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 Selling Dogs: Truth in Advertising & Ratings

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T O P I C    R E V I E W
joca Posted - 02/12/2007 : 09:50:07 AM
I would like to suggest some kind of buyer feed back and rating system similar to what has (1 to 5 stars) which would be linked to the individual advertisements--especially the dogs for sale on SDC.

Buyer's comments about the transaction itself, quality of the dog (not as described or accurately described), overall satisfaction with the purchase, and so on to be included as well as a numerical rating system similar to ebay or amazon.

I have bought several dogs from various kennels advertised on SDC over the past 6 years--some were exactly as described--usually from well-known "name" kennels ; many others fell outrageously far short of the mark; and other sellers did not stand behind their advertised return or refund policy.

A sampling of disasters:

1. Toni-- a female sold as potential breeding stock based on excellent pedigree. Seller described her as a strong running dog, but was selling her because she could not top 18mph on downhill runs in his large open class team, but would be suitable for our mid-to distance team.

Reality: Toni's feet were splayed and always had to be booted. She fell apart in training after we reached distances of only 12-15 miles. We had her xrayed: she was severely dysplastic.

2. Will--advertised as hard worker (he was) and leader (didn't know commands) but I could deal with that in training.

Reality: This dog's throat was so filled with scar tissue from a debark that he was gasping for breath and even my malamutes were overrunning him when we bumped him from our racing to our recreational team.

3. Chip- purchased as a pup.

Reality: Extremely mouthy--snapping at other dogs and people; had to be run alone because of temperament. Couldn't keep a tight tug over 10 miles. Xrayed- also dysplastic. Found out his dam also had to be run alone and was later euthanized because she was extremely aggressive.

4. Sally- sold to us as potential breeding stock.

Reality: cycled every 60-90 days and was infertile. Could never get a breeding to take. Extremely shy and spooky.

5. Gypsy- purchased a month ago to fill out a mid-distance team doing 40-60 mile training runs and paid for shipping from back east.

Reality: Dog arrived and couldn't be handled. Extremely shy and fear-biter. Bit my husband twice within first 2 days. Called buyer to send her back (he advertised a 2 week return/refund) and he told us to put her down and refused to take her back despite his sales policy.

6. Sprout- purchased along with dog above. Advertised as a powerhouse, hard driving dog, leader, wheel, already trained to 30-40 mile runs.

Reality: After giving several days to acclimate to new environment, we took her out. Tug slack after a few miles. Kept her a month, running her per instructions of seller (on left side, wheel; same thing tug slack from the start. Noticed her gait was peculiar in the rear- pelvis and knees slightly luxated out. Told the seller I'd like to send her back (per his refund/return policy) because I suspected a hip problem after studying her gait closely.

Seller refused and told us to have her checked out by a race vet: no injuries, no foot problems, no harness rubs. Then had her xrayed: as I suspected another dysplastic. Seller refused to take her back.

In conclusion, if someone asks me where to buy dogs I will have to say only from a few top, very well-known kennels that have been honest and quality of dogs have generally been good.

Buy anywhere else and you often end up paying more for a dog that is a disaster when you figure in shipping, time lost dealing with the problem dog, having to place it in a pet home or euthanize because of bad temperaments.

Ebay and Amazon have a rating system that offers consumers some protection. I think it's time the dog selling business is scrutinized a bit more closely and more efforts are made to let buyers know what they are dealing with when they contact sellers listed on SDC.

Jo Watkins
15   L A T E S T    R E P L I E S    (Newest First)
Charok Posted - 03/23/2007 : 5:33:47 PM
Jason...I love that saying!! I hope I remember that at an appropriate time
Jason M Posted - 03/23/2007 : 3:01:37 PM
Originally posted by HRE

I have had some bad experiences buying dogs, and I have also had some bad experiences selling dogs.
A few years ago a musher from my area came to my kennel looking for a leader. He had only been mushing for about one year and he was having difficult time running his team because his leaders didn't take commands. I had a command leader that I was willing to part with. I let him take the dog on a trial basis (one week) then he was to pay for the dog or return him in good health. I had been running this dog 15 miles, and I explained that was his limit and that he was not to run him any further than 15 miles until he was paid for. He was also was not to breed the dog! The following weekend the musher came back to return the dog. He said that the dog had worked very well and that now one of his dogs was taking commands so he didn't need him. He had made 3 thirty mile runs with him and had bred two females with him.
My dog came back with a hernia that required an emergency operation to save his life. The buyer refused to pay for the vet bill, breeding fee and the dog.
If we are setting up rating system for sellers we should also have a rating system for buyers.

