As a puppy buyer or new dog breeder, you might be wondering about the negative effects of dog breeding. How do we define dog breeding and how does it contribute to overpopulation? To name a few of the most popular questions.
Dog breeding’s negative effects are a point of concern for many people. For some, adoption is the only answer to the problem. For others, buying only from reputable breeders is a viable option. To remain fair, it’s important to consider both sides of the problem.
What is Dog Breeding
Dog breeding is the practice of mating dogs with the intention of producing specific qualities. A responsible dog breeder will be knowledgeable on canine genetics, health, and have a clear purpose for breeding their dogs. As such, an ethical dog breeder will breed only the best examples of their breed. They aim to produce dogs with excellent working ability, prime health status, great temperament, and good conformation that matches the breed standard.
In contrast, inexperienced or ignorant breeders with little knowledge of the process will breed any dogs. Also, they will do this without regard for the temperament, health, conformation, or working ability of their puppies. For backyard breeders, the main goal of breeding their dogs is to make a profit. They will do this by producing “unusual” mixes (mutts), “rare” coat colors, and following trends. Whatever the public finds the cutest at that time, they will probably attempt to breed. Breeders like this contribute to the negative effects of dog breeding!
The Negative Effects of Dog Breeding
By disregarding the health and working ability of their dogs, irresponsible breeders directly contribute to some of the worst problems that come with dog breeding. This includes contributing to overpopulation and exacerbating problems within the breed. At the same time, responsible breeders are working to combat these issues.
Worsening Dog Overpopulation
According to the ASPCA, 6.5 million of our pets enter animal shelters in the USA every year – a sobering statistic for any dog breeder. Irresponsible breeding contributes to dog overpopulation in a number of ways. By breeding without regard for temperament or characteristics, many backyard breeders have contributed to this tragic issue. Dogs with poor temperament are often bred by backyard breeders. This produces puppies with behavioral problems who are quickly surrendered to shelters or abandoned as owners struggle to cope. In the same vein, irresponsible breeders who fail to socialize their puppies, ignore their critical development periods, and remove them from their dam too early are dooming puppies to the same fate.
A responsible dog breeder will make sure that there is a market for their puppies before they are bred. For some, this might involve creating a waiting list for puppies before they are even born to ensure that there is interest. They will also ensure that their puppies come from parents with excellent temperaments to avoid behavioral problems for their future owners. Lastly, a responsible breeder will always meet with the prospective buyer. This is to ensure that the buyer is knowledgeable and prepared for their new puppy. Some breeders will even take their puppies back if the owner is unable to care for them. However, until these practices become the standard for all dog breeders, the problem of overpopulation will sadly continue.
Many of the dog breeds we have today are the result of hundreds of years of artificial selection for certain characteristics. Among the most infamous examples are the English Bulldog, known for its stout body and flat face, and the German Shepherd, now with its sloping back and wider chest. So, for both of these breeds, painful arthritis and difficulty walking are now commonplace. Irresponsible dog breeders, or those ignorant to the health conditions that accompany these breed changes, will not strive to improve their breed. Instead, they allow for, or even select for, these unhealthy traits.
Fortunately, many responsible breeders with a passion for their breed are now actively working to reverse these problems by selecting dogs who show less dramatic traits. For some, this involves outcrossing programs. Some breeders go a step further and cross-breed to introduce new genetic material to the breed. However, until prospective puppy buyers and the majority of dog breeders become aware of the health problems that come with these traits, they are likely to persevere in these breeds. As such, it is important that responsible breeders continue to educate others through their work.
While there is demand for puppies and a lack of law enforcement, puppy mills thrive. According to the Humane Society, there are at least 10,000 puppy mills in the USA alone. Fewer than 3,000 of these are regulated, and many more are likely hidden. Sadly, puppy mills produce a staggering 2 million puppies every year. Also, considering that over 1 million dogs are euthanized in shelters every year, this is a very sobering statistic. Until the public is better educated on puppy mills, these highly unethical puppy mills will prosper. As a prospective puppy buyer, you must always see your puppy in person, meet their dam, and check the breeder’s credentials. Or, better yet, seek a puppy from a shelter if you’re looking for a new furry friend to bring home.
Inbreeding & Small Gene Pools
Due to unethical breeding practices, the gene pool of several breeds has become alarmingly small! Perhaps the most infamous example of this is seen in the Pug. In the UK, 10,000 Pugs are so inbred that their gene pool is the equivalent of just 50 individuals. To combat this problem, some breeders are now looking to out-cross their Pugs to totally unrelated Pugs. To do this effectively, the two dogs must share no common ancestors in a four-generation pedigree.
Some breeders are going a step further and crossing the Pug to other small breeds, such as the Parson Russell Terrier or Jack Russell Terrier, in an attempt to lessen the brachycephalic features of the breed. The resulting mix is known as the “Retro Pug.” Many Retro Pug breeders aim to keep the breed at around 80 to 90% Pug. Cross-breeding in this way also introduces new genetic material to the bloodline. However, some breeders reject the idea of bringing new breeds into the picture. They worry that the breed will take on new diseases and change in temperament.
