Puppy Contracts: What’s In It & Why You Need One

10 minute read By Lucy Hughes
Reviewed by: Pawrade Team
February 13, 2023

A woman points to a computer screen as a puppy looks on

The day is here! You’ve asked yourself if you’re ready for a puppy and have determined that now is the perfect time to welcome your new best friend! Your family has searched high and low for available puppies for sale, and you’ve settled on an adorable ball of fluff. You’ve got a name in mind and have visions of your puppy bumbling toward you in slow motion like in the movies, sun shining and ears flopping.

You’ve checked your budget and have financially prepared for a puppy. After countless interviews with your pawrent friends for advice you’d wish you’d known before buying a puppy, you’re ready for the challenge! You have even rearranged your furniture, put away all your valuables, and stocked up on non-toxic puppy products when preparing your home for a puppy. What’s left?

Well, you have to pay for your puppy either in full or with a deposit before making arrangements to meet your puppy. 

Not so fast! 

Before you pay one cent, ask if there is a comprehensive puppy contract to sign. If there isn’t one, that’s a huge red flag!

Why Do I Need a Puppy Contract? 

Your wallet is out, and you’re about to put down a deposit. “But I don’t need a contract,” you think. “Why do I need a puppy contract if I can just give the breeder money and they give me the puppy? Shouldn’t it be that simple of a transaction?”

Think of it this way – would you buy your house without a contract? How about a car? No, of course not. If you’re about to make a lifetime commitment to a living being, you absolutely need a legally binding contract! 

A puppy contract is a legal document that protects you, the breeder, and most importantly, the safety and well-being of your new 4-legged, lifelong companion. Find out what’s in a puppy contract and why you need to sign a puppy contract before buying a puppy for sale. 

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Puppy Contracts Fight Puppy Scams and Puppy Mills

If you buy a puppy without a contract, you have no idea where it has come from, the parents’ living conditions, or how the puppy has been raised. All you have is the seller’s word – and in a perfect world, that would be enough. However, we live in a world where dishonest people are always looking for a way to make a quick buck and don’t care if they ruin canine or human lives along the way. 

Avoid puppy scams

Puppy contracts help you stay one paw ahead of puppy scams. Without a puppy contract, you could be getting majorly scammed into thinking you’re buying a healthy dog that turns out to be something entirely different. 

Sometimes, the seller will steal a picture they stole somewhere else online to lure you in. We know that lots of dog breeds can look similar as puppies, and it can be difficult to tell which breed they are until fully grown. Let’s take doodle crosses as an example. It can be difficult to differentiate among the different designer doodle mixes before they are a bit older and show more of their adult features. The seller could easily lead you to think that you’re getting a healthy Mini Goldendoodle, but instead, it turns out you’ve been sold a sickly Standard Poodle.

There is no way to know without a comprehensive puppy contract telling you exactly what type of dog you’re getting. Make sure your puppy contract outlines the correct breed and sex!

In addition, no contract means no bill of sale. This is a grave mistake because now you don’t have any proof you own your puppy, which can have devastating effects in the future.

Don’t support puppy mills accidentally

As pet owners, we want to avoid buying a puppy from a puppy mill. If you buy a puppy without a contract, for all you know, your puppy could have come from a horrific, inhumane puppy mill where there is no regard for the health of mothers, unsanitary, foul living conditions, and a tragic lack of healthcare for young puppies. 

Pet stores are another location where you could easily be supporting puppy mills. Pet stores will not be able to tell you about the health of the parents and puppies, details about each puppy’s personality, a record of how they’ve been fed, and what experiences they have been exposed to in order to prepare them for lives outside their mothers. Be wary of and stay far away from purchasing a puppy at a pet store. 

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Puppy Buyer Best Practices

Being a responsible pet owner starts before you bring home your puppy. When you place a deposit, a responsible breeder will present a puppy contract as a major (and mandatory) component of the sale. Here are some best practices to follow as a potential pawrent. 

Actually read the contract!

That’s right! A lot of us skim through important documents, especially when there is a stack of documents to sign (like when buying a car). We may be in the habit of skipping through legal terms and conditions – raise your hand if you’ve done this when signing up for new services and creating new accounts. Now, we could be wrong and you’ve indeed read every word of the TikTok terms and services, but if we’re honest, most of us have no clue what the fine print says. 

However, never merely glance through a puppy contract! This is definitely the time to read every single line of the document. After all, this is another life you’re now responsible for, and you need to know everything the contract entails.

Staying completely informed of all aspects of expectations on both sides is your first priority. If there is something you are not sure about or need help understanding more, make a note of it. When you’re done reading through all the way to the end, you can then follow up on the questions you still have. 

Provide current information

Your puppy is counting on you to be his pawrent. Start off on the right paw by ensuring all your information is accurate. Don’t ever lie on a puppy application or contract! If you give false or misleading information, it could have severe consequences down the road that may even render your contract void and compromise your puppy ownership. 

