The pet industry has changed dramatically, and new lines of businesses have popped up. Retail Rescue is one of the biggest changes in the last decade, and now we’re seeing the rise in digitally astute brokers. It used to be obvious who was a broker, but now with the digital presences accessible to anyone with an Internet connection, it has grown increasingly difficult to figure out who is an accountable breeder and who is a broker. Don’t be catfished by a broker posing as a breeder.
Brokers are starting to build slick websites using the same phrases as accountable breeders. They claim to have health tested and DNAed parents who have a plethora of titles. They have photos of puppies on their Facebook pages and Instagram accounts. They are well-versed in Google ads, and they have all the right answers.
These websites are duplicated in mass with just a change in the breed for the many breeds the broker carries. It takes an understanding of both the digital world and the dog world to uncover the irregularities. Here are some tips on differentiating the two.
–Advertised as Health tested: A Breeder can send you the link on OFA.org for each dog. The large majority of breeders in the USA send their results to OFA. A Broker that doesn’t health test will not be able to do this. Some brokers are even claiming that they test for breeds that are not applicable to the breed they are selling. Here is the Canine Health Information Center (CHIC) list of the tests that are recommended for each breed.
-Advertised as Champion / Champion Lines / Conformation (some spell it confirmation) / Show dogs: You can easily find dogs that are shown in the America Kennel Club shows by Googling the dog’s registered name and the breed. For example, this is the Google search results for my first Greater Swiss, Dixieland’s Blazing Maximus + Greater Swiss Mountain Dog. There are not as many entries as he was actively shown in the early 2000’s, but you can see where he is referenced by other webpages. Here is a more recent search result of my current special using the words Musicbox Got Your Six + Lowchen. The vast majority of dogs that are exhibited in the United States with AKC will have some type of reference to show results. If you cannot find any online show results, the dog is likely not entered in AKC events.
-Photos of the Litters: A breeder has direct access to take photos of their litter as they grow, whether or not the litter is raised in their care or the care of co-owners. Photos of puppies are notoriously difficult, but a breeder should be able to provide some, even if they are not picture perfect. I tend to send photos of the puppies as they grow directly to the homes. Only a few of my many photos are Instagram worthy. A broker will probably not be able to provide photos of the litter as they grow as they may not have access the puppies. *Be aware that these broker websites often steal photos from breeders. Be leery of photos where it looks like many different locations, the puppies look markedly different, or the photo style is very different. They likely have stolen photos from multiple sources.*
-Type of photos: This point digs in a little deeper into what you can learn from photos. If the breeder only provides photos of the puppies outside or in environments obviously not the inside of a residential environment, it is highly possible that the puppies are actually being raised by a commercial breeder and sold through a broker or public facing entity. Many accountable breeders have kennel and puppy areas in their home or on their property set up for raising puppies, so you’ll need to combine that information with other photos you might see. Do you see photos of other people with the puppies? Do they seem clean and free of debris? Do you see evidence of items used for enrichment? Are there pictures of the puppies being socialized in new environments? These questions will help you assess whether or not the breeder is truly spending quality time with the litter. *Puppies are messy. Do not expect puppy areas to be pristine at all times, but it is reasonable to expect some level of cleanliness.
-Ability to see the litter through Facetime or some other chat or video service: Some breeders are happy to Facetime or live stream video the puppies. This allows you to see that they are raising the puppies themselves. Not all breeders are able to do this due to technology challenges, Internet speeds, or busy schedule. Don’t be alarmed if a breeder declines to engage in Facetime. I don’t offer it unless I have a few hours to spare.
-Knowledge of the breed: Check the breed’s parent club page to see what are current issues in the breed, upcoming events, and the list of regional clubs (not all breeds have regional clubs). A breeder, even if not a member of the parent club, will know basic information about the breed. A Broker likely does not. You can check to see if the breeder is listed on the parent club or regional club breeder list. Not all accountable breeders will be listed there, but it is a place to start.
-Knows other people in the breed: Breeders know each other. They might not know everyone, but they will know at least some people. Breeders use each others’ stud dogs, talk to each other about shows, and have a network of breeder friends. Breeders who are active also have a digital presence. Breeders in dog clubs will most likely have references to them on various websites. You can do a quick Google search on the breeder’s name + the word dog, and you should get at least a few hits. This is the Google search on the late beloved Dorothy Nickles, one of the first judges I exhibited to in my early days. People who are active in dog sports and dog clubs will have similar search results. A broker will likely not know other breeders by name. A broker’s name might not have many web hits that pertain to the dog breed, but there may be many hits that pertain to many dog breeds. It is becoming common for these brokers to use the same name (sometimes multiple fake names) as the front for brokering puppies.
–Beware of hacked AKC Marketplace accounts. There have been documented cases in which a breeder’s AKC Marketplace was hacked, and a broker’s phone number was superimposed over some of the existing photos. Please do call the phone numbers listed on directly on the breeder’s website. Hacking into a website is slightly more complex than hacking into an AKC Marketplace account.
–Claims to be an AKC breeder or to have “papers”. There is no such thing as an AKC breeder, though sometimes breeders might qualify for AKC recognition like the Breeder of Merit program. However, there is no such things as AKC certified breeder. And breeder can list their litters on AKC marketplace so long as they registered the litter, which is not difficult to do. Any “papers” are easy to generate.
*-Digital Presence: Not all breeders have a digital presence. In some breeds, the breeders are not on Facebook and don’t have a website. That doesn’t mean that they aren’t accountable breeders, it just means they are a bit more difficult to find. You may have to call around to get ahold of them. However, just because someone has a digital presence, that doesn’t mean that they are accountable breeders. Many brokers have Facebook pages where it is easy for them to post comments and appear to be relevant or active in the breed when they are simply looking to sell their puppies instead of contribute to the breed.