Help keep dogs out of shelters Part II : What are backyard breeders?

Help keep dogs out of shelters Part II : What are backyard breeders?

After reading part I of this series, you now know what puppy mills are, the harm they impose on dogs, and how to avoid them.

Here, in the second article of this series, you will learn what backyard breeders are, why to avoid them, and how to recognize them.

Avoid backyard breeders too!

So now I will help you understand what backyard breeders are. Afterwards, I will share important tips on how to recognize both puppy mills and backyard breeders so you don't buy a puppy from these types of enterprises.

What's a backyard breeder?

According to Wikipedia, a backyard breeder "is an amateur animal breeder whose breeding is considered substandard, with little or misguided effort towards ethical, selective breeding. Unlike puppy mills and other animal mill operations, backyard breeders breed on a small scale, usually at home with their own pets (hence the "backyard" description), and may be motivated by things such as monetary profit, curiosity, to gain new pets, or to show children 'the miracle of birth'".

Backyard breeders lack expert knowledge on puppy development

Many backyard breeders can be caring people who love dogs very much. But they have no education or training in breeding dogs ethically and properly. As well, they usually have insufficient knowledge about prenatal nutritional and veterinarian care for both the pregnant mother dog and her gestating puppies. Backyard breeders also lack expertise in caring for the nursing mother, and their infant puppies once they have come into the world.

It takes great skill and experience to select high-quality lines to breed. Backyard breeders just don't have the mastery or even the professional contacts to make the right choices. Furthermore, their monetary position could prevent them from affording dogs in that category or they might not even recognize the value of superior breeding stock.

In comparison, one of the most important reasons to choose a reputable breeder is their expert knowledge on accessing which lines of a breed will likely produce the qualities desired in a pet (or show animal, depending on the breeder). High-quality lines are those in which there is evidence of healthy puppy and adult lives in both the female and male parents, and ideally in previous generations via health tests and history of desirable temperament.

Backyard breeders do not have formal training on puppy developmental stages

Backyard breeders are unlikely to have received formal education about socializing and nurturing the puppies during each of their developmental stages. This, of course, puts the puppies, and later the dogs at risk in their interactions with other dogs. Humans around them can be surprised and harmed by a poorly socialized animal.

Be aware of the puppy "fear-window" stage between 8-10 weeks after birth

For example, there is a fear-window estimated to occur from about 8 to 10 weeks of age that high-quality breeders understand and accordingly address. Because this is an estimate, this fear stage could start earlier or end later.

Fears established during the fear-window can be permanent!

During this fear-window, if a puppy experiences fears associated with any person, thing, or situation, the puppy may remain fearful of them for the rest of its life. And the puppy's fear may be very difficult to sooth, and could have devastating consequences, such as the dog biting someone who is just trying to help.

So if the backyard breeder is not aware of this fear stage in puppy development, or does not handle it correctly, he or she could inadvertently cause the puppies to have permanent fears that may have been avoidable.

Improper early socialization can lead to permanent behavioural problems

Plus, because backyard breeders are not professional breeders, they may not properly socialize the puppies for typical human behaviour such petting, holding, hugging, kissing, or even bathing the puppies before the puppy goes to their new home. (Crate training is important too but I will discuss when a breeder should begin this process in a later section of this article.) All of this makes the transition for the puppy to move into his new forever home so much less stressful for both the puppy and the new dog parents! And it encourages a successful placement into the new home.

Plus it’s important to note that veterinarians generally advise that puppies not be socialized with dogs that live outside their home until they have received there full initial set of vaccines. So a backyard breeder may not know to avoid exposing the puppies to foreign dogs until it is safe to do so.

Backyard breeders may release the puppies too soon!!

By the way, this fear-window is a good reason to wait until after 10 weeks, preferably 12 weeks, to transfer a puppy from the breeder's property to your home. You can mitigate the risk of the puppy experiencing a heightened fear by avoiding bringing them to their new home during the fear-window. The transportation process alone during this time could traumatize the puppy for life. Since this window is an estimate and can begin earlier and end later, it's safest to wait to transfer the puppy from the breeder's location to your home at 12 weeks of age.

Unfortunately a backyard breeder is more likely to let you take a puppy home at 6 to 8 weeks of age (which is the expected start of the fear-window). Beyond the risks already discussed about transporting the puppy to his new home during the fear-window, it has always been considered too early to separate the puppy from his mother and siblings prior to 8 weeks of age.

In contrast, reputable breeders keep up with the latest scientific studies on puppy development. As recently as 15 years ago, it was common for high-quality breeders to release their puppies at 8 weeks of age. But in more recent years, such breeders have recognized new research that has documented this fear-window, and will insist on waiting until the puppies are 12 weeks of age before the new pet parents bring them home.

Backyard breeders can mean well, but you will still end up with life-long problems!

Just above, I highlighted issues with backyard breeders, but the outcomes are the same as I shared about puppy mills. Due to their profit motives and/or lack of knowledge, either avenue leads to puppies who have been shortchanged. These can make a dog's life miserable not only when they are occur, but have lifelong consequences. To reiterate, health and behaviour is severely affected by breeding choice, prenatal care, postnatal care, nutrition, socialization, lack of training and poor living conditions. These affects last from puppyhood to the end of their life, likely a shortened one.

And, all of this heartbreak is not only unpleasant for you if you acquire such a puppy, but it's a prescription for the puppy to be unhealthy and stressed, amping up the chance they will be surrendered to over-crowded dog rescue shelters. Moreover, the problems will continue for the next owner, if the shelter is able to find one....

How does the outcome differ when you buy a dog from a legitimate breeder instead?

In contrast, reputable breeders keep up with the latest scientific research on puppy development and have protocols to take the animal back if you cannot care for them. Some will even offer a full refund within a given period of time, like up to 2 years. But they may still insist on first rights to take the puppy back at any point in the puppy's life after that refund period, if for any reason you can no longer care for the animal. They assert this right because they genuinely care about the puppies that they breed and don't want them to end up in shelters.

And legitimate professional breeders put this requirement in their contracts. But backyard breeders will not likely provide a professional contract.

Stay tuned for part III of this series to learn the signs of a puppy mill and to understand the difference between purebred puppies and dogs that are not pure bred.