How to Responsibly Sell Your Unexpected Litter of Puppies

There’s a lot more to selling a puppy than placing an online ad. Learn how to screen potential pup parents so they go to a loving home.

Updated September 14, 2023
Puppies huddled together sleeping

Even though you want to cuddle and love on the pups from your unexpected litter forever, there will come a time where they will need to find homes. While the excitement is real, so is the responsibility. Few people keep an entire litter of puppies.

Unfortunately, there are many people that may not treat your pups the way they should. That’s why you need to know how to sell puppies responsibly, along with why they need that price tag. 

Learn How to Sell Puppies Responsibly

There are many ways to find buyers for your litter. Some of these methods are more effective than others at finding good forever homes.

How to Advertise Puppies for Sale

Before you can find homes, get the word out that you have puppies available. There are a few good ways to do this.

  • Specialized pet sites: Websites and forums that focus on pets or specifically on the breed of dog you have can be helpful. 
  • Social media: Platforms like Facebook and Instagram can be useful, but only if you agree to meet in person. 
  • Local pet stores: If you personally know a store owner, this could be a good place to meet prospective pet parents.
Man carrying puppies in his arms

Use Reputable Platforms

Avoid listing your puppies on sites where people give pets away for free or sell them to the highest bidder. Look for more reputable platforms geared towards responsible pet ownership, where potential buyers are more likely to be well-informed and committed. Websites, like the American Kennel Club Marketplace, or specialized forums and websites dedicated to specific breeds, are generally better choices. 

Selling Puppies Online

If you scroll through the web, you'll see a lot of people sell puppies online. While it seems like this will allow you to reach a wider audience of potential puppy owners, it's actually better to avoid doing this. You really want to meet your buyers in person and see how they interact with the pups before you agree to sell to them.

If a potential owner is willing to travel to you to meet in person and see the litter, then you may be able to make an exception. If you do place the ad online, don’t let anyone bring a puppy home until you’ve screened them. This may seem like an overwhelming step, but it’s the best way to make sure your puppies don’t go to homes where they may be mistreated.

Quick Tip

While you'll want to be reachable, don't provide excessive personal information in your ad. A phone number or email address works until you've vetted the buyer a bit more.

Basket of puppies

Selling Puppies to Pet Stores

Never sell your puppies to a pet store unless you know the owner well and fully trust their practices. Pet shops don't have a good reputation for caring properly for puppies, and even the best care can still lead to puppies with developmental and behavior problems because of how they are kept in a pet shop. It's much better for the puppies to stay at home with their littermates until they go to their new forever home.

When I walk into my local pet store, there are puppies lined up in small, clear display cases where they barely have the space to move around. This can lead to the same types of issues puppy mill dogs have, including problems with house training, fear, and anxiety. In fact, many chain pet stores buy the puppies churned out from puppy mills. 

Advertising at Local Pet Stores to Sell Puppies

A better way to utilize a pet store would be to work with a local pet shop to advertise your puppies for sale. Some may allow you to come show them on a weekend day, assuming they are old enough to be out. You can then meet prospective owners, give them applications to fill out for the puppies, and go through the interview and sales process outside of the store. Some pet stores may be willing to do this for a percentage of the puppy sale, or simply to get more potential pet owners through their doors to become long-term customers, making it a win-win for both of you.

How to Screen Prospective Buyers

Once the word is out that you have dogs for sale, all kinds of people will come calling. The challenge as a responsible breeder is to weed out the unsuitable owners and find people that have the time, means, and desire to give one of your pups a happy, lifelong home. 

Before You Meet

Before you meet potential buyers, ask them a series of questions via email or over the phone. These can include questions about their experience with dogs, what kind of living situation they have, and why they're interested in this particular breed. You can also ask about the pets they currently have and how they will react to a new puppy in the house. Hearing their answers to these questions can help you determine how well your puppies would be cared for. 

Quick Tip

If the prospective owner lives in an apartment or house they're renting, request the landlord's phone number to make sure they're permitted to have pets. 

Ask for References

Don't shy away from asking for references, especially from veterinarians or other people who can vouch for the potential buyer's responsibility as a pet owner. Take the time to actually check their references. A simple phone call can reveal a lot about a person's reputation. 

