The pup of your dreams, from a breed of your dreams, may actually spend the first 8+ weeks of its life far away from where you live. And that means you can't just walk down the street to get him. But if he's in your own country, getting a pup from a different city or state is fairly straight forward. There are no international borders or language barriers to deal with. And no matter how far away the breeder lives, you at least have the option of taking a road trip to go there or shipping him with a domestic airline.
But what happens when the pup is in another country, on the other side of the ocean? Obviously things are a bit more complicated, but not impossible. In fact, getting a pup from Europe is actually relatively easy, and best of all, it can lead to some incredible opportunities to make new friends and discover other cultures.
How do I know that? Because my wife and I have been there, done that, several times. And our lives are now richer for it. We've imported and help others import dogs from France, Germany, Czech Republic, Slovakia and helped breeders over here export dogs to France, Italy, Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands and Spain. So here are some tips and suggestions for getting a pup from overseas or, if you are a breeder, for shipping a pup overseas. They are based on our own experiences and those of some good friends who have also 'been there, done that'.
NOTE: If you are still trying to figure out which breed to get or haven't made contact with an overseas breeder, before you continue reading this post, you may want to read these posts about the 'rare' European breeds here and here.
Before you do anything at all, you absolutely, positively MUST establish a connection based on mutual trust with folks on the ground over there. Look for contacts on breed club websites, Facebook groups or online lists of breeders. Connect via the breeder's website, by email or forums, bulletin boards, Facebook etc. or spend a buck or two on a long-distance phone call.
But whatever you do, make sure to look for HUNTERS who breed hunting dogs. Engage them on a hunter-to-hunter basis and see if you are on the same wavelength as they are. Don't worry too much about language barriers, they are no longer such a big deal. Google Translate is your friend!
Cindy Petkwitz, a breeder of Braque du Bourbonnais in Michigan says:
It takes time to build an open and honest relationship, but it is worth it. We've all heard stories of people just throwing money at a breeder or two, hoping to get a fantastic pup but ending up with a real dud. When you spend no time at all building a relationship and establishing a good reputation with breeders, you risk getting nothing but their cast-offs, the dogs they couldn't sell locally but are more than happy to 'dump' on the other side of the ocean.Cortney Schaefer, a breeder of Deutsch Langhaars says:
I was lucky to get my first dog Jack. The breeder in France didn't really know me but I was at the right place at the right time. 8 years later, with all the time and effort I have put in, making connections, I am creating my own luck.
Sending photos of where and how you hunt is a great way to communicate with a breeder and establish trust. While you may not be able to communicate well due to a language barrier, as they say "a picture is worth a 1000 words". Sending photos of your hunting adventures shows them that you are a serious hunter and you have the same passion as they do. And it is usually super interesting for them to see how we hunt over here, so sending photos is a great way to get them interested in working with you.
It helps a lot to have a mutual friend to refer the breeders to if they have any questions. For example, I am friends with the chairman of the Deutsch Langhaar Verband in Germany. And of course all of the German breeders know him (or at least know of him). So when I contact breeders, I always encourage them to call the chairman if they have any questions about shipping puppies to America. Probably about half end up calling him. But I think they all like the piece of mind of a reference that they themselves know.
I might also mention that most Germans do not seem to check email nearly as often as Americans. And we all know how many scammers try to email people today. So if you can call the breeder rather than emailing them, that is always preferable. It is easier to trust someone calling you over someone emailing you. If you can't speak the language, have someone who can speak on your behalf. We have gotten some pups with Germany by just communicating through email, but most of our imports come after Hermann (our German-speaking president) calls the breeders to answer any final questions.
And finally, I would add that "tire-kicking" is very disrespectful to German breeders. If you contact the breeder, they assume that you are 100% committed to getting a puppy from them. I know it can be very exciting to start contacting breeders about puppies, but please don't contact a breeder unless you really plan to take one of their puppies. I'm not sure why the culture is definitely there, but it most certainly is.
When you do contact breeders, make sure to be completely open and honest in all your dealings and insist that they be too. Get references, check with people who may know your contact, even vaguely about their reputation and their dogs. Like American breeders, German breeders are most interested in placing their pups into hunting homes. So I have found it very helpful to immediately talk about the types of game that I hunt with my dogs and even include several good hunting photos.
