I had a dog training lesson recently with a family that purchased their 5 month-old Havanese puppy from a pet store in New York City. They have had the pup for a few weeks and during that time have dealt with what seems to be more than their share of puppy issues. This little pup is consistently urinating and defecating in it’s sleeping area, is eating it’s feces, and is terrified of everyone, including it’s own family. Watching this scared little pup trying to hide behind the furniture so it wouldn’t be seen, let alone touched, made me feel heartbroken for her and for her family.
The family purchased the pup from a pet store in NYC. They admitted they knew it was not a good idea to buy a dog from a pet store. But, like so many people do, they entered the store after seeing her curled in the back of the window area and felt they needed to rescue her. The store told them that she had been there a month, and that before that she came from a reputable breeder and lived in the persons home. But, as I explained to the family, the dog’s behavior and logic would suggest otherwise.
First and foremost, a reputable breeder would want to know who their pups are going to live with. They would want to talk to the people and feel confident it was a good match. They also want to keep some track of the dogs they choose to bring into this world, if only to become aware of any potential genetic health issues in their breeding lines. Selling a dog to a pet store would make these things unlikely to happen.
Also, a person who chooses to breed purebred dogs responsibly would certainly understand a thing or two about early socialization, handling and gentling. The experiences in the first 22 weeks of a pup’s life play a dramatic role in their behavior and temperament throughout the rest of their life. In this pup’s case, odds are she received very little handling and socialization in the place where she was born. From there she was shipped on a truck from Missouri to a pet store in New York City and put into a display cage where she was forced to eat, sleep, drink, urinate and defecate all in the same area. This does not bode well for maintaining a dog’s natural sense of cleanliness, for ease of future house training, nor for a dog’s potential to reach full socialization success.
We spent over an hour discussing ways we would work together to help this pup overcome the mistreatment she seems to have endured in the first months of her life. This family seems wonderfully committed to this little pup and we came up with a detailed plan for house training and lots of gradual exposure to people and new environments.
In all likelihood, this pup’s mother and father are living in very small cages in a puppy mill and being used to breed again and again until they can no longer do so. At this point, most puppy mill breeding dogs are either killed, abandoned or surrendered to a local shelter. One of the easiest ways to help stop the suffering of dogs like this is to refuse to purchase the puppies that come out of these mills. If there is no longer a demand for these dogs, the puppy mills will go out of business and countless dogs will be saved from suffering a cruel life.
I told the family about Benji, one of the dogs we worked with on Animal Planet’s Underdog to Wonderdog. He had been a breeding dog in a puppy mill who was abandoned under a bridge along with other dogs from a puppy mill once they were no longer considered useful as breeders. Benji found a wonderful family, as did this little Havanese pup. But, a huge percentage of puppy mill dogs are not so lucky. In addition to not purchasing dogs from pet stores, you can help stop puppy mills by not purchasing any products from establishments that sell puppies and by helping to spread the word about why puppy mills need to be completely abolished.