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If you’re interested in getting a puppy from a breeder, rescue, or shelter you will most likely have to sign a puppy contract.
Depending on where you get your puppy there will be some small differences but most puppy contracts will include a lot of the same information.
Read on if you’d like to know a little more about puppy contracts and what they should include.
A puppy contract is a legal document that covers the sale of a purebred puppy between the seller and the buyer.
It’s usually preceded by a non-refundable puppy deposit contract that outlines the amount of money the seller requests from the buyer to guarantee a specific puppy.
It also includes the date as of when the buyer can pick up their puppy. That’s usually between 8-9 weeks of age.
If puppies require air transportation to reach their new home, they need to be paid in full several days before their flight.
As far as the actual puppy contracts, here are the terms they typically cover:
- Purchase agreement
- Refund/replacement policy
- Information about the puppy & their parents
- Seller’s responsibilities
- Dog health & temperament guarantee
- Buyer’s responsibilities
- Return policy
- Spay/neuter contract
In short, a puppy contract is what differentiates backyard breeders and puppy mills from reputable, ethical breeders.
That’s because pseudo breeders have no interest in providing any health guarantees for their puppies and are just interested in making a quick buck.
However, it’s a good idea not to sign the puppy deposit contract until you’ve seen the actual puppy contract.
The latter may include terms you don’t agree with, at which point it may be wiser to look for a different puppy breeder.
The first part of the purchase agreement is pretty straightforward as it covers the price of the puppy that the buyer agrees to pay the seller.
If the price includes anything else such as dog toys, blankets or dog food, this is where it’ll be specified.
Beyond that, it also states whether or not the buyer is allowed to breed the puppy.
That’s called a breeding contract or a non-breeding contract and is covered in depth in the spay/neuter section of the puppy contract.
It can also state the purpose of the puppy.
For example, whether the puppy’s intended to be a regular pet, a show dog, a working dog, a service dog, etc.
This section of the puppy contract covers what happens if the buyer’s vet diagnoses a disease that’s covered under the seller’s health guarantee.
For instance, can the puppy be returned to the seller for a full refund or “just” a replacement puppy?
Also, what happens if the buyer can no longer keep the puppy? Will the seller take the puppy back regardless of the pup’s age?
Ethical breeders make it a point to always take a stranded puppy back or at least offer considerable help in rehoming the pup.
Information About The Puppy & The Parents
This section is fairly self explanatory.
It covers the puppy’s name, their birth date, gender and coat color, as well as their parents’ names and registration numbers.
- Puppy Name
- Puppy’s Birth Date
- Puppy Gender
- Coat Color
- Sire Name & Registration Number
- Dam Name & Registration Number
It also includes their pedigree certificate with proof of lineage, vaccination history, microchip information and (optional) health insurance information.
The seller typically has two main responsibilities, and the first one is to guarantee the puppy’s health up to a certain age.
It all starts with the puppy health basics, stating that the puppy has been:
Dog Health & Temperament Guarantee
Furthermore, the seller guarantees the puppy’s health against any genetic defects specific to the puppy’s breed until they’re a certain age, usually around 12-24 months.
They typically require the buyer to provide proof of veterinary treatment and lab results should the buyer claim that the puppy was diagnosed with a genetic disease.
Some sellers also guarantee the puppy’s temperament up to a specific time frame, usually 12 months.
If the dog appears to be of poor temperament that’s uncommon for the breed, the seller will take the pup back, either in exchange for a full refund or a replacement puppy.
However, they typically require an evaluation from a dog behaviorist who states that the puppy is shy or fearful due to genetic predispositions.
Most sellers also specify that their health warranty is not transferable. That means that buyers can’t rehome or resell the puppy without the seller’s explicit permission.
The second responsibility of the seller is usually that they’re willing to take their puppy back if the buyer can no longer keep the dog due to unforeseen financial or health problems – regardless of the dog’s age.
There are also certain stipulations the buyer has to abide by or risk having to return the puppy to the seller. Those are covered in the buyer’s responsibilities of the puppy contract.
Unlike the seller, the buyer has lots of responsibilities. This makes sense, as they’re agreeing to be responsible for the lifetime of a living creature.
After all, they’re not just buying a piece of furniture!
Keeping that in mind, the following are typical components of the buyer’s responsibilities in a puppy contract:
- Purchase price.
- Optional: Transportation/shipping cost + travel crate & health certificate.
- Licensed vet appointment within a certain number of days of receiving the puppy (usually 3-7 days).
