Know What to Expect from a Responsible Retailer
While browsing through pages of photos of cute puppies for sale online, it’s hard not to act on your first impulse, but before you click “buy” be sure the retailer is trustworthy and responsible. Doing your research ahead of time will help you determine if the online retailer is reputable and if the dog you are considering buying is well cared for.
You should be able to speak to a real person
Reaching out through the website or email is appropriate for initial contact, but before purchasing a dog online, you should speak with the retailer on the phone and be able to ask any questions about their business or the dog. Video chatting is even better, so you can request to see the dog you're interested in.
Responsible retailers will want to know about you
Just as responsible breeders will want to learn about you, reputable retailers should also want to learn about your pet ownership experience and lifestyle to ensure you're a good fit for their dog. Some retailers may ask you to fill out a questionnaire to ensure you’re a good match or request a list of references that can vouch for your puppy-parenting capabilities. Feel free to ask for a list of their references too, such as other individuals who have purchased their puppies.
Expect to be able to see the dog's health and medical records before buying
A retailer should have detailed medical records for each of their dogs. it’s important to know if the dog has had his vaccinations, has been spayed or neutered, and if he is facing any other health conditions. If the dog does have health conditions, be sure to ask what medications and special care the dog needs to treat the condition.
The retailer should be able to speak on how the puppy has been socialized
or they should be able to easily connect you with the breeder who raised the puppy. You should expect to speak with someone who has a strong understanding of the breed’s common personality and physical traits and knows what health concerns often affect the breed. The breeder or retailer should be able to provide you with guidance on training and socializing your puppy and explain how they have done so up until this point.
Before you take your furry friend home, a responsible retailer should provide a contract agreement
Retailer contracts will often outline certain conditions of care, such as you promising to spay or neuter the dog or indicate that if at any point in time you can no longer care for the dog, he will be returned to the retailer.
Questions To Ask An Online Retailer Before Buying A Dog
1. How Long Have You Been Selling Dogs?
Just as with any career, the more experience a pet retailer has, the more knowledgeable they are likely to be. Your retailer should have a deep understanding of how their dogs are raised and cared for. Be cautious though, years of experience does not always equal responsible selling.
2. Where Did This Dog Come From?
A responsible retailer should be open about where they get their dogs from, and willing to share the breeder who raised the dog to this point. If the dog is from a shelter, the retailer should also be able to share the name of the shelter.
3. How Will You Get The Dog To Me?
If the online retailer isn’t local, then you will want to ask about transportation and how the dog will be safely shipped to you. A seasoned, responsible retailer will have processes in place and should be able to explain exactly how your puppy will travel from them to you.
4. How Have The Puppies Been Socialized?
It is crucial for a puppy’s development that he is introduced to other dogs, animals, objects, and humans in the first 5-16 weeks of age. This period will permanently shape your puppy’s future personality and how he will react to different environments as an adult. Be sure your retailer or breeder has been socializing your dog and can provide you with feedback on how your puppy has reacted to different situations so far.
5. Is The Puppy Up-To-Date On Vaccinations And Has He Been Dewormed?
You should be sure that your potential puppy has visited a veterinarian to receive his shots and be dewormed before taking him home. Retailers should have proper records on veterinary testing and treatments and should be able to provide you with the vet’s contact information. Understand what shots your puppy has received and when he will be due for his next vaccine.
6. What Health Guarantees And Reclaiming Policies Do You Provide In Your Contract?
If your puppy becomes severely ill, what will your retailer do? What if you can no longer care for your puppy? Understand your retailer’s reclaiming policy before bringing your dog home.
7. Do You Have Any References?
A responsible, experienced retailer will have a list of previous customers and veterinarians that can speak to their reliability. Call the previous customers and be sure they had a positive experience with the retailer, and check online reviews.
8. Can We Contact You After Taking The Puppy Home?
Your retailer and breeder should be able and willing to offer you guidance as you are raising your new puppy. Be sure that they are available to contact with questions or concerns about your dog or the breed in general, as they are an expert.
9. What Do You Need To Know About Me?
You should be prepared to answer questions the retailer has about your lifestyle and concerned if they don’t ask any questions about you at all. Reputable retailers will want to ensure their breed suits you, and that you are prepared to raise and care for one of their puppies.
10. When Can I Take The Puppy Home?
Puppies should stay with their litter until they are at least eight weeks old to properly mature and socialize. Your retailer should not place a puppy in a new home until he is between eight and 12 weeks.
Be aware of irresponsible online retailer red flags
Unfortunately, you cannot trust every online pet retailer you come by. Some may not properly care for their dogs, and others may not have any dogs to sell at all. Online pet sales, although convenient, have opened doors for puppy scams, where people are led to believe they are purchasing a dog online, but really the website and the dog are all fake.
Be aware of the red flags below to ensure that the dog you are considering adding to your family is real and is coming from a responsible source.
You don’t feel that the retailer is being completely transparent
Online retailers should be open about all aspects of their business and willing to provide you with all the paperwork on the dog such as vaccination information, health tests, Kennel Club certificates, etc. If a retailer is avoiding your questions, or completely unable to answer them, they likely aren’t trustworthy. You can also check with the Better Business Bureau to confirm the reputation of an online seller, breeder or distributor.
You’re promised a dog of any color, size and/or sex that you want
Responsible breeders are limited in the number of litters their dogs produce each year and cannot promise what the upcoming litter will look like. Online retailers are likely selling dogs from responsible breeder partners. If a breeder is promising that you will find a dog who meets specific physical attributes, it is possible they are breeding irresponsibly.
The price of the dog seems unusually low
Be cautious of retailers that are asking what seems to be an unusually low price for a dog. Be sure to check what the breed of dog is typically sold for and ask for an explanation as to why the retailer is selling the dog for that price. What seems like a great deal may be a scam or the result of a poorly bred dog.
The website lacks information
Don’t be persuaded by a well-designed website that the retailer is responsible or real, for that matter. Scammer websites pop up and get taken down regularly to remain untraceable. Use a Google reverse image search to see if the same pets are advertised on other web addresses. If the pups are real, be sure to browse through the website to gather information and confirm that the operation is reputable.
Trust your gut
If you have any doubts about the retailer or feel pressured to buy a dog in any way, it’s best to walk away from the situation. These sites should help you make an informed decision about purchasing a dog, not push you into buying one, especially if you are not ready to make a decision, not sure if one of their puppies is a match for your family, or not excited about the puppies you are seeing.