I’ve recently been catching up on a brilliant podcast by Michael Shikashio called ‘The Bitey End of the Dog’. Dog aggression is an enormous topic with far-reaching origins and impacts, and this podcast provides opportunity to hear from dog professionals with a wide variety of experience.
In an episode from August 2020, a discussion with dog behaviourist Sue Sternberg piqued my interest. I see a lot of posts on Facebook pushing the ‘adopt don’t shop’ sentiment, and while I am in full support of animal rescues and think they do fantastic work, I also believe that we need to recognise that rehoming a dog is not suitable for every person wanting to welcome a four-legged friend into their home. While some rescue dogs can settle into life with their new family very easily, many come with behavioural issues requiring extensive training and lifestyle adjustments. The ideal home for these dogs can be hard to come by, but placing them with people who aren’t adequately equipped to meet their needs can mean setting the dog up for failure, which often results in the dog being passed on multiple times.
Sue Sternberg suggested that we actually need to start breeding more pet dogs. This is controversial but her reasoning was that we need more reputable breeders, breeding for “high aggression thresholds, sociability, and health”.
As a trainer, I frequently hear from owners whose puppies came from dubious circumstances. These puppies often suffer with physical health issues at a young age; I’ve seen puppies with UTIs, skin infections and ear infections because of poor care from the breeder. It concerns me that people still buy puppies from these breeders with the intention of ‘rescuing’ them: the reality is that the money spent to remove the puppy from that situation is funding the breeding of more puppies, who will also be born into the same conditions.
If you view puppies and are not satisfied with the standard of care, report the breeder to your local authorities. Do not simply buy the puppy thinking you are helping them, because many more will be born to fill their place.
We also need more behaviourally aware dog breeders, who understand how to appropriately socialise and habituate puppies. Even more importantly, we need breeders who assess the temperament of the dogs they are breeding from. Breeding from a dog that has a tendency towards nervousness, reactivity or anxiety will impact on the future of the offspring – and a dog that develops behavioural problems is more likely to be surrendered to a rescue centre.
Understanding the origins of rescue dogs is important, because if we set puppies up for success through appropriate breeding programmes, we can limit the numbers of dogs being surrendered. Of course, many dogs find themselves in rescue due to unforeseeable circumstances – but often these dogs are the behaviourally sound ones who can be rehomed without many of the concerns associated with dogs needing behavioural modification.
It is important to understand how to select a reputable breeder and choose a suitable puppy. AniMate has just released a new course covering everything you need to know about buying a puppy, as well as raising them to be a confident, well-mannered dog. To find out more click here.