How To Talk To A Reputable Chihuahua Breeder...by Cara Ryckman
So, you want a Chihuahua. You have read the AKC Standard or maybe you’ve seen a Chihuahua on tv at Westminster Dog Show. Maybe you have had one or interacted with one before. However, you are having trouble finding a breeder who will talk to you that you feel is a reputable person. The only ones who are enthusiastically answering you are the ones who seem to have twenty puppies from five different litters available who have names like Angie Jo’s Puppy Patch and who have a shopping cart on their website. You feel that isn’t the way you want to go, but you don’t know what you’re doing wrong. Nobody’s helping you. Finally you find a picture you like so much, you send money and then find out it’s a scam – you have now lost a $500 to $1000 deposit on a puppy that wasn’t even real in the first place – a stolen or photoshopped picture that makes the puppy look more cutesy babydoll toy. You end up in a Chihuahua group on Facebook where self-proclaimed experts give you bad advice that actually turns away reputable breeders. You are very frustrated and end up getting a puppy from Craigslist locally – he’s 5 weeks old and he ends up in the vet on night number 2 as he wasn’t really weaned. You now have an $800 vet bill and the vet tells you this puppy should have never been taken from his mom at such a young age. You try to find the Craigslist breeder and the ad is gone. The puppy sugars out the next day and dies, as you have never been warned about hypoglycemia and you didn’t realize he was not eating and drinking. You are devastated. Why wouldn’t those reputable breeders answer you?
I wish that the situation above was a completely made up fabricated situation. Unfortunately, it is becoming more and more often reality. Almost every day I am contacted by someone who has had trouble finding a reputable breeder, who has been scammed or taken advantage of by a bad or unknowledgeable breeder. I try to help anyone I can, but often I see right off what the problem is: the way they approach a breeder.
There’s not a class in how to approach a reputable breeder. Unfortunately, there are some unwritten rules. If you don’t abide by those unwritten rules, you are going to end up with your email ignored or a simple “I don’t have anything available.” Sometimes we don’t – we don’t constantly have a stream of puppies. During COVID, many of us didn’t breed because we were unsure about what was going to happen in the future; many of us are just now starting to breed again as things seem headed in the right direction. Dog shows are starting again. People are able to travel to some degree. But, if you don’t approach a breeder correctly, you are probably not going to get the chance for that puppy you really want.
First of all, there are some terms that really turn off a reputable Chihuahua breeder. I mentioned these terms in my article, “Are We Nice?” after being educated by a friend who said the pet breeder (who is in it for the sale) is NICE to the person inquiring whether they use the correct terms or not. In fact, many of these terms CAME from people who breed for money. Let’s explore some of these terms:
Micro, Micro-Mini, or Teacup: If you are wanting to work with a reputable breeder, these are not terms to use. A reputable breeder is breeding for the AKC standard, which says the adult Chihuahua should be under 6 pounds. A 6 pound dog is a very small dog. You may not mean what we think you mean when you use these terms. I have been surprised to ask someone using these terms what weight of Chihuahua they were looking for, and I was surprised to hear “no more than ten pounds.” If you are really thinking about a very tiny Chihuahua (1 or 2 pounds) please read my article “So you think you want a teacup…” Very few people are equipped to deal with what it takes to raise a truly tiny Chihuahua, and their lives are fleeting in many cases and full of heartbreak and expense. I have a photo on my website of a 4 pound, 5 pound, and 6 pound Chihuahua showing that it is only minimal difference in the sizes of these dogs. These terms are usually what money breeders or scam breeders use to sell very young Chihuahuas who are really normal sized dogs that are just too young to leave their mother.
Applehead: If I could count the times someone has said “I want a female applehead” – appleheads and deerheads are not types of Chihuahuas. In our world, there is the AKC Chihuahua Standard which calls for an apple domed skull, period. If you are approaching a reputable breeder who breeds to the AKC Chihuahua Standard, you are looking at appleheads. A deerhead Chihuahua is just simply a bad head. There are only two types of Chihuahua according to AKC: longcoat and smooth. There are more extreme and less extreme heads in the breed. When I first started showing Chihuahuas back in the late 70’s and early 80’s (see the photo of my dog on our About Us page), the heads were much less extreme with longer muzzles than you see today.
