Outdoor reared puppies

Posted Monday, 12 January 2015

During this year I have been working with a number of fearfully aggressive dogs which were reared in an outdoors environment. We know that dogs which are reared outdoors are likely to have less handling than those reared in the home.They are less likely to come into contact with people and paraphernalia in the home. According to Dr Ian Dunbar, puppies should have met 100 people before they are 12 weeks old for them to become comfortable with people. Not all at once of course, but frequently they should be meeting one or two gentle, calm people of different shapes, sizes and colour. You should avoid negative experiences as this period is the hard wiring period in which experiences really affect the pup’s emotional development, permanently.

Also pups reared indoors get accustomed to vibrations of people moving about their daily business even before they can hear and see aged approx 3 weeks. But after 3 weeks they can clearly hear and see objects such as vacuum cleaners, blenders, timers, fire alarms (if your cooking is anything like mine!) door bells, telephones etc. During this hard wiring period they are generally experiencing these noises and registering them as safe.

In fact many people already do know this and a great study by Gazzano et al in 2007 entitled “Effects of early gentling and early environment on emotional development of puppies” concluded that handling of puppies no matter where reared improved their confidence and emotional stability. The trouble is it is harder to do this if they are reared outdoors. Clearly indoor reared pups get more exposure to daily life whilst with the breeder than those reared in outbuildings/kennels where out of sight can be out of mind. The trouble is it can be difficult to detect the resultant problems until the puppy reaches around 6 months old. As they start to mature and enter their second sensitive period then any issues become much more obvious.

Good breeders are also more aware of this and many do a great job exposing pups to different surfaces, people, noises etc. Good breeders rear their puppies in the home. But many bad breeders are aware that people want indoor reared puppies so they put on a great facade of indoor rearing. So the pups will be indoors when you visit. Often they are kept in a cage though as it would be clear if puppies were not accustomed to this, they might be huddled or all over the place checking everything out for the first time. There will be a lack of evidence that the puppies do this normally such as penned off areas, newspaper on the floor, toys scattered about, child gates etc. It is also popular for puppy farmers to outsource puppies into a home for sale. This can make it very difficult to tell if they are indoor or outdoor reared. Of course you will not see the mother but you might see a dog purported to be the mother. Look at the teats. Are they saggy and full of milk still? If not, then most likely this is not the mother. Do you see the mother dog with the puppies? No? Why not? If you have made an appointment to see the puppies then the mother should be there and not taken out for a walk so you can’t see her. Are there outbuildings in the garden which look like they have been used for dogs? If so then these puppies most likely have been reared outdoors. Are all the puppies the same breed or cross? Do they look to be the same age? If not this could be a puppy farm gateway to sell puppies and there are pups from different mothers and of different ages. Clearly these will not all have been bred in that home. They are puppy farm pups.

It is increasingly difficult to make the right choices when purchasing a puppy as some people who breed are very cynical. They want your money and you will pay more for a home reared puppy. However, you might just be buying a puppy farm puppy that has been placed into a home to make more profit.

How to avoid this? You MUST research your breeders carefully. You MUST preferably see the puppies several times from about 3 weeks old to 8 weeks old. At 3 weeks they should still be suckling from the mother so you will see the mother is there with them. See the puppies several times so you can assess the environment and the breeder and be sure they are indeed home reared. If you see outbuildings which house dogs, investigate further! If you are buying from a breeder with outdoor kennels and your dog is to be an outdoor working dog, this will be fine. But outdoor reared pups don't make ideal "pet" dogs.  Yes, I know breeding is a business but it, is in my opinion, unethical to rear pups destined for domestic homes outdoors due to the emotional damage it can cause them. Sure some of these puppies will do fine despite the rearing conditions but many will not. I see the consequences of people living with this damage every day. If you want to avoid having a fearfully aggressive dog then don't impulse buy. Plan, prepare and do your research. And don’t buy your pup off the internet or buy him from a breeder who delivers to you at your home or at a service station! It is a minefield out there!