Finding the right match can take quite a bit of interviewing between breeder and puppy buyer.
You’ve decided on a breed you think will fit your family and lifestyle. You’ve contacted a breeder and now it’s time to converse. Preservation breeders have spent years studying their breed and lines (the ancestry/genetic history of the dogs their dogs). They also study their growing pups very closely and do their very best to match them with the most suitable home according to the unique characters and temperments of each puppy. Reputable breeders will ask a lot of questions before placing their pride and joy pups into new homes. This often takes place in an online puppy questionnaire and through conversation. To give you a sense of some potential questions a breeder might ask you, and why they do, I've gathered some common examples from my breeder friends.
Why do you want this breed?
The great thing about purebred dogs is that they are predictable. While all dogs are individuals, members of the same breed and especially members of the same line of dogs generally look and behave in a similar way.
What draws you to a particular breed could make you an ideal candidate for a puppy.
I recently asked someone what drew her to Rottweilers. She said "They have a coat that is easy to look after, they are not too big, but not too little, and are extremely devoted. They are extremely intelligent, love to work, and are versatile." What an answer like this tells a breeder is that she's done her research and understands the essence of that Working breed. It also shows that she has spent time with adult versions of the breed, something you should do before deciding on a breed. You can do this at a show or performance trial if you do not know someone in your social circle with one. All puppies are cute, but they don't stay puppies long. I love when I hear that someone is interested in owning a particular breed because they have been charmed by their friend or family member's adult dog of the same breed.
Answers that will make a responsible breeder cringe include “Paris Hilton has one”, “the kids love 101 Dalmatians”, “to give as a gift to my partner” and “to fix my marital problems" or "entertain the kids". It is important to remember that dogs are living creatures, not accessories or toys. Just because your child liked a dog in a movie or on a television show does not mean your home is right for the real, living animal (did your kid also like “The Lion King?”). Bringing home a puppy requires planning and commitment from the whole family, so they should not be bought on impulse, as a surprise or to mend a relationship. If you’re looking for a relationship quick fix, I beg you to look elsewhere. Adding a new puppy to the house can be a stressful adjustment that can lead to more relationship problems. A puppy cannot be expected to do the job of a marriage counselor. And as I said earlier - puppies don't stay puppies for long. It is important to plan out how the adult version of the dog you are considering adding to your family is going to fit into your lifestyle.
Part of finding the right match of a dog breed for you is, to be honest with yourself and the breeder. You will have to ask yourself if you can live with the energy level of the breed. Do you have time to socialize and train a dog? Devote time to grooming? There are times when a potential puppy buyer would be a good dog owner, just not for the breed they are interested in. A responsible breeder would, likely, in this case, connect you with someone or a club devoted to a more appropriate breed.
Certain breeds require a more experienced owner. This could be due to many reasons, including exercise requirements, intelligence levels, size, prey drive, grooming needs, and more.
Tell me about your previous experience with dogs ...
Highly intelligent dogs might be easy to train, but that does not always mean they are easier to keep. A very smart dog needs to be entertained. A lot. A Border Collie will certainly be a smart dog, but if you expect a Border Collie to be satisfied with a simple walk around the block once a day you will have another thing coming.
Tell me about your living accommodations ...
It is very important for a breeder to know where the dog will be living. "Size or type of home?", "Do you rent or own?", "What's the size of your yard?", "Is your yard fenced?" are all coming questions a breeder may ask you.
Although I believe that you can own any size dog in any size house provided their exercise needs are met, bigger dogs are easier to keep in larger spaces - especially for busy households with multiple children or for first-time dog owners. A Cairn Terrier getting excited and having an episode of the “zoomies” in an apartment looks and feels very different than Rhodesian Ridgeback doing the same. Certain breeds can also be loud or chatty, so a condo or apartment is not always the best fit for them.
Breeders also like to make sure there is a safe spot on your property where your dog can run, relieve itself, and explore. A fenced yard is a wonderful place to let your dog out in and is great fun for both you and the dog. The dog gets to enjoy the space, sounds, and smells of the outdoors. You get to enjoy the peace of mind knowing your dog is safely confined. While it’s great to have a safe area to let your dog run and explore, this doesn't mean you can leave them outside unattended for long periods. Dogs need to be supervised even when in a fenced yard. Also, having a fenced yard is not an excuse to skip daily walks with your dog. Walks in public spaces are crucial to not only their physical well-being but also to developing socialization skills and positive mental health.
I should also add that having a fenced backyard doesn't equate to a good home for a dog. Dogs kept in a backyard with no daily walks are most likely jealous of townhouse dwelling pups whose dedicated owners take them on a walk several daily walks to explore the world outside their front door.
Sometimes a breeder may also ask if you rent or own to make sure there won't be any trouble with a landlord or other tenants if you bring home a puppy. Often a breeder will ask an interested person to give them their landlord's contact information to make sure pets are allowed. The last thing either party would want is for the new puppy to be forced to return to the breeder.
Do you have kids?
