Are you thinking about adding a dog to your family? If so, have you wondered where do dogs come from? Where do you purchase a dog from? Where do puppies come from?
Being informed and making ethical choices is the simplest most effective way to protect yourself as a consumer and minimise the risk of buying an unhealthy ill-bred dog, prone to behavioural issues from shonky sellers and breeders. Not only are you protecting yourself financially and emotionally, your decisions can also impact the welfare of breeding dogs across the country.
Here's what you need to know before making a decision to buy:
There are basically 4 different 'outlets' where you can purchase a dog from.
1. Puppy Farms, also known as Puppy Mills
2. Backyard Breeders
3. Pedigree Breeders
4. Rescue organisations and Shelters/Pound
So lets take a quick look at each of these.
1. Puppy farms
Also known as puppy mills, as defined by the RSPCA are an intensive dog breeding facility whose conditions fail to meet the dogs’ needs. This may include:
- Extreme confinement
- Inadequate veterinary care
- Unhygienic living conditions
- Overcrowded housing
In a study conducted in the UK on the behaviour and temperament of adult dogs who came from puppy farms, these dogs were more likely to be aggressive to members of the household, more likely to be aggressive to strangers, more likely to be aggressive to dogs, more likely to be fearful of new objects, more likely to have noise phobias, more likely to suffer from separation anxiety, and less likely to be rated high in trainability compared to dogs who came from responsible breeders who put the welfare of the breeding dogs and puppies as a priority.
One way to ensure you are not purchasing a puppy that was bred in a puppy farm is to not buy from pet shops – responsible breeders will NEVER sell their puppies to pet shops, and to avoid purchasing a puppy online from a website, or gumtree or trading post ad, sight unseen. If you cannot visit the premises where the puppies are raised, if you cannot see the mother, walk away. One red flag to avoid are sellers who want cash and insist on meeting you in a neutral area to ‘deliver’ the puppy to you. Purchasing a puppy should NEVER be an online transaction only – even if we are used to the convenience of shopping online, unscrupulous breeders aren’t providing a ‘good service’ they’re trying to keep you away from the truth. ALWAYS meet the breeder at their facility in person and see the conditions the dogs are raised in.
If you want to read more about how much of a problem pet shops & puppy farms really are here are some recent news articles:
*caution distressing content*
Pet shop sells sick puppies, and would rather put them down than pay for medical treatment
98 suffering dogs confiscated in RSPCA raid near Goulburn
31 dogs rescued from squalid conditions in Yerrinbool (includes pictures)
You can also simply google "puppy farm" for news articles and images.
If you want to learn more and help put an end to puppy farms please support Oscar’s Law
Here’s what the RSPCA have to say about puppy farms
Animal welfare laws in Australia could be considered weak and poorly enforced. The biggest impact you can have right now to stop the cruel puppy trade is to reduce the demand for puppies, by choosing NOT to buy from a pet shop or online only.
2. Backyard Breeders
As defined by the RSPCA, Backyard Breeding is a term used to describe irresponsible breeding of animals. Often this is due to ignorance or neglect where a pet dog or cat accidentally becomes pregnant because the owner has failed to have them desexed.
When this happens often the sire, or father, of the litter is often unknown. Dogs that are not neutered will roam and make their way into the backyard of an undesexed female dog and may mate without the owners knowing. The health and temperament of the parent is unknown, breeding may not be free of any genetic disorders. Ultimately though this sort of uncontrolled breeding just contributes to an overpopulation of pets.
Backyard Breeders also intentionally breed dogs for profit only. The health and temperament of dogs are not tested or even considered when pairing dogs to mate. Often the owners of the dogs are not knowledgeable or well prepared to raise a litter of healthy well adjusted puppies. They often sell puppies at 6 weeks old which is the minimum legal age to reduce their costs.
Backyard Breeders are not as large scale as a puppy farm but also generally have no consideration for the welfare of their animals, as they are only breeding for profit. Backyard Breeders usually sell to friends and family or online as well as pet shops.
Sometimes backyard breeders call themselves 'registered breeders' but this simply means they may be registered with their local council as per a requirement and has nothing to do with quality or breeding to a standard.
3. Pedigree Breeders
Are registered with the ANKC Australian National Kennel Council. They are concerned with breeding temperamentally and physically sound pure bred dogs to a breed standard. A "breed standard" are the guidelines which describe the ideal characteristics, temperament, and appearance of a breed and ensures that the breed is fit for function with soundness essential.
