Contracts and Co-Ownerships
Most reputable breeders will sell their puppies on contracts. The contract serves to define the description of the purchase and contains specific language outlining the breeder's responsibility to the purchaser as well as what is required of the purchaser in providing a home for the pup.
The first section of a contract should include a description of the purchase; including price of puppy, registered name of puppy, date of birth, registered names of sire and dam, OFA numbers for sire and dam, etc.
Most breeders will have specific "conditions of sale" for show/breeding and companion/pet puppies. Most breeders will require that pets be spayed or neutered. Health guarantees may only be offered on show puppies, however, some breeders will honor health refunds for pets. Read the contract carefully to understand health guarantees. Generally speaking, most health guarantees relate to hip dysplasia and a dog's ability to obtain a passing OFA rating. In many instances, if the dog is unable to obtain an OFA clearance, the breeder will refund the difference between the price of a show and pet quality puppy. Some breeders will also offer health guarantees for other orthopedic conditions such as OCD which is common in Greater Swiss Mountain Dogs. If you are unclear, ask your breeder to be more specific regarding health guarantees and associated refunds. Most reputable breeders will stand behind their puppies and happily offer refunds to help compensate for any health problems.
This can be a rather confusing issue for someone just beginning their search. In every litter (even the best planned champions) there will be both show and pet quality puppies. It is a rare exception to have an entire litter of show quality puppies. You may not be interested in a "show dog", but purchasing a pet from a well bred and well planned litter is in your best interest.
A reputable breeder will grade the litter at or close to 8 weeks of age and make a determination of show and pet quality puppies in the litter. The decision of grading is based upon, but not limited to, physical structure, temperament, markings, type and bite. A keen eye and knowledge of the breed is necessary to skillfully grade puppies and have an accurate outcome. Ask your breeder how puppies are graded. Inexperienced breeders will often grade puppies purely on markings.
Many breeders are reluctant to sell show quality puppies to pet homes and would prefer to see their show prospects shown to their championships and perhaps be used for breeding if appropriate health clearances are obtained. In many instances, breeders will seek co-ownership arrangements to place prospective show/breeding puppies in pet homes.
There are several types of co-ownership arrangements: