If you’re in the market for a Great Dane puppy, it’s crucial to be informed about the Great Dane breeder scam! Every week, we hear from people who have fallen victim to these scams or are worried they have been targeted. We know a LOT about this topic and we’re here to equip you with the information you need to safeguard yourself.
Bringing home a new puppy should be a positive experience, not one resulting in financial loss and no puppy at all.
Here is how the puppy scam works:
There are hundreds of people out there who are pretending to be Great Dane breeders. In this common and extremely fraudulent ploy, they will show you cute photos of Great Dane puppies that are for sale.
These scammers will say anything they have to convince you that they have an adorable puppy for you.
They will take your deposit and then you’ll never hear from them again.
If you want to avoid falling victim to this, read on. I’ve updated this post in December 2023 with more information!
In this post:
- How common the Great Dane breeder scam is
- How to spot scam breeders and fake puppy brokers
- What to do if a fake breeder took your money
- How to find a real Great Dane breeder
How Puppy Scams Work
Puppy scams typically operate by preying on the emotions and desires of prospective pet owners.
Scammers create fake online advertisements or entire websites featuring adorable puppies, often popular or sought-after breeds like Great Danes, at unbelievably low prices. These fraudulent breeders may use stolen photos from legitimate breeders or other sources to create an illusion of credibility.
Once a potential buyer expresses interest, the scammer establishes contact, often through email or social messaging platforms. They may employ persuasive and urgent language to encourage quick decisions, emphasizing limited availability or exceptional discounts.
Unfortunately, once the payment is made, the scammer disappears, leaving the unsuspecting buyer without a puppy or any means of recourse.
How to Spot a Great Dane Breeder Scam
Here are common signs that a breeder is a scam. We will cover this more in-depth below:
Spotting a Great Dane breeder scam is crucial to ensure you’re dealing with a reputable source. Here’s a short list of signs that may indicate a potential scam:
- Be wary of prices that seem too good to be true. Scammers attract buyers by setting a low price point, usually around $600-$800.
Lack of Communication:
- A legitimate breeder will be open to communication and willing to provide information about the breeding process, health records, and more. If the breeder avoids answering questions or is combative or unresponsive, it could be a red flag. Good breeders will be willing to meet with you in person or on video chat.
No References or Reviews:
- Reputable breeders often have references from previous customers or positive reviews online. If you can’t find any information about the breeder or their past transactions, be very cautious.
- Scammers may use high-pressure tactics to rush the decision-making process, claiming that there are limited puppies available or urging you to make a quick payment. Legitimate breeders will allow you time to make an informed decision.
- Be cautious if the breeder insists on unconventional payment methods or requests payment through wire transfers, gift cards, or other non-traceable means. Legitimate breeders typically accept more secure payment options and will never accept payment from random people they have not spoken to in person (“Buy Now” buttons are also a red flag, more on this below!)
Unverified Contact Information:
- Check the breeder’s contact information, including their address and phone number. Scammers may provide false or unverifiable details. Legitimate breeders should have a physical address and be willing to share it.
Limited or No Verifiable Health Testing or Guarantees:
- Reputable breeders usually offer health guarantees for their puppies. If the breeder provides little or no information about the health of the puppy or refuses to offer a health guarantee, it could be a warning sign. Additionally, ethical and reputable breeders can provide undeniable proof of health testing (read more here).
No Screening or Questions:
- Legitimate breeders care about the well-being of their puppies and will ask you questions to ensure a suitable environment. If the breeder does not seem concerned about the living conditions or does not ask about your ability to care for the puppy, it may be a scam.
Inconsistent or Generic Information:
- Scammers may use generic information and pictures copied from other legitimate websites. Look for inconsistencies in the information provided and conduct reverse image searches to verify the authenticity of the pictures. Take note of the puppies they have for sale! If they are all different colors, photographed in different places, around 8-12 weeks of age, and “ready to go”, you’ve found a scam.
No Face-to-Face Interaction:
- Whenever possible, visit the breeder in person or use video calls to see the puppies and their living conditions. Scammers may avoid face-to-face interactions and provide excuses for why this isn’t possible.
Remember, it’s essential to do thorough research and trust your instincts when dealing with Great Dane breeders. If something feels off, consider exploring other options to ensure a safe and ethical transaction.
Who Does the Puppy Breeder Scam Target?
