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Puppy Purchase Contracts & Placement in a New Home
Veterinary & Aquatic Services Department, Drs. Foster & Smith
Acquiring a Dog
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Irish Setter puppies outside in penAs the puppies' eyes are opening and they begin to toddle around, the breeder will begin to see the distinctions in the temperaments. These differences should be written in the notebook to help place each puppy in the ideal home. Note if the puppy is outgoing and inquisitive or if he is quiet and reserved at first and takes a few minutes to warm up. Puppies will behave differently through the day as they play, eat, and nap.

Interactions between puppies and prospective owners

Breeders should know each puppy and have an idea what type of home is best for him. When people are looking at the puppies, guide them to the puppies with the appropriate temperaments for that household. If the prospective owners live close enough, they may like to visit with the puppies several times before deciding on a puppy.

When people come to visit the puppies, the breeder should be grading the prospective owner at the same time the prospective owner is grading the breeder and puppies. The puppies should be ready to go to their new homes at 7-8 weeks of age.

When the prospective owners come to visit, make sure the entire family comes. The breeder should see how all the children interact with each other and their parents. If the children are unruly, chances are a puppy raised in the household will be also. This increases the risk of the puppy becoming 'too much to handle' and being given away or abandoned.

Questions to ask prospective owners

Questions to ask the prospective owner include but are not limited to the following:

  • Have you had pets previously? When? What species and breed? What happened to the pet(s)?

  • What do you plan to do with the puppy? Show? Obedience, conformation, field trials, agility? Housepet? Take on vacations?

  • Teaching a puppy to comeWhat hours would someone be home with the puppy? A family, where everyone is gone 12 hours a day may not have time for housebreaking, training, exercise, etc.

  • Where will the puppy stay? In the house in a crate until housebroken and through the teething stage versus out back in the pen?

  • Do they have a fenced in yard? What kind of fence? How large of an area?

  • Does the prospective owner agree to the terms of the contract including the spay/neuter clause on pet quality puppies?

  • Ask what the prospective owner knows about the breed? Adult height and weight? Temperament? Diseases? Cost to feed? Training?

Price should not be one of the first questions they ask. It should be a consideration for the quality of puppy available and the care the litter has received.

With few exceptions, no puppy should be seen, bought, and taken home on the same visit. The breeder and the prospective owner need time to judge each other. This may be done over the phone but the questions need to be asked to ensure a safe, loving home for each puppy. Impulse buyers rarely have thought through what a puppy needs over the next 12-15 years. People need to be aware of the time, energy, and expense bringing a living animal into a home requires.

Questions to ask the breeder Family of English Setters (Mom, Dad and pups)

  • Have the parents been shown? What type of shows? What titles have they earned (conformation, obedience, agility, field)?

  • Are there pictures of the sire if he is not on the premises?

  • What is the temperament of the dam? Meet and interact with the dam. If she is shy and nervous or, worse, aggressive around people, her offspring have a greater chance of being the same way. Watch how the dam and puppies interact.

  • If other dogs are on the premises, are they friendly and outgoing or kept penned up out back because of aggression and bad behavior?

  • Which clearances do the parents and grandparents have? What about previous litters from these or related dogs? Necessary clearances vary between breeds; discuss them with your veterinarian before choosing a breed and breeder.

  • Have the dewclaws been removed? If not, why not? Remember, some breeds are required to have them to show.

  • What was the reason(s) for breeding this litter? It is preferable if the breeder wanted to improve the breed and keep one of the puppies for showing/hunting.

  • Have the puppies received a health exam from the veterinarian or when will they? Any health problems found? What type of treatment is needed for any health problems?

  • What type of guarantees do you have for the litter? If the hips are guaranteed, does it mean you get your money back but the breeder gets the puppy back (some medical conditions do not show up for 2 years)? Do you get another puppy from a future litter and how will you know that puppy will have any better hips?

  • What is the price? Show quality (conformation) puppies may be higher priced than the pet quality puppies. Who determined which are show quality?

  • Have the puppies been temperament tested? Has their desire to retrieve been tested? What were the results for the litter?

The breeder can not tell how each puppy will mature. The one sold as a show quality puppy may not do well in the ring at all, while the one sold as a pet would have done wonderful in the breed ring. Many breeders will have most of a litter spoken for before the breeding takes place. A prospective owner may be on a waiting list for several months to a year to get a quality puppy from a knowledgeable breeder.


The contract should state which puppy you have agreed to purchase (the identifying marks can be used here), date of birth, the price, registration names and numbers of both parents, date of sale, breeder's name, address, and phone number, and buyer's name, address, and phone number.

It should state when the application for registration paper will be sent to you. It should be sent as soon as the breeder receives it from the AKC. The date/age the pet needs to be spayed/neutered by should be in the contract. If the puppy is pet quality, the registration should be on a limited registry meaning that any offspring cannot be registered. If the puppy is going to an obedience or field trial home, the registration may still be limited, but once the puppy becomes titled by winning at shows, the breeder can change it to an open registration, which allows the offspring to be registered. Open registration is required for showing in the breed ring. Sometimes the breeder will keep his name on the registration papers as a co-owner until the terms of the contract are met. The breeder can then remove his name giving the buyer full ownership. The co-ownership or the limited registration prevents the new owner from breeding the dog and selling offspring as registered without the original breeder knowing it. This protects the original breeder from having poor quality descendants of his breeding stock producing more poor quality offspring. Good breeders may also require certain clearances to be obtained before the registration papers will be changed. NOTE: The new owner needs to submit a registration form and fee to the AKC to have the individual registered.

Chesapeake puppy in the grassAny guarantees should be in writing. If a medical condition shows up in 6 months or 2 years, what happens? Is the purchase price refunded to help offset the cost of surgery? Is the puppy to be returned to the breeder? Is another puppy given to the owner and they keep the first puppy? Know what the guarantee means and the time limit on it. Hips cannot be OFA certified until after 24 months of age and results may take 4-8 weeks to get back. What ranking is considered fine by the breeder? Fair? Good?

Puppies should be examined by the new owner's veterinarian within 48-72 hours of purchase. This ensures that a puppy is healthy to start with. The contract should state the timing of this exam and that a puppy found to be ill or defective is returnable for a full refund.

The contract should also state that if the owner at any time or for any reason is unable to keep this puppy, the breeder gets the first chance at taking the puppy back. The purchase price may or may not be refunded - read the contract. The breeder is as responsible as the new owner for each puppy for her entire life. The breeder then will see if the puppy/dog is able to be placed in another home and find her a new home.

The contract or the health record should state what schedule the breeder uses for vaccinations, deworming, heartworm preventive, and physical exams. Each veterinarian may have a slightly different schedule, but the buyer should be aware that more medical care is necessary at this age. Current feeding amounts and times should also be written out. A 2-3 day supply of food should be sent home also. A toy or towel that has been with the litter and carries the litter's smell may help ease the transition to a single puppy.

There should be a place for the signatures of both parties involved and the date signed.

One to two days after the puppies go to their new home, the breeder should call to see if there are any problems. Many times problems arise that, with help, are easily handled before they spin out of control.

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