Follow the rules and stipulations

Ignorance is no excuse when buying a puppy. Your contract will spell out all the rules for the buyer and breeder. As the buyer, you are expected to follow the agreements and honor what the contract states. Your breeder will also do the same. Now is not the time to go rogue and do your own thing, as it could have severe consequences if you don’t honor your word. 

What’s in a Puppy Contract? 

A contract may seem like endless paragraphs and pages, but the information found in a puppy contract should provide a sense of security and total peace of mind because it outlines protections for the buyer, breeder, and puppy as well as what to do in case anything falls outside the norm. Without it, there could be confusion over who pays for what or who is responsible if something goes wrong with the pup later on down the line.

The specifics of what should be included in your puppy contract will vary depending on where you purchase your pup from. While all contracts are different, all puppy contracts should at the minimum guarantee the puppy’s well-being. Some other items, sections, and issues that may be found in a puppy contract are: 

  • Certificate of sale
  • Spay/neuter agreement
  • A comprehensive health guarantee 
  • Return to breeder/surrender stipulations
  • Registration details (limited or full breeding rights)
  • Naming contract (for some kennels and show dogs)
  • The puppy’s pedigree, lineage, and parent health information
  • A full health report including all vaccinations and exams given so far, results, and applicable genetic testing

In essence, your puppy contract should outline everything related to buying and taking care of your new pet.

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How Does a Puppy Contract Protect the Buyer, the Breeder, and the Puppy? 

Not only does a puppy contract document help both buyers and sellers alike gain peace of mind knowing they're protected financially, but it also provides clear guidelines outlining expectations each party has agreed upon prior to making their purchase decision which can help avoid disputes later on. 

Certificate of sale

One document in a puppy contract is a certificate of sale, often called a bill of sale. Think of it like a receipt but with more pertinent details. Your certificate of sale is important to prove ownership of your puppy and serves as legal proof that your puppy belongs to you. In the extremely unfortunate event that you will have to prove ownership, such as if your puppy ends up in a shelter or is hit by a car and taken to an emergency vet, you will be able to provide this document to show you are the pawrent!

A certificate of sale contains a variety of items, but most will include the buyer and breeder address, the price of purchase, the date of purchase, a detailed description of your puppy, any extras that come along with the purchase, warranties and guarantees, and signatures of all parties involved. 

A comprehensive health guarantee is essential in a puppy contract

A puppy contract should come with a thorough health guarantee that lays out in absolute detail what happens regarding the health of your puppy before, during, and after you receive your puppy for a specified length of time. 

A responsible breeder will be happy to present and have you sign a puppy contract. The breeder outlines they have taken all necessary steps to ensure quality care and up-to-date vaccinations before releasing your pup into its forever home with you. Your health guarantee will state exactly what breed-specific health ailments and illnesses are covered, a timeline for health obligations, and address any other responsibilities of the breeder. 

In addition, you as the buyer agree to raise a happy & healthy puppy to the best of your ability. This means you will take them immediately to a licensed veterinarian following the recommended timeline given for check-ups and required vaccinations as outlined in the health guarantee. You pledge to feed your puppy nutritious food and provide plenty of physical and mental exercise. You also acknowledge your puppy needs training and socialization to be a wonderful member of society. 

When you buy a Pawrade puppy, you can rest assured that we know what questions to ask a dog breeder for you to select only the very best breeders that meet our rigorous requirements as partners. That way, you won’t have to worry about if our breeders are reputable and trustworthy – they definitely are or else we wouldn’t be working with them. 

How Does a Puppy Contract Protect Against Unexpected Circumstances? 

All trustworthy breeders work extremely hard and do their absolute best to raise happy, healthy puppies to enhance the breed standard and provide loving homes before they become your furever companions.

However, if something unexpected were to happen after bringing home your new fur baby, your puppy contract will outline exactly what is expected from each party and who is responsible for costs, clearing up any room for confusion and eliminating gray areas. 

Unexpected or unforeseen circumstances outlined in a puppy contract may include:

  • Pre-existing health problems 
  • Cancellation of sale stipulations
  • The wrong puppy is sent by mistake
  • Which illnesses are or are not covered
  • Puppy isn’t at all as advertised (wrong breed)
  • Unfortunate and untimely death of your selected puppy 

Pawrade Puppies All Come With Contracts

When you are looking for puppies for sale at Pawrade, you may wonder if each puppy comes with a contract. The answer is of course they do because we offer puppies from the best reputable breeders that know the importance of a solid, comprehensive puppy contract! Contact our Puppy Concierge Team to ask any tough questions regarding puppy contracts – we’ll have the answers (and your puppy, too)!


Lucy Hughes profile picture

Lucy Hughes

Lucy Hughes has been teaching and writing professionally for half her life. She has a passion for helping people choose a puppy and lead an exciting life with their new furry companion. She enjoys spending quality time with her family and her beloved Golden Retriever, Bowie.

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