Things I wish every person considering a new puppy or dog knew? Part 2
Updated: May 29
Let’s talk about where you may get your puppy from. In part 1 I discussed why it’s
important to know the breed/s of the puppy you are bringing into your home.
Now let’s look at where you might consider getting your puppy from.
We often think if we get a puppy, we are getting a blank slate and if we do
everything we know to be right, our dog will have no behavioural concerns. This
simply isn’t true. As I mentioned in last week’s article, there are 4 aspects that
contribute to creating our dog; learning, environment, genetics and self
(individual personality) or *L.E.G.S.. It is critical to remember that these things are
all happening starting in the uterus and ongoing after birth, including the weeks
they are on the planet before we welcome them into our homes.
For the most part, people will go one of two ways. A person might want a specific
dog breed or breed cross, and they begin their search for a breeder. As well,
people often love to adopt a rehomed/rescued dog and support a local shelter or
rescue. Both options are wonderful. I personally have had wonderful dogs from
This week, we will look at how to choose a breeder. They are not all created
- It is vital to know that there are many so called “breeders”; whose only
concern and goal in breeding dogs, is making money and profit. Some of
these are referred to as backyard breeders and on the more extreme end,
are referred to as puppy mills. These are people who keep dogs in cages
their entire lives, solely for the purpose of repeatedly impregnating females
or using the males for stud purposes, until they no longer can use them.
These dogs produce puppies that are sold for greed and profit, and there is
absolutely no concern for the animals. The breeding dogs are often
malnourished and receive no veterinary care their entire lives. They are
anxious, fearful and in many cases, aggressive, due to genetics, lack of
socialization and horrible handling. Some even live in shock collars so that
barking does not bother neighbouring farms/acreages. The puppies
produced in these places have lifelong health and behavioural issues. The
heartbreaking stories I have seen come out of puppy mills are too many to
count. Unsuspecting and kind puppy guardians are often left with tens of
thousands of dollars in veterinary bills, dealing with severe behavioural
issues such as fear and aggression. It is not uncommon that these puppies
die or need to be euthanized under the age of two years from inherited
diseases. The dog guardian and their family is traumatized, when all they
wanted was a healthy, happy puppy.
***Here are a few red flags that can indicate puppy mill breeder:
1) They want to meet you somewhere with the puppy and do not allow
you to come and see the mother and your puppy before you purchase.
2)They often advertise on free and low cost platforms such as Kijiji and
social media. (Legitimate breeders will generally have a well presented,
clear and organized website and are happy to offer references from
previous clients who purchased their puppies.)
3) Puppy mill breeders often let their puppies go to their new homes before
they are 8 weeks of age.
4) They are generally offering puppies at a lower price in comparison to
other breeders in the area.
- The actual breeders we want to support with our business are breeders
who are in it for the good and love of their dogs and take in depth
questionnaires from their potential puppy purchasers in order to ensure
they are matching their puppies to the right home/family. They will want to
know things such as, have you ever shared your life with a dog before?
Who is, or will be, your veterinarian? Do you live in a home, apartment,
acreage, condo? It is important to ensure your lifestyle fits with their dog
breed. For example, a dog from working breeding lines will not thrive in an
apartment and possibly even a city setting.
- They will want to know if you have children and if so, how old they are. I
have often seen puppies quickly spiral into disastrous behavioural issues
when, now without their puppy siblings to play with to fulfill their natural
need to play bite, redirect onto running, screaming young children. I am
called because the children become terrified of the puppy, the parents
believe the puppy is somehow naughty or bad and should be punished, and
we then end up with a puppy spending all its time in a crate or being
scolded or punished, which results in a fearful anxious dog.
- A good breeder will have you sign a contract, often requesting that if you
are unhappy with your puppy, that you contact them as they will take the
- The breeder will let you come to their home/acreage and meet the
puppies, mom and possibly the sire, before you sign a contract and
purchase your puppy.
- I look for a breeder that will solely use (and often request of their puppy
adopters), positive reinforcement and force free training methods that do
not involve scaring or hurting dogs to teach them or thinking we need to
show our puppies/dogs that we are the boss or the pack leader. Countless
peer reviewed scientific studies have shown us over the past 50 years, that
correction, punishment, and dominance-based training approaches, cause
long term fear, stress and anxiety in dogs and are linked to higher
percentages of behavioural problems such as aggression.
- The good breeder’s primary concerns in choosing breeding stock is good
health and good temperament of the parents, and, the maternal
grandmother. Studies on aggression and behavioural issues show these can
be passed down through genetics and epigenetics (maternal grandmother).
- A good breeder will do medical testing on their breeding stock for genetic
health issues such as hip and elbow dysplasia, heart and eyes and offer
their puppy purchasers some form of health guarantee, such as
reimbursing veterinary costs up to a certain amount should certain genetic
conditions arise or you can return the puppy to the breeder.
- The ideal breeder has good knowledge of the first critical socialization
window in puppies (age 3 weeks to 12-14 weeks), and they are doing
ongoing careful, safe socialization activities and confidence building with
the puppies in their care. Note, “safe socialization” means exposure to
unfamiliar people, surfaces, sounds, objects, etc, in a way that the puppy
feels safe and has the option to observe and process and stay away should
they wish to, or approach and sniff and gather information in their own
timing, without the fear of someone petting them or picking them up. For
example, they may invite visitors over to simply sit on the floor or in the
yard and allow puppies to come and interact on the puppies’ terms.
- They ensure the mother’s environment is calm, happy and stress free. She
receives great nutrition and care. Studies show mothers who experience
stress, anxiety, fear and trauma while pregnant, often pass on these same
traits to their developing puppies.
- Ideally you want to choose a breeder who does not send puppies to their
new puppy homes before 9 ½ to 10 weeks of age; will not send puppies to
their new homes during their fear week (between 8 and 9 weeks of age);
will not transport puppies on an airplane, train, or vehicle cargo hold, alone
locked in a kennel which is traumatizing and is also linked to lifelong anxiety
and behavioural concerns.
Carol Neil of Soul2Soul Dog
CPDT-KA, Fear Free Certified Trainer, Family Dog Mediator