. I’m also the Public Education Coordinator and get puppy availability questions all the time. I would like permission to make copies to hand out and or post to others inquiring about puppies. Is this permissible? Thanks.

  • Reply Michelle June 20, 2013 at 4:21 am

    Thank you so much! Wonderfully stated! I’m a former Animal Control Officer, I still am very involved with the animal community in my area! This is a testament of a true good breeder! I loved how you stated, your love for the breed & to keep it going! So Informative! This not only applies to “Purchasing” a puppy…It also is very in sync with how a good rescue operates their adoption process! In the end, aren’t we all…if done the right way, adopting them as our own? If anyone is looking for a puppy, whether from a breeder or a rescue, if they don’t encounter this type of mind set, they need to run! Thank You so much for sharing! I definitely will be passing this on!

  • Reply Bames June 20, 2013 at 4:39 am

    I have never approached a breeder for a puppy before. Our Pomeranian, Jyoti is the son of our Soni. We met our Labrador, Lucky, at a vet’s office. Lucky was a very sick puppy with a bad cough and cold. I just couldn’t leave him like his human did. Your post is very informative and I will definitely consider referring to it when we consider getting another canine family member.

  • Reply Toni Chrillesen June 21, 2013 at 12:06 pm

    You a brillant! Love love love your puppy buyer etiquette!
    Please Can I have permission to put it on my website with your name on it?

    Take Care Toni :)

  • Reply Reigning Danes June 21, 2013 at 7:53 pm

    I loved your article I found on a friends fb page and shared it on my own. My breed is great danes and you run across a lot of people wanting scooby doo. I turn down a lot of people that Im afraid just arent prepared for the breed. You have to keep in mind whats best for the dog and not the people. Matching the right pup with the right family is not an easy feat! I hope everyone gets as much out of this article as I did. :-)

    • Reply Judy June 23, 2013 at 1:15 am

      I’d like to read a whole article on what goes into “matching the right puppy with the right owner”.

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  • Reply Ann-Marie June 22, 2013 at 2:00 pm

    Years later, I saw this posted on a Facebook corgi owner’s page. As a dog lover, buyer, adopter who has been in the position of interviewing breeders and being interviewed by breeders for potential puppies, I agree 100%.
    Our first dog was a disaster, because it was from a backyard breeder, we picked the liveliest puppy, it was the wrong breed for us and at the wrong time in our lives. A good breeder would have known this. The puppy lasted less than a year with us.
    We lucked into our second puppy, by beginning to do research and happening upon a good breeder at a dog show.
    By our fourth dog (third was a rescue), I was referred to a breeder who sent me a four page preliminary application and I was in love with her, not her dogs! I filled out the app, sent it back with a note telling her I would love to be on her wait list for as long as it took for her to match me with a puppy, even if it took a couple of years.
    Luck was on our side, and I got my best ever dog from her current litter.
    I now alternate, rescue and breeder for my dogs, getting the best of both worlds, and I am now known well enough in our area’s corgi breeding world that I do not have any difficulty dealing with the best (as in most concerned with the well being of the breed and the individual puppy) breeders.
    My proudest moment as a corgi owner was when I got my current puppy, and was told by his breeder he was, “a mess,” and that she would not have sold him to anyone but someone she trusted as an experienced corgi owner.
    He tests me daily. He is a mess. I love him. We will make his breeder proud. Somehow. If we survive his puppyhood!

  • Reply Donna Yeldell July 8, 2013 at 3:20 pm

    FABULOUS!!! I will be sharing this on our Steppin’wolf Irish Wolfhound facebook page.

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  • Reply Eliza Gordon July 20, 2013 at 5:43 pm

    Hello, I am editor of the Rocky Mountain Irish Wolfhound Association and have put in your article which I titled “The Etiquette of Buying a Puppy.” I had to edit here and there for space reasons but most of it is as you wrote it. I hope that’s OK with you. Thank you!

  • Reply Marian Your August 14, 2013 at 6:52 pm

    Hi Joanna, I particularly enjoyed this article. I feel I could have written it myself. May I link to it on my website and Facebook page, and in correspondence with prospective buyers? Thanks!

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  • Reply veron November 13, 2013 at 2:39 am

    I am in a process of trying to get on a list of a well known breeder and I just found your blog “Puppy buyer etiquette”-
    I have to say I did everything according your “recipe ” how to communicate with a breeder… First I agree with being not critical to you own stock – I have researched many breeders to find the one that breeds dogs that I like ( their females actually don’t look like males with massive heads and so on.)…it is just just what I prefer in that breed …I have gotten one short response with due date and price and that the breeder does not ship puppies….I have replied that I was willing to travel 400 miles to get my dog, exact description of my previous experiences with the breed, my living situation, my hobbies etc ( I would even send my criminal check if required :-) )…I feel like I am the best possible client any breeder would want…..tons of knowledge, experience and flexibility to work with the breeder all along….. it has been over a week and no word from the breeder if I am on the waiting list or not , if I even have a remote chance to get my future puppy….months of research and preparation and now I have no clue what to do….should I contact different breeders that I know know this breeder or should I juts wait till last minute and not be able to get on any other spring litter list ?… I really don’t want to be impatient , but I feel like I deserve some kind of response….should I make a phone call ? Is it going to be look upon as being pushy ? I have been waiting for the perfect time to get a new family member and I did not expect this process to be so difficult….any advise how should I proceed ?

