Some tips and advice for puppy buyers in the midst of the pandemic
I must say this is a blog I never imagined myself writing, but here we are. While our brave health care workers continue to fight the COVID-19 outbreak, puppy buyers are faced with many challenges this spring. Here are some tips and things to consider when buying a puppy during this difficult time.
Beware of Puppy Scams
In times of uncertainty, it’s not unusual to seek comfort. For us dog lovers, there is little more comforting than a cuddly puppy. Unfortunately, some criminals take advantage of these times and scam innocent people out of money in the promise of a puppy that doesn’t actually exist.
Red flags for a puppy scam includes stolen photos of puppies to advertise them. Once you see photos on the seller’s site or online ad, do several simple google image searches for the breed they sell. First type in the breed (example “Bernese Mountain Dog”, “Bernese Mountain Dogs”, “Bernese Mountain Dog Puppies” etc.), then select “images” beneath the search bar. Do the photos you saw on their website match the ones you see on these pages? If so, click on the photo. Does the website match that of the kennel that’s advertising the puppies for sale? If not – this is likely a stolen photo and possibly a scam.
Do a little investigating. Get the breeder’s first and last name. Ask the Canadian Kennel Club if they are a member in good standing. Ask the breeder for references from past puppy buyers. Search their name on Facebook or in a search engine to see what comes up. Does the breeder strictly communicate via email? Is so, ask for a phone call or Facetime.
Let’s talk money. Are they eager to take your payment? Many breeders require a deposit from buyers when selling a litter, but this is not asked for until several conversations via email or phone are had and a questionnaire is completed by the potential buyer. Responsible breeders don’t accept deposits until they are absolutely sure the person interested is an appropriate owner for one of their dogs. Also, if the price seems too good to be true, it probably is. Breeding high quality purebred dogs isn’t cheap, so neither is the price of a great puppy. Whenever someone is surprised by the price of a purebred dog I quote interior designer Miles Redd and say, “buy the best and you’ll only cry once” and then I modify if for buying a purebred puppy and say, “buy FROM the best and you’ll only cry once”.
Buying a puppy during COVID-19
Purchasing a puppy during this unusual time is a challenge, but with some safety protocols and foresight from a responsible breeder, it can be done. While it is common that breeders invite puppy buyers into their homes to see where the puppies were raised and to meet the dam and littermates, this is not safely possible during these times. Don’t be surprised if the breeder uses Facetime or shares videos showing their “puppy area” where their dogs are kept. In these videos you can see how the puppies interact with one another and get a good sense of the personality and the temperament of the mother as well.
A lot of the paperwork associated with the purchase of a purebred dog can be done online with the help of email, a printer and a scanner. The breeder many send some documents ahead of time for you to print, sign, scan and send back. There are many great scanning apps you can download to your smartphone. I’ve used one called “Genius Scan” for years and have been very happy with it.
Picking up your new puppy will be a different experience than it would have been just a few months ago. Follow government directives and work with the breeder on a safe pick-up protocol. This may require flexibility, such as paying electronically instead of with cash, finalizing agreements electronically prior to the pick-up, altering pick-up location and more. Communication is key.
Socializing puppies in the time of social distancing presents enormous challenges and will require a great amount of creativity on your part as the new owner.
Until your puppy can socialize face to face, you will have to socialize them from your home. Open and close umbrellas, use the blender and vacuum. There are plenty of puppy socialization videos online that feature sounds you may not be able to recreate at home such as sirens, thunderstorms, traffic and more. Have members of your household wear hats, sunglasses, snow suits etc. Think outside the box and make sure you socialize safely in the more traditional way as soon as authorities say we can.
There are many online puppy training courses you can enroll in. It’s important to treat these courses seriously by practicing the new commands daily, always using positive reinforcement and ending short puppy training sessions on a positive note.
While it is great news for our dogs that many of us are home with them all day, it is important to teach your puppy how to be comfortable when left alone. Leaving your puppy in their crate or exercise pen for short periods throughout the week (while you are working in another part of the home or out shopping for essentials) will help ease the transition when you return to work.
These are extraordinary times. During this period of great concern, a wonderful new puppy might just be what we need to get through. By having the knowledge, preparation and expectation in knowing that this time period will be unique, we can safely and successfully add new puppies to our homes.
Please note that I am not a health care professional. I’m an experienced dog owner and Canadian Kennel Club member. These are simply my tips and how I would go about buying and socializing a puppy this spring.