ANKC members agree to a code of ethics which pertains to the responsible ownership, welfare, breeding and selling of dogs and puppies and includes a code on hereditary diseases.
You should expect to get a healthy, happy puppy with a good temperament that will grow up to be a good example of the breed when purchasing from an ANKC breeder.
The advantage of purchasing a purebred dog is that they are far more predictable as to its temperament, behaviour, appearance, size and even colour than a crossbred dog. Knowing the characteristics and attributes of a purebred dog enables you to narrow down the choices to those which best fit into your lifestyle.
Even so, a breeder who is ANKC registered and a member of their state body e.g. Dogs NSW still needs a thorough investigation before deciding to purchase a puppy or dog from them. Some breeders will always be better than others.
Reputable ANKC registered breeders attend Championship Shows and exhibit their dogs where they are judged according to this “breed standard”. Attending these shows is an important part of breeding as it is an indication of the quality of dogs compared to its peers.
A good breeder is one that holds the welfare of the breed they have chosen as their number one priority. Good breeders DNA test their breeding stock for all known hereditary diseases, they carefully research pedigrees to select sires that not only complement their bitches, but possess qualities that will improve the shortcomings of their bitches. A good Breeder breeds to better their lines with each litter, not for money – for the love of the breed.
Ask the breeder about hereditary disease testing of the parents of the puppy and name the diseases that affect the breed – if they shy away or don’t have answers - don’t buy from them.
Does the breeder have references? Can you talk to someone or see other dogs they've bred? Do you personally know someone who has purchased a dog from this breeder? Would another breeder recommend them?
Ask if they show their dogs, and if they don’t - why not?
Ask how old the parents are, how many litters they've had? And if both parents are on the premises and if you can come and look at their kennels and dogs. How and where do they raise the puppies? Are they inside in a home environment? How will they be socialised? What training do they do with the puppies?
If they won’t allow you onto their premises - Don’t buy from them. The breeder should allow you to see all of their dogs if you request it.
The breeder should also be asking you lots of questions to make sure you the breed is a good match for you and that you are well suited to take care of one of their pups.
4. Rescue Organisations and Shelters/Pounds
Rescue organisations, shelters and pounds have dogs available for adoption. Often they are dogs that used to be apart of a family but through no fault of their own ended up homeless and therefore in need of a second chance at a shelter. Not all dogs in a shelter are 'bad dogs' that have been 'dumped'
Consider these examples: An old man passes away. He had a 10 year old Jack Russell. No one in his family wanted to or was able to take care of the dog. He is surrendered to a rescue and is now available for rehoming.
A young couple has gone on holidays and left their 3 year old border collie at a friends place to be taken care of. A large thunderstorm passes through when no one is home and the dog panics, escapes from the yard and becomes lost in unfamiliar territory. Her collar has fallen off but she is picked up and scanned for a microchip. The phone number is disconnected. No one has claimed the dog within the specified time frame so she is now available for rehoming.
(Coincidentally if you're in NSW and think you need to update your registration details you can do that online now click here for more info)
This page contains a list of council pounds in NSW
PetRescue website contains a comprehensive list of rescue organisations
Not all dogs available for rehoming are cross-bred, so if you're looking for a purebred dog, you can try looking for a specific breed rescue. In google type "[Breed] Rescue" e.g. "Jack Russell Rescue" yields the result http://jrtrescue.net/
A good rescue group will take the time to discuss your requirements and any concerns or questions you might have. They will also have an in-depth screening process to make sure they'll match you with the right animal. Their animals should be health-checked, de-sexed, microchipped, wormed, flea treated, and assessed for temperament, basic manners and toilet training. Your adoption contract should allow you to return the animal to them if adoption doesn't work out.
The advantages of rescuing an older dog as opposed to buying a puppy are avoiding starting from scratch with an untrained, unsocialised, peeing, pooping, chewing, biting machine with an unknown personality. Puppies are a lot of work! It is also an ethical choice that helps break the puppy trade by reducing the demand for puppies bred in puppy farms.
Don't be tempted to buy a dog from online just because it's cheap, you could be supporting backyard breeding or puppy farmers. Adoption prices at the Animal Welfare League start at just $125 to only $500.
When you adopt a dog you save a life. Not just the life of the dog you adopted, but you've also created a space for another dog in need to be rescued.
So now you know where dogs come from, what will you choose? Wisely, I hope.