The low down on dog breeders.
1. Registered breeders who care about their dogs concentrate and specialize in one, two or maybe three breeds. They often show their dogs or have a keen interest in performance breeds (agility, obedience, herding, hunting, tracking, guide dogs, assistance dogs, search and rescue etc). It's often a passionate hobby verging on a lifestyle.
2. Backyard breeder is a term used for breeders who are not registered with a club or council. Backyard breeder litters are often the result of accidental breeding of intact family pets. They may also be planned for various reasons, such as to let the children see the miracle of birth before spaying or for profit.
3. Puppy farms, factories or mills is a term used for commercial breeders who breed dogs in large numbers, usually numerous breeds and often designer breeds. They are often registered breeders with the council. They may, however, be "underground", unregistered breeders which mean their location and name is not easily traced. Sadly, it can literally be underground. They do not usually sell direct to the public but employ contractors to sell the puppies. The contractors used include pet shops, on-line pet sales and individuals. It will seldom be divulged where the puppies come from. Puppies are often described as being from "local breeders" but no contact details are ever provided. The puppies may be represented as being bred in a home environment but there will always be a reason you cannot view the parents or see where they came from e.g. the parent animals are with the in-laws who couldn't cope with the litter, or they're selling the puppy for a friend who had an emergency, or who lives in the country, or who doesn't have a computer to respond to emails.
One example of how puppies are sourced for resale is below. A simple advert on-line.
A quick word on ethics.
Paul and Elder define ethics as "a set of concepts and principles that guide us in determining what behaviour helps or harms sentient creatures".
Breeders may follow the minimum requirements of the law governing provision of food, shelter and exercise. The minimum requirements are exactly that - the bare minimum to keep a dog alive and breeding. This is where ethics differs from legal requirements. Ethics includes a moral obligation to provide the best possible environment and care for a sentient being.
Ethical breeders plan litters and are more interested in their dogs' health, function, structure and temperament than money. They study lineage, know the breed strengths and challenges intimately and get vet checks of parents for genetic disorders. They won’t breed a dog who may pass on genetic health conditions to offspring. They don't over breed a bitch or breed her too young. The parent animals are living with them in a home environment. They keep puppies for at least 8 weeks to avoid health and behavioural problems later in life. They attend to all vet care. They sell the puppies themselves.
Great breeders bring up the puppies in their home, socialize and train them before you buy. They will be proud to have you see the parents and breeding environment, since they have invested a lot of effort and love in the breeding process.
Exceptional breeders ask YOU lots of questions before allowing you to take one of their precious cargo home. They are eager to keep in touch and enjoy updates. They may offer contracts, often with a clause that they will take back their puppies rather than have them resold or given up. At the expense of losing a "sale", they may suggest that their particular breed is not the best match for the lifestyle you have described.
Knowing where dogs come from means you can make a difference.
An understanding of where a puppy originates and the choice not to purchase that puppy may help prevent parent dogs from being used as breeding machines. Buying a cute puppy to save it from the pet shop cage or nasty, flea-ridden backyard may save that individual puppy. It doesn’t save future puppies from the same conditions. It doesn’t save the parent from subsequent breeding cycles in those conditions. It actually condemns a bitch to more breeding to meet the demand.
Knowledge of ethical breeding procedures also protects the consumer from buying a puppy with future health or behavioural problems that result from poor breeding and selling practices. A bit of research will also be some defence against being misled by false breed claims e.g. hypoallergenic.
Another way to help reduce unethical breeding practices is to consider adoption from a rescue or refuge. If this is not an option, do some homework and ask lots of questions of the breeder or contractor. If there is transparency and honesty, you will find it easy to obtain answers. If getting questions answered is like pulling teeth, consider it a red flag.
In the fourth and final blog in this series I discuss how big the business of designer dogs has become and why it concerns me with such passion.
Some useful links for those looking for a dog or puppy:
RSPCA Smart Puppy and Dog Buyer's Guide On-line
Smart Puppy Buyer's Guide PDF
Infographic on how to thoughtfully choose a dog
RSPCA Policy on Pet Shops
Dogs’ Refuge Home
Staffy and Bully Breed Rescue (Facebook)
NB The links I provide contain valuable information but do not imply that I agree with the content in its entirety.