Individuals who are particularly susceptible to falling victim to fake Great Dane breeders often include those driven by impulsive decision-making, intense emotional attachment to owning a specific breed, or a lack of awareness about common scam tactics.
People who are new to pet ownership or those with limited experience in purchasing animals may be more vulnerable. Additionally, individuals who prioritize cost over legitimacy and fail to conduct thorough research may become targets.
Scammers often exploit the emotional connection people have to pets, taking advantage of their eagerness to acquire a specific breed, especially if offered at seemingly unbeatable prices. Potential buyers must exercise caution, educate themselves about common scam red flags, and approach transactions with a healthy skepticism to avoid falling prey to deceptive breeders.
Ask yourself the following questions:
- Am I looking for a puppy that I can take home ASAP?
- Would I like to find a puppy for cheaper than the other breeders charge?
- Do I tend to trust people, especially if they claim to be “family people” or “in hard times“?
- Am I educated on what the OFA is, and how it’s used by reputable breeders?
- Would I like to find a puppy in an unusual or designer color?
- While shopping, am I prioritizing quick availability, or am I patient enough to wait for the best puppy for my life?
Some people are more susceptible to being scammed than others. If you are looking for Great Dane puppies and hoping to find a deal, you are at risk.
Fake Puppy Breeder Red Flags
I will go into depth below with several other red flags that indicate that you’ve found a fake breeder.
This particular post is one of the most popular ones on our site. Even after reading it, we find people are still confused. We can spot a scam a mile away, so if you still aren’t sure, send us an email!
If you have any hesitation at all, don’t give the breeder a dime.
Let’s dive into this! Here are more fake puppy breeder red flags to watch for.
#1 – A Variety of Great Dane Puppies are Always Available
Scam breeders often have a selection of Dane puppies for you to choose from in a variety of colors. If you feel like you are shopping on Amazon for a puppy, it’s a scam!
The puppies will be available and ready to go, as soon as you purchase. It doesn’t matter when you found this breeder, they somehow magically have several 8-12-week-old puppies for you to consider.
#2 – The Dane Puppies are Potty Trained or Crate Trained
Scam breeders will often tell you that the Great Dane puppies are ‘potty trained’, ‘obedience trained’, ‘crate trained’, etc.
They will say anything to make you feel less anxious about purchasing an immature Great Dane pup.
This is a major red flag; while ethical breeders may begin the process of potty, crate, and obedience training, no young Great Dane puppy is going home with these skills set in stone.
#3 – The Great Dane Puppies are “Papered”
The scammers may tell you that the puppies are papered, AKC, or come with papers.
Additionally, they might use the word ‘champion lines’ to entice you further.
You will not find an AKC registered Great Dane puppy from fully OFA health tested champion titled parents for $650. It doesn’t exist. If a breeder is telling you that you have found this, they are trying to scam you.
#4-Buy Now or Purchase Now Option
This is an immediate red flag.
If a breeder has a buy now or “purchase this puppy” option on their site, run.
It’s a scam. Never, ever place a deposit online by clicking on a ‘buy now’ or ‘pay here’ button. It doesn’t matter if the button is on a website for a particular puppy, or a link that a “breeder” sent you via social messenger, this is a scam.
Do not give money to ANY breeder unless you meet them and the puppy in person or via video chat.
#5 – The Breeder Will Sell to Anybody
Scam Great Dane breeders do not care who you are.
You could be a dog abuser who keeps hundreds of dogs in cages; they don’t care. Scammers want your money, they aren’t interested in whether you are a good, humane, ethical, and educated home for the puppy they are selling.
Ethical breeders want to know where every puppy they sell is going, and will support you as the buyer for life. Ethical and Reputable breeders will be dedicated to their breeding program and to each puppy they produce.
#6 – High Pressure Sales Tactics
Scam breeders may use high-pressure sales tactics to get you to commit.
Here are some common phrases they may use:
- I have several people interested in that puppy, if you want it, you must place a deposit now
- My mother has cancer and we need the funds to pay for her meds
- Somebody else already paid for that puppy, but, I have another one just like it and I’m willing to sell it to you for a little less!
- If you pay for the puppy today, I’ll cover the cost of shipping him to you
- We are reputable breeders and have just one puppy left, he could be in your arms tomorrow! If you let me know by 3 pm, I can get him with our shipping service
- If you aren’t interested in this puppy, I need to know ASAP. The price is going to go up and I thought you might prefer to get him before he’s not on sale anymore
#7 – They Have No Reputation in the Breed Community
Scam breeders will have no reputation in the community, despite claims of being ‘established family breeders’.
