How Breeders Screen Puppy Buyers

Matt Matasci Matt Matasci · Updated January 16, 2024

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Being a responsible breeder isn’t just about raising puppies the right way. Knowing how to screen a potential puppy buyer is an important skill that the best breeders can learn from experience and research.

Screening a potential puppy buyer is about being sure your dogs end up in a safe and healthy forever home. It’s also about being sure your puppies’ future parents are committed to providing the love, support and attention they deserve.

If you’re new to breeding, the screening process can feel daunting. It’s a delicate balance — you don’t want to be too pushy and turn off good buyers but it’s even worse to sell your precious puppies to someone that makes you uncomfortable.

We understand that it’s hard to know how to proceed and what questions to ask. We’ve gathered some of the most common questions and requirements for breeders getting started with their business.

How To Ensure a Potential Puppy Buyer Is Ready


The interview process should include several interactions with the potential buyer. While the first interview can be done via text or social media messaging, the second interview should be done over the phone or via video chat. In the meantime, ask for pictures of their home and property — just be careful to not be too intrusive of their privacy.

After the telephone interview, you can arrange for an in-person interview. Most of the time this won’t be a problem, though if you’re willing to sell to an out-of-state buyer, a face-to-face meeting may not be possible. In these cases, consider an in-depth video chat during which they show you their home, yard, family members and any other pets.

Red Flag

Any responsible puppy buyer should be comfortable with your interview process. If they’re impatient or irritated by your requests for multiple interviews, that’s a major sign that they’re not the right family to adopt your puppy.

Weed Out Unserious Buyers with an Application Form

If you have a commercial website, require that interested buyers fill out an application form prior to requesting an interview. This is an easy way to avoid wasting time with people who aren’t serious about responsibly raising a puppy or are ill-equipped to do so. You can find an application form template online and customize it to fit your puppies’ needs.

Important Questions to Ask Potential Buyers

Do you understand the costs involved in owning a puppy?

This is a big one for breeders, especially when dealing with first-time puppy owners. There are so many additional costs that go into raising a puppy besides the cost of the dog, food, toys and equipment.

Other costs they should be aware of include:

  • Veterinarian bills
  • Vaccinations
  • Insurance
  • Miscellaneous costs

One great way to demonstrate the typical costs of puppy ownership is to show potential buyers your own dog budget. If the buyers don’t have the means to support the puppy, it’ll end up being returned to you or even worse, given away to a shelter or someone you don’t know.

Red Flag

Look out for the kind of puppy buyer that dismisses your advice, rushes through the vetting process or balks at a spay/neuter contract. This is a common sign that they’re only interested in buying the puppy for irresponsible or unethical breeding.

Why do you want to buy a puppy and do you have time?

Puppies are adorable, but they require a lot of time and attention — especially during those crucial first few weeks at a new forever home. Sometimes people that are in the market for a dog underestimate the time commitment required to raise a puppy. These buyers might be well-meaning, but as a responsible breeder it’s important for you to weed them out and suggest they try to adopt an older dog.

Ask who the primary caretaker of the puppy will be and ensure every member of the household is on board with the new addition to the family. Make it clear that raising a puppy is a group effort and shouldn’t be an undertaking for just one family member.

Red Flag

If the potential puppy buyer has a full-time job out of the house it may not be possible for them to provide the right amount of attention during the first few weeks of ownership. It’s irresponsible to leave puppies alone for hours during the workday and anyone with a full-time work commitment won’t be able to add the time for training, socialization and attention. Again, if this is the case you may want to suggest they consider a rescue dog instead of a puppy.

Why do you want to buy this breed?

Find out why the buyer is interested in your breed and make sure they know what special care the puppies require. Ask if they’ve ever owned this breed before. If not, create a list of pros and cons of the breed to be sure they know what they’re getting themselves into — be honest about common health issues the breed faces.

You’re an expert on the breed but the buyer may not. It’s your responsibility to determine whether they’re adequately prepared for raising a puppy.

Every breed needs specific care:

  • Long-haired breeds need more grooming.
  • Larger athletic breeds need more exercise.
  • Certain breeds are more prone to separation anxiety and need appropriate attention.

Finally, ask what they plan to do with the puppy. Most commonly people just want to add a new family pet, but it’s important to know if the buyer has additional plans for the pup.

