Are Dogs From Non-Commercial Breeders And Dogs From Pet Stores Different?
Animal health and welfare specialists from the U.S. and Canada joined forces in order to evaluate the hypothesis that dogs obtained as puppies from pet stores would be reported to be more likely to develop behavioural problems, compared with dogs obtained as puppies from non-commercial breeders (NCBs). The researchers were surprised by the findings of previous studies, which indicated that dogs obtained from pet shops had a significantly higher likelihood for owner-directed aggression and various social fears. To study this more thoroughly, the researchers collected answers from 413 owners of dogs obtained as puppies from pet stores and 5,657 owners of dogs originally from non-commercial breeders.
The sent out questionnaires that consisted of 100 items asking about the dogs’ responses to various everyday situations, which the human companions had to rate on a 5-point scale. The results were shocking – dogs acquired from pet stores differed significantly on 12 of 14 of the tested behavioural parameters, which included aggression, anxiety and fear among others. Notably, in no category did pet store dogs have a more desirable score than breeder dogs. The biggest differences were shown to be regarding aggressive behaviour. Sexually intact pet store dogs, for example, were 3 times as likely to have owner-directed aggression as were their counterparts acquired from NCBs. Similarly, pet store dogs were nearly twice as likely to show aggression towards unfamiliar dogs. Furthermore, pet store dogs were also up to 60% more likely to exhibit stranger-directed aggression, aggression to other household dogs, fear of dogs and non-social stimuli, separation-related problems, and touch sensitivity.
Meanwhile, the only sub-scales that were not significantly different between the two types of dogs, were chasing and stranger-directed fear. Pet store–obtained dogs were also reported to have a range of miscellaneous behavioural problems, including escaping from home, sexual mounting of people and house-soiling, at higher frequencies.
These results confirm the view that dogs obtained as puppies from pet stores are more likely to develop behavioural problems as adults, compared with dogs obtained from NCBs. However, it was beyond the scope of this study to determine the causality of such disorders. Many behavioural studies suggest that the formative stages of a puppy’s life in a commercial breeding facility are periods where stress may exert an impact on brain development. Factors such as spatial restriction, extreme temperatures, aversive interactions with kennel staff and limited access to positive social interactions are thought to be highly impactful in animals.
It is therefore the conclusion of the present study that obtaining dogs from pet stores versus non-commercial breeders represent a significant risk factor for a wide range of undesirable behavioural characteristics.
The scientists offer a straightforward take-home message: until the causes of the unfavourable differences detected in dogs acquired from pet stores can be specifically identified and solved, the researchers do not recommend obtaining puppies from pet stores. Advocates concerned with the well-being of dogs will most definitely benefit from these findings. The researchers note that the findings “should not be interpreted as an endorsement of any particular source of dogs,” and animal advocates are likely to note that, at least in this comparison, it seems that dogs coming from pet stores fare quite poorly.