Most breeds are good with children whom they are raised with IF those children are respectful of dogs. Children should understand simple dog body language and noises, and strict rules should be followed regarding no touching a dog while they are eating, sleeping, no roughhousing, tugging or poking, etc.
Certain breeds take their duty as a protector very seriously and won't easily accept lots of strange people (kids and teenagers included) coming in and out of their house or yard all day. Other breeds have a “the more, the merrier” type of attitude.
Some Toy Breeds are too delicate for young children and should be owned by families with older kids who will respect the dog’s size.
It’s important to discuss other dogs currently living in your home so that the breeder can decide if this breed will be a good fit for your home, as well as to decide which puppy will best fit into your home. A breeder may ask you what breed your current dog is, their approximate size and age, are they playful or do they keep to themselves. As a general rule, the second dog you add to your home should be of the opposite gender to the one you already have. Same-sex pairings can be difficult to manage due to dominance and pack order. Most people don’t house two males together, however, I have noticed that some breeds, particularly several Hounds, don’t mind sharing a home with another male. The more information you can give the breeder on the current dog at home, the better they will be able to match a puppy to your family, including your current dog.
What other dogs currently live in the home?
Ideally, you want to be able to spend a lot of the day with your dog. With more and more people working remotely, dogs can be with their "pack" for most of the day - which is ideal. If you do have a job that takes you out of the home for 8 plus hours a day, that won't necessarily take you out of the running, but a breeder will ask what your plans are for having your puppy tended to during the day, especially during the first year. If you have other family members at home that works very well. If not, hiring someone to drop in to walk and entertain the dog is a great idea. Crate training will also be a must for dogs who are expected to spend more than a few minutes at home alone, unattended.
What’s your work situation?
Dogs are expensive and it is important to be upfront with yourself in regards to finances when it comes to buying a dog. The purchase of the puppy itself can be expensive, but the charges will continue to roll in when you have to buy food, toys, a crate, puppy training classes, vaccines, insurance, etc. If you are not in a good financial position, it may be best to wait until you are so that the financial strain owning a dog can put on someone isn't overwhelming.
Another commonly asked question is gender. What sex would you prefer? As mentioned above, breeders usually place puppies of the opposite sex to the dog currently living in the house. If the puppy will be the only dog living in the house there, buyers may not have any preference.
Would you prefer a Male or Female?
Although there is generally little difference between sexes in most breeds, I have noticed some differences in male dogs and female dogs. Looks-wise, males tend to have more pronounced physical features, are larger, and carry more coats than females do. Personality-wise, I find males have more of a “life of the party” vibe and the females tend to be a bit more stoic. There are, of course, exceptions as all dogs are individuals. I find that my females tend to have a more obvious favourite person. There are reasons you might prefer a male including the fact that they don’t go through a heat cycle and if you are a jogger I might suggest a female as males enjoy lifting their leg at every other (if not every) tree along a route.
Show or Pet?
A breeder may ask if you're looking for a show quality or pet quality dog. So, what’s the difference? Although all dogs are pets, some breeders consider a "show quality" dog any dog that doesn't have any disqualifying features as per the breed's standard. Others only use the term for outstanding puppies for whom they see winning potential in the conformation ring.
Pet quality puppies usually have differences so slight that only a seasoned breed expert would notice like eye color, ear set, chest depth, muzzle length, etc. Pet quality and show quality puppies all come from the same parents and are all cared for with the same great amount of love.
If you plan to show your dog, you will want to start with the best puppy possible. With that being said, it is important to remember all dogs are living creatures and a nice-looking puppy from a conformation point of view could end up growing a couple of inches over or under the standard so there are no promises.
You should also mention if you are hoping to seriously compete in a dog sport like Agility or Field Trials as this will affect the breeder’s choice and they would likely pick out a more confident puppy for you.
Adult or Puppy?
Puppies are full of energy, need to be trained, and require tons of supervision and attention. That is why some homes are better suited to take an adult dog rather than a puppy. While not as easy to find as a puppy, with some patience and perseverance, those wanting an adult dog can find a good match.
Sometimes a young show prospect doesn't grow up to the breeder's expectation so they are looking to rehome them into a loving pet home. Responsible breeders also take back their puppies when owners can't take care of them due to illness, accidents, divorce, and other unfortunate situations. Responsible breeders will move mountains to make sure their dogs never end up in a shelter so sometimes if the timing is right, a buyer looking for an older gets a great dog already house trained and all. If you are hoping for an older puppy or an adult dog and the breeder doesn't currently have one or know of one in her network that's available you may wish to contact that breed’s national or regional club as they may know of a dog.
Buying a puppy is a big decision that will change your life for the next 12 – 15 years. When you're looking to buy a dog part of a responsible breeder's job is to make sure their dogs are a good fit for you and your family. Breeders put their blood, sweat, and tears into raising good puppies.
Questions like the ones listed above help determine their puppies go to the right home where they can thrive for their whole life. Being honest in your answers to the breeder's questions will help them match you with the right puppy for you.