Buying or Selling an IG
© copyright Lilian S. Barber
There have been a great many questions about the proper way to go about buying a puppy ‐‐and about selling a puppy from that first ever litter. So ‐‐‐‐‐‐‐ BUYER BEWARE; SELLER BEWARE
Unfortunately, one of the most difficult things to do in Italian Greyhounds is something that is most frequently undertaken by a person who knows little or nothing about the breed. I’m referring, of course, to the act of purchasing one’s first IG puppy. There are a few things written about this subject, including two chapters in my book, The New Complete Italian Greyhound. However, most people who go about the purchase of a new dog ‐‐especially those who want to acquire a new family member rather than experienced show people who want an Italian Greyhound for the show ring ‐‐either do not want to take the time to read anything or they simply do not know where to find this kind of assistance.
First of all I would like to dispel a few myths. One of them is the often repeated statement that all commercial breeders are “puppy mills” where breeding stock and very young puppies are kept under horrendously filthy, overly crowded and inhumane conditions. This is not always the case. Although there are numerous heartbreaking puppy mills that fall into this category, there are also commercial breeders of dogs who have clean, modern and spacious facilities where animals are well fed and housed. These people are in the business of raising puppies for sale, and the litters their breeding stock produce are a crop to be sold for profit. They know how to get the most out of their stock. However, what they do NOT do is research bloodlines and pedigrees in order to produce not only good conformation but also to avoid the many hereditary diseases that are to be found in all breeds. Very few of the puppies produced by these commercial breeding establishments remain there beyond five or six weeks of age, and the breeders never see the end results, nor do they have reason to care. Since most of the puppies go through a broker and eventually to a pet shop, any warranty claims regarding health or other problems are fielded by the retailer.
Another myth is that a breeder who places sleek display ads in various publications or advertises extensively on the Internet is necessarily a good or even a responsible breeder. Advertising is a necessity of modern life in order to become known and to show one’s product to the general public, and anyone with the money to pay for the space and the fancy artwork can become a major advertiser whether or not the claims in the ads are true.
Myth #3 addresses the show breeder, and part of this fiction may be perpetuated by the breeders themselves. This pertains to puppies bred for the show ring versus puppies that are not bred to be show dogs. Although all healthy and well‐socialized IG puppies can become wonderful and lovable pets, not all offspring of show stock turn out to be show quality. Nor are so‐called show bred puppies any more high strung or hyper than other puppies, as animal rights activists and other opponents to show breeding insist. Also, the price of non‐show quality puppies from a reputable show breeder is usually not higher than the cost of similar puppies from another source. Sometimes the price is actually lower. › There are advantages to buying a puppy from an established show breeder. For one thing, a great deal of time, money and effort ‐‐ not to mention love ‐‐is put into producing a top winner for the show ring. To have such a dog turn up at the height of his show career with a serious genetic problem would be devastating to the breeder; so the breeder is going to carefully do the necessary study and testing to get the best possible crack at avoiding such a disaster. Another advantage is that the serious show breeder is likely to know a great deal about the breed, loves the breed and will be willing and able to answer most questions as well as to assist with suggestions to solve any problems that might come up with managing the new puppy once you get it home.
How can you be sure that a breeder is conscientious, knowledgeable and trustworthy? First of all, what are his/her references? Is the breeder a member of the Italian Greyhound Club of America? Of a local breed club? Of an all‐breed club? None of this is a requirement, but it would be a good start. Sometimes there are good reasons why a person is not a member of an organization. Some don’t have the time. Some people are simply not “joiners.” However, a red flag should go up if the reason given for not belonging is a deprecating one.
Does the breeder show his/her IG’s? Has he or she ever shown them? If not, WHY not? If the breeder has no interest in showing, does he or she at least have some familiarity with the breed standard? Is the sire of the litter a champion or at least a quality stud dog that was chosen because he complements the pedigree and conformation of the dam, or did the breeder simply breed his bitch to his own or a friend’s male because the dog was available and free to use? Is the breeder aware of the hereditary problems in the breed, such as PRA, hypothyroidism, seizure disorders, luxating patellas, poor bone density, Legg‐Perthes? Were both parents tested at least for PRA prior to the breeding and have the patellas been checked? Did either parent ever break a leg? If the breeder is evasive or even belligerent about any of these questions, it might be worth going elsewhere.
How can you identify a breeder whose only interest in Italian Greyhounds is to sell puppies for profit? Such a breeder usually has little or no knowledge about the breed. This type of breeder will often push as the main selling point that his puppies are “AKC registered” or “papered.” When asked how the puppies or even the sire and dam compare to the breed standard, this breeder will offer little or nothing in the way of reply. Ask how many dogs the breeder owns and how frequently they are bred. If a bitch is bred more frequently than two out of three seasons, a red flag should go up. Properly raising a litter of puppies, keeping them clean and socializing them is time and energy consuming. If the breeder appears to have too many litters, unless there is a staff to take care of them, chances are that some of the fine points of puppy raising are being neglected. Making up for this lack later on by the buyer can be time consuming and frustrating.