I want it and I want it NOW: this is a huge turnoff to me. I grew up in a world where you chose your breeder and waited until that breeder had something available that you want. I have had people wait over a year for the right puppy! And by that same token, on occasion I will have the right puppy the day someone contacts me. We live in an instant gratification world. The internet has given everyone a virtual catalog of available puppies, and it’s a bad thing. For someone who does not know what they are looking for, all babies are cute and impulse buying ends people up somewhere in paragraph one: with a scammer or a money breeder or a breeder who is not knowledgeable who will disappear the second they get your money. It’s funny, on occasion when I help someone and I post on my facebook about it, I will find out that the person I’m trying to help wrote to twelve breeders with the same copy and paste post. If you will slow down, learn, meet someone (even virtually) and develop a relationship with a breeder, you are going to have a lot better chance of getting what you want than jumping into something on the internet or craigslist blindly.
I have big dogs: this is not a deal killer for me, but some breeders will not place a Chihuahua with large dogs. I want to know how you’re going to separate them when you are not in the room. I want to know about your large dog – have they been around small dogs before? What is their personality like? For instance: I have placed a Chihuahua with a twelve year old lab who has lived his life from puppyhood with a 14 year old toy poodle who just passed away from cancer. I have declined to place a puppy with an 8 month old exuberant Mastiff pup who has never been around small dogs, with no definite plan on how to separate these dogs for the Chihuahua’s safety. Knock on wood, I have never had any of my placed puppies killed by large dogs, but others have. This is why people are so hesitant. Think it out well. Have well defined plans.
I have kids: not a deal killer for me as I have five at home from ages 6 to 13. My kids love our dogs as much as I do and we do dog sports as a family affair. From babyhood, my kids have been taught to be loving and respectful in a SUPERVISED situation with my dogs. We have rules. A young child should not pick up a Chihuahua. The young child should sit on the floor and let the Chihuahua come get into her lap. We still have this rule with Lyla at 6 – she does not carry the Chihuahuas. No running in the house. No dancing in the house. No backing up running or jumping in the house. Everyone shuffles along and does not stomp their feet around the small dogs. My older kids are allowed to pick up the Chihuahuas and take them out of my sight but that is after many years of supervision and education to where I feel confident they are not going to harm my dogs. Many breeders will not place in families and I think it’s such a shame as with these rules, a Chihuahua is a GREAT family dog. Chihuahuas are really great with older kids, especially. Wonderful smart little friends.
I’m going to breed but I don’t want to show: It’s not going to happen, folks. A reputable breeder is not going to place intact dogs for breeding with someone they do not know who is not planning to show. A reputable breeder might place a breeding quality dog with someone they know to be a part of their established breeding program: for example, a female who is going to be oversized but who has everything else going for them, but this will be a friend or colleague- NOT a person they do not know. A reputable breeder is going to place their pets on limited registration with a spay contract. If too old to do limited, the dog is already spayed before they go or the buyer is contractually obligated with papers being turned over upon proof of spay. Why? Please go to my In Memory Of page and see what we deal with on a regular basis as Chihuahua breeders. It is not for the faint of heart and you WILL lose girls, you will be rushing to the vet in the middle of the night for c-sections, you WILL be handfeeding puppies for weeks only to have them die on you, you will have the too small, the too weak, you will have a puppy who seems absolutely fine who takes a turn for the worse and you have only a short window where you can reverse that. You need an experienced eye that can note when a bitch or a puppy “just doesn’t look right.” This is not a breed that you can just let whelp naturally and the puppies grow up problem-free and you watch smiling from afar. I know – you say but the mutt down the street has puppies in a shed and never a problem: that is NOT going to be your Chihuahua. You have to be hands on, sleepless, and have your vet on standby. And if you are thinking you are getting into this to make a bunch of money, you need to know that you will SPEND a bunch of money and probably never break even. In this breed, it’s not happening – it is a labor of love and sometimes just a TON of heartache.
Suspicious minds/crazy tactics: From one of those groups of “experts” on the internet, someone suggested that a prospective buyer require that a breeder take a picture each day with a newspaper with all their puppies wearing a certain color outfit with a certain object in the photo to prove they were a reputable breeder and not a scammer. I’m going to be honest – we don’t have time for that garbage. You can either get to know us and have a relationship that we build during this time and you can follow the tips I put into my article on not getting scammed in Chihuahuas, or just please go somewhere else. We are taking care of puppies, not putting on some kind of crazy sales circus. That person who came up with that tactic and told a bunch of unsuspecting prospective puppy buyers to do that cost a lot of people the chance to deal with a reputable breeder. If you have been burned before and it has left you very suspicious about people or if you are concerned about trying to figure out how to buy a puppy long distance, find someone within driving distance that you can meet in person. The Chihuahua Club of America has a breeder’s directory that will help you find someone nearby.
