Mastiff Index

Screening Puppy Buyers

by Donna Dick,

As reputable breeders it is our responsibility to protect our puppies as well as the breed in general. When a breeder produces a litter they are the sole reason for the very existence of those puppies. Therefore, most breeders feel responsible for overseeing that their puppies are provided with adequate care for the duration of the puppies' lifetime. For this reason conscientious breeders try to screen puppy buyers to be certain that their puppies go to loving and caring homes.

When screening puppy buyers the best you can hope to achieve is to ask questions and get references. There are a myriad of questions that can and should be asked of the puppy buyer. Because no breed of dog is a perfect match for just any family, the first question should be, "Why do you want to own a Mastiff?".

Other questions or concerns that the breeder will query may be:

  • Have you owned or do you currently own other dogs? How many? What breeds?
  • Are you familiar with large dogs?
  • Do you want a dog or bitch? Why? (Be wary of people seeking a dog just to breed for profit or to recoup the price of the dog.)
  • Do you live in a house or apartment?
  • How much yard space do you have? Is it fenced?
  • If yard is not fenced, do you plan to tie or chain the dog?
  • Do you have children? How many? Ages?
  • How many hours a day will the dog be left alone?
  • Will the dog be kept inside? Outside? Both? (Day or Night?)
  • If the dog is to be kept outside, what type of shelter will be provided?
  • Are you willing to allow the breeder to visit the dog?
  • If you want a pet quality, do you have objections to spay/neuter?
  • Etc..

These questions may be asked very nonchalantly. It is best not to put the potential buyer on the defensive if you are seeking honest answers.

  • Oh, how many other dogs do you have?
  • Why are you thinking of getting a Mastiff? Guard dog, for breeding? (I usually am leading here, hoping to hear all of the correct answers. If not I strive to educate.)
A potential puppy buyer may be a novice and just uneducated; or may be someone seeking his next brood bitch for his puppy mill. Our puppies depend on us to protect them.

I always ask for 3 references from the puppy buyer. Two personal references and one veterinary reference. I ask personal references all of the general questions and then ask them for one or two more references on the potential buyer. I do this because no one is going to give you the name of a bad reference on themselves.

It is important that before you ask for references, ask the puppy buyer if they have, or have recently had, other animals. Do this because later when you ask for a vet reference they can not deny owning a pet due to lack of a good veterinary reference. Anyone who is conscientious about their animals can give a reference of regular veterinary care. Even if it only consists of shots, worming, etc.

This is not to say that I will not place a puppy without a vet reference. If the person says in the beginning that they have not owned an animal for some time, of course they will not be able to give a vet reference. However, one would be surprised at how many people brag of their past experience with animals but when asked can not give a reputable veterinary reference.

When calling the vet reference one should ask about the past history that this person has had with their animals. Regular vet visits, how many animals does this person currently have, has had, and have they all been cared for? Does the vet know what type of dog food the previous pets have been fed? (This may give you some insight as to the quality of dog food you can expect for your pup to be fed.), etc.

Even after a thorough investigation of the puppy buyer, a breeder can not be absolutely certain what happens to their puppies when they leave home. When it all comes down to it, placing puppies is a gamble. Even the most careful and conscientious breeders must be prepared to take a puppy back, so be sure that your contract is enforceable.

A contract that guarantees the rights of a breeder is worth only the paper it is written on unless the breeder knows how to write an enforceable contract. Once a breeder sells a dog, it becomes the property of the owner. You cannot tell someone what they can, or can not do, with their own property! For example: It is unlikely that one can sue because a person resold, bred their Mastiff to a Rottweiler, bred a bitch that was supposed to be spayed, or puppy milled their own property.

You can, however, sue for `breach of contract' if your contract is worded correctly. Once a person willingly enters into an agreement and voluntarily signs a contract stating they will or will not do something they are liable to abide by that particular agreement. If that person reneges or breaks the agreement, you may sue for `breach of contract'.

Your contract should contain any and all information, stating the items that you feel are important to the welfare of the puppy, your kennel's reputation, and what will result if the contract is violated by either side. Everything should be explicitly stipulated in the contract and signed by both parties.

For Example: (sample puppy contract)
Item #6
  a) If [for whatever reason] the owner can not or does not wish to
     maintain custody of this Mastiff [at any time during it's lifetime]
     ownership shall revert back to it's breeders, including all AKC
  b) At no time may this Mastiff be resold or given to a third party
     without expressed written, signed and notarized, agreement from
     it's breeders and no other excuse shall be valid.
  c) Further, should I, (the buyer), relinquish custody of this Mastiff
     I realize that it shall be my responsibility to get the dog back
     to it's breeder or to pay expenses for the breeder to recover the
  d) In the event that I, (the buyer), place the dog with a third
     party without written, signed and notarized, agreement of the
     breeder I do hereby agree to pay the breeder the sum of One
     Thousand U.S. dollars in addition to the expenses listed in Item
** (Abuse, neglect, breeding rights, puppy mill usage, refunding
    price of dog, etc., is covered in different contract items)

Item #10
  a) This Mastiff shall not be used in any puppy mill operation, nor
     produce puppies for resale in pet shops, labs, or any organization
     whose intent is to resell, trade, or give away puppies to be used
     in any lab experiments.
  b) In the event of breach of contract I, (buyer), do hereby agree
     that the breeders may obtain return of the dog without any monetary
     reimbursement to the owners and shall be due the sum of Five
     Thousand US dollars in liquidated damages incurred to the
     reputation of the breeder's kennel name. This is in addition to the
     expenses listed in Item #9.

IMPORTANT, most disreputable people know how to "talk the talk" and are fully aware that it will cost more for a breeder to enforce the terms of a contract than to just forget about the whole thing. By the time a breeder travels to the location of the dog and pays transportation, lodging, hires a local attorney, and commences legal proceedings, they have spent more than the original price of a puppy. Be sure to put a `litigation clause' into your contract so you can recoup your attorney fees and transportation. Someday you may have to travel out of state and hire an attorney where you placed a dog. Without this clause it is unlikely that you can ask for reimbursement of attorney expenses.

Item #9
In the event that litigation is commenced to enforce the terms of this
contract the breeders, being (name of breeder/s), shall be entitled to 
the costs thereof; including, but not limited to, attorney fees, and 
all travel expenses incurred by them and their attorney.

Speaking with the hard earned voice of experience; You can enforce contracts if, and I say if, they are written correctly, accurately, and you know how and what they should contain. After you write your contract, take it to an attorney to be sure it is enforceable. Please believe me when I say it is well worth your while to pay a minimal sum for advice now than to end up paying an astronomical sum down the road in monies that you can not recoup, just to find out that your contract is not enforceable.

Anyone who breeds long enough will eventually have to take a puppy back. No matter how careful and conscientious you are. A good contract can make all the difference on whether or not that puppy gets to come home if it needs to.

Do you know where your puppies are?

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