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One in four puppies in the UK can be acquired before the minimum recommended age – a figure considerably higher than what has been reported before – suggests research published in the latest edition of Veterinary record.
Separating a puppy from its mother too early can have long-term consequences on physiological and behavioral development which risks behavioral problems later in life, a major reason dogs are abandoned or left in shelters, warns the author of a linked comment.
In the UK, many welfare and veterinary organizations, such as the Animal Welfare Foundation, Blue Cross, PDSA and the Dogs Trust, recommend that puppies not be separated from their mothers until after. at least 8 weeks old (56 days). There are legal restrictions on the sale of a puppy under this age in the UK.
Their advice also recommends that potential buyers see the puppy with its mother, which has been in English law since 2018.
The researchers wanted to know if there were any particular factors associated with acquiring puppies less than 8 weeks old and not seeing the puppy’s mother.
They drew on data from 2,392 puppies collected between May 2016 and February 2019 as part of ‘Generation Pup’, a long-term UK study into dog health, behavior and well-being.
Data was obtained from three questionnaires, with details of the acquisition process carried out by owners before or after acquiring their puppy. In all, 1,844 puppies were eligible for inclusion in the final analysis.
Responses showed that one in 4 puppies (461) had been acquired before the age of 8 weeks, a considerably higher proportion than had previously been reported. About 1 in 12 (149; just over 8%) had been acquired without seeing the puppy’s mother. Only 30 (just over 1.5%) had been acquired at less than 8 weeks and without seeing the mother.
Five factors were independently associated with the acquisition of a “minor” puppy.
Owners who visited their puppy at least once before bringing it home were more likely to acquire the puppy before the age of 8 weeks. This may be because they couldn’t bear to leave without bringing the puppy home, or because they felt the puppy was quite old, the researchers suggest, for explanation.
Owners who intended to use their puppy as a working dog, for example for animal husbandry, pest control, work in the police or military, as a search and rescue dog, or as a guard dog were also more likely to acquire their puppy before 8 weeks. old. This could be because they wanted to start training the puppy as early as possible, the researchers say.
The analysis also found that the chances of early acquisition increased as the number of dogs already in the household increased and whether the dog was a mixture of unknown breeds.
“Mixed-breed puppies may be more likely to have been bred by an amateur breeder than by a licensed breeder, or be the result of accidental mating,” suggest the researchers. “Hobbyist breeders don’t need to adhere to the same selling restrictions as licensed breeders.”
At the other end of the spectrum, the likelihood of acquiring a puppy under the recommended age decreased as the annual household income level increased.
Likewise, owners who visited their puppy before bringing it home, or purchased a Kennel Club registered puppy, or who saw the puppy’s father and / or picked up the puppy from the breeder, were less likely to acquire a puppy without seeing the mother.
Researchers suggest that future owners may be more aware of the recommendations to see the puppy with its mother than those around the minimum recommended age.
Their results could help target specific owners, “with educational or media campaigns that could reduce the proportion of puppies acquired this way in the future,” they conclude.
In a related research commentary, veterinarian Dr. Federica Pirrone, University of Milan, Italy, stressed the importance of guidelines and regulations.
“The early separation of a puppy from its mother and littermates is a breeding strategy that can increase the chances of the animal exhibiting potentially problematic behaviors in adulthood,” she warns.
“The occurrence of problematic behavior is the most common reason dogs are abandoned, abandoned or, in countries where it is permitted, even euthanized.”
Early separation interferes with early brain development, which limits puppies’ ability to adapt to new stimuli and develop good social skills as adults. They are very likely to exhibit fear and anxiety-related behaviors in adulthood, which are then often perceived by owners as problematic, she explains.
Likewise, she emphasizes: “Seeing the mother before buying a puppy allows the future owner to make sure that she is not stressed and that she does not have behavioral problems, which allows her turn to predict that the puppy will not develop behavioral problems later in life. “
“It is therefore essential to encourage future owners to be well informed about dog behavior and to be aware of the importance of proper socialization,” she says.
Daniella Dos Santos, President of the British Veterinary Association, commented: “There are very good reasons why puppies should not leave their mothers until they are eight weeks old. are completely and properly weaned and stay with their mother.in early development plays a vital role in social and behavioral development.
“Potential puppy buyers should always ask to see them alongside their mother first and we highly recommend using the Free Puppy Contract to ensure they get a happy, healthy and well-socialized pet.” from a reputable breeder or rehabilitation center.
How healthy is this puppy on the website?
Acquisition of the puppy: factors associated with the acquisition of a puppy less than eight weeks old and without seeing its mother, Veterinary record, DOI: 10.1136 / vr.105789
Provided by British Medical Journal
Quote: 1 in 4 British puppies can be acquired before the minimum recommended age (6 August 2020) retrieved on 2 October 2020 from https://phys.org/news/2020-08-uk-puppies-minimum-age.html
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