Does it really make a difference where you get your
puppy, provided you find the breed you want? Yes, absolutely. If you’re not planning to breed the dog to produce winning show dogs or dependable working dogs, it might seem unimportant to seek out a breeder who strives to improve the breed with each litter. Actually, it’s vitally important, and ignoring this concern can lead to sad times in your home.
What Is a Puppy Mill?
The term puppy mill is a label that every breeder denies applies to them. Every pet shop denies that their puppies come from puppy mills. So what exactly is a puppy mill?
Other names for this type of breeding operation might be puppy farm (sounds idyllic, doesn’t it?) and commercial breeder (sounds professional). Wherever dogs are produced for profit, the animals are at risk.
It’s seldom profitable to breed dogs humanely and responsibly. The profit comes when dogs live their lives in cages, rather than with human companionship. The profit comes when commercial operations provide only the minimum requirements to keep a dog alive and able to breed. Filth, loneliness, fear and pain constitute the typical life these dogs know.
Puppies produced in this situation have the wrong start in life. Experiences in the early weeks are critical to a dog’s development. Commercially bred puppies miss vital experiences they need during this time, and they are exposed to experiences that harm their emotional stability for later. One experience many of them have is to leave the mother and littermates far too early in order to be in the pet shop on display for sale at the “cutest” time.
Behavior problems you may experience with a puppy from this source include housetraining issues because the puppy has been confined too close to feces and urine. This causes damage to the pup’s natural instincts to keep the den area clean. These pups have also typically missed important conditioning to appropriate surfaces for defecation and urination. They may never have even been on grass.
A frightened mother dog can transmit her fears to her pups. Leaving the mother and littermates too early can result later in biting problems, since the pup has missed early bite inhibition that needs to happen in the litter.
Breeding dogs who have lived normal lives will have been observed around children, men, other dogs, cats, strangers, unexpected situations and other things that some dogs cannot handle. If the temperament of either parent isn’t safe around humans, a responsible breeder will not use that dog for breeding. Dogs in a commercial breeding operation do not live normal lives, so the breeders do not know whether the dogs they use for breeding have reliable temperaments for family life. Decisions about which male to use with which female are based on profitability (how many puppies they can get in how short a time), leaving genetic issues for the unsuspecting puppy buyers to worry about later.
The physical problems that result from a poor start in life as well as poor genetic selection of the parent dogs can also profoundly affect the behavior of a puppy bred by a commercial breeder. Pain and fear cause dogs to react defensively. Dogs don’t show their pain in the same ways that people do, and often a change in behavior is the first sign-sometimes the only sign-that the dog is ill or has a genetically based health issue.
Responsible breeders make their breeding choices based on producing puppies with the genetics for both good health and good temperament. Responsible breeders will be there for you later if there are problems. A responsible breeder will place each pup personally, not through a third party such as a pet shop or dog broker. The commercial breeder is not interested in any problems you have beyond the time your purchase check has been cashed.
What Does the Term Backyard Breeder Mean?
Another attempt to define various kinds of breeders results in the term backyard breeder. This term is used to describe people who breed dogs without knowing what they are doing. The motive may be profit, and occasionally someone of this sort will make a tidy profit from turning out puppies without spending the money to provide them with good care.
More typically they’ll produce one litter, find out how expensive, exhausting and heartbreaking it is to breed dogs, and have their female spayed. The American Kennel Club estimated in 1996 that about 70 percent of purebred, AKC-registered puppies were from this source.
The backyard-bred puppy may make an all right companion dog, if the parents were good companion dogs. Genetic health and temperament problems may be waiting to emerge as the pup matures, since this type of breeder isn’t likely to have done the appropriate testing of both parents to make a good genetic pairing. It’s completely a gamble as to how things will turn out with a puppy you acquire from this type of breeder.
You should expect that these pups will have missed early experiences that a responsible and knowledgeable breeder would have provided. It’s also likely some things will have been done that were not good for the future temperament of the pups, such as mishandling by children.
These puppies are probably the cheapest pups to purchase, especially the ones the breeder can’t sell at the most profitable “cute” age. Responsible breeders have homes lined up for their puppies in advance. They have acquired reputable credentials on the appropriateness of the parent dogs before breeding, in the form of testing for genetic problems common in their breeds as well as titles or other verification that the dogs are good examples of their breed. As a result, their puppies are in demand. The unprepared, uninformed person who decides to give breeding a try is surprised to find there’s no demand for carelessly bred pups, especially at high prices.
Without care for making good genetic matches between purebred dogs, it’s the nature of breeding for the healthiness of the breed to deteriorate. Only a strenuous effort to maintain good health in the breed prevents this natural effect. In the wild, survival of the fittest works to preserve a species. Unlike wild canines, dogs who live with people don’t have to be able to hunt for their food, and they can live with severe disabilities.
As a result, there is no survival of the fittest among purebred dogs unless breeders make responsible decisions to remove the less fit from the gene pool. Unlike nature wherein these dogs would die, in our homes they only need be spayed and neutered and then live out happy lives with loving people.
What’s Best for You?
If we were to discuss what’s best for the dogs, it’s certainly for them to be bred only by people who will take excellent care of parents and pups. Great suffering in dogs is alleviated when breeders refrain from reproducing genetic problems. Only breeders who put the welfare of the dogs ahead of profit make these difficult decisions. To learn how to make the right decisions, responsible breeders work with experienced mentors and do a great deal of study.
Such a discussion would also include the inhumanity of keeping a dog in a cage for a life whose sole purpose is to produce puppies for human profit. Every puppy purchased from such a source is a powerful vote. That purchase makes it profitable to breed the parent dogs again, and the cycle of suffering continues.
When you see a puppy, you don’t see that suffering. It’s easy to think that suffering that happens in commercial breeding has nothing to do with you. Sadly, chances are good that you and the puppy will become part of the sad cycle of suffering. Genetics play a huge role in dog temperament, as do the experiences of the first several weeks of life. Getting your puppy from a responsible breeder is not only a socially responsible thing to do, but also the best way to wind up with a healthy puppy who grows into a healthy and happy dog. Kathy Diamond Davis is the author of the book [ http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/redirect?tag=vinpetcarefor-20&path=tg/detail/-/1929242050/qid%3D1057968466/sr%3D1-1 ] Therapy Dogs: Training Your Dog to Reach Others.Should the training articles available here or elsewhere not be effective, contact your veterinarian. Veterinarians not specializing in behavior can eliminate medical causes of behavior problems. If no medical cause is found, your veterinarian can refer you to a colleague who specializes in behavior or a local behaviorist.
Copyright 2011 – 2013 by Kathy Diamond Davis. Used with permission. All rights reserved.