I have also found that German breeders are very interested in seeing their pups reach their full potential by being trained and run through tests. So it helps us a lot to talk about our testing experience and our desire to get the dogs certified for breeding. If you tell a breeder that you plan to run his pup through a VJP and HZP and get him certified for breeding, that goes a long way. If you can tell the breeder that you have already tested a dog and report his scores, that goes even further. So like us, they prefer sending their pups to experienced owners.
I should also add that "tire-kicking" is very disrespectful to German breeders. If you contact the breeder, they assume that you are 100% committed to getting a puppy from them. I know it can be very exciting to start contacting a bunch of breeders about puppies, but please don't contact a breeder unless you are fairly sure that you want to take one of their puppies. I'm not sure why that attitude is there, but it most certainly is.
In my opinion, the best way, by far, to get a pup from overseas is to fly there yourself and pick it up from the breeder. Not only is is the most secure way for the pup, but the experience of a trip to Europe will stay with you forever and if you can arrange to go during hunting season and go for a hunt there, it will blow your mind. Yes, it will cost more, but you will get huge returns on the investment of time and money make for years to come. So sell a gun or two, eat nothing but Kraft Diner for six months, get a second job...do whatever you need to do to pay for a return flight and a week or two visit to Europe. Trust me, you will LOVE IT!
If you absolutely cannot or do not want to go, arrange for someone to bring the pup over for you. Ask around to see if a friend or relative, neighbour, work associate, basically anyone you know and trust is already planning to go there. If they are, offer them a few bucks to bring the pup back with them (and cover the cost for the pup's flight of course). A few years ago, a friend of mine reserved a pup in France. She was unable to go so pick it up herself so we looked into shipping it here. The cost turned out to be about the same as a return flight to Paris for a person. So I asked my sister if she'd like a free trip to Paris. She jumped at the opportunity and was more than happy to bring the pup back with her.
Another option is to invite the breeder to bring it over to you. Again, this is a very secure way of getting the pup, and depending on where you live and where the breeder lives the cost of a round trip flight for the breeder (or for you if you go there) is not much more than shipping the pup one way via cargo.
What about having the pup shipped? This can be the least expensive way (still not cheap, and sometimes as much or even more than a round trip flight for a person), but it can also be the most stressful way for everyone involved. The breeder may have to travel a long way to get the pup to a major airport, the flight may not be direct, you may have to travel a ways to get to the nearest major airport etc. But if you are near a major hub and the breeder is too, and you can get a decent flight (hopefully direct) at a decent price, shipping via cargo can be a good option.
Some breeders will flat-out refuse to ship pups over here no matter what. They are anxious about putting a puppy on a plane overseas. I don't push them on this. Everyone has their limits with what they are comfortable with. But when I contact breeders now, I am quick to point out that we have successfully shipped many puppies with PetAir (www.petair.de) and that they have been easy to work with. They arrange the flights and can pick up the puppy at the breeder's door to deliver him to the airport. I have had a couple of breeders tell me that they were nervous about shipping overseas but felt more comfortable with it after visiting the PetAir website and speaking with their representatives. -- Cortney Schaefer
Surprisingly, prices for pups in Europe are not much different than in North America, and sometimes less. Of course, as they say "caveat emptor" (buyer beware), so watch out for really low prices or really high prices. Generally speaking you are looking at about a thousand US dollars for a young puppy of just about any breed. Yes, some will be higher, some lower, but none will be half price or double the price.
For years, we had some trouble getting people in our club to import puppies. People just assume that the process is difficult and expensive. It is a little more pricey, but it is a really easy process and well worth the effort. Most pups in Europe are cheaper than here. The average DL price in Germany right now is 700-800 euros (about $825-$900 US dollars). But then the shipping often doubles the price. However, consider that buying a domestic DL pup right now is $1,100 plus about $450 for shipping. So really, importing a pup is only a few hundred more than buying a domestic pup. And there is a lot more selection because there are so many more litters over there. So you can be more selective about gender, colour, or whelp date if you import a puppy. And then you just have to show up at the airport with your photo ID and the pup is yours! -- Cortney SchaeferFinally, if you need help, just ask. I am happy to help out in any way I can and there are people in every club, in every breed that are willing to take the time to answer questions and help you get a good dog. After all, they are looking for good hunting homes for their hunting dogs. And the rarer breeds really could use a helping hand, especially from North American hunters.
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