Holy Smokes that is a horrible story. I am usually a turn the other cheek kinda guy. But I'd have a tough time handling this situation in a civil manner. That guy needs a milk bone put down his throat and a hungry dog shoved up his @$$!
Daisy Acres Posted - 03/21/2007 : 03:48:46 AM
In the horse world, a mandatory vet check is included in the bill of sale and if the horse doesn't pass the vet inspection, the deal is off. (Same goes with buying a house, right? DEC inspections, title searches and the like.)

In the AKC world (lousy example for most everything!) they have foundations and such for OFA certification and hip x-rays and eye history, etc. etc. etc.

Thyroid issues are a pretty common problem in sled dogs. Many people don't even check. The meds to treat it are pretty cheap (pennies a day) but it is a pain in the arse to administer twice daily in proper doses for various dogs throughout the yard.

By the way, you can buy a dog cheap, treat it for a thyroid deficiency and have a whole new dog that will knock the socks off your team!

I don't think the price of the dog should matter at all. I rehome rescue dogs at $100 each and I strive really hard to tell the potential adopter absolutely everything bad (and good) about the dog before I let the deal go through.

I also offer a lifetime take-back option...I really don't need or want 150 dogs back (that's about how many I've placed in the past five or six years.) Although I'd love to have a few of them back So I try to place the dogs where they are going to work out and I work to support the new owner with follow-up information and options for training or whatever.

You could try a rating system, but I think you'll find that there are those who will over-use the system and skew the results. I believe in Karma. What goes around comes around...and maybe that's why some people are foisting sub-standard dogs off on others...or, maybe they don't actually realize it IS a sub-standard dog. Maybe it doesn't matter, because with karma, they've got their own stuff to deal with and I need to just keep my own plate clean so that I don't!
shore Posted - 02/22/2007 : 12:07:37 PM
I agree in theory with all of this, but I can't imagine how to distinguish between cranks and people with legitimate gripes, or how to avoid eBay-ish ratings inflation (people know that other people check ratings and try to keep their own ratings high by never complaining, etc.). Every once in awhile you hear about someone who appeared to be perfectly reasonable being busted for animal abuse or taking a private dispute public in a really ugly way, and so on.

I like the idea, I'm just not sure how to do it without it turning into a sewer.
HRE Posted - 02/22/2007 : 11:48:56 AM
I have had some bad experiences buying dogs, and I have also had some bad experiences selling dogs.
A few years ago a musher from my area came to my kennel looking for a leader. He had only been mushing for about one year and he was having difficult time running his team because his leaders didn't take commands. I had a command leader that I was willing to part with. I let him take the dog on a trial basis (one week) then he was to pay for the dog or return him in good health. I had been running this dog 15 miles, and I explained that was his limit and that he was not to run him any further than 15 miles until he was paid for. He was also was not to breed the dog! The following weekend the musher came back to return the dog. He said that the dog had worked very well and that now one of his dogs was taking commands so he didn't need him. He had made 3 thirty mile runs with him and had bred two females with him.
My dog came back with a hernia that required an emergency operation to save his life. The buyer refused to pay for the vet bill, breeding fee and the dog.
If we are setting up rating system for sellers we should also have a rating system for buyers.
Seal Posted - 02/22/2007 : 06:52:23 AM
I love the idea of having feedback provided for dog sellers. I don't care if I spend $50 or $1500 for a dog...the key is did I get what the seller said I would and did they stand by the verbal agreement that we had. Sure it would be nice to have feedback for sales of other things but the dogs are what matter. If sellers are held publically responsible for the "quality" - rec or pro - of the animals they are selling, and the honesty of their will only enhance our sport. I've sold my share of dogs and I am ALL for it.

Jen Posted - 02/21/2007 : 4:33:31 PM
Jo and everyone,

I know dog racing is a whole other world but I always wondered about the health issues given no advertised clearances. Maybe I'm just a snob coming from the purebred world but I gotta ask...why aren't these dogs at least being OFA'd (or equivalent) given what they do??? My doG, the majority of show dogs who do nothing more stressful than prance around the ring get hip x-rays before they are bred. I wouldn't even THINK about breeding a dog without a hip xray even though my dogs came from OFA Good or better ratings just because it's shown to be important to do each dog and most breed clubs list it in their Code of Ethics. Jo has been a respected breeder in Mals for many years and probably knows the importance of x-raying hips. I understand some people stand by the performance testing but dogs will push themselves beyond what they *should* do and it can take a while for these problems to show up. Hip x-rays are really not that expensive, it's in the best interest of your team, your breeding prgram, and your individual dogs. They shouldn't be asked to run in pain like that, it's unfair.

