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On the origin of puppies: breeding and selling procedures relevant for canine behavioural development
  1. Pierre-Alexandre Dendoncker1,2,3,
  2. Tiny De Keuster1,
  3. Claire Diederich3,
  4. Jeroen Dewulf2 and
  5. Christel P H Moons1
  1. 1 Laboratory for Ethology, Department of Nutrition, Genetics and Ethology, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, Ghent University, Merelbeke, Belgium
  2. 2 Veterinary Epidemiology Unit, Department of Reproduction, Obstetrics and Herd Health, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, Ghent University, Merelbeke, Belgium
  3. 3 Integrated Veterinary Research Unit (IVRU), Department of Veterinary Medicine, Faculty of Sciences, University of Namur, Namur, Belgium
  1. E-mail for correspondence; PierreAlexandre.Dendoncker{at}


The success of the dog as a companion animal has undeniably led to a shift in dog breeding practices. While effects of inbreeding or large-scale breeding have given rise to numerous studies about potentially related health issues, it remains unclear to what extent behavioural development of dogs is influenced. By investigating the environment of puppies while at the breeder, the authors aimed to make an inventory of current practices regarding management, socialisation and environmental learning and subsequently to identify potential differences between breeder types. The cross-sectional study, conducted during 2016, revealed considerable variability in environment among dog breeders. Small-scale breeders, and especially occasional breeders (less than 10 adult dogs on-site) provided most enrichment, both social and non-social, by, for instance, providing more outdoor access for pregnant dams and puppies or by providing access to visitors more freely. Environmental stimuli were less controlled in occasional breeders, raising the debate about quantity versus quality of stimuli at a young age. Large-scale breeders declared to screen potential owners less intensely and time to advise them was limited. To the authors’ knowledge, this is the first study that compares a large number of environmental factors between the different dog breeding categories.

  • behaviour
  • socialisation
  • environmental stimuli
  • dog breeders
  • canine
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  • Funding The PupWelfare project is funded by the Federal Public Service Health, Food Chain Safety and Environment and by the Flemish government, Department of Environment (RT 14/01 contract PUPWELFARE 1).

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

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