Culling can mean two things: removing a dog from a breeding program or euthanizing them. While euthanasia for cosmetic reasons is uncommon today, past breeders engaged in the culling of puppies in a few breeds. One notable example is the white German Shepherd. White German Shepherds fell from grace in 1959. At this time, they were labeled as “albino.” Some countries then refused to register them altogether or made them an automatic disqualification. This mutation was rumored to be responsible for blindness as well as deafness. Sadly, at the time, there was no genetic test to refute any of these claims. As such, the culling of white puppies saw the white German Shepherd almost completely disappear. Devotees of the variation were unconvinced. And, later on, the White Swiss Shepherd (Berger Blanc Suisse) was born.
Today, culling like this is not common practice. Instead, puppies with severe deformities and health problems are usually the only candidates for a cull. That’s not to say that cosmetic culling doesn’t happen, however. Because of this, it’s especially important to avoid breeders who breed for color alone. Be wary of breeders who only offer “rare” puppies. An ethical breeder will sell puppies with undesirable coloration for a lower price. They may also ask the buyer to sign a contract to say that they will not breed from the dog later on. These practices help to ensure that the breed continues to thrive. If you buy a puppy with undesirable coloration, make sure to check the breed standard before entering shows. Your puppy may have an automatic disqualification due to their coat color.
Bad Sides of Dog Breeding – FAQ
Have any more questions about the negative effects of dog breeding? Feel free to refer to our Frequently Asked Questions for more details. If in doubt about adopting a new dog, speak to your local shelter for advice.
Responsible dog breeding is absolutely possible. However, it requires a great deal of dedication from the breeder themselves. A breeder must be very knowledgeable about their breed, have a good intention for breeding their dogs, know the breed standard well, health test all of their dogs, and take measures to ensure that their puppies go to responsible homes. A good breeder will actively work to improve their breed and will be able to explain what measures they are taking to do so. They will also make sure that there is a market for their puppies to ensure that none are left without homes.
In contrast, irresponsible breeders will not consider the temperament of their dogs, will have little knowledge of the breed, and will not have a clear intent for breeding. At worst, an irresponsible breeder will actively select for “rare” colors above all else, will breed any two dogs together, and will purposely create “new” mixes that put the lives of their dogs at risk. These breeders actively contribute to dog overpopulation, abandonment, and neglect with their poor practices.
Adoption is always the best choice when looking for a new furry friend! As over 6.5 million companion animals enter US shelters every year, there are millions of dogs looking for a loving home. These dogs range from unwanted puppies to normal adolescent dogs whose behavior is “too much” for their previous owners, to adult dogs whose owners simply didn’t have time for them anymore. Senior dogs, too, make especially good companions for families. There are also plenty of purebred dogs in shelters, too – many people buy a certain breed whilst unprepared for its specific needs, only to surrender them to a shelter.
However, for serious breeders of champion dogs, adoption may come second to buying for a few reasons. This is the case for breeders who are working to improve their breed, by only breeding dogs with certain characteristics. That’s not to say that shelter dogs are inferior – far from it! But, unfortunately, some shelter dogs have uncertain pasts and temperamental issues that may compromise a breeding program that strives to improve the breed. This, at times, can make them less suitable for the specific program.
A reputable breeder will be happy to answer any and all questions that you have. An irresponsible breeder, on the other hand, likely has practices that they want to hide, such as a lack of health testing paperwork and an inability to explain how they are working to improve their breed. The breeder may be reluctant to let you see the dam. And, in some cases, they might make excuses for why you can’t see her. Do not trust a breeder who does this. Any reputable breeder will be happy to let you visit the dam.
Always visit the breeder in person! Not only does this allow you to meet your new puppy, but it also allows you to get to know the breeder, too. Do not buy from a breeder who tells you that they can get you any coat color, breed, or sex you want – they are most likely a puppy farmer! Similarly, do not buy from a breeder who does not ask you whether your home and lifestyle are right for their puppy. A good breeder wants their puppy to go to the right home!
There are several organizations that you can report a bad breeder to. You may want to reach out to your local animal control or your local animal welfare organization. Or, you can file a complaint through the Humane Society using their puppy mill report form. If the breeder is with the AKC, report them to the AKC right away. It’s also important that you spread the word when a breeder is unethical, so that other prospective buyers do not fall into their trap! You might do this through the Complaints Board or a similar website.
In the UK, a bad breeder is also reportable! You may consider reporting them to the RSPCA, DEFRA, Animal Protection Services, your local council, and Citizens Advice. You may also contact the Kennel Club if the breeder is a member. If you suspect that the breeder is operating without a license, contact your local Council Licensing Department with your concerns.
Like a lot of debates, dog breeding is not as black-and-white as some might first think. While there are reputable breeders who love their breed, there are also breeders who totally disregard the health and safety of their dogs. It’s important to only support breeders who operate ethically or to adopt from shelters. This helps to reduce dog breeding’s negative effects.