I want to come before you have puppies to meet all of your dogs and have a tour of your facilities etc: No. Years ago, this might have been the recommended way of doing things. Unfortunately, there have been breeders killed and dogs stolen and other shady things that have led breeders to not giving tours. Many years ago I remember a terrible story of a person who was hired by another breeder to handle parvo puppies then go handle her rival’s puppies which brought parvo to her home. With COVID, there are even further concerns. You can tell by looking at someone’s pictures and videos what type of environment they have for their dogs. Are their dogs clean and well cared for (older as well as puppies)? A reputable breeder is showing pictures and videos of the litter and has pictures and videos up of their dogs. If you want to meet them in person and meet their dogs, meet at a show or event! You will even be able to see their dogs show and compare them to the other dogs you see there. The breeder’s home is a HOME, not a business. It’s a hobby, not a business. And it is not safe for the breeder or their dogs to have a parade of people in for tours – you are just not going to find that in today’s world.
I want to pick out my puppy: The “pick of the litter” is the best match, the puppy that is best for YOU, and that puppy might not be the same for you as for another person. Listen to your breeder…they know that litter better than ANYBODY. Hopefully they have been describing personalities and discussing with you during the process what you are looking for, if there are certain personality traits that you really loved about your last Chihuahua. The breeder is getting to know YOU – are you a social butterfly that will have your dog with you out and about everywhere? That home is going to need a different puppy than the quiet elderly man who likes to sit on his couch and cuddle his very quiet calm dog. If you are planning to show, buy from a breeder who shows – they know what to look for. If you want a Top 10 dog, don’t buy from a breeder who hasn’t produced one or at least had one. If you want an obedience dog, buy from a breeder who has done obedience. If you are looking for a Chihuahua who will excel in some kind of dog sport, you need to either really be able to describe the temperament you require for that type of sport or find a breeder who participates in it.
I have to talk to my husband or I’m going to think about it: Think hard. Before you get to the point of buying. When it gets to the point you are offered a dog, there are probably other people waiting for that dog. While some might think it’s a used car technique to say that (you know, when you are at the lot and indecisive and the salesman convinces you that there are 3 other people he is waiting to hear back from on that car), but I have seen people really miss out (and be angry) that they lost a puppy while being indecisive. If you feel indecisive, maybe it’s not the right match, or maybe you need to think about if it is the right timing or if there is something else holding you back – pinpoint your indecisiveness and discuss with the breeder. With almost any puppy, I have more than one person interested. I am going to go to the person I feel is the best match FIRST and they will have a small window to act at that point before I move on to the next (usually equally great people!) home – we’ve been talking for weeks. Now is not “thinking time.” When that time comes, be ready to move on it or the puppy will be gone. I have had this happen myself, and in self discovery I realized it was a timing issue for me. I discussed with my breeder and we decided to wait until another time. Don’t leave a breeder hanging – they won’t be there the next time when you become interested. Talk and explain, and you can both agree to wait until another time. If you are talking to someone else about a puppy, say so. It is not fair to your breeder to be holding a puppy waiting for a deposit that is not coming and miss out on a great home for that puppy while you waffle around. If you are straightforward and honest with a breeder, that is continuing to build a relationship for further down the road.
If you have had a bad relationship with another breeder or a terrible accident happen with another puppy, EXPLAIN IT. If I hear about it from someone other than you, it’s bad. If it’s understandable and I can verify with your vet or talk to references about it, we might be able to get past it but if I hear about it from a friend and you didn’t tell me, I am going to see red flags.
Too much information initially: If you send me a five page letter on what you are looking for, I may respond that I don’t have anything available at this time. Nice short concise paragraph on who you are and what you’re looking for is a great intro. I can let you know if I have anything at this time or if I am expecting anything. Then we can talk!
