#89 – 5 Ways to Prove Your Dog Breeding Program isn’t a Scam

by | Apr 15, 2024 | People Management

Have you noticed that with the crazy economy many puppy buyers are getting scammed? People are posing as dog breeders, using images they often pull from real dog breeders, and they’re selling the dog and then ghosting the person because there was no dog to sell. It’s a bit of a mess. There are always scammers and people with low moral fiber out there; but with the internet and AI, it’s easier than ever to mimic a company and do it.

Unfortunately, dog breeding falls under scams so often that it’s just frustrating when you’re in the industry. Have you been using Zelle, and see the warning about people asking for a deposit on a puppy? I mean, wow, our industry has such a problem with scammers that Zelle gives three examples of potential scams, … and we are one of them!

Have you ever been asked if you’re a scam?

It hurts the ego a little, certainly. I will say it’s less common when you’ve been breeding a while; but even I was asked the other day how the person knew I wasn’t a scam.

It’s an interesting question: how do you satisfactorily prove you’re not a scam? What else can you do that would convince people so they don’t worry that you are a scam? That’s what I’d like to discuss with you.

I’ll say, most of the time, just going through the discussion of getting a dog, understanding their needs as a buyer, explaining your dogs and such, are generally more than adequate. If you’re a scammer listening to this episode looking for secrets on how to steal more money from people, I’ll warn you, you’re not going to have the necessary information to have these phone calls with people. It won’t work.

So, if I had to put a label on it, the first tip is:

Care More About What the Buyer Needs Instead of Getting their Deposit

It’s an art form, when to ask for a deposit and how to do it. Don’t feel bad if it feels awkward, it still feels awkward for me in certain conversations. Have you noticed how some people are harder to talk to than others?

However, as an integral element in proving you aren’t a scam, you must be careful about when you ask for the deposit. You want to wait until they’ve finished asking questions and you both can see it’s a good fit for both of you!

If you’ve attempted to use fear mongering at all in your conversations, I recommend you look for an alternative. Not only is the “act fast, there are only so many left” annoying and pressuring, but it is a common tactic of scams.

You might be thinking, “But Julie, sometimes there really is only one left!” Or “But Julie, this is the most popular color in the litter and she won’t be available for long!” How do you handle that?

You have to do two things:

  1. You let them know the reality of the situation, which is that this pup isn’t going to stick around for long. You can say something like, “She is beautiful, that’s for sure. Please let me know if you’d like her so we can get you locked in on the waitlist. Because her pattern is so popular, I expect her to sell faster than the others.”

    After you say this, detach from it. Sometimes we get wrapped up in the buyer getting what they want and need, we see how perfect the situation is for them, yet they won’t act. I’ve learned that the best thing for me is to detach from it. Most of the time, if they aren’t as excited about it as you, there’s a reason, whether or not they share it. Let the chips fall where they will and, if they miss the ideal opportunity, the one you laid neatly at their feet, well that’s a problem for them, not you. Sorry, better luck next time. I’ve gotten a few deposits after people dragged their feet and the dog they wanted was gone. They’re quicker to jump on the next litter.

  2. You set the understanding that you don’t consider a puppy anyone’s until you have a deposit on that dog. Now you don’t want to say it like that, it sounds crappy and pressuring. Instead you can say, “Let me know if you’d like her and I can send you my contract to review before you place a deposit.”

How to handle tire kickers

Occasionally you’ll get that tire kicker who says they want the dog, but won’t send a deposit. If the puppy is particularly popular or is the last one you have, it is unreasonable for you to sit waiting on a deposit when other people would be interested. However, it’s also crappy if they tell you they want the dog, and then don’t get paid for two days, and you sell the dog to someone else. There’s a balance.

Some people talk a big game, but really can’t afford the dog, so this is one of the biggest issues you’ll need to navigate. You need to set a deadline for them to act, and if they don’t act, then you’ll no longer be in limbo with them. And they know, if you sell the dog, then you didn’t bust an agreement with them, rather they failed to act.

