Does It Matter Where Your Kerry Was Bred?

“We found that across all behavior categories, including trainability, dogs from less responsible breeders had significantly less favorable behavior and temperament scores than puppies from responsible breeders.” These words from Catherine Douglas, a researcher at Britain’s Newcastle University, will come as no surprise to most of us. What matters, of course, is what is meant by “behavior and temperament scores” and “responsible breeders,” as well as who were the people surveyed to get the information on which the conclusion was based.

A group of British dog owners of specific breeds – Pugs, Chihuahuas and Jack Russell Terriers – were asked questions about where their dogs had been bred and about the behavior and temperament of the dogs as adults. 

Professor James Serpell at the University of Pennsylvania created the questionnaire used in the study to assess dogs’ behavior and temperament. (He originally created the questionnaire for a similar study he did in the U.S.) The CBARQ (“Canine Behavior Assessment & Research Questionnaire”) asks pet owners to assess their dog’s excitability, aggression, fear & anxiety, separation-related behaviors, attachment & attention-seeking, trainability & obedience and a variety of other problem areas. If you’re interested, you can see and use the questionnaire by clicking here.

The owners also answered questions about their dogs’ breeding, such as “Did you see the mother? Were health documents available? Were the puppies brought up in a home environment? Did you have any concerns for the bitch or puppies’ welfare? At what age did you get the puppy?” Such inquiries were used to define “responsible breeders” as those who followed guidelines of the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals regarding dog breeding. (These guideliens are the basis of the RSPCA’s “Puppy Contract,” which you can read here

Puppy mills are the classic case of non-responsible breeders, but as Catherine Douglas points out, some non-responsible breeders were “smaller scale commercial breeders where the dogs’ welfare may not be the first concern.” 

Specific findings of the study were that dogs from puppy mills were more likely to be aggressive, more afraid of other dogs, and more likely to suffer separation anxiety than dogs from more conscientious breeders.

The fundamental take-away from this study, according to the researchers, is that prospective dog owners should be very careful to investigate a puppy’s background. “Fundamentally, animals destined to interact with humans and the world should not be reared in puppy farms…. The welfare of both puppy and parents should be put above profit, and the more the public know about this the more likely they will source their dog from a responsible home to give it the best chance in life of being a successful companion.”

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