Importing A Dog - What You Should Know
Photo credit: Brimwylf German Shepherds
You’ve decided to import a dog for Schutzhund. Now what? How do you go about finding the right dog in a country that's thousands of miles away?
First, be very clear on what you want. What breed? What age and gender? What price range? What level of training or titles? This is essential toward guiding you or your dog broker/vendor to the right dog for you.
Second, decide which route you wish to take to import the dog. There are several different ways to approach importing. People can either do it themselves directly (with or without the help of a knowledgeable friend), or use a third-party broker.
Importing a Dog Yourself
This can be a risky maneuver if you are new to Schutzhund! If you are set on importing a dog yourself, you may want to work with someone who has imported dogs before successfully and can help with this process, such as a fellow Schutzhund club member or your Training Director. Look for someone who is knowledgeable about the breed, has imported dogs successfully, and has trusted contacts overseas who can help locate good dogs.
Thoroughly vet the person from whom you are importing the dog. If this person is a breeder, hold them to the same high standards that you would a domestic breeder. Breeders in Europe title their dogs before breeding them, so this criteria should already be met. Now look at the breeder’s program. What have they produced from their program? Do they have a good reputation? Are there other dogs from their kennel here in the United States? If so, how are those dogs performing? What are they like? The more information you can gather about this breeder, the better.
If you are purchasing an older dog from a breeder or from another competitor overseas, then look at the dog very critically. Why is it being offered for sale? Ask for videos of the dog, and watch them with someone else who is knowledgeable about Schutzhund dogs, such as your Training Director or Helper at the club (Side note: being part of a Schutzhund club can help immensely in locating the right dog!). Review the dog’s pedigree with someone knowledgeable about your breed and bloodlines. Glean as much information as possible about this dog and about the person selling the dog.
If you are purchasing from an adult dog from a European broker, then please see the “Using a Vendor” section below. A reliable, trustworthy contact is essential!
Photo credit: zu Treuen Handen
Using a Vendor
Most third-party dog brokers or vendors are already well-established in the working dog world and are in the business of importing dogs. They have a network of people in Europe from whom they purchase dogs. However, there are two different types of third-party vendors. There are those who “warehouse” a number of dogs that are already imported but not yet sold. They bring dogs in without necessarily having a buyer for them yet, and advertise them for sale once they are stateside. They may have what you want already, or they may not. But this means they will either try to convince you that one of the dogs in their kennel really is the perfect dog for you, or they must go out again to find and import what you want. Then there are the vendors who bring in only a few dogs at a time based on client needs, waiting until they have client requests before importing. This type of vendor is less common, but may be a more reliable way to ensure you are getting a good dog. They aren't in a hurry to "move" or sell dogs.
The most important thing when selecting a vendor is to find one with a stellar reputation. The best way to do this is by referral from someone who has used them before and trusts them.
Characteristics of Good Vendors
There are several characteristics that separate good vendors from the rest. Good vendors:
are knowledgeable about the dogs and the traits needed to succeed in IPO
have reliable contacts for sourcing good dogs in Europe
have a solid reputation for good business practices and dealings
have satisfied customers who are pleased with the dogs they received
answer questions and support their clients even after purchase of the dog
ask you many questions to get a full picture of what you're looking for
guarantee satisfaction upon delivery of the dog
Investigate any potential vendor thoroughly. Google their name and their business name. Read through both the good and bad reviews. See if they show up on Ripoff Report or other similar sites. Find someone who has used them before, so you can talk with them directly about their experience. Online IPO groups like those on Facebook can be an excellent way to do this, and increase the likelihood of finding someone who has used your particular dog broker.
However, you cannot rely on using a Google search to find a reliable broker. Just like with using the Internet to find a breeder, those brokers with the best SEO content will show up first. Search engine algorithms care little for the quality of a living product like a dog, only for the content of the website, so someone with an awesome website and great Search Engine Optimization will pull up first, even if they have a poor product. But the Internet can be a great tool for checking up on a potential broker as long as you sift through information critically.
Below are some warning signs that may indicate a shady broker:
Poor reviews from former clients
Slow responses or no responses to your questions
Emails from more than one address
Pushing a dog on you that you don’t really like
Pushing dogs they have in their kennels right now as “the perfect dog” for you ("Any of these dogs would work for you!")
Asks few questions, doesn't take the time to understand what you are looking for
Does not guarantee satisfaction on delivery of the dog
Has a poor reputation of support (refuses to answer questions after sales, no support if people have a concern or problem with the dog, etc.)
Choose your broker wisely!
Remember that there is no guarantee when importing dogs. Anyone who is selling a dog will tell you “This is a good dog!” But it may not be the best dog for you. Be very clear on what you want, and be sure the terms of any agreements or deals are very clear for both the purchase and delivery of the dog. And if using a vendor, personal references from those in the Schutzhund world can be essential to helping you find the right dog broker. Take your time to find the right one!