And dogs who can't be handled? Wow, I would be really pi$$ed, too. I've gone and 'dognapped' (with their permission) other people's malamutes and taken them and pull trained them and never ran into a dog who wanted to bite me. I know alaskans have a reputation for being more high strung but how useful can a dog really be if you can't handle it to get it harnessed?

It would be nice to have some sort of rating system if it could be done without making Judy do more. Peer pressure can really help shape up a breeder's act.
Gealach Mor Posted - 02/15/2007 : 10:56:59 AM
I have purchased several dogs over the last few years. For us, being 3000+ miles away from the majority of the kennels, means we have to take maybe some other factors into consideration as well.
I knew the guys we initially bought from, we visited them and asked lots of questions. They were also very helpful and honest about the dogs they were selling. (oh yeah, and a big help too - willing to hold the dog for 6 months to do its Pet Passport)

I actually approached Pete about a dog and he was good enough to be honest and upfront about it.

Like others have said here, I think as a buyer, you need to be sure of the sellers. It is usually in the seller's own best interests to be open and honest, if they want repeat business.

pcurtice Posted - 02/14/2007 : 4:00:15 PM
Cliff, I know I stated "welcome to the world of sleddogs" but not meant in the context you stated. I would in no way ever defend the selling of a misrepresented sleddog, nor would I condone Joca's misfortune with those purchases. I will defend to a point any dog that served on a competitive team, is healthy, and still has the tools to do what the purchaser is asking. I will still take that dog back as that dog just plain and simply doesn't belong in that kennel. But there is a reality to this sport, and certain truths, and we are discussing it, unfortunately it is one of the negative sides of it. I can guarantee you that most competitive mushers at one time or another have bought a sound dog for a more than reasonable price and were dissatisfied with it and naturally they would say it was misrepresented. Some, as I have done in the past, voiced their concern in the wrong manner, and still treated great by the seller of that dog. Maybe I should have stated "welcome to the world of sleddogs, seller and buyer beware, so do your homework". Cliff, this sport isn't perfect, as I am sure you are aware of. I will even go out on a limb and say it will never be perfect, call me a pessimist if you wish. I call it a reality check and everyone has to be conscientious of who they buy dogs from and who they sell them to. Maybe, if we all are more conscientious then those sellers of misrepresented dogs that won't take them back will just fade off, and one of our negative sides to this sport will fade off also. I still don't believe a rating system as is discussed on this forum is in the best interest of our sport. When folks have been wronged whether intentionally or not, there's a better chance that all objectivity goes out the window, especially when it is being done on a computer screen. It's interesting how one can be more courageous in bad mouthing another person when one isn't facing that person. It's just human nature. Unfortunately I have been there and hopefully I have learned from it. So don't piss me off!!!! Just joking, hopefully my last thread for awhile, have a race to get ready for.
sublunar Posted - 02/14/2007 : 2:28:12 PM
One other thing. The quality dogs I've bought have always shined in the team, from day one. Maybe there are dogs that take a year to get adjusted, but the best go right out there and work.
sublunar Posted - 02/14/2007 : 2:25:30 PM
Worst dog I ever bought was from one of the most succesful kennels in their discipline. It was years ago and I still hold a grudge. Probably always will. At the same time, I didn't pay a lot of money: It was the last time I ever bought without running the dog, and it as the last time I ever bought cheap.

As a seller, I feel like buyers are often expecting something unreasonable. One of the most common questions I'm asked is "Can I win this race with this dog?" and there's no way I can honestly answer that. A person could buy the best dog in the world and still not win their local race if the team and the training weren't up to par. I have a dog in my string that has run in winning Rondy and North American teams and it doesn't mean I'm out dominating the sprints. Far from it.

Alot of the time, I feel like I miss out on sales, because I'm often only willing to describe what the dog is doing, and not guess at what they could do. "Is this dog, who's ran one kind of race its whole life, able to do to something completely different?" is another question. I don't know.

More than once, I've directed a buyer to a kennel closer to home, because I'd rather not have a dog across the country when it turns out it isn't working out.

My favorite transactions have involved puppies, where both parties understand there's a gamble involved, or older dogs, that could be bought and sold on the basis of their race record.

I'm in no way defending the bad business practices Joca is talking about. I feel the dogs are going to be best off in a place where they are stars, and my goal, as a seller, is always to better the buyers dog team. But I feel like buyers often ask for too much, and then turn away when they aren't promised it. It doesn't surprise me that some folks are tempted to sell their dogs as more than they are.
joca Posted - 02/14/2007 : 03:22:01 AM
In reply to some of the comments concerning time and letting dogs adjust, the dogs I listed had physical/genetic issues--for e.g. hip dysplasia or scar tissue/airway obstruction that would not be surmounted by additional training or any amount of 'time.'