Ask to visit the breeder so you may see the entire litter and at least its dam. If you are turned down, go elsewhere. If you are invited to visit, check carefully to see if the puppies and their surroundings are reasonably clean. Remember that puppies raised in dirty conditions will be difficult to house train. Ask how the puppies are kept when no one is at home to watch them. If they are crated for many hours at a time while the owner is at work, you will probably wind up with a pup that has already learned to mess in its crate, a habit that is a serious hindrance to house training.
Depending on their age, have the puppies received the appropriate inoculations? If not, the breeder has been remiss. Are the dewclaws removed? Some breeders have reasons of their own for not doing this, but if it was not done just to save a few dollars, this would be a negative as far as this particular breeder is concerned, since other corners have probably been cut as well.
Ask what kind of guarantee comes with the puppy. Remember that some genetic conditions do not show up for several years, but most breeders will not guarantee the health of the puppy for more than 12 months. The breeder should be very willing to allow you to take the puppy to a veterinarian of your choice for an examination before you make a commitment. If you choose a puppy that will definitely require surgery (a monorchid male that will have to be castrated, or a puppy with an inguinal hernia, for example) who will pay for this surgery? If you will be paying, is there an allowance on the price of the puppy?
Does the breeder indicate that a pet quality puppy will be sold with limited registration or a spay/neuter contract? If he/she is willing to sell an intact pet puppy with full registration and no questions asked, it’s fairly certain that the future of the puppy ‐‐and the breed ‐‐is of little or no concern to this person, and you are not dealing with a conscientious breeder.
Will the breeder take the puppy back at any age if you should be unable to keep it? Do not expect the offer of a full refund beyond two weeks to 30 days or so; but a responsible and conscientious breeder should be willing to take back a dog that he or she has bred and sold at any time during the life of that dog.
Needless to say, if you are looking for a show prospect puppy it should be purchased from a breeder with a show “track record.” If at all possible, take someone with you who has experience in evaluating IG puppies. Beware of any breeder who claims that all of his or her puppies are show quality. Absolute show quality cannot be assured until the IG is several months old and the permanent teeth have come in. A show puppy chosen at eight or ten weeks that turns out to be sensational was a lucky pick. A breeder who knows his bloodline is in a much better position to evaluate a litter at an early age than a novice or even someone with experience in another breed.
Expect to sign some kind of contract that spells out what is required of you as well as whatever guarantee the breeder is making. It should be spelled out in writing what the breeder will do if the puppy should turn out to be less than show quality as well as who will make this decision. It is quite possible that the contract will require you to show the dog and may even require you to use a professional handler. Make sure you know what is involved and approximately how much it could cost you. Most breeders will not let go of a great show prospect without some reassurance that the puppy will be properly exhibited. If you do not like the conditions of the contract, don’t buy the puppy.
The price of an IG puppy is up to the individual breeder and is not something that can be covered in an article of this kind. Do keep in mind, though, that you are not purchasing a used car, and whatever price is being asked is not likely to be negotiable. On the other end of the scale, although it may feel strange to talk about buying a living creature that will be a part of your family, you are looking to PURCHASE an Italian Greyhound. Do not approach a breeder by saying that you would like to “adopt” one. If you use that terminology, many breeders would misunderstand and simply refer you to Rescue.
Then there is the other side of the coin. What about the first time breeder who is about to sell some puppies? It sounds so easy, especially since most of us have been faced with the difficulty of finding a puppy to BUY. For the conscientious breeder who loves the breed and loves his or her dogs the prospect of selling puppies is a little like the thought of selling one’s children. With time and experience one learns what to look for in a puppy buyer and the questions that must be asked. That first litter, though, poses some intimidating problems.
First of all comes the necessity of grading the puppies. Which are possible show prospects and which will be available to a good pet home? Just as it is highly recommended to take an experienced person along when choosing a puppy, it is extremely helpful for a novice breeder to have someone assist in sorting out the litter. This should be done several times, if at all possible, at various stages in the development of the youngsters. There are differing opinions as to the proper age for these evaluations, and it is a good idea to stick with what the person who is going to help with the evaluating wants to do.
Whom should you ask? Well, the owner of the stud dog that was used would be a good beginning, providing this is an experienced IG person and not just the lucky owner of a nice dog. If that is not a viable scenario, one or more of the IG exhibitors you have met at dog shows and whose opinion you value might do. Some people swear by the “eye” of professional handlers, but unless the particular handler you ask knows the breed and knows how IG puppies develop you will get an opinion based mainly on flashy markings. Pro handlers often see a dog for its generic show potential, not necessarily as it relates to the standard for its breed.
