Breeders ad Behavior

How Breeders impact our Dogs Behaviour and Health


This article was written by ©Stan Rawlinson (The Original Doglistener). A professional full time Dog Behaviourist and Obedience Trainer in England but his insight and lessons are applicable worldwide. You can visit his website at for more articles and training information.


Part 1 the first eight weeks


Weeks 0 to 8:

There is an old saying  “give me the child and I will show you the man” this was attributed to the founder of the Jesuits, St Ignatius Loyola.

It referred to the first years of a human’s life. They claimed these are the most vitally important learning periods in any human’s lifetime.

Science and psychology now tends to lean towards the first five to five and a half years being the critical time period.

These are the most critically important period in the formation of a young child’s personality, character, intelligence and abilities.

We are all aware that when children are born they are virtually helpless.

Within five to five and a half years they are a vastly different individual.

With a fully formed personality, the ability to communicate, understand boundaries, and make decisions based on knowledge and experience.

Under-fives find it very difficult to understand boundaries; negotiation is not part of their repertoire. You have more chance of negotiating with a terrorist than you have with your young toddler.

Something appears to happen at five + years. They suddenly understand reason, to realise what it is right and what is intrinsically wrong.  It is like a light switch has been thrown.

Dogs get the same thing, though in a different timeframe. That critical timeframe is sixteen weeks.

First let me get rid of an old chestnut. Dogs do not age in seven year periods, in relation to humans. In reality it is fifteen for the first year, ten for the second, and four for every year thereafter.

Even that is not exact, but it is the closest you will get without looking at breed specific ageing charts.

The one year old dog is not a sweet seven year old child. He is a 15 year old Kevin; round the back of the bike shed, all spots and attitude. They are armed with a firm belief that you know literally nothing, and they know everything.

If you do your calculations then 16 weeks comes around the five year old mark in human years.

The first sixteen weeks of a Puppies life are so vitally important, as to overshadow almost any other considerations. Socialisation and handling from day one is an absolute must to create what I can only describe as the perfect dog.

See my two articles Critical Periods Part 1 and Critical Periods Part 2

The Blame Game

I am always being quoted the Mantra. “No Bad Dogs Only Bad Owners” Coined by the late Barbara Woodhouse.

This is probably the most dangerous and inaccurate statement about dogs and their owners, ever written.

I see many good owners with bad dogs, and bad owners with good dogs.

There are numerous reasons why we end with dogs with behavioural, aggression and health issues.

including what I believe are the biggest culprits of all. The Breeders.

That includes crossbreeds and pedigrees.

Other people that have an impact includes owners, trainers, behaviourists, and vets. Then we have the amateur experts on the numerous doggy forums.

Their advice in some instances can be frankly dangerous. There are some forums that are helpful and not antagonistic, but I am afraid to say they are in the minority.

The majority of these armchair experts only knowledge is that they have owned a dog or dogs.

Most of them are only there because their dog was a nightmare. Do you really want to take advice from them?

The Owners

Then there are the owners. Who obviously have a major impact on the eventual outcome of their dogs.

Having said that It is my firm belief that it is the breeders that have the main impact on the end results of some of today’s dogs.

If the owners do their research, pick the right breed for their circumstances. Then pick the right breeder for that breed. Then they are more than half way to owning the dog that they can be happy, comfortable and satisfied with.

See a link below to an article I have written about choosing a dog.

The Breeders:

So let’s start at the very beginning shall we. I believe the breeders play the most important role in the outcome of your new puppy.

Even before the pups are born, the breeder impacts the end result in numerous ways.

These include the choice of the sire and dam, their health and behaviour, and their temperament, which determines the breeds or crossbreeds they are creating.

I see many genetic problems in dogs that have been caused by the breeder.

They include behaviour, health issues, anxiety, aggression and genetic abnormalities.

Let me mention a few examples, Cocker Spaniels, prone to resource guarding.

Bull Terriers, tail chasing. British Bulldogs, serious health issues.

Collies, OCD. German Shepherds, fear aggression and hip problems,

Cavalier King Charles Spaniels, syringomyelia.

I could fill this article with the many complications and hereditary conditions, our dogs have consistantly had bred into them.

Some breeders know they are creating genetic problems.

I believe these type of breeders, often care more about the profit they will make than the health or wellbeing of the dogs.

Those choices could and often do, have a massive effect on many ongoing generations of dogs.

Puppy Farms

The very worst culprits of knowingly creating problems are the puppy farms.

Look at the picture right. Would you buy a puppy from here?

This  could be what you get if you buy a puppy without seeing the mother, or from ads or the interent and pet shops.

Puppy farms in the UK have been found to have as many as 200 breeding dogs, most kept locked inside 24 hours a day, often in complete darkness.

They are usually located on farms in barns, chicken houses, garages or any disused outbuilding.

The dogs are forced to eat, sleep and give birth in the same area they urinate and defecate; something they would never do given the choice.

In some cases they are treated worse than animals bred for the food chain. The general public keep up the demand for pups and so the cruelty continues, day after miserable day.

These puppy farms are most common in Wales and Ireland; the puppies they produce are sold in pet shops all over the UK and through newspaper ads and the internet. It is estimated that 50,000 trafficked puppies are believed to be imported from Ireland each year.

Most of these are destined for pet shops in Southern England. The county of Carmarthenshire in Wales alone is thought to produce 28,000 puppies a year also destined for the pet trade in England.

Commercial Breeders:

This will not make me popular, but I am not a fan of commercial breeders.

Where money is the main reason for breeding any litter, then the health and behaviour of the puppies may not be uppermost in their minds.