- If the vet diagnoses the puppy to be in poor health, the buyer has the right to return the puppy to the seller for a full refund or a different puppy. If the puppy is not taken for a vet exam, the healthy warranty given by the seller is void.
- The buyer is responsible for all intestinal parasite vet treatments as they’re normal in puppies.
- The buyer agrees to provide the best possible care for the lifetime of the puppy, including:
- Feeding a nutritious dog food (can be more specific, potentially raw dog food if breeder raised puppy on it)
- Maintaining a healthy weight (failure to do so can void the health guarantee for hip dysplasia, for example)
- Scheduling annual wellness exams with a licensed vet
- Providing routine preventative health care
- Providing vet care when the puppy is sick or injured
- Staying current with vaccinations
- Administering heartworm preventatives
- Registering the puppy’s microchip
- Registering the puppy with a specific dog registry (e.g. AKC)
- Providing basic obedience training
- Socializing the puppy
- Optional: Minimizing excessive exercise until puppy is 12 months old to prevent damage to growing joints
- Contacting the seller should the puppy need to be rehomed
- Not surrendering the puppy to a shelter or similar dog rescue place
- Not neglecting the puppy’s health
- Keeping the puppy away from unvaccinated dogs and puppies until they’ve completed their puppy vaccinations (parvo, lepto, rabies, distemper)
- Keeping the puppy as an indoor dog
- Optional: Having a specific type of health insurance
Non compliance with certain responsibilities can result in the buyer having to return the puppy to the seller. For example, if the puppy’s health is neglected or the pup is kept outside.
Spay & Neuter Section
Breeders typically ask buyers to hold off on spay and neuter surgeries until the puppy is at least 16 months old.
This delayed spaying & neutering has been found to be beneficial for the hormonal development of dogs and is said to decrease the risk of certain cancers.
If the puppy contract is a non-breeding puppy contract that sells the puppy as a companion pet only, this section is where the seller requires the buyer to spay or neuter their pup once old enough.
This typically includes providing proof of the neuter or spay surgery. One exception is when the puppy is sold as a show dog as show dogs can’t be fixed if they’re expected to compete.
The spay & neuter section may also cover how to handle accidental breeding.
For instance, the seller may require the buyer to hand over all puppies resulting from the breeding accident.
Or they may ask for a portion of the profits from selling those puppies. Or all of it!
Puppy contracts can be quite lengthy as they cover a lot of information, including the buyer’s and the seller’s respective responsibilities.
At the same time, they protect both parties by laying out clear terms and conditions, so be sure to thoroughly read through your puppy contract if you’re on the buyer’s side!
That said, if the breeder you intend to buy from doesn’t offer or insist on a written puppy contract, you should walk away from the deal and find a different breeder.
Other red flags are:
- Not being able to visit the litter before you pick your puppy up
- Dirty breeding quarters
- Not seeing the dam and/or sire
While breeders and buyers can become lifelong friends, sometimes it’s just not a good fit.
Trust your gut feeling and if either party seems too controlling or irresponsible, you can always just walk away and find a new buyer or seller.
Ask your friends, dog trainers or licensed veterinarians for breeder recommendations.
Website reviews are a good indicator too, but remember that they can be fake, so take everything with a grain of salt and contact/visit the breeder yourself to get a feeling for them.
Did you read all the way to the bottom! If you’re here then you did!
One more question for you, would you like to see a sample puppy contract?
We have puppy contracts we signed when getting a puppy and contracts we used when Raven had her litters.
We also have dog adoption contracts we’ve used when working with different rescues.
If you’d like to see any of these contracts leave me a message in the comment section below.
Also, if you’ve worked with a puppy contract tell me if we missed anything. Thanks!
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Top Picks For Our Puppies
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We Like: Calmeroos Puppy Toy w/ Heartbeat and Heat Packs – Perfect for new puppies. Helps ease anxiety in their new home.
- BEST DOG CHEW
We Like: Mighty Paw Naturals Bully Sticks – All of our puppies love to bite, nip, and chew. We love using Bully Sticks to help divert these unwanted behaviors.
- BEST DOG TREATS
We Like: Crazy Dog Train-Me Treats – We use these as our high-value treats for our guide dog puppies.
- BEST FRESH DOG FOOD
We Like: The Farmer’s Dog – A couple months ago we started feeding Raven fresh dog food and she loves it! Get 50% off your first order of The Farmer’s Dog.
Check out more of our favorites on our New Puppy Checklist.