What do breeders want to know?
A good breeder is trying to find the best homes for the puppies, and may ask some occassionally strange questions regarding your home life and situation before letting you have one of their precious puppies.
They want to know that you know what you're doing, that you can train and take care of the puppy, that you are going to be a responsible, intelligent owner. They are the experts here - and they will evaluate you as carefully as you evaluate them.
Expect this. If it bothers you, you probably shouldn't have a dog.
What is your living arrangment?Some dogs make lousy apartment dwellers, others can live happily in a small studio the size of an elevator. Other dogs need lots of exercise and someplace to run, necessitating a fenced yard. Is the puppy going to be left alone for long periods? These are all things that the breeder has to evaluate before deciding to sell you a puppy.
Many large-breed breeders require that you have a fenced yard - my current contract requires a six-foot fence for the puppy I just got. This is not unreasonable for large dogs who can either jump fences or need lots of exercise and cannot be tied up.
A note on tying your dog - many, many breeders will not sell you a puppy if your method of restraining the dog is to tie it in your yard on a chain or rope. If this is the method you intend to use, you might want to rethink your choice to get a dog... dogs should not be tied or staked out all the time.
Breeders will want to know if you intend this to be an "outside" dog, and many will not consider selling to you if you are. If you want a dog, why on earth would you get a dog if you never intend to let it in the house? Dogs are pack animals and need human interaction to be happy.
Have you had dogs before? What happened to them?Don't expect a breeder to sell a puppy to you if your last two dogs were hit by cars or you gave the up to the pound for behavior problems.
A breeder is looking for your level of experience with dogs, and whether you are a responsible pet owner.
Also, if you have dogs already in your household, the breeder is making sure you understand the dynamics of a multi-dog household and are prepared to add another dog to your family.
What is your experience with this breed? What are your expectations?Each breed has it's quirks, and the breeder is trying to determine if you have any idea what you're getting in to. Too many people pick the "popular" breed, not knowing that Dalmations need tons of exercise and deafness is common, or that Border Collies will herd anything, including their family, or that the fuzzy Newfoundland puppy will be huge and will drool.
In asking what your expectations are, the breeder can get a good feel for whether you and the dog you choose are going to be compatible. Looking for a dog to play frisbee with? A toy breed might not be for you. Want a dog that doesn't bark much? Terriers may be too noisy for you. Hate brushing your dog? The breeder can tell you the grooming requirements. For example, an energetic, active breed will not be a good dog for a family that is sedentary, nor will a couch-potato breed fit in with a family that hikes, camps, and kayaks. They are trying to prevent you from getting a dog that you cannot live with.
Again, the breeder is trying to see if you are a good fit for the particular characteristics of the breed.
Do you have children?Some breeds are fabulous with children, others horrid. That's a pretty blanket statement, but the breeder can help you determine if the puppy you have chosen will fit in with the children that you have.
If you have very young children, breeders may dissuade you from some breeds until the kids are older and more able to handle the puppy properly. That applies to both very large, pushy breeds that can dominate a child, to tiny toy breeds that can be harmed by too rough play with toddlers.
A lot of people who have children at home decide to get a dog so Johnny can have a pet and learn responsibility (or whatever). Remember that no matter how responsible your child is, you will probably end up taking care of this dog, and the breeder is trying to make sure that things work out.
Do you intend to breed/show/train?If you are not intending to show this dog, you will probably be sold a puppy on the condition that you spay or neuter it. If you are going to show, the breeder is a fabulous source of information and can get you pointed in the right direction.
The breeder will also assess your ability to train and control the dog, and your commitment to do so.