I am hoping that ANY person looking for a puppy will read this article; VERY important information!!
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
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
Not just a brag, not just a stepping stone to a higher title, not just an adjunct to competitive scores, a title is a tribute to the dog that bears it, a way to honor the dog, an ultimate memorial. It will remain in the record and in the memory, for about as long as anything in the world can remain. And though the dog her/himself doesn't know or care that her/his achievements have been noted, a title says many things in the world of humans where such things count.
A title says your dog was intelligent, adaptable, and good natured. It says that your dog loved you enough to do the things that pleased you, however crazy they may have sometimes seemed. In addition, a title says that you loved your dog. That you loved to spend time with her/him because she/he was a good dog and that you believed in her/him enough to give her/him yet another chance when she/he failed and in the end your faith was justified.
A title proves that your dog inspired you to that special relationship enjoyed by so few, that in a world of disposable creatures, this dog with a title was greatly loved, and loved greatly in return. And when that dear short life is over, the title remains as a memorial of the
finest kind, the best you can give to a deserving friend. Volumes of praise in one small set of initials after the name. An obedience, agility, flyball, herding, protection, etc. title is nothing less than true love and respect, given and received and recorded permanently.
He is your friend, your partner, your defender, your dog. You are his life, his love, his leader. He will be yours, faithful and true, to the last beat of his heart. You owe it to him to be worthy of such devotion."
When I am old I will wear soft gray sweatshirts and a bandana over my silver hair and I will spend my social security checks on wine and my dogs.
I will sit in my house on my well-worn chair and listen to my dogs' breathing. I will sneak out in the middle of a warm summer night and take my dogs for a run, if my old bones will allow...
When people come to call, I will smile and nod as I show them my dogs and talk of them and about them the ones so beloved of the past and the ones so beloved of today
I will still work hard cleaning after them, mopping and feeding them and whispering their names in a soft loving way.
I will wear the gleaming sweat on my throat, like a jewel and I will be an embarrassment to all especially my family who have not yet found the peace in being free to have dogs as your best friends
These friends who always wait, at any hour, for your footfall and eagerly jump to their feet out of a sound sleep, to greet you as if you are a God.
With warm eyes full of adoring love and hope that you will always stay, I'll hug their big strong necks I'll kiss their dear sweet heads and whisper in their very special company
I look in the Mirror and see I am getting old this is the kind of person I am and have always been. Loving dogs is easy, they are part of me.
Please accept me for who I am. My dogs appreciate my presence in their lives they love my presence in their lives When I am old this will be important to me you will understand when you are old if you have dogs to love too. ~Author Unknown
"Like the oak tree, find balance at your center, and all of the branches of your life will grow in harmony to support the structure of who you really are........."