An ethical dog breeder is one whose main concern is the welfare of her dogs and their humans. So she does everything within her power to produce healthy, long-lived dogs with the behaviour and temperament that adds joy to the homes that adopt them.
We’ll always need reputable dog breeders
Dog breeding is an important role in our society and will be as long as people keep and love dogs. The potential contribution the right dog can make to the well being of its humans is enormous and – given that a healthy dog can last around 15 years – enduring. Dogs encourage exercise and facilitate social connections. They alleviate depression and strengthen the immune system of children.
Conversely the wrong dog, through no fault of its own, can cause misery and hardship. On the one hand, dogs (especially purebreds) may develop serious genetic diseases. Besides being an obvious animal welfare concern this inflicts emotional suffering and financial stress on owners. On the other hand are problem canine behaviors. These stem predominantly from owners either selecting a breed that’s basically wrong for them, or doing a poor job of rearing their dog. These problems are often eventually “resolved” by euthanasia at the local veterinarian or dog shelter. Dog breeding focused on welfare can help prevent these problems.
Given that people need dogs, where are they supposed to get great ones from?
- Shelters? There are many wonderful dogs in shelters, but also many more that are not well suited to life in most homes due to inappropriate (e.g. large, energetic) breed, or problem behaviors arising from a poor start in life which are often difficult to resolve and at times even dangerous.
- Puppy mills are another place you wouldn’t want to get a puppy from. The trauma dogs suffer in such places has been shown to scar them for life. There’s nothing wrong with making money from dog breeding, but this is definitely not the way to do it!
- Show breeders create wonderful looking dogs that perform well in shows but may not always make great canine companions due to a high risk of inbreeding-induced genetic illness. Plus the ideal show dog temperament isn’t the same as the ideal pet dog temperament. Show breeders also typically only breed small numbers of puppies. Given that most puppies born in the world become people’s pets, dog breeding aimed at producing the best possible pets needs to be rewarded and recognised in a new show category!
- Other registered dog breeders? These are subject to kennel club codes that often say they must not breed solely for the companion market. The focus of dog breeding is supposed to be aimed only at “improving the breed” (primarily the way it looks rather than its temperament or health).
Clearly it is not easy for owners to find a reliable source of healthy, happy hounds. And since the world needs great puppies it needs more ethical dog breeders. That’s why I created this ethical dog breeding information site :). The dog breeding information it contains is gleaned from extensive academic research plus over two decades of practical experience as an ethical dog breeder and veterinarian.
Dr Meg Howe, PhD, BScVM.