Talk About the Costs

Taking care of a dog properly isn't cheap. There will be vet visits, food, grooming, and other miscellaneous expenses that come along with being a responsible pet parent. Make sure the prospective owner is aware of these expenses and is prepared to handle them. If they're new to pet ownership, you can even offer them a list of associated costs

Family Compatibility

Talk to the prospective pet parent about their lifestyle to determine if it aligns with the breed they're interested in. If you have a high-energy, clingy vizsla, they won't do well with someone who is never home and can't provide them with sufficient exercise each day. It goes the other way around, too. If you have a breed that doesn't tolerate exercise well, they aren't exactly suitable for a home that's always on the go. 

When Can You Place a Puppy?

You need to wait until the puppies are at least 8 weeks old before taking them away from their mom and siblings. If you can, waiting until they are 12 weeks old is even better. The longer you wait, the better it will be.

  • Critical socialization period: The time between 8 and 12 weeks is a golden time for exposing your pups to various stimuli under the safe watch of their mother. This can include meeting different people, different noises, and car rides. Proper socialization can lead to well-rounded, less anxious adult dogs.
  • Improved behavior: The additional weeks spent with their mother and siblings can contribute to better manners and social etiquette around other dogs.
  • Immune health: Puppies receive vital nutrients and antibodies from their mother's milk that help with immune system development. Although pups start weaning at 4 to 6 weeks, continuing to nurse for a full 8 weeks supports optimal health.
  • Behavior problems: Separating a puppy too early can result in behavioral issues, including anxiety and aggression.
  • Time for vet checks: A 12-week-old puppy can undergo more thorough health checks and screenings. Certain genetic conditions and health issues are easier to identify at this stage.
Need to Know

Non-reputable breeders take puppies away from their mother as early as four weeks, which can lead to serious behavioral and developmental issues.

Adorable Havanese puppies running in a yard

Where Is It Illegal to Sell Puppies Under Eight Weeks?

It's also illegal to sell puppies under eight weeks old in these states:

  • Arizona
  • California
  • Colorado
  • Connecticut
  • District of Columbia (under six weeks)
  • Florida
  • Georgia
  • Illinois
  • Indiana
  • Kansas
  • Louisiana
  • Maine (not before end of seventh week)
  • Maryland
  • Massachusetts
  • Michigan
  • Minnesota
  • Missouri
  • Nebraska
  • Nevada
  • New Hampshire
  • New York
  • North Carolina
  • Ohio
  • Pennsylvania
  • South Carolina
  • Texas
  • Utah
  • Virginia (under seven weeks)
  • Wisconsin (under seven weeks)

Obligations as a Responsible Pet Parent

Don’t allow any puppy to leave until a vet checks them out for basic health and wellness. They should also, at a minimum, have their first set of vaccinations before they go to their forever home. As a responsible pet parent, it’s also important to do the following.

  • Provide health records: Provide the new puppy parent with the pup's health record, including your vet's contact info, worming info, which vaccinations the pup has received, the date they were given, and when the next shots are due. 
  • Health guarantee: Provide at least a one-week health guarantee to give the puppy parent time to have the pup checked by their own vet. Be willing to accept the puppy back and return their money if there happens to be a health issue.
  • Legal docs: All guarantees should be clearly written out, signed by you and the new puppy parent, and each party should keep a dated copy of the agreement. The legality of any written agreement can be challenged in court, but this protects you and them. 
Quick Tip

You can write the legal documents yourself rather than hiring a lawyer. Check out some examples on PDF Filler here

Black Labrador puppies in the back of a vehicle

When Puppy Goes to Their New Home

Make sure you're ready when the new puppy parents arrive at your door for pickup.  

  • Send food: Plan to send at least two days' worth of their kibble. This will give them time to go to the pet supply store and pick up more or transition the pup to their food choice. Let them know how much the puppy eats on an average day.
  • Give schedule: If you have developed a routine with the puppy, like when they eat and go potty, give that information to the new puppy parents. 
  • Registration: If the puppies are purebred, don't forget to give them the info if you're willing to let them be registered or bred. 
  • Contact information: Give the puppy parents your contact info. This way, they can get ahold of you if they have any questions or concerns. 

Your Puppy Has a New Home

You can take a deep breath now. By following these steps, you'll find your puppies forever homes where they will be cared for and loved properly. It will be hard to say goodbye, but you can rest easy knowing you'll find loving puppy parents through the screening process. Plus, by having the puppy parents' contact information, you can ask them if they mind sending you photos and updates occasionally, so you're still able to watch them grow. 

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How to Responsibly Sell Your Unexpected Litter of Puppies