I had a guy sign my contract, tell me he’d send the deposit in an hour, then never did. I reached out the next morning to see if he had questions on the contract, which was more a gentle way to ask why he hadn’t sent the deposit. He ignored my question, then he brought up a question about shedding. If you aren’t familiar, I have German Shorthairs and they would never be considered non-shedding, nor hypoallergenic. So I explained that. He never responded.

In a situation like that, because I’ve been doing this long enough to have gray hairs, I know that this was a way for him to excuse himself from the obligation because he couldn’t afford the dog or couldn’t have the dog, whichever it was. He wanted it, but didn’t see how to get it.

But I was in a weird spot because he had signed the contract, right? So what do you do? I waited another day for a response on the shedding and didn’t receive one. So I reached out again. You want to give them an out so they can exit the situation without their ego too damaged. I said, “It’s okay if now isn’t a good time to get a GSP or if it isn’t the right dog for you. Since I haven’t heard back from you, I’m thinking you are no longer interested in this female. I’ll hold her for another day, but if I don’t hear back from you or get the deposit by tomorrow night, then I’m going to offer her up for sale to another buyer.”

This gives them an out. People who are more in control of themselves will usually respond with something like, “Okay, this really isn’t a good time.” People who are frustrated with their life and angry they can’t get what they want, will often ghost you. It’s fine either way. In this case, I never heard back from him. No problem, she had another home within a week. Because I gave him a deadline and he didn’t take action within that time frame, he can’t come back angry telling me I didn’t honor our agreement.

Have a Contract They Sign Prior to Sending a Deposit

I started doing this back with HoneyBook nearly four years ago and, wow, it has made all the difference. For a lot of people, money simply isn’t much of a thing. It comes and goes and they have no qualms about spending it. This means they’ll send you a deposit, but aren’t always invested in the process and might not be someone you’d like to sell to.

I have found that, if they are serious about not just the purchase of the puppy, but the commitment of getting a puppy and what it entails, then signing a contract will make them feel better about everything: not just that you aren’t a scam, but it’ll make them feel like they are really starting the process, and it’ll make them more excited.

HOWEVER, if they drag their feet on the contract, well, then they are probably going to drag their feet on watching YouTube videos to help with their dog, they’ll be less likely to read your puppy preparation emails, and they’ll be less likely to contact you when they have questions. I don’t want buyers like this.

Now, some of you will have a contract that will just address the deposit. That’s fine, it’s one way to do it. I’ve seen breeders with a reservation fee too, something prior to a deposit. However you’re working it, if it’s working for you, great. For me, I like simple and full transparency, so I prefer to send my entire contract up front. Included in the pricing section of my contract I address the deposit, and how it is 50% refundable, no questions asked. This contract not only tells them all the important things, reiterating what’s already on my website, but it governs the deposit. I’ve found offering a partial refund on the deposit operates at the sweet spot of having skin in the game, making it hurt a little if they back out, which, in theory, means they’re less likely to send it if they aren’t ready, but it also prevents them from going to their credit card company and claiming they didn’t get what they paid for. I don’t get many deposits from credit cards, but it is available to my buyers should they choose to do that.

But, back to the topic of this episode, having a contract binds you, as well as the buyer. This is why it is useful in preventing the interpretation that you’re a scam. Why would a scammer bind themselves in a contract saying they’ll provide a puppy they’ll never be able to produce?

Now it goes with it, that you’re binding yourself in that contract. Remember, contracts go over so much better when you have balanced for both parties, such that the possible problems are anticipated and a solution is readily available.

You can always purchase my contract template here. It’s simple, easy to adapt to your breeding program, and written in plain English, which goes over really well with buyers.

Get the Non-Breeding Puppy Contract Template!

Live Video Chat with You and the Dogs

This one should be simple enough; it’s probably the easiest thing you can do. Show them your dogs on a live video call, using FaceTime if you have an iPhone, or you could use Zoom, Facebook Messenger, or similar.

Another thing that helps prove you aren’t a scam is having yourself in the photos with the dogs. You can occasionally put yourself in the videos with the puppies, preferably not the sweatpants pictures where you’re sitting on the couch with a puppy (not sure why I see so many of those), but ideally a picture where you’re showered and you have the puppies with you.

