Since when were animals a “product”? The answer, sadly, is “since always”.
In the past, we could justify this inhumanity and irresponsibility because of ignorance. In these “enlightened” times, however, how can we justify mass-producing animals and destroying “faulty products”, pushing them off the production line as fast as they can be bred?
I’m noticing a pattern in my area (and probably others as well!) of people breeding small breeds (primarily Matese x Shitzu, but others as well) and then selling them at six weeks old. Many are also feeding the pups on weetbix and milk, or a similar low-nutrient alternative.
This is too young; a pup shouldn’t leave its mother until at least 8 weeks old (ideally 12 weeks) for ANY reason, because they learn social skills from their mother and from playing with their siblings. They should also not be fed solely on weetbix and milk (I have confirmed this with my vet) because it lacks many nutrients and vitamins that are ESSENTIAL for the development of a young dog.
This trend is disturbing. It leads to poorly socialised and poorly developed dogs.
There is much more to breeding than simply finding a male and a female and letting them “go at it” (which, incidentally, is the method used by the majority of these backyard ‘breeders’). Proper breeding involves careful selection of a healthy and unrelated breeding pair with healthy lines, and should only be done to improve the bloodlines and eradicate certain traits (such as certain inherited conditions). There is no need for every Tom, Dick, and Harry to breed.
Sadly, most “breeders” don’t care about responsible breeding, they care only about the bottom line; how many pups can be bred, and how many dollars will each pup fetch?
A healthy dog from a responsible breeder can cost several thousand dollars. A dog from a backyard breeder can cost a few hundred. Do you know why there is such a difference?
A responsible breeder invests in vet checks of the parents, often investing in pedigree animals of verifiable ancestry in order to screen for defects and temperament issues. They involve the vet in several stages of the breeding process. The bitch is monitored throughout her pregnancy to improve the chances of healthy offspring. The pups are checked soon after birth, again at four weeks, and again at eight weeks, in order to detect any problems.
Often, the responsible breeder will also invest in micropchipping, early vaccinations, worming, and quality nutrient-rich foods. Many will also spend time on basic training such as house-breaking and basic obedience. The dogs that come from these breeders are well-socialised, healthy, and ready to give you a lifetime of loyalty and friendship.
That’s what you’re paying for. Those thousands of dollars reflect the investment of these breeders toward producing healthy and well-adjusted animals.
A backyard breeder, on the other hand, might only invest in a vet-check right before the dog leaves their care, if that. They put a dog in with an in-season bitch, and let nature takes its course. The breeding pair is often traceable to the parents only, so there is no way to detect genetic issues that may skip a generation or two. Often they are dogs that someone got cheap, and so temperament may be an issue. Very few of these dogs come with their first vaccinations, since they are sold before a vaccination can safely be given. In this case, you truly do get what you pay for, and what you’re paying for is a 50/50 chance that you will end up with a suitable animal.
So think before you buy that cute little puppy. What do you know about it? What kind of early care did it receive? Do you know anything about their lines? Is it really worth the risk?
By buying from a backyard breeder, you are encouraging them to continue this dodgy practice.