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F. McMillan1
1Best Friends Animal Society, Animal Care, Kanab. UT, USA
Franklin D. McMillan, DVM, DACAW
Best Friends Animal Society, Kanab, Utah, USA, email:
Large-scale, high-volume breeding of dogs for purposes of selling puppies occurs around the world. Because these commercial breeding establishments (CBEs) are seeking to maximize profit, the care of the dogs kept
for breeding is often substandard, and in many cases inhumane. This creates the potential for innumerable problems, both physical and psychological-behavioral, to occur in the puppies.
In the United States most puppies sold by pet stores are purchased from intermediaries, who acquire their puppies from CBEs and then distribute them to the retail stores. In addition, many puppies produced in CBEs are sold directly to the consumer over the Internet.
Conditions in the CBEs are reported to vary widely, ranging from relatively clean to squalid, noxious, and gravely detrimental to animal health and welfare. CBEs are typically characterized by large numbers of dogs, maximal efficiency of space by housing dogs in or near the minimum space permitted by law, breeding dogs spending their entire reproductive lives in their cages or runs, group and solitary housing, dogs rarely if ever permitted out of their primary enclosures for exercise or play, no toys or enrichment, minimal-to-no positive interaction with humans, and substandard or no health care. Many but not all CBEs have cage flooring made of wire mesh, accumulation of feces, ammonia odor, no windows and poor ventilation, inadequate protection from inclement weather and temperature extremes, insufficient or contaminated water and spoiled food, serious untreated medical conditions (e.g., advanced dental disease), extensive matting of hair, odd or stereotypical behaviors by the dogs, evidence of starvation, and presence of deceased adult dogs and puppies. Results from studies
Seven empirical studies have reported specific information about the behavior of dogs obtained as puppies from pet stores and/or were born in CBEs. In addition, one anecdotally reported study is included in this review of current knowledge. The studies come from 4 countries on 3 continents.
In a retrospective survey of 737 mature dogs, Jagoe (1994) investigated the relationship between early life experience and owner-reported behavior problems in adulthood. Twenty dogs were acquired from pet stores. Jagoe found that when compared with dogs from other sources, dogs obtained from pet shops showed higher levels of ‘dominance-type’ aggression (aggression directed toward people, especially the dog’s owner and owner’s family members). Pet store-acquired dogs also more often demonstrated social fears (fear of strangers, children, and unfamiliar dogs) compared with dogs from other sources.
Bennett and Rohlf (2007) studied the frequency of potential problem behaviors reported by owners in
413 companion dogs, 47 of which were obtained from pet stores. Mean scores on the unfriendly/aggressive subscale of behaviors were significantly higher for dogs obtained from pet stores and animal shelters compared with dogs obtained from breeders. Dogs obtained from pet stores also had significantly higher mean scores on the ‘nervous’ behavioral subscale than dogs who were home-bred.Pierantoni et al. (2011) compared owner- reported behaviors of 70 adult dogs separated from their mother and littermates at 30 to 40 days of age and the behaviors of 70 adult dogs separated at two months of age. 71 dogs came from pet stores. Results showed that he frequency of certain behaviors (fearfulness
on walks, aversion to strangers, destructiveness, excessive barking, attention-seeking behaviors, toy possessiveness, and play biting) among dogs separated from their mother and littermates at the earlier age was higher if they came from pet shops rather than from other sources. For example, 80% of dogs separated early from litters and obtained from pet stores exhibited destructiveness more frequently compared to 20% of dogs not separated early.
McMillan et al. (2013) compared the owner-reported behavioral characteristics in 413 dogs obtained as puppies from pet stores and 5,657 dogs obtained as puppies from noncommercial breeders. They found that dogs acquired from pet stores were in general more excitable, energetic, and attached/attention seeking, and less trainable than dogs from breeders. Sexually intact pet store dogs were three times as likely to be reported showing owner-directed aggression as were sexually intact dogs acquired from breeders, and pet store
dogs were nearly twice as likely to be reported to have shown aggression toward unfamiliar dogs (dog-directed aggression). Other behaviors reported more frequently in dogs from pet stores compared with breeders included stranger-directed aggression, dog-directed aggression, dog-directed fear, nonsocial fear, separation-related behaviors, escape behavior, sensitivity (disapproval), sexual mounting of people and objects, and house- soiling (urination and defecation).
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