There’s much talk in the media about neglectful dog breeding farms and the abuse that takes place at them. However rather than breaking the law, many farms are proud of their operation, follow all council regulations and are regularly inspected by the RSPCA... so where’s the problem?
There is in fact a huge problem. These puppies miss out on the two critical things that create a safe and happy pet dog - known genetic hereditary and socialisation.
Modern dogs are required to be incredibly adaptable – to be friendly with strangers, not chase the cat, avoid the vacuum cleaner, listen to directions, toilet outside and tolerate children. If a chicken has the occasional bout of bad-temperedness, it’s unlikely to cause a problem - but if a dog is prone to aggression, timidity, separation anxiety or is otherwise unstable, it causes enormous problems for itself, its new family and the community.
Learning begins from the moment a pup is born. Dog behaviourists have long known from birth to seven weeks is the time when the greatest changes, physically and behaviourally take place and it's during this stage of tremendous development that a dog's personality is shaped.
The experience a puppy has during this time has an enormous effect on its ability to be a 'good dog' in later life.
Because these pups are not being born into a family home for instance, or a small manageable environment, they’re very poorly socialised. Professor Paul McGreevy – The Puppy Mill
Farms keep upwards of 300 dogs, so during this very important time in the puppy's development, they languish in kennels without experiencing the things they will encounter when they join the world. They miss out on individual handling and interaction with humans. They have no contact with a bustling household, kids and other pets. They don't even go outside of the kennel environment to walk on grass or learn to toilet away from their sleeping area.
Aside from environmental factors, the other major ingredient to a good tempered dog is hereditary; or the stable temperament of its parents. These pups are bred from dogs who've never dealt with any of the challenges of modern life, so are an unknown factor - how can we know these mums are good house pets when they've never been one?
In short - puppy mill puppies miss out on the two things that are known to help shape a good, stable temperament for later life; good breeding and many and varied positive life experiences before the age of seven weeks. As long as they're cute and fluffy, the puppy miller gets his money.
Photos courtesy of the Sunday Program