So...here's a list of things that WE (speaking for any decent breeder) look for in a good potential home...
First, we try to make sure we are not dealing with time wasters...usually this can be found out in the preliminary emails/phone calls. Yes, there really are people who will arrange a visit just to play with some cute puppies, and try to ascertain if they REALLY want a dog or not...
Second, are you who you say you are? There are unscrupulous people out there who will present themselves to as a private family looking for a pet dog, when in reality they have other plans- such as buying the dog for someone else or planning to use the dog for intensive breeding. It's not common...but it does happen!
It's pretty easy to weed out those first two points...after which it can become a bit of a minefield!
How much do you know about the breed you are buying? We want to see that you have done your research on the breed (for us that would be Shelties or Stabyhoun) so you are aware of the specific needs and traits of the breed, and that you are prepared for obstacles that may come along. For example many Shelties enjoy nothing more than to bark their heads off! We would want to know that you are aware of this, and if it's an issue, that you have a plan to discourage this. We also need to know that you understand how to care for a dog - exercise, feeding and training to name a few. The majority of breeders are more than happy to assist with these things, but we want to know first that you have done some research on the matter!
We want to be asked questions! Questions such as health test results, history of their lineage, what the parents are like, how the puppies have been fed and socialised so far. I for one am very wary if someone comes along and doesn't ask any questions, we question how much you really care about the dog you are getting. It's important though to think about how you might want to word some of the more sensitive issues. For example, a couple who have had a puppy from us (they have given me their permission to use them as an example!) during their first visit to see the litter, after a question about Contract of Sale, "What is your returns policy?". They asked the question as they had read online that it should be asked to a breeder, amongst many other things, but without further qualification, it came across as possibly showing a lack of commitment to keeping a puppy....I discussed this with them later, and they were horrified that it had sounded like that! It was something they hadn't really thought about when asking, as they were very sure it didn't apply to them! So bear in mind how something, such as that, might sound to a breeder who is trying to work out your long term intentions with the puppy they have nursed for so long! It's worth reading through their Contract first, then asking questions in further detail if it isn't clear.
What's your family situation like? Are you aware of the costs that can come up? Of course very likely you will already have asked yourselves these questions, but a breeder will want to know themselves that the dog will have a stable home for life. Unfortunately it's all too common for people to buy a dog to "mend" relationships - it's great for 6 months or so, but of course it doesn't last. We also want to meet all the family - we want to see how each family member interacts with the dogs, and to see that every family member is on board with having a dog. Besides anything else, if a family is serious about having a dog, they should all want to meet the litter and mother!
Will you look after the dog in a way that we would be happy with for the rest of his life? Most often this is a yes, but rough handling of puppies or mum, a dismissive attitude towards training or socialising, and no interest in the best diet or health schedule...that's not going to convince a breeder that you're a good home for their puppy!
DON'T HAGGLE!! Buying a puppy is not like buying a car, or a house. The price that the breeder sets is a reflection on the time and effort put in, the breed value, and to cover breeding expenses. All the health testing that goes into preparing a dog to be bred from, the stud fees and travelling, care and vet checks for a pregnant dam, extra food and care whilst she's feeding them, food for weaning and the weeks after, puppy health tests, registration fees - this is all WITHOUT any complications that might arise during whelping or with sick puppies - the cost of all this runs into triple figures. Not to mention the HOURS and HOURS of care and worry, day and night, and the effort put into socialising and bringing up the puppies in a way that sets them up in the best way possible for their life ahead. If you start trying to push a breeder down on price, more than likely they will see this as a lack of appreciation for the work they have put in, and possibly even question your ability to afford to keep a dog at all. You may be able to find a puppy online for half the price...but odds are the parents won't be health tested, neither will the litter, it won't be registered, and won't have been bred by an experienced, responsible breeder who has evaluated the genetics and health of the dogs involved. If the price of a puppy is beyond your limit, don't be afraid to say so...but don't expect a reduction in price!
Finally, there are times when we feel the need to say No. Please respect the breeders decision if they decide they cannot sell you a puppy. Of course, ask the reasons for their decision - it may be a simple misunderstanding on an issue - take their comments on board, and think about it if the answer is still No. From a breeders point of view, we find it really awful turning people down who really want one of our pups. We've had to do it ourselves before, and it's a truly horrible conversation. No one likes to be the bearer of bad news. Fortunately for us, it was very amicable, however I know of people who have been verbally abused and even threatened for turning down a buyer. It's a very hard decision as it is choosing the right homes, not something which is taken lightly, so there will always be a good reason if a breeder turns you down. Please, be respectful, take it on the chin, learn from it, and move on!
I hope that this proves useful for someone out there!