Information compiled by Pam Kaye
Breeders should not just rely on their contracts to help them when something goes wrong with a sale, but should, instead, rely on a robust puppy questionnaire to help them choose the right homes for their puppies.
There are many breeders who use questionnaires, and I’m sure each could tell at least one story of how a potential purchaser’s answers helped them to choose the appropriate puppy for that person or to direct them elsewhere.
Some of the questionnaires start out by telling the potential purchaser a little bit about the kennel. You might want to describe your breeding philosophy, tell how you raise your puppies, and explain what you expect them to be able to excel at.
Some of the questionnaires are very professionally put together, with drop down menu choices and radio buttons. Some are simple, and just provide space for the potential purchaser to fill in an answer after a question. I looked at about 50 different questionnaires, for a variety of breeds. There is a good deal of consistency across the samples I reviewed.
All forms ask for the usual identifying information: name, address, email, phone number.
I’ve listed some typical, and some not so typical questions below. These should give you some ideas for questions you’d like to ask in your own puppy questionnaire:
About the breed:
- How did you hear about the ES?
- Have you ever owned one before? Met one?
- Why do you want an ES for your next dog?
- Are you aware of any health problems common to this breed?
- Are you aware that ES are medium size, active dogs that shed?
- Do you prefer a male or female? Why?
- Do you have a color preference?
- Would you consider alternatives to your first choice? If so, what?
- What sort of activity level are you comfortable with (high, moderate, low)
About other pets owned:
- Do you own any other dogs? If so, what breeds, ages, and tell a little about each.
- Do you own any other pets?
- Do you own any other animals?
- Have you ever raised a puppy?
- How many dogs have you owned over the past 10 years? What happened to them?
- Are you prepared to take care of this dog for 10-15 years?
- If you have never owned a dog before, what has your exposure to dogs been?
- Would you consider taking an older or rescue dog? (you can ask more specifics here, like how old it could be, etc.)
- Have you ever had to give up a pet to the shelter or to rescue? If so, what were the circumstances?
- Have you ever returned a pet to a breeder? If so, what were the circumstances?
- Have you ever given a pet away? If so, what were the circumstances?
- Please give us the name and number of the agency in your area that handles dog complaints.
About living arrangements:
- Do you own or rent your home?
- What type of home do you live in? (apartment, townhouse, house, duplex, farm)
- Are you planning on moving soon?
- Would you describe your residence as urban, suburban or rural?
- If you rent, has your landlord given permission for you to have a dog? (may we have his name/phone number?)
- Do you have a fenced yard? What type of fence? How high is it? Is the yard completely enclosed?
- If not, how do you plan to exercise your dog? Do you let your dogs run loose? Under what circumstances?
- Do you live on a busy road?
- If you have a swimming pool, what are your plans for keeping a puppy safe around it?
About the family:
- How many people reside in your home?
- If you have a partner, does your partner support the plan to get a puppy? (some ask that the partner sign)
- Children? How many and what ages? What has their exposure to dogs been?
- Were there ever any problems with your children and dogs?
- Do all family members agree on the addition of an ES to the family? If not, who is not in favor of getting an ES, and why?
- Are you an active military family?
- Does anyone in your family have allergies to dogs, or dislike dogs? How do you intend to handle that?
- What is your time frame for acquiring a puppy?
- Does your family have enough quality time to devote to a dog?
About activities planned for the pup:
- What activities do you intend to participate in with your dog? (obedience, tracking, agility, stock work, conformation, therapy dog work, flyball, other)
- Do you have any experience in these activities? Please describe.
- What sort of working drive would mesh with your personality (hard, sharp, moderate, low) and why?
- What trainers/books do you admire and follow? Why?
- Do you intend to enroll your puppy in training classes?
- Have you contacted the training clubs in your area? Are you a member of one?
- Who do you currently train with? At what level? What are your training goals?
- If you have specific training goals, what are they? Have you trained a dog to this level before? If not, why not? If so, when?
- Will your dog be expected to work on the farm? If so, what jobs will he be expected to do?
About living conditions for the pup:
- Describe the housing you will provide for this puppy.
- Describe the exercise you will provide.
- Describe a typical day for your dog
- Are you at home during the day?
- If not, who will care for the puppy during the day?
- Are you at home during the night?
- If not, who will care for the puppy during the night?
- How many hours per day will the puppy be alone?
- Where will the dog be when there is no one at home?
- Do you intend to crate train your puppy?
- Where will the puppy spend the day?
- Where will the puppy spend the night?
- Who will care for this dog if you should become incapacitated?
- How long do you expect housetraining will take?
- How will you be housebreaking this puppy?
- What do you feed and why? Have you raised a healthy, normal puppy on this diet? Are you willing to follow our feeding recommendations?
- How much do you expect to pay for this puppy?
- What would such a dog be worth to you and why? (Your answer here will help us to find a dog that is perfect for you)
- How much do you expect you will need to spend on this puppy per year for food, training, veterinary care, etc.?
- Do you have a vet?
About the breeder:
- How did you find us?
- Have you spoken with any other ES breeders?
- Are you on a waiting list with any of them?
- Are you willing to travel to ____ and meet the dam and sire of your puppy?
- If travel is impossible, would you be willing to allow a home visit from one of our friends in your area?
- What do you expect from us as your puppy’s breeder? Are you willing to stay in close contact with us, openly discuss any training or health problems you have, and agree to give us right of first refusal should you be unable/unwilling to keep the dog?
About desired temperament and personality of pup:
- What type of personality do you want in this puppy?
- Describe the ideal dog for your present needs.
- Put the following characteristics of farm dogs in order of greatest importance to least importance (making a note of any that do not matter or behaviors that you would rather not have, and then describe completely as possible how your ideal dog would fit in these categories): size, looks (color and build), herding ability (what kind of herding ability do you prefer?), hunting ability, guardian ability (what would your ideal dog’s specific behaviors be in this category?), female or male preference (would you take either)
- Describe the best dog you ever had and what you liked most about him as well as any characteristics that could be improved to make a better dog to fit your present situation.
- What qualities are you looking for in this puppy?
- If you had to choose between two puppies, one with perfect conformation, but low-moderate drive, and one with so-so conformation and high drive, which one would you choose and why?
Please provide (usually 2 or 3) references. (Veterinarian, trainer, person active in dogs, another breeder, close friend). Please provide phone numbers and email if possible. These references will be checked.
Plans for the pup:
- Do you intend to spay/neuter this dog? If not, why not?
- Do you intend to show or breed this dog? If so, how will you determine that the dog is suitable? What are your reasons for breeding?