A Well-Rounded Approach To Placing Puppies In Pet Homes

four puppies in the grass

Placing puppies in pet homes is an essential part of doing business as a dog breeder. Those who succeed reap the rewards that come when puppy buyers return years later for another dog and when they recommend you to others looking for a dog. 

Breeder Lori Caldwell of Hot Water Farm in Billings, Missouri, says, “It’s all about the fit — matching puppy buyers with the temperament and characteristics of a particular puppy. Some people want a dog that doesn’t shed much or one that will run and play with their children. Others want a jogging partner or a dog that will travel with them.” 

With 21-plus years as a dog breeder, Caldwell understands that the time invested exchanging emails and talking on the phone with puppy buyers helps to match puppies with the right owner. “Most of our puppies are sold through repeat buyers and referrals,” says the breeder of French Bulldogs, Cavapoos and Pembroke Welsh Corgis.  

Although Hot Water Farm does not keep a puppy waiting list, Caldwell informs interested buyers when a litter is planned. “We like to wait until puppies are nursing and gaining weight, when we know they are healthy and viable, to post them online,” she says. “Then, I name the puppies and start taking their pictures. These go on our website (hotwaterfarm.com) along with their sex, coat color and registration information.”  

Nurturing the puppy-buying experience at Hot Water Farm entails taking pictures weekly to update buyers on puppies’ changing appearance during the first few weeks of life and participating in video calls. “Families get emotionally attached to their puppy,” Caldwell says. “Real-time visits allow buyers to see our puppy room, the mother dog interacting with her puppies, and their puppy as it develops.”   

Hot Water Farm’s Caldwell and Dawn Bryant of Elite Bulldogs (elitebulldog.com) in Fort Scott, Kansas, agree that the way puppies are raised and socialized helps to prepare them for their new homes and thus is pivotal to successful puppy placements. Bryant, a former pet store owner, says she became a dog breeder in 2011 to raise healthy, socialized puppies unlike so many that came into her pet store.  

“We handle our puppies from the day they are born,” says Bryant of the English Bulldog, French Bulldog, Shih Tzu, Toy Poodle, Goldendoodle, and Aussiedoodle puppies raised at her kennel. “We gently pet their faces and ears, touch their feet, and lay them on their backs.”   

Caldwell and Bryant work to instill confidence in puppies and give them the ability to handle new experiences by:    

  • Keeping a radio or television playing in the puppy room  
  • Handling puppies regularly   
  • Exposing puppies to household sounds such as the vacuum cleaner, washer and dryer, doorbell, cellphone, kitchen appliances, toilet flushing, and running water from the shower and faucet   
  • Providing a variety of surfaces such as carpet, tile, wood, and concrete for puppies to experience and climbing and crawling opportunities to explore 

Housetraining is a natural progression for puppies when they are used to eliminating in an area that is separate from where they sleep and eat. “Puppies that already know not to potty where they sleep are easy to crate train,” Caldwell says. “We tell owners to crate puppies at night and when they’re not at home and then to take them outdoors right away to the area where they want them to go bathroom.”   

A puppy packet loaded with information helps to ensure success in the new home. Bryant and Caldwell advise including vaccine and medical records, puppy registration, microchip record, puppy care guide, breed information, puppy contract, one-year health guarantee, pet insurance, puppy training resources, and a sample of the puppy’s food and feeding information.  

A favorite toy and a blanket with the dam’s scent ease the transition to a new home. Owners are encouraged to give the puppy time to rest and settle into her new home. Both breeders enjoy staying in contact with new owners and mentoring them on how to care for their puppy.  

“Most of our puppies are placed by the second or third week after they are born. The keys to our success are that we always answer our phone and emails and that we always are honest with people,” Caldwell says.  

Bryant concedes that making time to advertise and market her puppies can be challenging, though she aims to gain more puppy sales through word-of-mouth recommendations and website traffic. Her priority is spending time caring for the dogs, and her commitment to her puppies is lifelong. Her puppy contract requires buyers to return dogs needing to be rehomed or to inform her if ownership changes. 

Dog breeders who seek information from puppy buyers about the ideal dog for their family and who take steps to ensure their puppies’ health and socialization are wholeheartedly vested in successful placements. Referrals that come from such a well-rounded approach generate the best homes for puppies and for breeders.   

Tips For Successful Puppy Placements

  • Take it slow. When you take time to listen to what people want in a dog, you are more likely to make a compatible match based on the dog’s temperament and the family’s lifestyle. 
  • Trust your gut. If you notice red flags indicating that a potential buyer may not be well-suited for owning a puppy, trust your instinct. Your sales agreement, contract and guarantees are only as good as the people signing them.  
  • Welcome questions. Although puppy buyers may seem to ask a lot of questions, you should take time to educate them throughout the buying process and continue to support them after the sale as the puppy transitions to his new home. 

Getting Puppies Off To A Great Start Nutritionally

When sending puppies to their new homes, make sure to send a sample of the puppy food or all-life stages food currently being fed. Many breeders include in their contract that owners should continue feeding the food the puppy was raised on during the transition to the new home and even throughout the first year.  

“Importantly, new puppy owners need to understand that if dietary changes are made too abruptly, a puppy could end up with gastrointestinal upset,” says Purina veterinarian Jason Gagné, DVM, DACVIM (Nutrition), a board-certified veterinary nutritionist®. “When transitioning a dog from one diet to another, the change should be made slowly over two weeks because it takes a while for their gastrointestinal system to adjust to the new diet.”