Too little information initially: I can’t tell you the number of breeders I know who if someone sends a short text of “Price?” they won’t answer. Yes, price is important – you can assume a pet Chihuahua puppy from a reputable breeder is going to be $1000+ - but don’t make it your only question or the primary question or it will turn a reputable breeder off.
Demanding phone time up front when I don’t have anything available: This is not going to happen for me and many other reputable breeders I know! I have a very busy life, and I am not a phone person. I realize that we may need to talk on the phone after a puppy is identified, and I am fine with that. Until then, email or text or private message on Facebook is much better.
Personality conflict! Sometimes we may just have one. Maybe I get the bad feeling about something you said, and through asking questions I still can’t resolve that bad feeling while another breeder may not feel it’s a problem. Maybe you are a phone person and I am not, and you don’t feel that you are getting enough attention in talking about your prospective puppy – that’s not something I can give you, so perhaps you are better matched with a reputable breeder who IS a phone person. Maybe you want something I just don’t feel like I’m going to have – I can probably refer you to someone I think might be a better match for you to work with.
Negotiation and sad stories: We have the prices we have because Chihuahuas are a very expensive little dog to breed. I have spent a lot of money buying my dogs, showing my dogs, health testing my dogs, and certainly in breeding and raising my dogs. I am not going to negotiate – my price is my price. If you tell me what price you can afford, I may have an idea for you – perhaps I have or I know about a dog retiring who is still young and a great dog but who is not going to be a puppy price. On occasion I have placed an older dog at the cost of spay and dental. Perhaps I know someone who has a puppy or dog at your top price, who I can recommend. As to sad stories, we hear so many…it’s not that we don’t have empathy, we DO! Some are absolutely factual and usually related to paragraph number one. In writing this article I’m trying to help you to avoid becoming that person.
Unfortunately, I realize some people can be great homes who just can’t afford the price I charge or that other reputable breeders charge. My only advice here is save up. Explore a reputable Chihuahua rescue or talk to a breeder about a retiring dog. Go slow, don’t go through something like Craigslist or some of those groups on the internet where all they care about is volume breeding and dollars. You will likely end up spending much more on that “cheap” Chihuahua than you would on a quality puppy, in vet bills on down the road.
Watch the breeder’s site…don’t expect them to call. So many of us found out very early in this game that people shop around. Even if they tell you to call or notify them, they are going on to one breeder after another. It would behoove you to go back to the websites of the breeders you are interested in getting a puppy from to see what they have put up on their Available page or their Litters page. What I do personally is, I usually have people watching my litters grow up and they are talking to me back and forth as the puppies grow. The squeaky wheel gets the grease. If the home is a good one and it’s the right one for the puppy, I’m not going to worry about who contacted me first. I don’t think I am unusual in that aspect. We have all learned that interest sometimes goes as far as til someone sees that next cute puppy on the internet. The person that takes the time to stick with me and talk about my litter as they grow shows me they really have interest in MY puppy.
Don’t get mad if you are not “the one” who gets the puppy. In most situations, it’s not that you were a bad home or that I didn’t like you enough or that I wouldn’t be FINE talking to you about a DIFFERENT puppy. Sometimes it was just that THIS puppy was a better match for a different home. Sometimes I have two equally perfect homes and I just have to pick, and sometimes that pick gets down to a minute detail.
And last but not least, sometimes we just don’t have something available. Maybe your inquiry went into our “junk mail.” Maybe the breeder you are calling is like me, and not a phone person – or the reverse, some people LIKE phone calls. If one isn’t getting you in contact with your possible breeder of choice, try the other. I get so many junk/sales calls that I am just not going to answer the phone if it’s a number I don’t know. Don’t get mad, don’t say ugly things, stay nice – don’t shut that door forever. People talk, especially in today’s world of Facebook – when you go and cuss out a breeder because she had to tell you no, she probably just wrote to the whole world about it on her personal Facebook and we’ll all be remembering that when you write to us. I remember a recent one of these who was nice to me but cussed out a fellow breeder because he thought she was holding back on him and not letting him have access to a puppy she had not decided on yet. Maybe someone is sick, or changed their phone number, or maybe they are no longer breeding dogs. I had someone contact me one time griping that someone had not answered them who I knew was in the hospital. Your puppy is out there. Your breeder is out there. Remember the tips on how not to get scammed when buying a Chihuahua and use these tips to contact another reputable breeder. Good luck in finding that best puppy for you!