Updated: Jun 30
It is a wild time we live in! Thanks to technology, a buyer is now able to locate and purchase the perfect puppy online, even if its halfway across the country. For a breedership like ours in South Carolina, this is a wonderful thing.
The other good news is that this enables more families to have access to a greater selection of puppies. However, thanks in part to COVID-19, more breeders have moved to exclusively selling online, which has in turn encouraged more scammers.
This has many people are wondering if they should even pay their puppy deposit via a website.
It’s a vicious cycle that we hope to break through by educating our buyers! We have previously posted ways to spot a scammer here as well as indications of good, reputable breeder as in some cases you may be dealing with a real breeder but one who is operating a less than reputable program when it comes to raising healthy, happy puppies.
Interested in adding a new puppy to your family?
As scammers have gotten savvier, buyers have gotten warier. We have seen many instances where buyers get cold feet and accuse a legitimate breeder of being a scammer because they do not understand the puppy-buying process. After all, buying a puppy is not something you do every day.
It’s certainly not as easy as scanning a barcode at Walmart. So it may be helpful to understand what the typical puppy buying process is like so that you as the buyer can spot red flags and/or rest easy knowing your breeder is following a fairly standard procedure.
Not all breeders operate the same way, and each will likely have a few finely tuned details to their own purchase process. Still, most breeders do follow a fairly similar process. Most reputable breeders have an application process to screen potential buyers in order to make sure their puppies are going to good, safe homes.
Why Breeders Ask for a Deposit on a Puppy
Following an accepted puppy application, most breeders require a deposit to hold a puppy or to hold your spot in line if there is a waitlist. Most often this deposit is nonrefundable. Finally, many breeders require further payments once your puppy is older.
Some breeders accept final payment at the time of puppy pickup, others require payments a week or two in advance.
As the buyer, you may be nervous to pay any money without having your hands on the product. This is atypical compared to how we purchase most items in our lives! But let’s take a look at the breeder’s perspective to understand why this process is necessary.
First of all, a breeder’s number one priority bar none is the wellbeing of their puppies. This is why they typically have a thorough application/screening process and contracts which ensure the health and safety of their pups in the future.
Breeders typically have a lifelong policy with their puppies stating that they will be responsible for the rehoming of any of their previous puppies as needed at any point in that dog’s life. So as you can see, good breeders take the future wellbeing of their puppies very seriously.
When it comes to the buying process, it benefits the puppies to have homes who have planned ahead and are fully ready to take them at 8 weeks of age. A worst case scenario for a breeder is to have a buyer plan on taking a puppy, but back out at the last minute.
The breeder will likely have had to turn down a number of other families who may have also been interested in a puppy, only to have the first family change their minds.
Paying a Puppy Deposit Ensures Breeders Aren’t Left with Unwanted Puppies
Suddenly, the breeder is left with an 8-week-old puppy whose littermates have all gone to their new homes. Developmentally, 8-10 weeks is the prime age for a puppy to begin serious training and assimilating into his new family.
The breeder is now left trying to meet this puppy’s developmental and training needs which can be difficult considering most breeders have multiple dogs and/or litters at a time. A solo 8-week-old puppy often doesn’t fit easily into this environment.
So not only is the breeder scrambling to find this puppy a good home, but they are also now a bit wary of potential puppy buyers. Getting a puppy is a major decision and one that typically involves careful planning and commitment from all family members.
There are certainly great families searching for a puppy available now but as a general rule of thumb, breeders much prefer to work with a family who understands the process, is willing to wait for the right puppy, plan ahead, and have the time to read and do their research about puppyhood, the breed, etc. in advance.
Furthermore, many breeders have long waiting lists. In fact a breeder who always has a lot of available puppies can be a sign that the breeder is either not well-established, or worse, someone who is simply churning out litter after litter without much effort on finding their pups good homes.
Requiring a deposit is a good way to keep each family accountable and have an order to the waitlist. This way Family A cannot hold a spot ahead of Family B and pick the puppy that Family B really wanted, only to back out at the last minute.
So for a breeder, taking a deposit is really the only sensible way to approach the puppy buying process. Even with a strict nonrefundable deposit policy, breeders still face many buyers changing their mind at the last minute. Requiring paying beforehand does help to ensure most buyers are serious and ready to make the commitment.
Communication Before Sending Your Puppy Deposit Online is Key
Hopefully this explanation helps make the puppy-buying process make more sense from the breeder’s perspective. But still, you may feel nervous to send nonrefundable money to someone online. How do you know you are sending your deposit to a legitimate breeder and not a scam artist? Communication is the main key!
Most honest 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 legitimate breeder will be ready and willing to answer any questions you have.
Furthermore, a reputable breeder will be personable when it comes to discussions about their puppies. They will likely discuss their temperaments or the parent dogs’ temperaments in detail, whereas a scammer tends to use generic phrases such as “perfect pet” or “loving and cute.”
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.
And of course, recommendations and references are also an important indicator of a good breeder versus a scammer. So be sure to do your research. If you as the buyer do your due diligence, scammers are generally pretty easy to spot.
In conclusion, you should be willing to pay a deposit for a puppy. The buying process can sometimes feel foreign to a new buyer, but if you’ve done you research, then paying for your puppy ahead of time is considered normal by most reputable breeders. (See what breeders look for in first time puppy owners here.)
If your breeder’s interactions, photos/videos, and references all check out, then you should feel safe sending in a deposit. Your breeder should confirm they have received your deposit continue to communicate with you regularly as your pup grows up!
Jenna and the JLDD Team