How to Respond to an Ad

(how to talk to breeders and rescuers)

This article discusses some conversational sequences that you might use in talking to breeders about puppies dogs they are advertising. The goal is to help you distinguish between serious and responsible breeders versus the less informed and less responsible ones.
A lot of this also applies to talking to rescuers. A rescue person in a breed specific rescue should know a lot about that breed, or should refer you to someone more experienced if they are a beginner. A rescue person in a non-breed-specific rescue may not know a lot about this particular breed. A shelter worker probably won't know a lot about this particular breed. But all rescue and shelter people are very concerned with making a good match so that the dogs will be getting a "forever home", a "till death do us part" home.

How to Respond to an Ad

(how to talk to breeders about dogs for sale)

by Pam Green, © 2006, 2007

My purpose is to discuss some conversational lines you might use in talking to breeders when responding to their advertisements for puppies or dogs for sale. For each of your lines, I will discuss some of the possible responses you might get and how these give you clues as to whether this breeder is likely to be a knowledgeable and responsible one from whom you might obtain a puppy or dog capable of becoming a good family companion dog versus whether the breeder is a less auspicious one ie a large scale puppy mill or backyard puppy mill or simply a casual and uninformed "gee my pet is so nice" type of breeder.

For the most part I am assuming that this is a telephone conversation, though it could also be taking place at a conformation show or a performance trial. If at a trial, be especially aware that this could be a poor time for the breeder to engage in any lengthy discussions since she has to focus on the dog(s) and the competition.

I am assuming that you are seeking a puppy or dog to become your personal companion, house-dog, family companion, etc. Possibly you also would like to enjoy training for and competing in some kind of show or performance event and hope your dog will have good potential for that activity.

Ideally every such high quality responsible breeder would also be an articulate and patient educator of those who phone for information. In our dreams ! I know many who are so, but I also know a few really good breeders whose people skills and people patience leave a lot to be desired and indeed some may strike you as somewhat rude. Still I think that if you show yourself to be genuinely seeking information and to be very thoughtful (rather than impulsive or impatient) in your desire for a dog, any good breeder should be glad to help you. Do be aware that the moment you choose to phone could be a bad one for the breeder to talk, and you will see that my first line addresses that issue. Also be aware that the best breeders breed much less often than the puppy millers and that their litters are often reserved long before the puppies are born , possibly before they are conceived, and so these breeders sometimes don't have a lot of time for those callers who sound like impatient or impulsive "gotta have a dog right now" buyers.

Always be aware that many of the puppy mill type of breeders, ie those whose only real interest is in selling merchandise (puppies and dogs) for cash , are often very charming and eager to talk to you just as long as they think they may be making a sale to you today or in the near future. They can be charming the way a used car salesman can be charming. They will be charming just as long as they can smell your money and think they can part you from it. The amount of knowledge that these people have of their breed can vary from a fair bit to very little. The generally will steer the conversation away from health issues if they can or else will give a blanket assurance that they don't have to worry about such things in their lines (note : if they don't worry, then believe me you had better worry !!!) .

All that applies to puppy mill breeders also applies to their chief outlet, the "how much is that doggie in the window" pet store. They can have the charm and the sincerity of a sleazy politician. In addition, the pet store salesman is likely to have little or no knowledge of dogs and may be getting a commission on each sale.

The "gee my dog is so nice" type of uninformed and casual breeder, who breeds her nice family dog to someone else's nice family dog, is probably also going to be happy to talk to you. She probably won't know much about the breed or about training and health issues, but she will be more than happy to talk about what a great pet her dog is and she will be absolutely sincere in doing so. This type of situation where both parents are nice adaptable family pets can produce puppies who are nice temperamented and sweet , and almost always the puppies have been much handled and well socialized because the family and all friends have spent much time playing with them. I sometimes call this type of litter a "friends and family litter" because the breeding was done on purpose with the goal of making nice puppies so various friends and family members could have a dog much like the Momma dog. Puppies are then available for sale or giveaway when it turns out that there are more puppies than there are friends and family wanting a pup right now.

The "breeder" of an accidental litter, also called an "oops litter", is a poorer prospect than that of the friends and family litter. This is a person who was too ignorant or too irresponsible to either spay their bitch or to keep her confined during her heat period. A bitch in heat must be confined more securely than ever a harem guard kept the seraglio of a Sultan with a short temper and a long sword. If the bitch was a well loved house-dog, then there is still some chance that she has an aimiable personality and sound temperament and that the puppies were played with and socialized a lot. If the poor bitch was a backyard dog, then the puppies will not have had much socialization and the bitch's temperament is harder to assess. Unless the accident was "intramural" , ie with an intact male dog residing in the same home, the sire will usually be unknown, "a traveling salesman", and his temperament and often his breed will be unknowable. All you can be sure of is that the sire's owner was irresponsible enough to let him run loose, and that is not a great recommendation. However even the accidental breeder is a better bet for you than the breeding-for-bucks bakyard breeder or large scale puppy mill whose only desire is to make money. The accidental breeder will be happy to talk to you, but will be ignorant and will have the goal of getting rid of the puppies as quickly and easily as possible. A few of them may have some consicience about finding good homes for the unfortunate puppies, but seldom will they know how to educate or screen buyers.

Note : though I will generally keep refering to the dogs as "Bouvier", this same approach would apply to any breed or to that charlatan's delight , the "designer dog" pseudo-breeds.



Introducing yourself and beginning the dialog

Continuing the early phases of dialog

matchmaking : what are the breeders goals and what are your goals ?

Now comes the time for serious exchange of information about what the breeder's goals are and what kind of puppies or dogs she has available (or for Rescue, what are the qualities of the dogs curently available) and about what your own goals and desires are for a dog.

If you are dealing with a breeder, I would advise that you try to get the breeder to be the one to give information first , as you certainly don't want the breeder to merely shape the replies to fit your expressed desires regardless of what the truth might be. Of course you could also plan to have a friend phone later on or earlier expressing the desire for dogs who are pretty much opposite to what you are seeking , thus testing if the breeder also gives your accomplice the assurance that these puppies fit that description.

If you are dealing with a Rescue person, you should be prepared to volunteer more information about your needs and desires. Most Rescue people are sincerely trying to make only truely compatible matches and will be quite candid about telling you that this particular dog would be a poor choice for you.

Most likely the conversation will volley back and forth as each of you volunteers some information or responds to questions or information from the other one.

I'm not going to give specific sample responses here, but just discuss generally what you should be looking for and what the red flags are.


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site author Pam Green copyright 2003
created 6/25/06 revised 8/22/2015
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