With the media hype and public outcry surrounding the practices of disreputable dog breeders and puppy mills, recently all dog breeders have come under scrutiny while being painted with the same unsavory brush. However, are these accusations warranted? Are all dog breeders actually running a puppy mill?
The simple answer is ‘no’. Breeding dogs does not make you a puppy miller. Most dog breeders do not breed litters to make money. In fact, a reputable dog breeder will not make money off of breeding puppies and, if anything, breeding a litter will actually cost them money! When some breeds of puppies sell for hundreds if not thousands, how can they not be making money of the litter? Easy.
Good Practices of a Reputable Dog Breeder
Dog breeding begins with a love of animals. These are the children who bring home injured robins and cannot pass by a pet store without wanting to buy ‘Fido’ a new leash or toy. In many cases, they have shared their home with a stream of rescue or foster pets and understand the value of spaying and neutering pets and the importance of not over-breeding. They do not breed dogs for the sake of a buck or because they want their human children to experience the ‘miracle of birth’. They understand that many puppies born under these damaging pretenses end up in shelters or, worse, euthanized.
Reputable dog breeders usually begin their doggy journey by becoming involved in some sort of ‘dog sport’ such as showing dogs in a confirmation show, agility, field trials, Schutzhund or many of the other canine activities. They have a favorite breed that they use for their sport and soon learn everything there is to know about the breed and lineage of their pet. At some point their dog becomes a winner in their sport and other people begin to take notice of their abilities. Soon people ask to be put on a wait list should they decide to breed the dog and eventually the first tentative litter is planned.
This process can take years and many people who become involved in the sport of dogs never actually breed a litter. In many cases, they do not want the responsibility of bringing into the world a half dozen or more rolly polly balls of fur that once they leave the whelping box may have any number of things happen – for good or bad.
A reputable breeder:
- Only chooses breeding stock that will improve the breed i.e. healthy dogs with good temperaments that are good examples of the breed
- Health screens all breeding stock and, if possible, the parents and siblings as well
- Health screens all puppies as they mature to make sure that congenital ailments do not develop within the litter that may be passed on to their progeny
- Only uses breeding stock that are over two years old (both male and female) in order for any health concerns to develop
- Pre-screens potential owners.
- Does not breed a litter until the majority of the expected puppies already have homes
- Raises the litter of pups in their home and exposes the pups to new experiences in a controlled and healthy manner
- Keeps the pups until they are at least seven weeks old but more likely eight weeks old
- Provide contracts and health guarantees with their puppies
- Will take a puppy back or re-home the puppy if the new owner cannot look after them, usually for the life of the dog
Breeding dogs does not make you a Puppy Miller
A puppy mill breeder does none or very few of the above good practices. They look at the breeding stock and the pups as a means to make extra money and do not consider the ‘bigger picture’ of breeding dogs. Instead, they breed inbred or poorly bred dogs without concern for either genetic health or temperament issues that will be a financial and emotional burden for their owners. This often leads to dogs being dumped at the local shelter, contributing to the country’s horrific euthanasia rates.
Are you looking for a breeder and concerned about whether they are legitimate and have the best interest of their puppies in mind? Here are a few simple tests:
- Ask to meet both the bitch and dog. A legitimate breeder will show you both parents if they are in the same city or show you proof of where the dog lives
- It is against most kennel club rules for breeders to charge extra for the proof of registration of your pup. Registration papers should also be provided within a few months of the purchase of the pup.
- Ask to see where the pups spend their day, where they are exercised, and where they sleep. Are the rooms/play areas clean? Is there a heavy smell of bleach or cleaner?
- What kind of kibble are the pups being fed?
- Have the pups been seen by a vet yet?
Unfortunately, it’s a matter of buyer beware. Consider the fact you may have fifteen years with your new family member and ask questions about the parents, siblings, and background of the breeder. If something looks fishy, contact the kennel club and ask for any information on the breeder. Last, take the pup to your vet, not their vet, within two days of picking the puppy up from the breeders for a full check up.
Just because someone breeds dogs does not mean they are a puppy miller. However, always investigate the breeder as thoroughly as possible and never buy from a pet store. As more people become aware of puppy mills and the horrific conditions the puppies are raised in, the more likely that these establishments will be shut down.