Other reasons for adopting a puppy include:

  • Raising the puppy to compete in sport competitions or dog shows
  • Using the puppy for responsible breeding
  • Training the puppy for fieldwork, hunting or pet therapy

Red Flag

If the potential puppy buyer has no experience with the breed and doesn’t seem prepared it’s a big red flag. If this is the case, don’t be afraid to suggest another breed if there’s anything about the buyer’s situation that doesn’t seem appropriate for your puppies. At the end of the day your number one priority is your business and your pups.

Other Questions To Ask a Potential Puppy Buyer:

What is your living situation?

  • Does the buyer live in a house, mobile home, condo or apartment?
  • If it’s a house does the yard have a pool? If so, is it appropriately fenced in?
  • For buyers that rent, ask for the landlord’s contact information so you can confirm they’re allowed to own pets.

In what conditions will the dog live?

  • Some climates are better suited for different dogs.
  • If you’re selling to a local buyer, then you’ll have an idea of what the weather conditions will be like.
  • If you’re selling to an out-of-state buyer, be sure the climate will be appropriate.

Do you have a fenced yard?

  • This is a major requirement.
  • Some breeds are diggers — if that describes your breed you may want to recommend/require pavers along the base of the fencing.

What other pets do you own?

  • AKC recommends buyers have no more than two dogs in the family at the time of purchase.
  • Are the other pets spayed or neutered?
  • How socialized are the other dogs? Do they display aggressive behavior?

Does anyone in the household have pet allergies?

Have you ever given a pet away? Why?

  • Hopefully the answer to this question is “no,” but if it isn’t, get to the bottom of what happened.
  • It could be a sign they’re unprepared to buy a puppy; it could have been an understandable situation that doesn’t disqualify them.

Do you have any small children?

  • As cute as small children with puppies are, they can be a red flag that disqualifies a potential buyer.
  • Little kids, especially toddlers, have a lot of energy, wave their arms around and have not yet developed fine motor coordination. These are signs to a puppy that it’s “play time.” Unfortunately without constant supervision (and even with it), this can lead to injuries for the puppy or the child.

Ask For References

So the buyer has filled out an application form and successfully completed the interview process but you’re still on the fence? Asking for references is a great way to feel comfortable with the potential buyer.

  • Dog trainers, mutual acquaintances and other owners of the same breed are great people to use as references.
  • You may also want to get a background check on the buyer.
  • If you’re able to, visit their home.

Use a contract to be sure the puppy buyer sticks to the agreed-upon terms.

Draw Up a Puppy Contract

A well-crafted puppy contract is one way to protect yourself and the puppy if the buyer misrepresents anything about themselves or their situation changes. Typically you include a Return to Breeder clause in case something unforeseen happens like loss of employment, family issues or health problems.

Right of First Refusal

The contract should also include a “right of first refusal” clause. This requires the buyer to return the puppy to you if their circumstances change. You may want the puppy back or to rehouse it with another loving family that can give responsible care.

Stay In Touch with the Puppy Buyer After the Sale

Using a puppy contract you can require the buyer to provide you with regular updates. Ask for photos to confirm the puppies are well cared for and thriving.

Use a Puppy App to Stay Connected

Use a puppy app like Fidopoli to track growth, health and progress. Then, when you sell the puppy you can request the new owner continue to update the dog’s profile.


At the end of the day, you should trust your gut. Don’t make hasty decisions when it comes to your puppies’ forever homes. The reputation of your business and more importantly, the health and safety of the puppies depends on your ability to screen potential buyers.

Many breeders only sell locally, but as your business and reputation grows you may get interest from out-of-state buyers. Just like you need to screen your buyers, the person or business shipping your puppy should be thoroughly vetted. Puppies have special needs when on the road — you need a driver with proper experience.

When you use CitizenShipper for your puppy-shipping needs you’ll feel confident in your puppy transporter.

  • An internal messaging system allows you to communicate directly with the driver. You’ll be able to iron out every detail before booking the job.
  • The detailed driver profiles on CitizenShipper include information about past shipments, any specialties or certifications, and reviews from previous customers.
  • Every driver must complete a background check before they can book a job.
  • CitizenShipper is the only transportation service that offers a pet protection plan of up to $1,000.

When a breeder needs to ship a puppy long-distance, you can only trust the best with your precious cargo. Post a listing for puppy shipments on CitizenShipper today and get competitive quotes within minutes!