Are responsible breeders making things worse? – my September 2019 “Best of Health” article

Best of HealthI recently helped one of our Breed Rescue organisations to analyse their rehoming data collected since 2017. We’ve seen a huge rise in the popularity of Mini Smooth Dachshunds, in particular, and many of us were concerned that this would lead to more ending up in rescue. Registrations of Mini Smooths grew from 3450 in 2015 to 7008 last year and, this year, it looks like they may exceed 8500.

Everywhere you look, there are adverts and products with pictures of Dachshunds, and there has been a string of celebrities appearing on TV and social media with their Mini Smooths. We know that the supply of puppies by breeders who register them with the Kennel Club is far below the demand and it doesn’t take long to see how many “non-KC” puppies there are for sale on commercial websites. The breed is also subject to the “rare colour” problem whereby Colour Not Recognised puppies are heavily promoted in sales adverts and can command ridiculous prices. The “want it now” culture that we live in seems to fuel that trade as well.

Unsurprisingly, the rescue data showed that the projection for 2019 is that there are likely to be 4 times as many dogs rehomed as in 2017. Maybe I shouldn’t have been surprised, but 7 out of every 10 dogs rehomed were not KC Registered. If that is matched in the wider population of Dachshunds, it could mean that around 30,000 non-registered puppies are being bred every year. That’s a huge number of dogs about which we know virtually nothing. We don’t know who is breeding them, or where, nor do we know their pedigrees or health status. Interestingly, Vicky Collins-Nattrass who is Breed Health Coordinator for Bulldogs commented that the 30% KC is similar to the estimate for her breed.

Badly-bred dogs with poor temperaments

The data also showed that a quarter of the dogs being rehomed were because they had either bitten someone or were aggressive. Miniature Dachshunds were 3 times more likely to be in Rescue due to biting or aggression than Standard sized Dachshunds. These aggression figures are truly shocking. Our 2012 breed survey included questions on behaviour and temperament so we do have some baseline data on KC registered dogs as a comparison. In 2012, 1% of Mini Smooths were described by their owners as aggressive with people and 4% aggressive with other dogs.

There is research evidence that puppies bred commercially, in high volumes, have poorer temperaments than puppies brought up in better environments. The importance of proper socialisation during the first 8 weeks of their lives cannot be understated. A recent Finnish study showed that maternal care and the amount of socialisation had the largest effects on fearfulness. It also showed that dogs living indoors tended to be more fearful than dogs that had a mixture of indoor and outdoor living.

If those poorly socialised puppies end up in homes with inexperienced owners it is likely that their behaviour is only going to get worse. It seems that uneducated and irresponsible breeders are relying on the fact that many potential Dachshund owners will not do their homework and research on the breed. People who think they are buying a cute “furbaby” get an unpleasant shock when it turns out they have a demon dog instead.

Unfortunately, it’s not quite as simple as recommending people only buy KC registered puppies. Firstly, there simply aren’t enough people breeding inside the registration system and the new licensing regulations may be making that worse. Secondly, there are some people who, apparently, alternate between registering and not registering their puppies. A puppy might, therefore, be perfectly well-bred, but not registered. The issue we need to understand is why are these breeders doing that? Presumably, there is some commercial reason, perhaps to get around the limit the KC puts on how many litters it will register from a bitch or its age.

The message we need to get across is that, when buying a Dachshund, a KC registered one is much more likely to have been bred responsibly and given appropriate socialisation before it goes to its new home. Even that might have undesirable consequences; prices might increase and that would encourage even more commercial breeders to jump on the bandwagon.

The problem of “rare colours”

It was inevitable that the discussion on the rescue statistics would turn to rare colours and “Colour Not Recognised” (CNR). In Dachshunds, we don’t yet have a CNR problem on the same scale as Bulldogs and French Bulldogs, for example. Last year, just 1.4% of Mini Smooths were registered as CNR. The latest BRS data shows there were 2.8% CNR registrations in the second quarter, so this is a problem that is definitely getting worse.

The recent consultation workshop held by the KC at Stoneleigh had CNR on the agenda. The majority view was that all dogs should be registered as their correct colour. That’s my view too; we need to know what colours are in a dog’s pedigree as well as making it clearer that these colours aren’t “rare” and certainly not worthy of the inflated prices (£2000-£8000) being charged. In Dachshunds, we have the dilute colours Blue and Isabella, both of which have the potential to suffer from Colour Dilution Alopecia (CDA). A recent online survey showed that 43% of these dogs had CDA. These colours exist in the genetics of the breed; they haven’t been introduced recently by some underhand cross-breeding. So, we should register them correctly, as well as discouraging people from breeding or buying them.

Endorsements and responsible breeders

The rescue statistics discussion also raised the statement that “good breeders endorse their puppies”. I find this quite interesting and wonder if it actually makes things worse. If someone has bought a bitch puppy with an endorsement, they can still breed from it if they are determined to. In fact, they are more likely to look for “the dog down the road” to use at stud and then not register the puppies. They certainly won’t ask their puppy’s breeder for advice on stud dogs or health testing. Similarly, they won’t have the benefit of an experienced, responsible breeder to act as their mentor through their bitch’s pregnancy and whelping. They will probably be clueless about how to rear the puppies properly or how to socialise them and find and vet good homes.

People who have bought endorsed male puppies also have no incentive to do the right thing. They can happily use their dog at stud, maybe on another unregistered bitch, pocket the stud fee and take no responsibility whatsoever for the puppies that will be born.

While the idea of endorsing puppies against breeding might have some appeal, it might just be reducing the pool of quality dogs, bred by responsible owners. There’s certainly a case for good breeders to discuss the pros and cons of breeding when they vet their puppy buyers. They should also be making themselves the first port of call for advice and support if and when the buyer wants to become a breeder too. After all, it’s clear we need more well-bred KC registered puppies to meet the demand of buyers.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

 

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: