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Dog Breeder Scams and Warning Signs: A Guide to Safe Puppy Purchasing

fenrir canine leaders dog breeder scams and warning signs

Navigating the world of dog breeders can be tricky, with misinformation and scams posing real challenges for those looking to add a canine companion to their family. Unfortunately, dog breeder scams have been on the rise, leading many prospective pet owners into deceitful traps. This blog post is designed to equip you with the knowledge needed to recognize and avoid these scams, ensuring a safe and joyful journey to puppy ownership.

We'll explore the common scamming tactics used by dishonest breeders and teach you how to recognize the red flags. These scams can range from demanding questionable payments to using misleading puppy images. Our aim is to cover most of the potential scam scenarios, helping you stay vigilant. For instance, we'll show you how to do a Google image search to check the authenticity of advertised puppies, ensuring the pup you're interested in is really the one being offered.

Our objective is not just to educate you about these deceptive tactics but also to give you practical tips on how to protect yourself. By the end of this post, you'll be better prepared to sift through the complexities of finding a trustworthy dog breeder, bringing you closer to a genuine and joyful addition to your family.

Typical Strategies Used by Scammers Posing as Breeders

Scammers pretending to be dog breeders often use clever tricks to take advantage of people looking for puppies. They might try to rush you into making a decision by saying a puppy is really popular or offering a special deal that's only good for a short time. These scammers often come up with detailed excuses for why they can't meet you or show you the puppy over a video call, using reasons like personal problems, health issues, or travel difficulties.

Too-Good-To-Be-True Pricing and Nonexistent Litters

A big warning sign is when the price of a puppy seems way too low, especially for popular or usually expensive breeds. Scammers might advertise puppies that don't even exist or offer rare breeds at surprisingly cheap prices, hoping you'll jump at the chance to get a unique pet. They often ask for a deposit or the full price upfront, promising they'll send you the puppy later – but the puppy never comes.

Signs of Fake or Deceptive Advertisements

Scammers often use fake ads as their main tool. These might have photos of puppies taken from real websites or social media, and the ads usually don't give much specific information about the puppy or its background. You might notice the same descriptions in several different ads. Also, watch out for ads that don't include a real address or contact info. 

Scammers usually don't want to give detailed answers about the puppy's health, parents, or where it's living, and they often give vague or dodgy replies instead.

Knowing about these common scam tactics is a key step in protecting yourself from fake breeders. In the next parts of this post, we'll talk more about how to keep yourself safe, like carefully checking payment terms and methods and making sure the puppy's photos and ads are real.

Identifying Red Flags in Payment Terms

When dealing with a dog breeder, the way they handle payments can tell you a lot about their trustworthiness. A big warning sign is if they want all the money upfront, especially if you haven't seen the puppy in person or on a live video call. Good breeders usually ask for a deposit to hold your chosen puppy, with the rest due when you pick up the puppy or it's delivered. Be cautious if they ask for a really big deposit or the whole payment, especially if they haven't given you solid proof that the puppy really exists.

Non-Standard Payment Methods

Scammers often push for payment methods that are hard to track and don't protect the buyer. This includes wire transfers to unknown accounts, paying with gift cards, using cryptocurrency, or other unusual payment services. Once you send money this way, it's almost impossible to get it back. On the other hand, reputable breeders typically accept checks, credit cards, or other secure and traceable payment methods.

Avoidance of Secure Payment Options and Face-to-Face Transactions

Legitimate breeders are usually fine with using secure, traceable ways to pay. Be careful if a breeder doesn't want to use these kinds of payment methods or seems to avoid meeting in person at all costs. Scammers might use excuses like COVID-19 or other reasons to not meet you. They might also steer clear of payment methods that offer buyer protection, like the ability to dispute charges, because these options give you a safety net that scammers want to avoid.

Staying aware of these payment-related red flags is really important when you're looking for a dog breeder.

Conducting a Google Image Search

Doing a Google Image search is a useful way to check if a puppy photo from a breeder's website or ad is genuine or not. Here's how to do it:

  • Save the Image: Right-click on the puppy photo from the breeder's website or advertisement and select "Save image as..." to save it on your computer.
  • Access Google Images: Go to Google Images (
  • Upload the Image for Search: Click on the camera icon in the search bar to "Search by image." Click “Upload an image” and then choose the saved photo from your device.
  • Analyse Search Results: Google will show you where else this image has been used online. If you see the same photo on multiple sites or in different ads, it’s likely a stolen or stock photo.

