We’ve had Labrador owners and potential adoptive Lab parents contact us and ask if it’s a good idea to choose their next dog online.
With seemingly everything done online, you’ll find some breeders may offer you the chance to buy your dog online without seeing the litter in person.
They may also even make you an offer to have the dog delivered to you.
It’s tempting to consider, and at first seems like it might reduce a considerable amount of stress and effort from an already-difficult process.
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But should you really consider doing this?
Even if your breeder requires you to pick up the dog, some may let you select the dog you want online, put down a deposit, and then arrive later to pick up the dog.
Our readers have wondered if this is a good idea, especially if they are new to the dog world and have never picked out a puppy or adopted a dog before.
While this may sound convenient, especially if you live far from where your desired dog might be located, we’re going to tell you a few things you should consider before you go this route.
You’re Relying on the Breeder Being Ethical (and Truthful)
The biggest problem with buying a dog online is that you’re relying on the breeder you’re working with to be ethical, honest, and reputable with the information they provide to you.
While there are many fantastic Labrador Retriever breeders who meet these criteria, we’ve unfortunately encountered some in the Lab world who do not.
Because you’re not able to verify in person much of what the breeder tells you online, it puts you at a huge disadvantage and opens you to a tremendous amount of risk.
If you find out later that something is wrong, or that critical information was withheld or misrepresented, it may be too late in the process for you to do anything about it.
Scams are common online, and vulnerable dog lovers trying to find their next dog can fall victim to breeders selling dogs from puppy mills with health problems not disclosed.
Recently, one of our followers was searching for their next dog online and encountered a seller offering an immediate dog delivered if they paid nearly $1000… a deal which sounded very scammy and suspicious.
(For more about online scams involving pets, check out this article from the American Kennel Club: How to Spot a Puppy Scam Online)
Even without outright scams, you risk losing the money you paid to secure the dog or experiencing significant heartache over getting a dog that either developed problems or was not represented accurately at all.
Anyone who works or volunteers with a local Labrador Rescue will also share stories of breeders who may not have been operating with appropriate care, respect, and love for their dogs or the breed.
When picking out your next Labrador puppy or adopting an older Lab, the most critical step is selecting a reputable breeder that puts the health and safety of their dogs above profit or reputation.
Using online resources is an important part of researching breeders and beginning your search, but we encourage you to not rely solely on what you see and find through an internet search without verification.
Just like any other online transaction, any breeder can tell you their dogs are healthy and are bred in a safe and careful environment, but you’re relying on them to tell you what they know you want to hear.
If you haven’t worked with the breeder before, we suggest you ask for and contact references from the breeder of prior clients who adopted or purchased dogs from them, including from as many different litters as you can.
However, nothing can replace being able to see the dogs in person – not only the litter you’re considering choosing a puppy from, but one or both of the parent dogs to assess their temperament, health, environment, and energy level for yourself.
If a breeder is apprehensive or evasive when you request to meet their dogs in person, consider that a HUGE red flag.
Almost every reputable Labrador Retriever breeder will require you to pick up the dog you choose in-person, as will almost every single Lab rescue.
Shipping a dog can be dangerous and upsetting for the dog, and most ethical breeders will refuse to do it.
(For a list of questions to ask a potential Labrador breeder before you move forward with them or pick out a puppy, see Lab Breeders – How to Find the Best Ones)
Your Wants & The Breeder’s May Be Vastly Different
Even if you’ve found a great breeder who’s honest, ethical, and trustworthy, should you pick out your dog or puppy online and just travel to pick them up?
What’s wrong with doing that?
There are many opportunities for miscommunication about what you want and what the breeder thinks is a good fit.
By not seeing your potential dog in person, you give up the ability to make that decision and have to rely on someone else to assess what they think would be the best fit for you.
Even with the most wonderful breeders, you may have a very different opinion about what you’re possibly looking for in a dog than what they think is a good fit.
For example, you might be looking for a Labrador that’s easygoing and mellow, and they might match you with a puppy that’s shy or not very people-oriented.
You might ask for a “playful, happy dog” and end up with the most dominant and rambunctious puppy from the litter because the breeder genuinely thought that was what you wanted.
Unless you’ve previously adopted or purchased a puppy from the same breeder in the past, and you both know the temperament and personality of the previous litter and parents, it’s really hard to tell someone what you’re looking for in a dog and have them try to match for you.
Even breeders or foster rescues with the best intentions don’t know you as well as you know yourself (and your family), and since the typical Labrador lifespan is 10-14 years, you’re going to want to get this decision right!
It’s Difficult to Assess A Dog’s Temperament Accurately Online
When selecting a puppy or rescue dog, it’s important to evaluate your puppy’s temperament and personality to get a good match for your lifestyle.
Trying to assess your future dog’s personality online is nearly impossible.
Even a Zoom call or FaceTime with a breeder viewing the puppies won’t give you the same ability to assess and evaluate as being there in person, down on the ground playing with the puppies, watching them interact with each other, or walking or playing with an older dog.
Online selection prevents you from being able to see puppies or adult dogs in person. You won’t get as accurate of an idea which dog is the best fit for you if you’re trying to accomplish this online.
We’ve met Lab breeders with their puppies in person and ended up choosing an entirely different puppy than what we previously expected to pick, just by assessing the litter and seeing small differences we wouldn’t have known without first-hand observation!
We’ve also worked with wonderful rescues who, after discussing the dogs online or by phone, seemed like their rescue Lab met all the perfect criteria and was going to be “The One.”
However, when meeting the dogs in person, we realized that maybe that particular Lab was not really the best fit for our family or lifestyle, even though online it seemed like it was going to be a perfect match.
It’s much better to evaluate a potential puppy or adult dog in person and be able to observe the dog’s interaction with any other dogs and with you (and your family members).
You can’t recreate this online!
(For more tips on picking out the right pup, see 5 Key Steps for Choosing an Amazing Labrador Puppy)
What Happens If the Dog Arrives & There’s a Problem?
Another huge risk to consider if you’re thinking of getting a dog online is what will happen if the dog arrives and there’s a problem, or if you arrive to pick up a dog you selected only online.
- What is the breeder’s policy if this happens?
- What if the breeder does not have the documents, papers, or health certifications when you arrive in person that they promised online?
- Do you have the ability to change your mind and get your deposit back?
- What if you brought your family along on a trip to pick up a puppy and find out it wasn’t what you were led to believe online?
Not all online purchases go badly, but you should be prepared for what could possibly happen and have a plan for what you’re going to do if it does.
Make sure you consider these possibilities and ask questions of the breeder you might be considering, especially if you are traveling to pick up a puppy from a breeder a good distance away.
We hope that everything goes smoothly for you in the search for your next Labrador puppy or adult rescue dog, but if you’re considering choosing a dog solely online, be aware of the risks to consider before doing it.
We encourage you to use online resources when researching dog breeders, as it’s a great place to start!
But we strongly suggest you visit in person to pick out the right dog for you and your family to better ensure the right match and a long and happy life for your future Labrador.