I inform them that the deposit is refundable if they come here and do not think we are a good match (for any reason). I have never shipped a dog, so I have met all the families who have purchased dogs from me.
If folks are not willing to commit with a check, then they can wait until "my" scheduled open which is when I have a confirmed pregnancy. I have not produced a litter in almost 2 years, but I always had my pups pre-sold using this process. I didn't take applications until I bred a dog. I don't want someone to commit to something that is not yet happening, as there are too many other breeders who can deliver on their schedule.
Years ago this would not have been so simple. With google, people know more about me, my husband, what sports my kids play, etc...than I would probably share otherwise. Also, my inquiries are local (most referrals), with a rare exception.
They have spent time emailing me and on the phone prior to sending an application. I think it's more about confirming I am a breeder who owns a couple of pets that live here vs. the breeder who will meet them at a designated place or a broker posing as a breeder.
If they have not met you or your dogs? I wouldn't, which is why I do allow visits. I do requrie a puppy application as stated above. I can see how an active family with kids etc that visits would be... more