Puppy Shopping

Guinea Pig shopping?

What do Guinea pigs and dog breeding have to do with one another? Bear with me…

In the context of preventing dogs from being bought through brokers there is nothing unethical about effective marketing.


An important part of the Local Dog Breeder strategy is connecting with potential puppy owners, inviting them to meet us and our dogs and giving them the opportunity to make choices based on real live, old-fashioned contact.


As hobby breeders we are well versed at staying under the radar lest we be accused of “puppy milling”. We have internalized the message that reputable breeders DO NOT breed pets and our websites often reflect that. I’m here to say that the more thoroughly we inhabit this “ I’m not a breeder, really I’m not” ethic, the more puppies will be born and raised in unscrupulous hands. Potential puppy owners, if they choose not to adopt, will be forced to buy from the only source available to them – brokers. We will certainly not ever produce the numbers that broker connected breeders do, but it’s my belief that as a network we will have our own strength in numbers. Maybe one day we’ll tip the balance…


So, in that spirit, I’d like to invite you to join me in a little research of our own. This has to do with our internet presence. Imagine your kids are clamoring for a pet guinea pig, or kitty or sugar glider – a pet you know not much about. Pick something. Now, fire up your laptop and begin the hunt!

Pay attention to the route you take in your search. What do you Google? Wander through websites, explore local and national clubs ( if you can find them!). Try not to get distracted by the show guinea pigs ( been there, done that – wow, beautiful!)

Notice your preferences, what you find frustrating and how long you spend on each site. You’ll get absorbed in some and click out of others in 3 seconds. Some you won’t even click on from the Google search. Why not? Take notes.

This is the experience our clients have when they begin their search for a puppy. I believe most people want to do the right thing. They want their puppy to have had a wonderful start. They don’t want to get ripped off and I’m sure would prefer more than a tail-light guarantee. They won’t, however, move towards what doesn’t feel good or what they can’t relate to.


Although I’m sure there’s much more to learn, here are three points I’ve noticed:

  1. Although stacked win photos, pedigrees and stats are useful for us in researching breeding decisions, pet owners often find all this a bit beside the point – even gibberish. Consider including photos and descriptions of your dogs as they are at home or out hiking. This is the context in which buyers imagine themselves with their new pups. You’d be surprised how many people think most of us “only breed show dogs” and apologize that all they are looking for is a pet. Show off more than one side of your dogs. And I don’t just mean the “off” side!
  2. Are you sure you really need a questionnaire? Could you get an even better sense of your client’s needs and suitability from a live conversation? Many buyers are put off by having to fill out a questionnaire before they can even have a chance to connect with the breeder.  Some feel the questions are boilerplate at best and insulting at worst. The standard, formulaic feel of a PDF application does not give off a very warm and fuzzy, ”let’s all get to know each other” feeling. Screening clients for suitability is very important, but questionnaires seem to be pet peeve of many potential owners. If you stick with yours, make sure you ALWAYS acknowledge receipt with a personal email or phone call. It enrages people to put in all that effort and then get no response.
  3. Puppy seekers want results ( either a puppy or a plan for one) NOW. Don’t miss this opportunity to connect with them about upcoming litters ( the no over-promising rule applies here!). Set up your Available/Litters page so they don’t leave, back to Google, empty-handed. Help them continue moving forward with good referrals and links to local and nation club’s breeder directories ( click here for an example). It is our job to keep them in the responsible hands of reputable breeders.


Your search for your new Guinea Pig will teach you a lot about your own style and preferences. Consider making changes to your sites to reflect that. Those who think the way you do will be attracted to your site. This will help bring like-minded people together. Clients that are drawn to my site will be different from those attracted to Fran’s or Jane’s or Jeff’s. This is GOOD. There are more than enough clients to go around and being connected with people you speak the same “language” as can only increase the chances of success.

I’ll add more ideas in a future post. What was your experience like? What did you like/dislike about certain sites? Do you now own a show guinea pig? Sorry!

7 thoughts on “Puppy Shopping

  1. In 1987 I spoke to a woman in NY who bred Border Collies by phone. I was looking for a medium sized dog, and thought I wanted a Border Collie. After speaking to me for 20 minutes, she suggested an Australian Shepherd, and gave me Gerrie Stratter’s phone number. I’ll always be grateful to someone who listened to my lifestyle and helped me find the right dog for me.

    • It’s hard to overstate how far reaching those early experiences and decisions are. Look at you now – “in dogs”! I think we as breeders have more to offer and a greater effect than we realize.
      Gerri’s contribution lives on 24 years later. And, boy, don’t we still miss her…

  2. Funny enough….my husband has 25 guinea pigs (at least) and they are not show pigs just his pets!! (weird guy, huh?) I have never used a questionnaire, because I find them to be a turn off and I think some people just write what they think we want to hear…I prefer talking to people via phone and meeting with them….more relaxed and I think I get a good take about them, one way or another.. I have had pretty good luck dealing with potential buyers over the years and I really attribute that to looking at the cup being half full as opposed to half empty right from the start.. Alison…you offer so much food for thought…thanks!

    • Of course he does! Adding a puppy to one’s life is such a personal, emotionally laden event for most people. We can give that non-big box store feel. It’s all we’ve got, but it’s a potent tool.

  3. Love reading the blogs Alison….truly feel phone conversation first and then meeting is the way to go. When I get an inquiry I always ask if I can give them a call and a convenient time (so as not to put them on the spot to call me). I have made several referrals and also always offer to help out and want to be included in their puppy journey even though they are not getting a puppy from me.

  4. You are right on the mark. Won’t even discuss the name of a breeder I first spoke to, let us just say it was a total turn off. Thank goodness I then spoke to Alice Ward, who referred me to Gerrie Stratter.

    One of the first things I tell my puppy buyers is that there is no such thing as just a pet. That a family companion is the most important job a dog can do. (Sometimes the most difficult ). I always stress that my dogs are companions, the rest is just fun stuff we do together.

    I think we have a lot to offer a puppy buyer, however it takes commitment, time and lots of communication skills. When we make a connection with the puppies new family it is often for a lifetime. They are the one that keep coming back to for their next pup. They are the ones that give us the great referrals. My best friends are people that own puppies I sold them.

    I think this raise so great points and I hope we discuss it further!

  5. I have used questionnaires but I bet they are a turnoff for a lot of people. They are a good prompt for me in sorting out some things though…OTOH some callers/inquirers ask to have a questionnaire and one family sent me THEIR questionnaire! (It was mighty thorough too but I filled it out!). That family is now going to be a partner to me in a show prospect from this litter and their daughter is very interested in the whole show thing including Juniors. Interestingly, they found me because they liked my website with the running playing dogs and some, but not lots, of win photos. They correctly figured the dogs were family. Ditto 2 other puppy people for this litter looking for companion animals. They all specifically commented on the implied info they got from looking through the site and seeing the photos and reading the little descriptions of the dogs.
    If a breeder is lousy with a camera, or doesn’t have a nice property to show in their site, they should get a friend to shoot good photos of the dogs having fun and go to a park or other venue. There is no question it sets a site apart to have informative pictures. We play with our ‘breeding stock; why not show that?! (And if we don’t, we should, or at least show our sold dogs playing with THEIR owners!).
    Again thanks for the writing, Alison, so timely and every one who ever wanted to sell a puppy should read this blog.

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