Backyard Bred Dog Health and Welfare Implications: Why Responsible Breeding Matters
Buying a puppy is an exciting time, but it’s important to be responsible in your search to make sure you purchase a healthy dog that has been raised ethically and supports good practices to create the next generation of sound, health-tested, and well-socialized puppies in the breeds you love.
There are a lot of things to consider when looking for a dog to join your family. Quite often the most important one doesn’t make the list: ensuring you are purchasing from a reputable breeder and not supporting unethical breeding.
What separates the respected breeder from the backyard breeder? The term “backyard breeder” actually has little to do with where the dogs are kept, but rather with how and why they’re kept. How do you avoid the pitfalls of backyard breeders? Who has the best interests of the dog and you at heart?
We own more dogs than ever before, but there is quite a shortage in well bred pets.
In 2023, it’s a dangerous virtual puppy buying world where rogue breeders and scammers can more easily hide behind a screen of a slick website, marketing themselves better than they used to – and better than they are – to the public. Some breeders are highly ethical, while others’ morality and values are very questionable. These bad breeders are savvy when it comes to misrepresentation. Dog owners are very diverse in their education levels, experience, and their goals for their dog. That is why it is up to you to be properly educated. With education comes the ability to make better choices for your pet.
What is a “Backyard Breeder” (BYB)
A backyard breeder is an amateur animal breeder whose breeding is considered substandard, with little or misguided effort towards ethical, selective breeding. Backyard breeders may not necessarily be “bad” people, but they breed for the wrong reasons. Breeding is for the betterment of the breed.
Not all breeders are created equal, and they come in several categories. Backyard breeders can be divided into subgroups:
- Active breeders: The intentional backyard breeder, knowingly breeding
- Passive breeders: The random or ignorant breeder, conducted on a small scale
The Intentional Backyard Breeder
This breeder intentionally breeds one or a few dogs with very little knowledge and standard of care.
They may believe that the only real requirement for breeding dogs is just being a dog lover.
The Ignorant Backyard Breeder
While these people might have honest and “good” intentions, they have absolute devastating effects on the overall health, temperament, and overpopulation of pets in the country. Their lack of knowledge may lead to unethical practices, such as not conducting appropriate health testing for their breed(s) or being unaware of the existence of national breed clubs. These BYB are honest in their intentions and are not necessarily bad people, but their actions are unethical and contribute to the negative consequences of backyard breeding.
They may breed because:
- They have a dog
- They irresponsibly have an intact dog – breeding by “accident” by ignorance or neglect
- They want one litter of puppies so they or their kids can “experience the miracle of birth”
- They want their dog to “experience having puppies”
- They simply want to make more pets they love
- Their ego or vanity
- They want to make some extra money
- They may only breed their family dog once in awhile
- They want to keep a particular dog in their family
- They think they have the best dog
Backyard breeders may not necessarily be “bad” people, but they breed for the wrong reasons. Breeding is for the betterment of the breed.
Backyard breeders are extremely accessible, and incredibly common. However, when it comes to the unsuspecting, purblind public, they are not always easily identifiable. The ease and lure of backyard breeders that use buzzwords and marketing tactics make it easier than ever to fall victim to.