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  • Reply Tammy Erickson January 16, 2014 at 1:42 pm

    Hi Joanna — I’m the editor of a newsletter for the Cairn Terrier Club of America. I’m planning to take you up on your kind comments that people have your permission to reprint and distribute this blog. If that’s not okay, do let me know. If you’d like a copy of the newsletter issue that contains this terrific blog, just send me your mailing address. I really enjoy your writing! Thanks very much! Best, Tammy

    • Reply Joanna Kimball January 16, 2014 at 5:51 pm

      You absolutely have permission! And thanks so much :)

  • Reply sharon January 27, 2014 at 4:03 pm

    Wonderful informative and well written article. Much appreciated

    Yes you “good” breeders really do all know each other!
    Years ago when my lowchen boy was younger, he pulled off a food heist very cleverly, and the story became known as “The Great Tilapia Caper”. I told a local breeder the story. She wasn’t my breeder, but she lived near me, had referred me to the breeder who sold me my boy, and always kindly made sure to extend an invitation to us when she held her annual get together for her puppy people.

    Fast forward a few years. One find spring afternoon, while walking around Greenwhich Village, in NYC, and we ran into a very nice lady and her lovely lowchen. Of course we stop, admire, and trade a few stories. She was much more connected than i am, and while not actively breeding at that time, seemed to know lowchen folks and if memory serves, had put a few litters on the ground. When i began to tell her the “Fish Story” she interrupted, exclaiming, “Oh! The Great Tilapia Caper!?”
    Imagine my surprise upon finding out that this little story had “made the rounds”?!
    (One can only hope that, when the story was told, i wasn’t considered a “bad” owner…..)

  • Reply Robin March 11, 2014 at 9:30 am

    I wanted you to be aware of someone who has completely plagiarized your article. She has copied it nearly word for word, changing certain words, but she is passing it off as her own work. I don’t know if you care about such things, but here is the link to it so you can check it out for yourself. I hate to see your great article plagiarized, especially by someone as unethical as the person doing it.

  • Reply Pamela J. Grant March 16, 2014 at 5:15 pm

    I would like to reprint this “article” in the Medallion Rottweiler Club newsletter which I am currently working on. I have been “lecturing” potential puppy buyers for 30 years with these same guidelines. I would like to print it so that our new comers may read it. You have said this very well. Please email me with your permission to reprint. I will print the source and copyright information along with the article.
    Thank you in advance.

  • Reply Alvin May 10, 2014 at 3:00 pm

    Probably the most helpful and honest article to assist puppy buyers out there. Thank you for the fun but serious advice! You have pretty much answered most if not all my curious questions on communicating to breeders and looking for a good reputable one -particularly the Cane Corso breeders.

  • Reply Tamii June 19, 2014 at 6:45 pm

    I am blown away at your words. About the puppy buyers and the breeders. Although I have already put my name in with a border collie breeder in Ontario, I’ve been looking at other breeds. You made me realize how wrong I am in going about this. I want to thank you SO MUCH for that.
    I have an email to write now.
    When or if my family can finalize a breed and its a Troller, I will be looking you up again.
    THANK YOU for your wonderful words of wisdom and insight.

    Much love
    Tamii and family

  • Reply Judi Sawyer August 19, 2014 at 12:44 pm

    This is an amazing article! May I have permission to put it on my website?

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  • Reply Penny King September 10, 2014 at 5:16 pm

    Joanna, I would like permission to reprint this article in our National Newsletter- Belgian Sheepdog Club of America.
    Thank you, will await your replay (via email please, so I can send it to our Newsletter Editor)
    Penny King /

  • Reply Claudia October 17, 2014 at 2:34 pm

    Such a great post, you are so right Joanna. What drives me crazy too:
    How many do you have to choose from?
    This one is smaller, I want the bigger one.

  • Reply Nancy October 25, 2014 at 5:50 pm

    A thought provoking article. I did want to comment on the practice of breeders picking the puppy for buyers. With my dog’s litter I had a very generous breeder who gave me the opportunity to spend a lot of time with the litter from the first week after their birth. I travelled the 30 miles to visit the puppies every weekend. By week six, I had developed a special bond with one of the puppies. He was not the one that my breeder originally had in mind for me, but she agreed that “we had picked each other” and that he was the right puppy for me. He is five now, and he truly has been the right puppy. He fit in beautifully with me and my other dog. I am so appreciative of the time to really get to know the litter and watch them develop. It was a special time.

  • Reply Daniel Holmes March 30, 2015 at 7:56 pm

    I just wanted to say what a brilliant article this is. I live in England and am just beginning to research the world of pedigree dog ownership. I was lucky enough to adopt a beautiful working English Springer but would dearly love to care for a dog his whole life in the future. The attitudes of successful breeders here seem to echo all the good sense outlined here. It was particularly useful to read up about the etiquette of waiting lists. Establishing a trusting relationship with the right breeder is truly the only way to go.

