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How Do You Not Get Scammed When Buying a Puppy?

Updated: Feb 25

It’s well documented that purebred puppies are one of the biggest sources of online scamming. Without a store front or large/credible business backing, it’s easy to see how many people fall prey to a puppy scammer.

Reputable breeders typically require partial or full payment in advance of getting the pup in order to reserve the pup ahead of time and avoid late backouts. Fraudsters have likewise adopted this tactic.

Red Flag No. 1: Scammers want you to act quickly! Most reputable breeders have a waitlist or at least an application process that involves multiple interactions back and forth. Scammers are typically trying to sell an available puppy now.

They prey on buyers’ impulse and often avoid questions. They are typically not interested in getting to know their potential buyers.

A reputable dog breeder will have a solid application process and may even want to talk to you over the phone to get to know you and your family more. Furthermore, a breeder expects and wants to answer questions to help you know if they or their pups are a good fit for you. If the person you are talking to is avoiding questions, seems impatient, and keeps pushing you to pay before you have your questions answered, then this is a strong red flag.

How the breeder insists you pay may be another red flag. Scammers often use Western Union, MoneyGram, etc. or some other way to wire money that is not easily trackable. If someone asks for payment using these methods when you're buying your puppy, look out.

When possible, paying via credit card is typically safer than these other methods.

Red Flag No. 2: Pay attention to descriptions and pictures sent of the pup. A reputable breeder truly cares for their parent dogs and pups and often have specific descriptions based on the individual dogs’ temperament because they have spent time getting to know them.

A breeder generally offers a clear description of an available puppy which may sound something like, “He is confident, very intelligent, higher energy, has shown great retrieval potential and ball drive!” whereas a scammer tends to use generic phrases such as “perfect pet” or “loving and cute.”

Also, a scammer often uses generic pictures of puppies that are easily found online. Photos with a more personal touch (i.e. picture of where the pup is raised, with its mother/littermates, etc. are often a good sign). Make sure the pictures of a single puppy match—a sloppy scammer will use similar looking photos of different puppies. Do not be afraid to ask for more photos if you are suspicious of a scam.

Red Flag No. 3: Little to no references available. Ask to see reviews or speak to a reference! Many larger scale reputable breeders have a website, a significant number of Google reviews, Facebook reviews, etc. that you can easily find on your own.

However, if your preferred breeder is small or just starting out they may not have accessible reviews online. Asking for a reference will help distinguish between a reputable breeder and a scammer. Even a smaller breeder should readily have names that can vouch for their program. A scammer is likely to not even respond to such a request.

Red Flag No 4: Something just seems “off” when compared to other breeders. We encourage people to do their research and compare different breeders rather than jumping at the first picture of a cute pup that they see online. If the price is significantly less expensive than other breeders offering the same breed, this can be a red flag.

Keep in mind that reputable breeders typically let their pups go home at 8 weeks at the earliest. Not only is it illegal in a number of states to send a pup home earlier than 8 weeks, but it is also critical for the pups’ development to stay with their littermates for this length of time.

Reputable breeders also do not typically have older puppies without good reason—so if the pup is 3-4 months old, this should come with an explanation - perhaps the puppy was returned by another family or kept back for additional training, etc.

If the puppy in the ad is less than 8 weeks or older than 12 weeks, additional and careful follow-up questions are needed. If anything else seems “unusual” it is worth being extra vigilant.

For example, we have heard of scammers offering odd deals such as a free puppy, but a high price for shipping, or a steep reduction for buying two puppies instead of one. Changing costs is another tricky thing employed by some scammers. If the price of the puppy increases after the initial conversation and/or additional costs keep being added on that are not optional, one should be concerned.

Overall, the main aspect that separates a reputable seller of puppies from a scammer is communication! A scammer is typically looking to limit communication as much as possible and make a quick buck. They often keep their responses short, avoid questions, and are rarely contactable by phone. Most stick to text or email.

A reputable breeder is ready to answer questions about their puppy and their breeding program with details and passion! They should have specific, individual descriptions about their pups and be willing to take the time to get to know you! Reputable breeders stand behind their pups and will accept them back if needed and will often be available to help troubleshoot after you get the pup home. A scammer does not offer these types of guarantees.

Adopting a pup is a big decision. It requires preparing, researching and financial planning. We’re here to help you with this decision. Do you have questions about the adoption process? Are you ready to add the next member to your family?

We’re here to help! Email us at with your specific puppy adoption questions and we can help you make the very best decision for both you and your new best friend!

Jenna and the JLDD Team

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1 Comment

That was very well written! I’m looking for a small dog that will fit me and my apartment. I need hypoallergenic and easy to train. I’m 82 years old and a widow. I don’t have any other pets, but have had Chihuahuas in the past!

If I make a connection, I don’t have a car to come get my pup, it will have to be delivered. I’m afraid that will really run the price up! I need a companion so bad, I’m so lonely.

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