Are they listed in the breeder registry at www.gdca.org?
Do you know anybody who bought a puppy from them?
Still unsure? Ask in the Great Dane Bad Breeders, Owners, and Information group, or our science-backed Great Dane group HERE.
If you feel uneasy, chances are you’ve found one of many common puppy scams!
#8 – They Stall when asked for more information
A scam Great Dane breeder will often become defensive if you ask too many questions, or they may stall by telling you lies about why they cannot answer yet.
Ethical, legitimate breeders want to answer your questions and help you find the right puppy for your family. They will be able to prove their dogs pedigrees, AKC titles, health test results, reputation, and more willingly and easily.
Worse yet, they will prey on owners who are uneducated about the health tests needed when breeding puppies! They are assuming the potential target (the buyer) is unaware of how to verify the information and will simply state “We love our pets and use only the best health tests to make sure they are perfect”.
#10 – They Will Share Incorrect Information
Because the Great Dane scammers don’t have Great Danes (or any other breed they are trying to target with their scam), they often know very little about them. We’ve seen some pretty wild claims from scammers, including information that Great Danes:
- Are small and compact
- Have long fur
- Grow to be 50-60 lbs at maturity
- Eat very little food
- Require no training at all
I’m not even sure how to take that seriously…but listen. It’s a red flag!
#11 – The Breeder Solicited You
If a breeder reaches out to you to sell you a puppy (unsolicited), it’s a scam!
Run from anybody who sends you private messages on social media or via email to try and sell you a puppy.
If this isn’t a scammer and they do have puppies, you’re being pursued by a very unethical backyard breeder. This is also very suspicious!
#12 – The Breeder Needs to Sell, Urgently
If the breeder needs to sell the puppies urgently, that’s usually a sign that something is wrong.
Many scammers will tell you that the puppies must be sold ASAP to pay for medical bills, or because they will be dropped off at the shelter if people don’t buy them.
This is a scam, meant to push you over the edge and make a payment.
#13 – There is No Written Paperwork
This goes back to that shady ‘buy now’ button. Scam breeders rarely have applications, contracts, and guarantees. These are a MUST when choosing to purchase a Great Dane.
Ethical and reputable breeders will require an application, and once approved, there will be a written guarantee, Dane puppy advice worksheets, and a full contract to complete the transaction.
#14 – It’s All in the Name – Breeder Scam Names
A lot of scam breeder websites use ‘keywords’ and adjectives (descriptions) as their ‘kennel’ name or keywords all over their website.
Examples of shady keywords?
Tall Great Danes
Best Great Danes
Great Danes Puppies
Heavy Great Danes
Great Dane Pups
Reputable Great Danes
Big Pup Great Danes
#15 – Too Good to Be True Pricing
You won’t find an ethically-bred Great Dane from a healthy, proven, and fully tested lineage for less than $1200-$3000. Expect to pay at least $1200 for a Great Dane puppy from an ethical and reputable breeder.
If the price is too good to be true, that is because it is.
Ethical breeders put a lot of time, money and effort into their pedigree and the puppies they produce. This is not cheap and selling puppies is, as a result, not often profitable for them, either.
Choose ethical breeders only.
#16 They Can and will Ship Your Puppy to you ASAP
The puppy scammers spend a LOT of time trying to convince you that they can safely ship their cute puppies to you in just a day or two.
Puppies are not Amazon Prime! Shipping puppies is complicated, and ethical breeders won’t often do it. This process is not a ‘normal’ part of puppy buying.
If a breeder can ship your puppy overnight and have it in your arms ASAP, it’s a scam. It doesn’t matter how well-written and convincing that their “Shipping Info” page is. Walk away.
#17 Missing Ethical Indicators
Scam breeders will not be able to share legitimate health testing results with you. These breeders will tell you that the puppies they sell are ‘certified’, ‘health certified’, or ‘veterinarian checked. Tread cautiously as this is just a facade.
You must always ask for information about the parent’s health testing: in particular the PENNHIP or OFA hip scans, thyroid panels, echocardiograms, and eye exams.
Verify the health testing results of BOTH parents at www.ofa.org
This is a fantastic way to immediately rule out both scams and unethical breeders.