Tips on Cross-Referencing Images

  • Look for Consistency: Real breeders usually have a series of photos for each puppy or litter. Check if the same puppy shows up in different photos over time.
  • Check the Background: Pay attention to the background in the photos. It can give you clues about where and how the puppies are raised. If the backgrounds don’t match or look too generic, that could be a warning sign.
  • Beware of Stock Photos: Learn what common stock puppy photos look like. If a photo seems too professional or like it's staged, it might be a stock image.
  • Reverse Search Seller’s Photos: If the breeder has a profile picture or other images on their site, try doing a reverse image search on these too. Scammers might use fake photos to seem more trustworthy.
  • Use Social Media: Search for the breeder’s name or kennel on social media. Legit breeders often have an active social media presence with regular, recent updates about their dogs and puppies.

By carefully checking images and ads, you can greatly lower the chance of getting scammed. Next, we'll talk about how to effectively communicate with breeders to further check if they're credible.

Verifying Registration Paperwork

When selecting a puppy, asking to see the dog’s registration paperwork is an important step. This documentation, provided by kennel clubs like the American Kennel Club (AKC), can offer valuable insights into the dog's lineage. However, be aware that registration alone doesn’t guarantee a dog's purity or quality. For example, the AKC uses a conditional registration, indicated by a 'Q' at the beginning of the dog’s registration number, for dogs whose ancestry may have some uncertainties. While there are various reasons a dog might have conditional registration, sometimes it can be misused by unethical breeders to sell a dog that may not be purebred.

Understanding Conditional Registration

  • Research the Registration: When a breeder shows you a dog’s registration, take the time to understand what it means. If you notice a 'Q' in an AKC registration number or a similar indication in other kennel club documents, inquire about it.
  • Reasons for Conditional Registration: Conditional registration can occur for several reasons, including incomplete lineage information. Ask the breeder for details and clarification if a puppy or its parents have conditional registration.

Using Pedigree Databases

  • Research Pedigrees: Websites like Pedigree Database allow you to research a puppy’s pedigree. This can be a useful tool to cross-reference the information provided by the breeder and to get a better understanding of the puppy’s lineage.
  • Check for Consistency: Ensure the information on the registration papers matches what you find in the pedigree database. Discrepancies might indicate inaccurate or misleading information.

Familiarising with Local Kennel Club Practices

  • Different Standards: If you’re not in a region that uses AKC registration, familiarise yourself with your local kennel club's practices and how they indicate conditional registration or other special circumstances.
  • Local Research: Investigate how your local kennel club handles registration, and what their specific codes or indications mean. This knowledge can help you make more informed decisions.

Remember, while registration with a recognized kennel club is a good sign, it’s not the end of your due diligence. Be thorough in checking and understanding registration paperwork and use available resources to confirm the puppy’s pedigree. This approach helps ensure that you’re getting a puppy from a breeder who values transparency and ethical breeding practices.

Communicating with the Breeder

Engaging in clear and honest communication with a dog breeder is a critical aspect of the process in finding a reputable source for a healthy and ethically-bred puppy. Here are some essential points to consider when communicating with breeders:

The Importance of Thorough Communication

  • Building Trust: Regular and transparent communication helps establish trust between you and the breeder. It allows you to evaluate their expertise, passion, and dedication to their dogs and the breed.
  • Gaining Insight: In-depth conversations can give you a clearer picture of the breeder's methods, the puppy's history, health, temperament, and care needs.
  • Setting Expectations: Clear communication ensures both you and the breeder have the same understanding about the sale, including terms, health guarantees, and what kind of support you can expect after you bring your puppy home.

Red Flags in Communication

  • Vague Responses: Be cautious if a breeder gives you generic or unclear answers to specific questions about the puppy’s health, background, or upbringing. Good breeders are usually very open and informative about their breeding practices and the puppies they care for.
  • Pressure Tactics: If a breeder tries to rush you into paying or makes you feel like you'll miss out if you don't act fast, that’s a warning sign. A reputable breeder cares more about finding the right home for their puppies than making a quick sale.
  • Refusal to Provide Detailed Information or Additional Photos/Videos: A trustworthy breeder should be happy to give you detailed information and show you more about the puppy, its parents, and where they live. If they don’t want to provide this, it could mean they have something to hide.
  • Lack of Interest in Your Background: Ethical breeders usually want to know about the home and environment their puppies will be living in. If they don’t seem interested in your experience with dogs or your living situation, they might not be as concerned about the puppy’s welfare as they should be.