I feel that in many cases commercial requirements can override ethical issues, be it pedigree or crossbreed.

In fact some of the worst are crossbreeds, and especially Labradoodles. In this case to keep the price artificially high they are neutering them at six weeks of age.

I have even started a petition to stop the RSPCA and breeders from neutering dogs at this ludicrously young age.  It is my belief that Vets should be struck off for performing major surgery on these young pups without a serious medical reason.

Please SIGN my petition, if you feel as horrified as I do about this life changing and horrific practice.

The Labradoodles breeders are not the only culprits charging ridiculous prices for crossbreeds.  I recently re-homed a Chug, a Chihuahua and Pug cross.

They had paid eighteen hundred pounds for it at Harrods, and then work took them back to their home country; where dogs were not overly welcome. So I re-homed it for them. The new owners got it for free as I do not charge for rehoming dogs.

In reality it was a mongrel. Like the other expensive designer crossbreeds. However I accept that beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

I have just read that Harrods is closing down its pet shop.  That means no more sales of puppies possibly from dubious backgrounds. This was great news to me. I do not care how prestigious a shop is. Pups should never be sold in this way.

Show Breeders.

  Despite the fact I have suggested that crossbreeds are a problem. You cannot tell in cross breed,s what possible genetic problems may arise in the future . Some of the show breeders are also breeding dogs with known faults. Fortunately this is very much in the minority.

I have seen what can only be described as horror stories of dogs coming from the show and pedigree breeding fraternity.

One would imagine because someone has had a winner or placed in Crufts, that they would understand the requirements of breeding a good dog, both mentally and physically.

In some rare cases this could not be further from the truth. To some show breeders, their dogs are just there for reflected glory. I believe in some cases they do not even seem to like dogs.

Fortunately this is very much in the minority. Nonetheless it is there. Buyers should be careful from any breeder they buy from, whether show or otherwise.

Some of the worst socialised dogs I have ever seen have come from show cast-offs.

These are dogs normally over six month old, which the breeder held back because they showed potential as a pup to be a winner in the show ring.

They either grew too big, or had other defects, and were surplus to requirements. These can sometimes be the worst behaved dogs I have ever had the misfortune to treat.

Some are fearful, anxious, nervous, and often aggressive. With many behavioural and psychological hang-ups, many are traffic aversive and had never been exercised or desensitised to everyday life.

This I believe shows that some breeders do not have a clue about the importance of early socialisation.

Having said that, these breeders are definitely in the minority. There are many brilliant show breeders, and many great dog lovers in the show World. Who do have the breed and the dog’s welfare and behaviour, as the most important outcome for their litters.

Many check the credentials of the buyers and if they do not like what they hear they refuse to sell the pups. These are the ones I would go to.

I would love to say that was the mind-set of all of them, but that is sadly not the case. I believe breeders should study the importance of the critical periods in a puppy’s psychological growth. This is especially true of the first eight weeks.

The first weeks are critical for the behaviourial outcome of these puppies.

The First Weeks

if the breeders have bred the best pair of a dog they can get, with the best temperament and health scores.

Then that is a very good start, but only the beginning.

They will still have a massive impact on the outcome of those puppies by their actions until the puppies go to their new homes.

The only senses these pups have when they are born are tactile and taste, until, around two weeks of age when olfactory (sense of smell) kicks in.

Humans handling pups from day one provide a mild stress response, which acts to improve the puppies both physically and emotionally.

After that at 10 to 14 days the sense of hearing and smell develop, eyes open and the teeth begin to appear.

Their eyesight is not fully formed until seven weeks. Though they can see enough to get round from around three weeks of age. Pups that are handled regularly during the first seven/eight weeks of their life mature and grow quicker.

They are more resistant to infections and diseases, and are generally more stable. These pups handle stress better, are more exploratory, curious and learn much faster than pups that are not handled during this period.

They are also more likely to be happy around humans and are rarely aggressive. Therefore the pups born in kennels outside, and not in the home, and the ones born into puppy farms are less likely to get this vitally important tactile input.

It is important that the puppy stays with the mother until at least seven weeks. It is during these first important weeks that the puppies learn respect, and the ability to learn the all-important social graces of the dogs and human world.

The breeder should be introducing the puppies to other people males and females and children as much as possible and handling should be daily. I find many breeders do not socialise their dogs enough during this vitally important time.

This bears repeating Many dogs that are rehomed very late, especially from show breeders, mainly because the pups do not grow into the size or configuration compatible with that particular breed’s standard.

These dogs can be nervous and very badly socialised, with both humans and dogs, that do not form part of their own pack/family. If that dog is over sixteen weeks of age when you purchase it,  then what you see is basically what you will get for the remainder of that dog’s life, without professional help or intervention.

If the breeders choose the sire and dam correctly, and bred from the very best they can find, followed the simple rules of handling and socialising. Then it is up to the new owners to take over the reins, for the next eight weeks until the crucial sixteen week period.

And to end up with the perfect dog you will need to read part two which is from seven/eight weeks to sixteen weeks. Part Two Coming Soon

Stan Rawlinson December 2013

Other reading:

Choosing a Puppy,/a>

Your New Puppy

Toilet Training

Nipping and Biting

Recall Puppies

The Alpha Myth

Killing With Kindness

My thanks to Puppy Love Campaigns For their information on puppy farms

I also support CARIAD. Care and Respect Includes All Dogs

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This article was written by ©Stan Rawlinson (The Original Doglistener). A professional full time Dog Behaviourist and Obedience Trainer. You can visit his website at for more articles and training information.