    Thanks again


  • Reply Tanya Nowak May 23, 2015 at 7:05 pm

    Dear Joanna,
    What a fantastic article! May I please repost this on my website? I think this is good information for everyone who is looking for a dog/puppy.
    Thank you very much for your consideration!

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  • Reply Dianna September 6, 2015 at 12:22 pm

    Hi! Your article is extremely honest and helpful. Just wondering how soon after puppies are born does the breeder send out puppy announcements?

  • Reply Bonnie September 7, 2015 at 10:03 pm

    Love this post, I would like to put it on my website if I may, with credit to you of course. I would put it under
    information. Thanks in advance.

  • Reply Cris September 8, 2015 at 6:17 am

    From having families and friends I’m controversial fields and jobs.i get it you are trying to make a point across about experiences that upset you. That’s fine but this could have been done less confrontationally. It gives such a tone of negativity that could turn people off of legitimate breeders and go with ones that are less scrupulous. I am glad I am not the only that isn’t mildy concerned about the tone of this article. It is made to seem like you don’t give crap about the buyer at all. After all its a business of selling animals when it comes to brass tacks. Don’t act like it’s not. This should have been reviewed for tactfulness. I would have no problem with most of these points if it wasn’t so holier than thou. You are lucky if I give the time of day attitude. Good luck in the yelper era.

  • Reply rufflyspeaking June 30, 2009 at 8:16 pm

    I’ve never heard of any good breeder asking for a deposit in order to let you on the property. However, some of them will ask you for a deposit at the time that they’re pretty sure they know which puppies are going where, and that may be before you’ve had the chance to get there. Under those conditions, you can either politely refuse to send the check (knowing that she may go down to the next person in line) or say that you’ll bring it with you when you come see the dogs (hopefully within a few days – it isn’t really fair to leave a breeder hanging for weeks).

    I would also say that expecting to meet the mom dog, great. I would not expect to meet the dad. In fact, if the breeder is only using her own stud dogs that’s a red flag unless she has six or seven (most or all finished champions or field titled, etc.) dogs to choose from. Most people that are cycling two or three stud dogs among six or seven bitches are looking to make money, not good puppies. Also be aware that many breeders will not let you see the puppies if they know that you’ve been at other breeders’ homes recently; this is for the safety of tiny and vulnerable puppies.

    I think it is entirely appropriate to visit more than one breeder. Just be very clear and transparent to every breeder that you are SHOPPING, not BUYING. I’m always happy to have people come meet my dogs. I would ask that you not overlap breeder visits within the same few days, though, and please let me know that you were with another litter recently. Do not wear the same shoes or outerwear, and expect to meet the mom and puppies separately.

  • Reply Judy June 19, 2013 at 2:49 am

    Why does one need to meet the mom and pups separately?

  • Reply Robyn June 20, 2013 at 1:36 am

    I’ve had a demanding corporate career for 20+ years, had my breed for 15 years starting as a pet owner, became involved in showing 5 years ago and have bred my first couple of litters since last year. My career in professional services has given me a professional approach to managing and dealing with my puppy buyers.
    I commend your article. Every puppy buyer I have chosen I have chosen consistent with your article (which I only read last night for the first time). Many buyers have thanked me later for having been so thorough, or for telling them things that didn’t make sense at the time but do later. I meet all puppy buyers before agreeing to sell a pup, and tell all of them to take their time to think, and email me after we meet to let me know if they’d like a pup, so there is no pressure to buy. Only two who I would not sell to have ever followed up. One of those 2 came back 3 times, and on the 3rd time we took the dogs for a walk. Halfway through their walk, he said “You walk them this far every day?” I replied “Only if I don’t have alot of time. There’s a longer walk that’s better”. I never heard from him again. Now when I interview puppy buyers, I do it while walking the dogs, to help them grasp the reality of the breed requirements we have discussed.
    I have a question for those who object to breeders thinking they have a right to choose who they sell their pups to, or to having the audacity to ask questions. We potentially risk our bitches’ lives when we breed a first time litter, because you never know how the birth will go, no matter how well you prepare. We put in literally hundreds of hours researching pedigrees, negotiating with stud dog owners, travelling to shows to objectively confirm our bitches’ conformation is as good as we think. Then once the pups come, we increase our workload and cause our other dogs to adapt to varied routine while we prepare for the pups, attend to the whelping, sleep near the pups to ensure all is well, undertake socialising exercises with the pups to help them be as well prepared for their new lives as possible, etc etc etc. We incur thousands of dollars of expense before anyone pays for a pup. My duty to my pups, who never asked to be born, is to place them in the best homes I can find for each pup, taking account of its individual temperament and personality. My duty to my buyers is to provide them with the pup best suited to their circumstances, and to help them manage that pup as well as they can. Where, in all of the effort I have just described, does anything give anyone a right to tell me I have no choice in what I do with the pups I have laboured so hard over?

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