People see my hands a lot in photos as I hold puppies. The patterns on the GSPs is very popular, so I often hold the puppies up with one hand, allowing them to straddle my arm. You’ll often see the beautiful ring Bill got me in those photos. People get used to you, whether it’s your hands, your voice, anything like that. I also have a really gnarly scar on my index finger where I once was shaving a goat hoof with a box blade, truly the best way to do it, but she moved her foot, the blade slipped, and I essentially cut off the majority of the top of one of my fingers. It looks gross, but it is distinct. Thankfully after a year or so the scar had enough flexibility that it wasn’t a big deal. It’s a good thing I breed dogs, I would be a terrible hand model.

Regardless, allowing people to see you and hear your voice, particularly in social media, will make a big difference.

Let Them Visit

If the buyers are local, quite possibly the best avenue to prove you aren’t a scam is to allow them to come over and see your dogs. You don’t need to let them come over at the drop of a hat, they can make an appointment, so you can time your cleaning routine.

Some of you might cringe at the idea of having people over. There is a higher probability for disease transfer with people, but it is fair to ask them to step in bleach solution prior to coming in.

If this feels uncomfortable, you can hold off. You might lose some buyers, but that’s the price you pay for that decision.

If things really aren’t organized in your home or you just have everything in the spare bedroom and there’s a chance your kids will be running through the house half naked in diapers, well you don’t need to have people over. It might be too stressful or uncomfortable. I’ve been in all these situations, so don’t feel bad. It’s part of the journey.

I wouldn’t allow people in my home, but I would allow them in my yard. I would have the pups in a certain area or bring out the ones they were interested in. I could also show them the parents.

In your facility planning, I highly recommend that you consider some sort of set up where you can show people your dogs in a safe way, minimizing liability, especially if you have a protective breed who may interpret the visitors as a threat to your home.

Provide References

You know those buyers that you clicked with and you chat with them on the regular? Keep them handy and when asked about being a scam, you can offer these people—with their permission of course—as references.

You can ask them by saying something like this: “Hey Cindy, I had a buyer ask me for references. Would you mind if I gave them your phone number and they could call or text you about Buster, the dog you got from me? I think they’re mostly curious about how I am to work with and they want to know the dogs are great with kids.”

I’ve rarely had a buyer turn me down for that request. In fact, I’ve had buyers offer to be references without me asking. Always take note of those.

Additionally, reviews, particularly Google Reviews, are the new way people are being references. It’s nice, because it doesn’t matter what time of day it is.

I recommend you try and get as many of them as possible to further prove you’re a legit business.

Ask Why They Think You’re a Scam

While this last one isn’t a way to show you aren’t a scam, it is helpful information. Sometimes, when I’m asked for proof I’m not a scam, I will in turn ask them this, “May I ask what I did that makes you concerned I’m a scam?”

This usually catches people off guard, because it is an awkward question. But try to keep your tone curious. If you’ve been open and honest, focused on meeting their needs, then it will feel off when they ask you if you’re a scam; and so most of the time their response will be, “Oh I just thought I should ask given all the scams these days.” That’s pretty common.

However, you might get some very valuable insight, such as them noting how your social media didn’t show the puppies you have. Or, they may suggest that your website link is broken or they may find a discrepancy in your website, the pricing you told them is different from what you had listed, for example. One time I had the wrong website on my Facebook page! That was embarrassing. I had changed domains and didn’t update it!

The five ways to prove you’re not a scam as a dog breeder

Well there you have it, five ways to prove you’re not a scam. To recap, they are:

  1. Care more about their needs than getting a deposit.
  2. Have a contract they sign before giving you a deposit.
  3. Have a video chat with them.
  4. Allow them to visit, by appointment is fine.
  5. Provide references.

I hope they help you. Remember, when people ask, don’t be offended. Scams are so common these days, and I’ve met many people who have been burned.

I wish you the best, as always. Thank you for joining me for another episode of the Honest Dog Breeder Podcast, with me, your host, Julie Swan. Thank you for being one of the honest dog breeders! The world needs more breeders like you! I can’t wait to see you in the next episode!

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