In the latter case, we tried a surgical correction to make the dog more comfortable, then placed the dog in a pet home. FWIW, the person who sold us this dog, knew us and had stayed in our home several years before!

An unstable temperament--aggression towards humans and other dogs-- that is passed down from a dam is not likely to improve with time (especially since the dam in question ended up being euthanized by the breeder when her behavior got out of hand).

Why were these dogs bred and and why were they sold in the first place?

Time is not going to change the underlying genetics & hormonal problems that cause a 3 year old bitch to cycle every 2-3 months. Sure she could be put on Cheque to prolong the intervals to get a breeding. But what's the point of taking these excessive measures only to get more of the same problems? And we are not talking about $200 dogs here either.

These are all physical/genetic issues. A dysplastic dog is a dysplastic dog.

Karen, as to going back to the same well, most of our core dogs come from one well-known kennel (not even advertised on SDC) who has sold us promising yearlings (at very reasonable prices--not much more expensive than the 'disasters' I described in my initial post). His dogs were accurately and fairly represented; their potential evident from the start--dogs that continued to improve as they matured after 1-2 years of running with us. These dogs, the kennel and the breeder are NOT at issue here. They all have been as described-- solid, dependable,and often, exceptional dogs.

I am talking about several dogs (advertised online here) purchased when we first started expanding our racing kennel, and a few bought recently from other kennels. Occasionally,it is necessary to 'go out' and since there are no kennels in this area with the kind of dogs we need, by necessity the dogs will be coming from out-of-state.

As to the comments that dogs are not toasters :) or not being able to plug dogs into a new team, we've had several dogs sent down on short notice from well-established kennels--that did just that.
No temperament issues, no physical problems. Just good dogs capable of running the mileage we were training.

They were accurately represented by the sellers and I think that is the key point here. Whether you are getting a free dog, paying $200, $1000 or more, the dog should be accurately represented. Is it too much to expect sled dogs to also be mentally and physically sound?

My point is raising the issue of a rating sytem is to have a venue where potential buyers can sift through information, references, and avoid some of the 'disasters' we encountered when buying sled dogs advertised online.

If people are concerned about negative ratings based on rivalry, competitiveness, or vindictiveness, then perhaps the system can be set up based on strong positive recommendations. Sometimes silence and the absence of a recommendation will say as much about a breeder who advertises here as a list of negative ratings.

In closing, let me say again that if someone were to ask me where to buy dogs I would have to say from my experience with dogs listed on SDC, to start with the well-known "name" kennels.

Jo Watkins
funhog Posted - 02/13/2007 : 4:37:00 PM
when I read the reviews of outdoor equipment on online stores I wonder if the rater has much experience with what they are reviewing. It seems like some of them use the product once, love it and write a glowing review. Not very helpful actually.

Dori Posted - 02/13/2007 : 1:09:18 PM
A lot also depends on how much you pay for the dog. If you pay $200. for a dog and it doesn't make your team which consists of thousand dollar dogs then you really shouldn't be surprised. On the other hand if you pay $3000. for a dog that's supposed to be able to lead your team, I think you have a right to expect improvement. If the dog doesn't make your team and the seller will make it right then the seller still gets good points. I've taken dogs back before that were good dogs, but just didn't mesh with the buyer. We don't say much to our dogs while running so I shy away from selling dogs to those that want to yell at the team the entire way around the trail. Some of our best dogs came from Eric Lancer and I suspect that it's because we train similar. They were everything he said they would be and more. I've also been very pleased with dogs from Egil & Terry. Those kennels were very professional in their dog dealings. We try to keep a small kennel and so for us it's better to just buy a couple of dogs each year and you can bet we will go with reputable kennels that stand behind their dogs.
SharkyX Posted - 02/13/2007 : 12:42:02 PM
I think that a rating system might work better in regards to equipment, food and other advertisers here on SDC then on dogs and kennels.

Judy makes a great example... you can buy dogs from top kennels that turn out to be a lemon and inherrit very little of there parents talent. It happens.

And in E-bay's rating system you rate both buyer and seller... If the buyed makes late payments or the seller doesn't ship when they said they would, both have the means to record these kinds of events... or defend themselves and there actions.
If that's the kind of system we're going for then why don't we all just go create accounts on e-bay and buy and sell dogs that way. (Please note I'm not in favour of this)

But doing the leg work behind buying a dog is pretty important. Get to know the person your buying from, even if it is over e-mail or msn you still get a better feel. Talk to them for a few weeks before buying a dog, if you can't go to the kennel, have a look at pictures. If they don't have any ask them to take some... if they won't take pictures then odds are you don't have the greatest seller (Anywhere will print even film photo's onto a cd so you have an electronic copy these days).
If your dog is full grown, ask to see vet records, race records or anything else...

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