Being alert and analytical in your conversations with breeders can help you better judge their trustworthiness and commitment to their dogs’ well-being. In the next section, we’ll explore how to protect yourself from scams and unreliable breeders through various precautionary measures.

The Danger of No-Paperwork Deals

When buying a puppy, proper paperwork is not just a formality but an essential part of responsible pet ownership. Purchasing a puppy without the necessary documentation exposes both the buyer and the dog to various risks.

Risks of Buying Without Proper Paperwork

  • Uncertain Health Background: Without health checks and vaccination records, there's no reliable way to know the puppy's health status. Lack of documentation can lead to unexpected health issues, emotional distress, and high veterinary costs.
  • Unknown Genetic History: Documentation often includes breed certifications and details about the puppy's lineage. Without it, you’re unaware of potential hereditary conditions or breed-specific behavioural traits.
  • No Guarantee of Breed Purity: If breed purity matters to you, no paperwork means you can’t confirm if the puppy is purebred. Mixed breeds can be great pets, but lack of clarity can be problematic for those seeking specific breed characteristics.

Signs of Scams or Backyard Breeding

  • Deliberate Avoidance: If a breeder avoids providing paperwork, it’s a major red flag, indicating irresponsible breeding practices or a cover-up of poor conditions.
  • False Promises: Beware of breeders who promise paperwork later or say it’s not needed for pet-quality puppies. This could be a tactic to avoid meeting breeding standards.
  • Lower Price Lure: Lower prices used to justify no paperwork can lead to higher future costs due to unforeseen health or behavioural issues.

Protecting Yourself from Scams

In a landscape rife with potential scams, it’s vital to ensure you’re dealing with a legitimate and ethical breeder.

  • Visit the Breeder's Location: Seeing the breeder's facility allows you to check the conditions in which the puppies and their parents are raised.
  • Ask for References: Good breeders should provide references from previous buyers or veterinarians.
  • Verify Breeder Reputation: Research the breeder online for reviews or feedback on independent websites or breed-specific forums.
  • Check Breed Clubs and Registrations: Affiliations with breed clubs or kennel clubs can add credibility.

Trusting Your Instincts

  • Recognize Red Flags: Be cautious of breeders offering rare breeds at low prices or those with multiple breeds available constantly.
  • Listen to Your Gut: If something feels off, or the breeder seems evasive or pushy, trust your instincts and consider walking away.
  • Take Your Time: Don’t rush your decision. Scammers often pressure buyers to act quickly.

By staying vigilant, doing your research, and trusting your instincts, you can navigate the complex world of dog breeding more safely and responsibly. Remember, your choices not only affect you but also contribute to the broader effort to promote ethical dog breeding and ownership.

Sending Puppies Home Too Early Or Too Late

When planning to bring a puppy into your home, the age at which they're ready to leave their mother and littermates is crucial. The ideal age range for a puppy to be rehomed is typically between 8 and 12 weeks. This period is often considered the 'sweet spot' for several reasons:

  • Social and Emotional Development:
    • During the first 8 weeks, puppies learn vital social and behavioural skills from their mother and siblings. This includes bite inhibition, social cues, and early play behaviour.
    • Puppies also start to build confidence and explore the world around them.
  • Training and Adaptation:
    • By 8 weeks, puppies are developmentally ready to start adapting to human environments and begin basic training, including housebreaking and socialisation with people and other pets.
    • This age is critical for forming bonds with their new family and starting their life in a new home.

Red Flags in Puppy Rehoming Ages

Under 8 Weeks:

  • Breeders who send puppies home before they are 8 weeks old may be motivated more by financial reasons or lack proper knowledge about puppy development.
  • Puppies separated too early from their litter can miss essential learning and socialisation, potentially leading to behavioural and health issues.

Over 12 Weeks:

  • If a breeder waits too long, beyond 12 weeks, to rehome puppies, it may indicate they are prioritising their own goals or convenience over the well-being of the puppies and the needs of the new owners.
  • Delayed rehoming can impact the critical socialisation window of puppies with their human families, which is crucial for their emotional development and adaptability.

