Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Doggie Psychology

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Doggie Psychology

Article excerpt

Byline: Tony Henderson Environment Editor tony.henderson@ncjmedia.com

ANIMAL scientists at Newcastle University have released the results of what is the first UK study looking at how the early weeks of dog's life spent in a puppy farm affects its temperament and behaviour as an adult. And their work suggests dogs bred on puppy farms were found to be more aggressive, more fearful of others and more likely to suffer separation anxiety as adults than dogs from reputable breeders.

Assessing three breeds - the pug, chihuahua and Jack Russell - the dogs were grouped as being from "responsible breeders" and "less responsible breeders".

This was done by asking owners questions such as: Did you see the mother? Were health documents available? Were the puppies brought up in a home environment? Did you have any concerns for the bitch or puppies' welfare? At what age did you get the puppy? Owners were then asked to rank their dogs against a number of key traits using the canine behaviour and research questionnaire.

These included whether their dog was aggressive towards strangers, owners and other dogs, if they had a fear of new things or loud noises and whether they suffered separation related problems. It also assessed 'trainability', or how obedient the dog is.

Dr Catherine Douglas, a lecturer in animal science at Newcastle University and research supervisor, said: "The term 'puppy farm' is widely used to describe large volume production of puppies but in this study we also included other smaller scale commercial breeders where the dogs' welfare may not be the first concern.

"There has been some research around the health problems associated with dogs from puppy farms but very little research into long term effects on adult dog behaviour.

"We found that across all behaviour categories, including trainability, dogs from less responsible breeders had significantly less favourable behaviour and temperament scores than puppies from responsible breeders - those following good practice such as that outlined in the RSPCA, British Veterinary Association and Animal Welfare Foundation's Puppy contract.

"The results were what most owners, welfare scientists and behaviourists would have suspected, but until now the evidence has been anecdotal. …

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