Blog - The difference between home-reared and kennel reared puppies

Posted Monday, 26 February 2018

Body handling issues

I have been doing my job a long time and thousands of puppies/dogs have passed through our classes over 15 years. After a while of working with so many puppies and dogs, you start to recognise patterns. For example, the difference between a puppy reared in the family home and those reared in kennels, cabins, or summer houses; or even (to a lesser degree) those reared in a conservatory.

Now, I am NOT saying that if a pup is reared in kennels or other buildings they cannot be a normal loving family friend, but I AM saying that if that is to happen, the breeder must put a GREAT DEAL OF EFFORT into making sure they gently handle those puppies from the day they are born, and regularly do so until those pups go to their new homes. They also need to make sure the puppies meet people, plenty of different people of different ages and sizes. Not all at once, otherwise this would overwhelm them, but a drip feed of people to see the puppies each and every day, certainly from about three - four weeks old, until they are homed.

Breeders also need to make sure that the puppies are exposed to the paraphernalia they will experience in their new home (fridges, freezers, cookers, washing machines, dishwashers, vacuum cleaners, radios, televisions, telephones, music systems etc.) Only keeping them in one space limits their exploration, and consequently limits their experiences. They only have a short time in which they can experience things without being a little bit scared, and most of this window is when they are with their breeder. Before 12 weeks old, most puppies are becoming less confident about experiencing new things and can struggle to adapt to normal day to day life. It is understandable that the breeder might not want a houseful of rampaging destructive little monsters, but responsible breeders will have puppy proofed their homes so that the pups can safely explore without creating mass destruction. That is the cost of being a good breeder. If you are not prepared to do this, then please don't breed. 

A feature of kennel reared puppies is that they really dislike being handled. This is most likely because they have not been handled sufficiently so that they find being handled a safe and peasant experience. These are the puppies that can be pre-disposed to resist their feet touched, or being towel dried. They may struggle to wear collars/harnesses or resist being groomed. This behaviour can be evident even when really young and if the owner is not aware, eventually this can lead to aggression being used to stop the owner handling them.

If you have acquired a puppy that was not raised fully in the home, you will very likely need to approach handling your puppy very differently to a home raised pup. You will need to work much more slowly and make sure your puppy finds being handled lovely. It is also important to let your puppy be able to say when they want you to stop. So, if your puppy turns away from you, walks away, freezes or wriggles, or even growls, just release the pup so that he/she knows how to make you stop (but ideally before your pup has to growl. If your pup growls, it’s likely you missed some earlier signals). If the pup is able to get you to stop handling this way, it will never be necessary to bite you. Keep handling sessions very brief and gentle, always pair being touched with something lovely (like a tasty treat AFTER the handling) and just build up handling duration very gradually. If in doubt, or if your puppy still struggles or tries to avoid being handled, please seek the professional help of an accredited behaviourist as soon as possible.