ALL ABOUT DOGS: Online shopping for a pup? Be cautious and follow these rational steps

·3 min read
Gregg Flowers
Gregg Flowers

Question: We want to get a puppy for Christmas and found one online. What do you think about these sorts of transactions?

Answer: To begin, I think puppies as a Christmas present is a colossal mistake (a topic I will cover soon), but there are a world of caution flags around these sorts of transactions. Is it possible to find a puppy online and things to work out well? Yes, but you have to be exceedingly cautious and follow a few rational steps to avoid getting ripped off.

Before buying a puppy, you always want to be able to speak with breeders in person or over the phone.
Before buying a puppy, you always want to be able to speak with breeders in person or over the phone.

A common way to get scammed online is fake breeder's websites. Ads on Craigslist, eBay, and Facebook include scammers disguised as real people who post a dog for sale for whom “they just want to find a new home," but you pay for shipping. Many online puppy scams begin simply with an advertisement. An adorable puppy complimented with irresistible photos, often at a much reduced rate for what is typically found, because many people are looking for a cheaper price for purebred puppies.

Believe it or not, statistics show that those most likely to be caught up in this sort of scam are younger folks in their teens and 20s. Once you respond to an ad, most likely with an email, you often soon learn the animal is located somewhere out west or overseas. Their only request is for you to cover the "inexpensive" shipping fees, usually by Western Union or MoneyGram. And that's the hook.

Additional costs will soon follow like "extra shipping costs," "customs clearance fees," "vaccinations" and "insurance." Other red flags on fake breeders' websites are obvious spelling errors and stock photographs lifted from other websites.

Here's some tips on how you can avoid getting hustled: You always want to be able to speak with breeders in person or over the phone. Also, you're looking for breeders who are interested in learning more about you and your abilities to care for a dog. Consider finding a breeder close enough to make a personal visit.

That's what I did two years ago. Visiting a breeder’s facilities is one of the best ways to see how legitimate they are. Trust breeders who are proud to show you their property. If they don't want to show off their facilities or take pride in them, steer clear. You're looking for clean conditions and the dogs' general demeanors to gauge the breeder’s quality. Adult dogs should be friendly, social, and not shy away from you or other visitors.

I'm not crazy about breeders that have many different breeds of dogs. Ideally, they shouldn't specialize in more than one or two breeds, and should provide living space appropriate for their dogs' size and breed. The breeder should be knowledgeable about their breed's characteristics, history, and any potential genetic or developmental concerns.

Ask to see certification that both parents of the litter have been genetically tested for breed-related problems. Insist on a formal contract. This should detail the timeframe, all associated costs, and a copy of the health certificate. If there is something wrong with your pup, a reputable breeder will help with what you need or accept the dog back for a full refund. Phonies won't do that.

Finally, perhaps your best protection against a scammer is to take your time and get some references. This is where "new puppy fever" can get us into trouble. Typically, we're very attached to the idea of getting a puppy, we see a picture, and we fall in love. But we're talking about a relationship here, and I believe it's important to have a very measured, businesslike and prudent approach.

Originally from Louisiana, Gregg Flowers is a local dog trainer who “teaches dogs and trains people.” Contact him at dogteacher7@aol.com or dogsbestfriendflorida.com.

This article originally appeared on Sarasota Herald-Tribune: GREGG FLOWERS: Online shopping for a pup? Be cautious

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