It might come as a surprise but often it’s not the abused rescue dogs who are the most difficult to work with, but the purebred ones. The worst combination: a dog from a backyard breeder (often working line) or from a puppy mill + owners who were told by their vet not to take their dog anywhere before the first vaccine.
These dogs have completely missed out on their socialization period, which can result in several problems:
- everything around them is either incredibly exciting or super scary for them,
- they overstimulate easily,
- and they haven’t learned how to calm down on their won.
Many behaviour problems such as reactivity, barking indoors or pulling on the leash start here and it can be hard to treat them, because we need to teach them emotional self-regulation and behavioural flexibility first.
On top of that, they often have a whole host of health problems, which make work even harder.
The truth is that purebred dogs are expensive. A dog from a good, responsible breeder easily costs thousands of euros, because breeding good dogs requires a lot of time, energy and money. Frequently the money saved by buying from a cheaper “breeder” (or multiplications thereof) has to be spent for health bills and training.
How can I recognize a good breeder?
- They don’t only allow, but require a visit so that you can meet them and their dogs in person (and not just the puppies, the adult dogs too!)
- The area where the dogs live is clean and enriched.
- They can show you all the documents such as pedigrees, health certificates and results of genetic testing.
- They will ask you a lot of questions because they want to make sure that your environment will be appropriate for the particular breed and also that you’re aware of what that breed requires to be fulfilled.
- They actively socialize their puppies!
- And often there will be a waiting list.
And what are the warning signs?
- Ads placed online in places like jofogas, marketplace, gumtree etc.
- You can’t visit their home at all, or you’re allowed to see the puppies only somewhere outside. The more “serious” businesspeople sometimes even rent nice places for photo shoots but actually the dogs live in squalor.
- The puppies are much cheaper than pedigree ones.
- The handover happens in a parking lot from the back of a car.
- When you meet they tell you they’ll send the documents via post because they accidentally forgot them.
- They don’t ask about you and your plans for the dog at all.
- There is no contract.
I know that responsible breeding is a complex, difficult topic. Of course, there are people who got their dog from a place like that and the dog is just fine. We can always we lucky – there are shelter dogs too, who seamlessly adapt to their new homes. But the fact remains that there are too many dogs in the world. If we decide to get a purebred dog – which I am not judging! – we have to do it responsibly. Because as long as there is demand, there will be supply. We can only chip away at the dog breeding industry if we change our own behaviour.
Interesting bits on this topic:
Follow Suzanne Clothier– she’s a great trainer and she’s been breeding German shepherds for decades. Whenever she has a litter, she posts daily video updates.
Telex.hu had a documentary about puppy mills in Hungary (available with English subtitles):
If you’re interested in the question of responsible breeding (beyond pedigree dogs), check out the Functional Breeding Collaborative. They have a website, a facebook group and a podcast too!