Having selected the puppy or puppies to keep, how do you select appropriate buyers? Good old gut feeling is a start. If you don’t like the person inquiring about a puppy, chances are there is good reason for your feelings. If you like the prospective buyer, ask some pertinent questions or, better yet, let him or her do most of the talking and make a note of what is being said. Assuming that the puppies for sale are to be companions and not show dogs, among the more important things to establish are: 1. Why do you want an Italian Greyhound? Are you familiar with the breed and its characteristics? Do you know their requirements? Do you know that they are “high energy” dogs, especially for the first two or three years? Are you aware that they don’t like to go out in bad weather and may be a little stubborn about house training when expected to do so? 2. How many are in your family and what are their ages? Do any of them prefer a different breed or not to have a dog in the family at all? Are there young and possibly overly rambunctious children in the family? Is anyone in the family allergic to animals? Does anyone object to a dog that is essentially an “inside dog?” Is the person who is expected to be responsible for the dog willing to assume this responsibility and is he or she aware of what is involved? All of these questions should be resolved before a commitment is made to sell a puppy.
These are only the basics. Next it would be well to establish some actual “ground rules.” Find out if the prospective buyer has a fenced yard. Some breeders will not sell to someone who doesn’t. However, there are some possible alternatives. Is the buyer willing to have papers or pads, or a litter box, in the house for the dog to use? Is there someone in the family willing to walk the dog ON LEAD every few hours without exception? At this point you will have to make an evaluation as to whether or not this family will follow instructions, or will you have an unhappy puppy returned to you in a month or two because no one wants to assume the responsibility ‐‐or, much worse, will you hear that the puppy was allowed to roam the neighborhood and has been hit by a car?
If everyone in the family works or goes to school, what arrangements are they willing to make for the puppy during the day? Do you find these arrangements satisfactory or even workable? Remember, in the excitement of acquiring a new puppy people often overlook the negative aspects, or they conveniently see only what they wish to see. If the puppy is to be a companion rather than a show dog, are the prospective buyers aware that it will be sold on limited registration and/or already neutered? If this is objectionable to them, even after you explain the reasons and advantages, do not sell them the puppy. If there are children in the family, be sure you meet them so you can make a determination whether or not they will be gentle with the new IG. If the children are very young, are you suffciently impressed that you feel the youngsters will be supervised when interacting with the puppy?
Do you feel the new owners will be willing and able to pay for necessary veterinary care? Sometimes this is a matter of not having enough money, but also there are some people who, on general principles, feel it’s all right to go around asking their friends or sources on the Internet how to treat their pets’ illnesses rather than see a veterinarian. Do you think these people are willing to take the time to properly care for their new IG and to love it in the manner in which it deserves to be loved?
How stable are the prospective owners? Do they own their own home? If they are renting, do they have permission to have a dog? Are they in an apparently volatile relationship that may break up soon, and if so, what will happen to the dog? Is the dog being purchased for a teenager who may lose interest as fascination with the opposite sex grows? If so, what will happen to the dog? Are the prospective purchasers a young couple that may soon be starting a family? What then? The attitude of some young couples is that once a baby arrives the dog is either to be “gotten rid of” or relegated to the back yard. Selling puppies requires the making of some diffcult decisions, but if you are going to be a breeder you will have to learn to make them and to live with them.
If you are selling a puppy as a show prospect, additional factors enter into the transaction. For instance, does the prospective owner know what is involved in successfully showing a dog? A surprisingly large number of people think it might be fun to show a dog, but if they have never done it before the required dedication to this pursuit and the obstacles they might encounter could soon put an end to a promising puppy’s show career. If they buy the puppy and later decide they don’t want to show it, what happens then?
The term “good show home” can often be considered an oxymoron. “Show people” are sometimes so overcome with ego that they acquire far more dogs than they can devote sufficient quality time to. How do the prospective buyers keep and take care of their dogs? Are they crated most of the time with only a few minutes a day devoted to “exercise?” Are you going to be all right with having your puppy live that kind of life? What is the attitude of the prospective buyer about eventually breeding? Will he or she have the same set of values by which you place your own puppies? The time to find out the answer to this is before the puppy changes hands.
If you sell a puppy as a show prospect and it later turns out not to live up to expectations, what kind of guarantee are you prepared to make? If the buyer becomes dissatisfied with the puppy’s show performance, who will determine that the puppy is or is not show quality? If a qualified buyer is unable to afford a show puppy and offers to co‐own it with you for a lesser investment, what will you do? A well written contract can help with many of these things, but even the best contract is only as good as the people who sign it. KNOW YOUR BUYER before you sell.
Breeding Italian Greyhounds can be a heady, satisfying experience; but no one said it was easy. Matching a dog and a bitch and producing a nice litter is only the beginning.
Reprinted with permission from The Italian Greyhound