#18 – Social Media Puppy Scam
There are many fake Facebook (or Instagram) profiles going around of people who are pretending to be a breeder or dog owners with puppies.
They will make you feel they are legitimate by being a ‘real person’, and through private messages will show you photos of cute puppies.
“I’m not a breeder, this was an accident”
“My spouse/kid/mom has cancer/COVID/etc.”
“I’m selling the puppies for my mom/friend/co-worker”
“I got this puppy and don’t need/want it”
Once you place a deposit with them, they will often impose extra costs or offer excuses as to why they won’t be able to deliver your puppy that day.
Before you place a deposit or pay any money to the breeder, we recommend that you ask them to meet you in person or do a live video chat and show you the puppy. There is no legitimate excuse for a breeder to skip this important step.
#19 – Shady Reviews
Testimonials and reviews are intended to boost your confidence in the transaction. We recommend that you proceed with caution. The strange usage of language, spelling errors, and omissions often indicate fraudulent reviews that were written by the fake breeder.
With the ever-growing popularity and quality of AI-Generated written content, expect that the websites, interactions, and “reviews” from these fake puppy sellers will only become harder and harder to spot.
How to Find a Legitimate Puppy Breeder
Ethical breeders will market their pups based on their true strengths including health, structure, and disposition.
These breeders WILL NOT use terms like “Euro,” “Champion,” or “Potty Trained.”
The single best place to start looking for a puppy is by visiting your breed’s parent club. For Great Danes, in the U.S., that would be the Great Dane Club of America.
From there, you can connect with your local club and rub elbows with the most dedicated and reputable breeders in your area. They can refer you to others as well!
Here is some information about legitimate and ethical breeders:
- They are very interested in you as the buyer and have questions about your experience with Giant breeds, puppies, and having a dog in your home.
- They will want to know about your veterinarian, home life, fencing, and work schedule.
- A legitimate breeder will have CHIC#’s for both Dam & Sire that you can verify at www.OFA.org
- They will have an application, a contract, and a return guarantee.
- You will not likely be able to purchase a puppy right now and may have to get on a waitlist.
- An ethical breeder will be cautious about shipping puppies if they ship at all.
- Real breeders will send you photos and show you the puppy via video and video chat.
- Ethical breeders will use Puppy Culture, ENS, and other socialization programs
- The best Great Dane Breeders will prove their dog’s temperament and structure with AKC (American Kennel Club), CKC (Canadian Kennel Club), and FCI (European) obedience/CGC, trick, sport and/or conformation titles.
- They keep a close eye on the written standard and actively breed to improve it and the health of their pedigree.
- Will have a positive reputation in the breed community among other legitimate, ethical breeders, conformation judges, and breed fanciers and are affiliated with the GDCA/GDCC in some way (as a member or as somebody who is mentoring under a mentor. www.gdca.org is the best place to begin your search for an ethical Great Dane breeder.
- Won’t be selling puppies purely on the merits of being ‘designer color’ or ‘Euro’.
If you are still unsure whether or not you’ve come across a fraud, go down this checklist:
If you are about to place a deposit with a breeder that has many of these red flags, you can send us an email to inquire. We will look into it and verify if the breeder you are dealing with is legitimate or not.
I can tell you from experience, that we receive several emails every week, and in 2 years of this (since we published this blog), there was not a single legitimate breeder.
- Do a reverse image search (use Google) of the images the breeder has shared with you.
- Ask them for references (be careful, they can fake this!).
- Ask your local breed club and enthusiast groups if they are familiar with the breeder, if they aren’t, ask them who they recommend.
- Search for and ask about the breeder in the Facebook group Great Dane Bad Breeders, Owners and Information
- Ask the breeder that you are working with to provide information about the puppy’s AKC registration and CHIC (OFA) numbers. Verify this information with the AKC and at www.OFA.org
- Ask them for more photos of the puppies. Are their markings the same from one photo to the next? Structure? Backgrounds?
- Ask them to do a live chat where you can SEE the puppies and the parents. If they will not do this, or won’t do it without a deposit, RUN.
Never, ever place a deposit until you see the puppy (via video chat or in person) and verify the breeder’s pedigree and health testing information with the AKC and the OFA.
Grab this infographic and please share it on your social media or website! Help us spread the word about these insidious and common scams.