Common knowledge tells us that dogs coming from commercial breeders through pet stores are not ideal candidates for lifetime companions. New research published this month in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association (McMillan et al, 2013)now confirms what many people have long suspected: the first few months of a puppy’s upbringing strongly influences the rest of his or her life.
The study confirms that dogs who came from pet stores and were likely born in puppy mills (high-volume substandard commercial breeding facilities) were more aggressive towards their guardians than those from smaller-scale home breeders.
These dogs were also more aggressive towards strangers and other dogs, experienced more fear, and had greater separation anxiety than their home-raised counterparts. Some other behaviours that were more common in pet store dogs were inappropriate mounting, house soiling, and escaping the house.
Why are pet store puppies worse off behaviourally? Policy and outreach officer at the BC SPCA, Amy Morris, offers an explanation. “When puppies are deprived of positive socialization during the most critical period in their upbringing, the effect lasts a lifetime. Puppies need to be introduced to household sounds and objects, other pets and different people during the first four months of life.”
Puppies sourced from puppy mills who go on to be housed in pet stores tend to be deprived of those experiences. At the BC SPCA, dogs rescued from puppy mills are often difficult to rehabilitate and can take months or years to adjust to normal life.
McMillan’s study confirms, with a large sample number of dogs (413 obtained from pet stores and 5,657 directly from breeders), that anyone looking for a well-adjusted puppy needs to find their forever companion from a responsible source, or face consequences for their own safety.
The British Columbia Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals is a not-for-profit organization reliant on public donations. Our mission is to protect and enhance the quality of life for domestic, farm and wild animals in B.C.