Backyard breeders are likely to exhibit one or more of the following characteristics:
🚩 They intentionally produce “-oodles” and “-poos”, a direct mix of two purebred dogs as those who deliberately cross existing breeds have no scientific justification as a result of fads and trends of the time
🚩 They have snazzy websites that hide information or outright lie
🚩 They have a program for “guardian homes” (this is not the same as a co-ownership)
🚩 They are involved in MLM scams such as NuVet or a particular diet and asks that you feed and stay on their specific food recommendation
🚩 They are not a member of their national breed club
🚩 They do not participate in activities that support the breed: conformation shows, obedience trials
🚩 They makes up names, colours, and sizes. This is not the same as a breeder seeking to establish a new breed, as they would do so over many generations working with others towards the common goal. A breeder may still be reputable if producing mixed dogs, under specific circumstances such as a sport mix, but not for basic companionship
🚩 They have mixed breed dogs bred for companionship and no purpose
🚩 They have many types of mixes or purebreds
🚩 They have ignorance of selective breeding and don’t make thoughtful pairings; their pairings and litter lack a purpose and goal that the breeder is trying to achieve
🚩 They lack familiarity with the breed standard of the dog being bred/ breeding dogs without a breed standard
🚩 They don’t have health clearances posted; or they don’t match in the public database
🚩 They breed animals younger than 18 months
🚩 They breed excessively from individual females; they do not stop breeding any female dog once it has delivered 3 to 4 litters (large breed), and 5-6 litters (small breed)
🚩 They breed for appearance, fads, or trends; colours that are not accepted by their national breed club (i.e. merle)
🚩 They sell animals with genetic disorders or undisclosed illnesses before they become evident to buyers
🚩 They don’t provide puppy buyers with proper paperwork, including a bill of sale, reputable Kennel Club registration papers, vaccination certificates and copies of genetic screening clearances for the sire and dam of the litter
🚩 They don’t provide ongoing guidance and support to puppy buyers
🚩 They don’t provide contract
🚩 They don’t provide guarantee of overall health and temperament, as well as absence of genetic disorder
🚩 They don’t belong to regional, national, or international breed (🚩 Mixes are not recognized) and performance clubs formed to preserve, protect, and promote specific breeds
🚩 Names of dogs do not have titles listed before or after them; example CH, GCH
🚩 They use a courier or pet delivery service to get the puppy to you (click and collect)
🚩 They sell pups via various outlets
🚩 They sell their puppies through puppy broker websites, send their puppies to complete strangers or to the first person who sends a deposit
🚩 They don’t require you to visit them and their dogs
🚩 They are reluctant to show potential customers the entire premises on which animals are being bred and kept
🚩If you do visit, they bring out the puppy to you so you don’t see the mother, litter mates or where the dogs live. *Keep an eye out for barns and sheds on the property that could be used for mass-breeding dogs
🚩 They do not know anything about typical genetic disorders for the breed and do not have their dogs screened by veterinary specialists (hip x-rays, ophthalmologist, cardiologist, etc.)
🚩They may say “vet clearance” “DNA tested” “Embark” but this is NOT the same as health testing
🚩 They don’t have a first-right-of-refusal requirement; they don’t require you to send the puppy back
🚩 They lack screening of potential owners
🚩 They offer puppies of many different breeds
🚩 They have unregistered dogs
*Registering their dogs with a kennel club alone does not guarantee that they treat their dogs humanely or do any medical screening. All it means is that the registered puppy is the offspring of two dogs that are both also registered as being purebred of the breed in question.
🚩They hide registration names and/or numbers or they don’t match what they’re advertising
🚩They breed without concern for the possibility of finding homes
🚩They use pressure sales tactics
🚩They prioritize profit above animal welfare
🚩They don’t have a detailed puppy socialization program
🚩They don’t prioritize maternal health and well being
🚩They get offensive when you ask questions
🚩The price seems unusually low
🚩The price seems unusually high
🚩They use a description that includes terms like “rare”, “micro”, “mini”, “teacup”, “hypoallergenic”, “non-shedding” “championship bloodlines”, “hybrid vigor”, “potty trained”, a “service dog” program – and by a few weeks old
🚩The price of puppies varies depending on their coat colour, eye colour, or body size
🚩Their pups leave before 8 weeks
🚩They have dogs with behavior and health issues that are repeatedly bred, producing lots of puppies likely to have the same problems
Most [backyard] breeders are genuinely nice people and they do love their dogs, but that is simply not enough. When it comes to genetics, you can’t love your dogs into being genetically sound and healthy.
Centering on dog breeding in 2023, it’s easy for anyone to look appealing, say all the right things, and “do” all the right things to avoid being a backyard breeder and present themselves as ethical and responsible. If there is just one thing that characterizes a responsible breeder from a backyard breeder, it lays within the health testing:
Health testing on both parents per the national breed club or OFA recommendations are to be completed before breeding. Health testing is not a secret, and it is nothing to be defensive about. You can easily crosscheck records which are readily available on the OFA Databases and CHIC DNA Repository; they are partnered with participating parent clubs to research and maintain information on the health issues prevalent in each specific recognized breed. These are public records. You can find a link to the parent breed club by finding your breed listing under the “breeds” tab on the AKC website.
Passing off “DNA testing” and “vet clearance” as doing proper health testing to the unsuspecting buyer is not acceptable.
All dogs can be traced back to either responsible or irresponsible breeding practices, and if we want dogs to continue to exist, they have to reproduce. The market of companion dogs is growing, leading to concern about welfare. These welfare issues associated with companion animal breeding are due to lack of laws and oversight that require breeders to meet certain standards of care and fueled by the public’s purchase.
