Love Is Not Enough – part 1
When thinking about adopting a dog from a breeding background, it’s vital to keep the dog’s previous life firmly in mind. Adopting any dog involves a number of unknowns but for breeding dogs the unknowns are far greater. Much secrecy surrounds the true origins of dogs coming from breeding facilities. It’s unlikely an adopter will ever know exactly what the background of their dog is, or precisely what their life has been like. This can be true of many dogs in rescue, but for breeding dogs there are specific factors to consider.
Where and how the dog has lived and what they have survived will impact on how they adapt, not only to their new home, but everything in the world they now find themselves in. A breeding dog who has not been kept as a family pet has no familiar points of reference. Being adopted into a home will require a lot of work on their part as they navigate an alien world.
Now with the so-called ‘pandemic puppy’ phenomenon, adult dogs as well as puppies are in demand and people are paying significant prices for breeding dogs who are being ‘retired’ under the pretence of adoption and rescue. It’s increasingly common for me to be contacted by people wanting to adopt, some specifically want an ex-breeding dog. I don’t know why and am working through in my mind what this reflects. A few weeks ago an email came in from someone who had paid £900 for a dog that they said they had rescued – rescued perhaps, bought definitely. They saw an online ad, wanted a dog and paid the price. In more ways than one.
It was clear when the dog was being described to me that she came from a breeding background, the buyer was a little coy, reluctant to give me much information, while expecting me to advise on finding a dog trainer. Finding a dog trainer was the least of the problems as far as I could see. The dog was terrified of everything, she had no way of understanding the world she had been thrust into. The buyer who I sensed was losing patience had no idea what to do. They hadn’t been prepared for the dog to have any problems, let alone a whole load of them.
Commercial breeding dogs are unlike typical dogs in rescue – they have been confined their entire lives. Not only have they not lived in a home, they’ve experienced nothing remotely normal. What contact with humans they have had will have been brief. This is true for dogs not only from large scale breeding units, but those kept in garden sheds forced to supply the booming puppy trade. Humans are creatures the dogs cannot relate to, so to suddenly find themselves living in close quarters is confusing and often frightening.
A lot is out there on social media about puppy farms/mills and there’s plenty of evidence online which shows the worst kind of conditions. However, breeding dogs put up for adoption come from a varying range of places and rescues won’t necessarily know, or tell adopters the conditions their dog has experienced. Buying dogs from ads is even less likely to come with accurate information. Even if adopters are rehoming direct from breeders, it’s not always made clear to them that the life the dog has led is not that of a family pet.
Deception and misinformation are rife in every corner of the dog business. Whether it’s the grubbiest and nastiest, or smarter, polished up ‘professionals’ where kennels are clean and websites slick but the dogs are just a profitable, fertile commodity; right up until the last penny is made from them.
The extent of deprivation that a breeding dog has experienced will affect the degree of harm, both physical and emotional, that they suffer. Some may have few physical problems but psychological damage will be present in all. It’s the nature and extent that will be variable.
Potential adopters may believe, or be told by well meaning friends, or read comments on social media that love will fix everything.
This is not true. Breeding dogs will carry their history with them. It won’t ever leave them, but it will define their days less as time passes. But only if their adopter – or buyer – is prepared for the emotional and practical changes they themselves must undergo to make it so.
At the outset a recognition and acceptance is needed that their dog may never fully overcome their past, or be a dog who can go everywhere, or be comfortable around people, or allow physical attention or affection. Potential adopters of breeding dogs must be honest with themselves about what is required and only adopt if a full commitment to putting the needs of the dog is there. And understand that those needs might be unexpected and different and challenging to provide for.
Part Two will explore this and how adopters can prepare.