Understanding the importance of the 8-12 weeks age range for rehoming puppies is vital. This knowledge helps prospective owners identify breeders who are genuinely committed to the puppies' overall well-being and proper development. Ensuring that a puppy comes home at the right age is a key step in laying the foundation for a healthy, happy, and well-adjusted canine companion.

Legal Recourse and Reporting Scams

While finding a puppy can be a joyful experience, it's crucial to be aware of potential scams and understand the options for legal recourse, if necessary. It's worth noting that recovering funds used for purchasing animals can be difficult, as most payment platforms don't offer this type of recovery. Legal options might be limited and not always lead to a successful outcome. Therefore, ensuring you are confident in your transaction and conducting comprehensive research is key to avoiding scams.

Options for Legal Recourse

  • Gather Evidence: If you think you've been scammed, collect all records of communication, payment receipts, and any relevant documents, as this is essential for any legal action.
  • Consumer Protection Agencies: These agencies deal with fraud and scams. Reporting your experience can start an investigation into the breeder’s practices.
  • Legal Consultation: For significant financial losses, a legal professional can advise on the possibility of civil litigation to recover your funds.
  • Small Claims Court: For smaller cases, this court offers a way to seek compensation without needing a lawyer.

Reporting Scams

  • Report on Online Platforms: If you encountered the scam online, report the breeder’s profile to the platform.
  • Social Media Awareness: Share your experience online to warn others about the scam.
  • Breed Clubs and Kennel Clubs: If the breeder claimed any registrations, informing these organisations can lead to action against them.
  • Law Enforcement: In cases of severe fraud or illegal activities, contacting the police for a formal investigation is appropriate.

Key Takeaways

  • Stay Informed and Vigilant: Understanding common scam tactics and red flags is crucial. Being aware is your best defence against fraudulent breeders.
  • Thorough Research is Key: Spend time researching breeders, verifying their legitimacy, and understanding breed standards to make informed decisions.
  • Direct Communication and Visits: Clear and comprehensive communication with breeders and, when possible, visiting their facilities can provide valuable insights.
  • Legal Awareness: Know the limitations of legal recourse in puppy purchases and remember that prevention is key. Be confident in your decision before making payments.
  • Community Support: Share and learn from others’ experiences. Breed clubs, online forums, and social media groups are excellent resources.


Choosing the right dog breeder is an important step in ensuring a healthy and happy pet. While the process can be challenging, with the right knowledge and a cautious approach, you can navigate confidently. The effort you put into finding a reputable breeder not only protects you but also supports ethical breeding practices.

As you start this rewarding journey, keep these guidelines in mind. They are not just steps towards finding a puppy, but towards fostering a lifelong bond with a beloved dog who will bring joy, companionship, and cherished memories to your life.


How can I identify a dog breeder scam?

Identifying a dog breeder scam often involves looking out for red flags like unusually low prices for supposedly purebred or rare breed puppies, requests for full upfront payments, or breeders who avoid face-to-face transactions. Be wary of ads with vague descriptions, high-pressure sales tactics, and lack of proper health documentation for the puppies.

What are some common payment scam tactics used by fraudulent breeders?

Fraudulent breeders may insist on non-standard payment methods such as wire transfers, gift cards, or cryptocurrency, which are difficult to trace and recover. They often avoid secure payment options and may ask for large deposits or full payments upfront without providing guarantees.

How can I verify the authenticity of puppy images in online advertisements?

To verify puppy images, use Google image search to conduct a reverse image search. This helps in checking if the photos are unique to the breeder or if they have been lifted from other websites or used as stock images. Be cautious of breeders who refuse to provide current photos or videos upon request.

What should I look out for when communicating with a dog breeder?

When communicating with a breeder, be cautious of vague or evasive responses, high-pressure sales tactics, and unwillingness to provide detailed information about the puppies. Legitimate breeders will be transparent, willing to answer questions thoroughly, and provide additional photos or videos of the puppies.

Why is purchasing a puppy without proper paperwork risky?

Purchasing a puppy without proper paperwork, such as health checks, vaccination records, and breed certifications, is risky as it may indicate a scam or backyard breeding. Lack of paperwork means there's no assurance of the puppy's health, breed purity, or ethical breeding practices, leading to potential long-term health and behavioural issues.