Implications of Backyard Breeding
Why must backyard breeders be avoided
Knowing the motivations and breeding practices of where a dog comes from can influence the health and temperament of the adult dog. The source of where you get your puppy has been correlated with the prevalence of behavioural and health problems. This impact has a long-lasting effect on the character and health of the dog in adulthood, so it is important to know the origin of the puppy and the characteristics of the breeder.
Some people may not be aware of the risks associated with backyard dog breeding, and may be swayed by marketing materials.
Backyard breeders flood the market with their animals. They reduce homes available for animals from reputable establishments, shelters and rescue groups.
Backyard breeding poses very real threats to the genetic health of the dog and animal welfare, which not only affects that dog, but the home they end up in.
Why backyard dog breeders should be avoided:
Even if the backyard breeder does not have bad intentions, the results of their actions can be devastating.
Poorly-bred animals are more likely to have health problems that require expensive vet bills. What’s worse is it shortens their lifespan, or requires extensive training to deal with temperament issues, all of which could have been avoided. Backyard breeders aren’t using breeding-quality dogs to begin with in their programs or providing the appropriate health testing, if at all. In the end, animals may get re-homed, shelters are overrun, and the cycle continues. Everyone suffers.
Health testing animals allow people to make important health-related decisions with their veterinarian, and serve to advocate for your pet. Breeding responsibly requires a deep understanding of genetics, temperament, canine husbandry, breed standards, breed history, medical tests, and much more. When we complete health testing on our dogs, we’re evaluating their health in the present and making predictions about their health in the future.
Health Problems and Behavioral Tendencies
This study by Franklin D. McMillan, published in the Journal of Veterinary Behavior in 2017, explored the link between poor breeding practices and behavior in dogs; “Behavioral and psychological outcomes for dogs sold as puppies through pet stores and/or born in commercial breeding establishments: Current knowledge and putative causes“.
The study analyzed data from previous research on the behavioral and psychological outcomes of dogs who were sold as puppies through pet stores or born in commercial breeding establishments, none of which are reputable. The study found that dogs who were poorly bred or had negative early life experiences were more likely to display behavioral issues such as fearfulness, anxiety, and aggression.
The study also identified potential causes of these issues, including genetic predisposition to anxiety and aggression, poor socialization during critical developmental periods, and exposure to stressful or traumatic environments.
Overall, the study highlights the importance of responsible breeding practices and early socialization in promoting the health and well-being of dogs. It also underscores the potential consequences of supporting the practices of backyard breeders and commercial breeding establishments that prioritize profit over animal welfare.
Avoid purchasing a puppy that does not appear clean, healthy, (tear stains, eyes are not bright, alert, structurally unfit, off standard) or well socialized.
Despite the challenges of lack of regulation and oversight, current popularity of mixed breeds, and lack of education, responsible breeders do exist. By supporting responsible breeding practices, we can help ensure that all dogs are treated with the love and care they deserve. Backyard breeders are extremely accessible, and incredibly common with the worst culprits failing to provide for the physical and emotional needs of the dogs in their care. Pet owners are responsible for these conditions and are an accomplice to these breeders by supporting them with their purchase. The life of a puppy is merely a surrogate for cash. Breeding is done at the expense of the dog’s health, hygiene, and care; sound awful? This is completely legal.
Backyard breeders are not illegal, and they exist because the public funds them. The law only punishes actions resulting in direct animal cruelty and abuse, albeit backyard breeding in most cases is not considered abuse. No one ever admits to being a backyard breeder because it’s bad for business. Nobody likes backyard breeders, no one thinks they are one, or that their breeder is one.
Prospective pet owners should care about the origin of their puppy given the direct cascade effect this will have on their puppy’s life. By considering the source of your pet, you can find a breeder who prioritizes temperament, health and structure. Responsible breeders create the next generation of sound, health-tested, well-socialized puppies in the breeds you love. Taking the time to do the research on the breed and the breeder will help you set your family and your new dog up for success.
Sheepdog Riggs, Forever in Our hearts
Did you find this information helpful? Do you enjoy my content or learn something new? Please consider showing your support by buying me a coffee.
Has your dog been affected by Canine Copper-Associated Hepatopathy? Please see our Members Page.
Are you in need of a Veterinarian right now? Vetster is 24/7 on demand online veterinary virtual appointments. Search by location, availability, species, vet profile, treatment and more. Connect with a licensed veterinarian in minutes from the comfort of your own home.