How Enforceable Are My Dog Contracts?

dog contracts

There’s a legal side to dog breeding that we often like to forget about. Agreements and contracts that seem like complicated, messy, and expensive distractions that take us away from our dogs are, in fact, useful tools that can assist in the management of a successful breeding program. Solid contracts can actually allow us to focus more time and attention on our dogs.

The Top 3 Contract Questions Dog Breeders Want to Know

Q: Do I need to call my contract a “contract” for it to be legally enforceable?

A: No. A contract should have a clear title, date, and should clearly state the signatories.

dog contractsHowever, it does not need to be named a “contract.” The title should be concise and it should reflect the main purpose. For example, many dog breeders refer to their contracts for the sale of a companion dog as a “Pet Purchase Agreement,” “Puppy Contract,” or “Pet Sale Agreement.” The term “agreement” in a title is actually more common than the term “contract,” but there is no difference in meaning or enforceability.

Q: What is a verbal contract, and is a verbal
contract enforceable?

A: When two or more parties come to an agreement without any written documentation, they create a verbal contract. Verbal contracts can be legally enforceable.

That said, it is typically best practice to create a written contract in order to avoid any future disputes over a party’s obligations. It can be difficult to prove the existence of a verbal contract, as well as the terms the parties agreed to.

If you do enter into a verbal contract, you might consider sending some form of written documentation (e.g., a letter or an email) confirming the agreed upon terms, to serve as written proof that a valid contract was made.

Q: Are non-refundable deposits permitted?

A: Yes. However, for all deposits (refundable or non-refundable), it is important that both the breeder and the buyer know exactly what the deposit covers and the terms of the deposit’s refund policy before any funds are exchanged.

As a matter of best practice, we recommend that you clearly explain your deposit/refund policy to the buyer and put it in writing (in a purchase agreement, invoice, and/or separate deposit agreement). You should incorporate as many details as possible, including (1) identifying the litter, (2) stating whether or not the deposit will be put toward the full purchase price, and (3) listing out the circumstances when the deposit is refundable.

For all legal matters, I would also recommend having an attorney that is licensed to practice law in your state review your contract because the requirements may vary from state to state.

Communication Is Key

At the end of the day, communication is essential to having a successful contractual relationship. The contract should serve as a tool for you to reflect an agreement or “meeting of the minds” between two or more parties. Whether it is with a puppy buyer, co-owner, guardian or other counterparty, clearly stating the intentions of each party and making sure all parties are aligned helps to prevent future disputes and complications down the line.

Good Dog’s Legal Resource Center was built to empower you with free & exclusive:

  • Sample Dog Contracts for limited and full registration puppy sales, co-ownerships, non-refundable deposits, guardian homes, a power of attorney, stud dogs, and more. We recognize that every breeding program is unique, and there is no one-contract-fits-all solution. All of our contracts are annotated to flag points you should consider—and speak to your lawyer about—to ensure you’re addressing the specific needs of your situation.
  • Legal Webinars on important topics such as how breeders can identify and avoid scammers, how to protect your photos from being stolen, and how to prepare for your dogs’ futures without you (also known as “estate planning”).
  • A Recommended Breeder-Friendly Lawyers List. While the Good Dog Legal Team can’t directly represent breeders in our community, we can help you find someone who can.
  • Legal Advocacy against misguided and overreaching anti-breeder legislation. We’ve published articles, like Reasons Anti-Breeder Legislation is Harmful and Dangerous, written letters to legislators, including most recently to Assembly member Miguel Santiago regarding California Bill 702, helped our Good Breeders prepare for public hearings, including in Cobb County, Georgia, and are regularly sharing legal alerts on our Good Breeder Center Facebook page.

Our Legal Resource Center is a free and exclusive benefit for members of our community. Good Dog is free for breeders who pass our screening and comply with our Community Standards. In fact, you cannot pay to join. Learn more at and mention ShowSight to get priority treatment, or scan the QR code below.


This article is provided for informational purposes only, and shall not be construed as legal advice on any subject matter. Legal advice is dependent upon the specific circumstances of each situation and laws may vary from state to state. For legal matters, Good Dog recommends connecting with a lawyer in your state if you are able. Good Dog expressly disclaims all liability in respect of actions taken or not taken based on any or all of the contents in this article.

dog contracts

  • Cat received her law degree from University of Chicago Law School, and worked as a corporate lawyer for Skadden in New York and as the Director of Business & Legal Affairs at Sony Music before joining Good Dog. As Head of Legal Affairs at Good Dog, Cat has provided free mediation services to settle disputes amongst breeders and between breeders and their buyers.

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