What you need to know about non-refundable deposits
Depending on how far along in your puppy search you are, you may be ready to put down a deposit for a puppy. The vast majority of breeders require a deposit and often these deposits are non-refundable. This article is not meant to be a comprehensive guide to deposits, but rather, is meant to help explain why most breeders use deposits and why many are non-refundable.
What is a Deposit?
In a buyer’s puppy search, a deposit typically means that buyers will pay breeders a $300 to $1000 deposit, though this amount will vary by breeder, to reserve a puppy from an upcoming litter or puppy which is already on the ground. Deposits should be given by a buyer in good faith, which means the buyer is serious in his or her commitment to purchase a puppy from that breeder.
It is important for potential puppy owners to understand why breeders require deposits and why those deposits are often non-refundable, in addition to understanding the specifics of each breeder’s deposit policy when they choose a breeder and a breeding program.
Why Do Breeders Often Require Non-Refundable Deposits?
There are a number of reasons why many breeders require non-refundable deposits.
As we explain in What to Expect When Working with a Responsible Breeder, being a responsible dog breeder requires careful planning, a huge time commitment, and major financial investments. Non-refundable deposits support breeders with all of these things.
Finding, selecting and preparing new owners for their new puppy takes a large amount of a breeder’s time and energy. Caring for puppies means to stay with the litter 24/7, as a second mom to the pups and a nurse to the dog mom. Puppies are born unable to hear or open their eyes and are entirely dependent on both their dog mom and breeder. This neonatal period can be particularly anxiety-inducing as the pups’ health and weight need to be monitored daily. It’s not uncommon for a pup to require feeding from the breeder (in addition to feeding from the pup’s dog mom) in order to survive this critical time. All of this means sleepless and stressful days and nights delivering and caring for the new family on top of caring for their other dogs, family with kids and household tasks.
Breeders are fully focused on the demanding and costly task of providing for the health and development of their litter, including socializing, training, feeding, providing vet care for, and to start the potty training an entire litter of puppies! Additionally, many breeders use this time to evaluate their pups, share regular updates with their waitlist (you are not the only one which is inquiring for a puppy), and work with the folks on their waitlist to determine which puppy will make a good match for each puppy applicant in order to ensure that a puppy’s new home will be a forever home.
Being a responsible breeder takes a great deal of money, energy, and time. Expenses for a litter add up quickly (as more fully-described in What Actually Goes Into the Cost of a Puppy from a Responsible Breeder). The total cost of responsibly breeding a litter of puppies can range anywhere from $7,700 to $23,900, which includes things like health checks for the female breeding dog, stud services, supplies and equipment, extra food and prenatal vitamins, pre- and post-natal veterinary care, registration documents for the new litter, and puppy vet checks and vaccinations. Breeders make these financial investments before new owners pay for their pups – meaning, breeders make these large investments out of their own pocket, relying on the fact that they will be compensated when the pups go to their new homes and they receive the agreed-upon purchase price of the dog from the new owners. Non-refundable deposits assure breeders that they have buyers for their beloved pups, protect these investments in time and money, and in some cases, may help cover these upfront costs for breeders. Non-refundable deposits also serve for advertising the new litter. Payment of a non-refundable deposit indicates to a breeder that a potential buyer is serious and not just “window-shopping,” putting their names down on a waitlist or multiple waitlists without any intention of actually getting a puppy. Buyers who are willing to pay non-refundable deposits are typically buyers who believe they have found the right breeder for them and are committed to following through with purchasing a puppy. This means that non-refundable deposits protect breeders from a situation where a buyer backs out after a litter is born and a breeder must then dedicate unexpected time and energy finding new homes after declining multiple people because the puppy was already marked as sold, while also caring for the remaining pups.
Finally, it can be scary and stressful for a breeder to believe all the pups in her litter are committed to great homes, only to find out at the last minute that one of her puppy buyers has backed out. Suddenly, the breeder is faced with unexpected and time-sensitive demands. Many puppy buyers have a strong preference for younger puppies and so, depending on the timing, the breeder likely needs to find a suitable replacement home quickly. In addition, the remaining puppy requires timely socialization, development, vaccinations and other care that the breeder hadn’t planned for. This unexpected addition of a puppy to the breeder’s family may not be something the breeder is in a position to handle easily – either from a cost, time or logistical perspective. Non-refundable deposits reduce the risk of this happening to a breeder and, if it does, help offset the unexpected expenses.
Even though a buyer has paid a deposit (refundable or non-refundable) and is on a waiting list for a puppy in an upcoming litter, there is no guarantee that a buyer will actually receive a puppy from that litter because a breeder will not be able to know with certainty when a puppy will be available for any particular buyer. As with humans, it is impossible to predict whether a female dog will become pregnant or have a successful pregnancy. It is also impossible to know how many healthy puppies will be in a litter, and, depending on the breed, it is difficult for breeders to accurately foresee the sex and coloring of the puppies. Even with the best care, puppies are fragile so can become sick or have congenital illnesses that don’t appear for several weeks.
Given these uncertainties and because most puppy buyers have sex and color preferences for a new pup, breeders are unable to guarantee in advance how many applicants on their waitlist will receive puppies from any given litter. This uncertainty can be frustrating for puppy buyers, particularly if buyers have to wait longer than expected to take a new pup home. To ensure that buyers have realistic expectations when it comes to getting a new pup, it is incredibly important for them to understand exactly what a breeder’s deposit policy covers before deciding to make a commitment to work with a breeder.