One of the big side benefits to being close, close friends with Amy is that I get a good, firsthand look at what it’s like for her as a Canaan Dog breeder. So I’m a little shocked by the behavior of some of the people who correspond with her about her puppies, and this post is a direct result of a conversation we had over the weekend (by which I mean, she flat out told me, “Go forth and write about this on your blog!”).
This is not a puppy buyer etiquette post — Joanna at Ruffly Speaking has already written about that and done it far more justice than I could — but it does relate to points she makes (specifically 4, 7, and 8).
The amount of time and energy that a reputable dog breeder pours into her puppy buyers — even just the potential buyers — is incredible. Hours upon hours of email and telephone calls, and even face-to-face meetings. My first telephone call to Marsa about her Rhodesian Ridgebacks ran about two hours, and that was just the first call (and also a big part of why I felt like she was the right breeder for us, because she was willing to spend so much time with me talking about her dogs even though it was just an initial inquiry). That initial phone call was followed by other phone calls, emails, face-to-face visits and so forth.
This brings me to the people I want to write about today. These people have emailed Amy, submitted a puppy application, passed a telephone screening, and have been assured of a place on her waiting list, and have told Amy that they’re really very excited to be buying a puppy from her. Amy then has her waiting list filled with people she thinks would be a fantastic home for one of her puppies, and so when a new inquiry comes in, she sends them to another Canaan Dog breeder, because her list is full. These same people then write multi-page long emails to Amy asking question after question after question, and because they are future owners of one of her puppies, Amy carves out time from her very limited free time to write an in-depth response back to them. Or she spends an hour or two hours answering questions on the phone. She looks up other breeders and exhibitors in their area and arranges email introductions, and puts people in contact with dog trainers. Amy does all this because, like Marsa, she is a devoted reputable breeder. When she considers placing one of her puppies with a buyer, she wants to be able to give that person the best possible education she can, to give the puppy placement the best possible chances of success.
So when I hear these confirmed wait-listers have turned around and gone and bought a puppy from another breeder, it leaves me a little taken aback. Of course, it leaves me flat out flabbergasted when these same people then expect to continue receiving hour after hour of Amy’s time as if she were their own personal-but-unpaid puppy raising consultant, and I have to wonder how many other breeders these people have been stringing along as well.
That’s not how it works. When you buy a dog from a reputable breeder, you’re not just buying a dog, you’re buying a lifetime support contract from your breeder. Have a question about housebreaking? Go ask your breeder. Need to know about some breed specific traits and behaviors? Ask your breeder. Your breeder wants to be there for you and wants to help you be successful with your puppy. Other breeders want the same thing, for their puppy buyers. Your phone calls and emails are part of a relationship building process, for a relationship that will span the next decade at least and ideally longer. You simply don’t get to lay claim to another breeder’s free time and ask them to take time away from their buyers, their friends, and their family to help you out, after you’ve sent them the message that you didn’t consider them (or their dogs) to be good enough for you to buy from! If your breeder is on the opposite end of the country (or even overseas) and the time zone difference is making it inconvenient for you to get in touch with them, well … you should have considered that when you decided to buy from that breeder. If your breeder is slow to answer your emails and return your phone calls, that’s a deficiency you should have identified during the relationship building phase. You don’t get to buy from one, but demand a relationship with another.
“But Rachel,” you say, “you have this website where you give your advice out for free. You answer emails and Facebook messages and Twitter comments for free. How is what these people doing any different?”
The difference is in the level of the relationship. When I’m answering questions on Twitter, I can take into account the relationship I have with the person asking the question and moderate my responses accordingly. People I have a friendship with get more detailed answers. People I have only a passing acquaintance with get shorter answer. If I know and like a person, I dig deeper than I do for someone I barely know. The people who are unfairly taking up Amy’s time are taking advantage of a relationship she built with them in the expectation that she would be placing a puppy in their home, an expectation that was built upon the false pretenses of the buyer. If we’re friends and you ask me what I feed my dogs and I know you have a genuine interest, I’ll talk about raw feeding for DAYS. If I don’t know you from Adam, you get a five word response: ”I feed a raw diet.” The amount of time invested is directly proportional to my relationship with you.
I belong to a fair number of dog-related forums (both message boards and email lists), and one complaint that comes up with fair regularity is how some people seem to have a difficult time getting a potential breeder to respond to their inquiry. Let me tell you, this is the reason why: they have been burned so many times by people taking up their time that the breeder no longer wants to correspond with anyone but the most serious of buyers — or they’ve hit the wall and they only sell their puppies to other people in the fancy.