My Photo


follow us in feedly

Enter your email address:

Delivered by FeedBurner

Best Of KC Dog Blog

Become a Fan

« Weekly Roundup - Week Ending 8/28/11 | Main | 9 day old North Carolina infant dead from dog attack »

August 30, 2011


Jennifer Brighton

Fascinating Brent. This interests me because my female was found running the streets at 6 weeks. She was fostered in a great home and I adopted her at 10 weeks. Shortly after all her puppy shots she started dog daycare. The only issue we had with her was sneaking our possessions under the bed and chewing them up. Until she was 3! Now she's my Delta therapy dog. Thank goodness for her positive foster experience where she was immediately placed with other puppies/dogs.

The one thing I noted is that she was absolutely terrified of cars and bikes and semis on the freeway when riding in the car until about a year ago. She's gotten much better, but still shies away from cars and bikes. I figure it has to do with her time on the street as a pup.

H. Houlahan

Brent -- six weeks, not sixteen weeks.

Big difference.


H. I probably mis-stated that a little. The point was supposed to be that most bite inhibition is learned by 16 weeks -- but it is not imperative that the dog remain with its litter for that amount of time.


Many years ago I read Clarence Pfaffenberger's book, The New Knowledge of Dog Behavior. Pfaffenberger was tasked with developing a program of testing and selecting puppies for the Guide Dogs for the Blind, Inc training program. After reading that book, I then looked for and found the studies done by John Scott and John Fuller, where they documented the critical stages of development in puppies. This research was undertaken in an attempt to understand the developmental stages of children in order to try to avoid some of the behavioral problems some children experienced. That research is still available in book form: Genetics and the Social Behavior of the Dog.

In those studies, it was demonstrated that puppies that were removed from their litters prior to seven weeks of age missed a critical stage of socialization with littermates where the puppies learned bite inhibition. It is extremely difficult and usually impossible to compensate for any disturbance of the socialization process involved in the critical stages of development. One critically important stage occurs from 7 weeks to 12 weeks of age, where puppies learn to accept a wide variety of environments and when they learn how to learn. Failure to expose puppies to various sounds, sights, smells, and experiences during this stage (in a non frightening manner, of course) will have life long consequences in the dog's inability to handle stressful changes.

Good trainers and good breeders have long been aware of this. There are good books and many websites that lay out good methods for raising puppies which incorporate these basic stages of development. The information is out there and is widely available for those who are interested in finding it.


Wow, there were fewer subjects in each group of this study than there were in that highly-touted autism study out of the UK that put autism research behind by about 15 years, convinced parents to stop vaccinating their children, and encouraged people to send good money chasing bad in the court systems.

But I digress. I read this to my husband, who still has a "WTH?" look on his face.

I'm not shooting the messenger here but I am simply not buying the part about dogs purchased in pet stores having "significantly greater issues" than dogs purchased from other sources. Sorry, that doesn't pass the smell test and furthermore the math doesn't add up. While it's possible that the Italians can sell 30 to 40 day old pups in pet stores, are they also selling mixed-breed puppies in their pet stores since 100% of the puppies in the early separation group were mixed breeds? Am I missing something here?

Or is this just more AR crap?

Here in the good old USA, where we do have laws (despite what HSUS tells us), commercially-bred pups can't be shipped until they are eight weeks old and they must have a health certificate . Most breeders of any breed keep them until they're eight or nine weeks old, and breeders with Toy breeds sometimes keep them a little longer because the pups are so tiny.

On the other hand this pretty much confirms what anyone knows that teaches obedience classes, for what it's worth. The puppies that someone got "free" in the Wal-Mart parking lot five minutes after they were weaned come with a trunkload of baggage.
The biggest problem tends to be inappropriate mouthing and biting (or, lack of bite inhibition). Fear of the other dogs is a problem as well - the pup will lash out at the other puppies in class (yea, "lash out" is a human term. Best I can do right now). The owners take that as the puppy being protective - I tell them, "He's protecting himself - NOT YOU".

I haven't seen those problems with the pups that came from pet stores. I've seen problems with those puppies and dogs but the problem was the owner, not the dog. Contrary to popularly-held AR notions the pups from regulated commercial kennels are very social. If you're fortunate enough to visit a kennel where the breeder will allow you to enter the nursery (they must all file a disease control plan with the state here in Missouri - not sure about the AWA) the pups and adults all come running up to you.

Pups learn a lot from the dam and from interaction with one another between six and eight weeks.

Quite often breeders with a "solo" litter (one puppy) put them with another litter for the interaction. I know someone that breeds Goldens - she said the solo puppies make great pets for only-dog homes but they don't do well in homes with other pets.

I once had a woman tell me her AmStaff was a solo so the breeder put him with a litter of Bull Terriers - and she insisted he was acting just like the Bull Terriers. He was very silly and bombastic. :-)


@Marguerite - wow, Pfaffenberger's book. Thanks for that blast from the past. I'd completely forgotten about that book and I think I may have a copy around here someplace.

A good book for the average puppy owner is the Vollhardt's "Super Puppy" book. I can't recall the exact title. Another excellent book is "Social Graces" by Margie West, an AKC obedience judge who lives in the Springfield, MO area.


KMK - I acknowledge the number of test subjects is quite low. If the test results had not been consistent with other research in the area I would have probably dismissed it because of that -- but, as you note, the behavioral issues with early weening is pretty well documented so it passes the sniff test.

As for the pet stores comments, I certainly think it makes sense that for dogs that are removed from a litter early that their next environment is very important. Are they going to a home with other pets and a lot of human interaction? Are they going to live on a chain and never see other animals? Are they going to live in a noisy kennel-type environment? It certainly makes sense that this would matter...but do confess that yes, the idea that they found 70 mixed breed dogs that were bought from pet stores after early weening doesen't sound like something that could happen here. Our 4 week old mixed breds are typically bought from the Walmart parking lot -- but maybe Italy doesn't have the same requirements that we have here. Keep in mind that their results don't note that there is necessarily a problem with dogs bought in pet stores, but dogs bought in pet stores that were also weened at 30-40 days -- which makes this completely different from any experience you would have ever had with a pet store dog in the US.


Just to add a new "flavor" to the good discussion - anecdotally I'd say that similar behavior impacts can be seen in kittens and cats. Kittens in litters teach one another about bite inhibition and play versus hunting too, and placing an orphan kitten into a situation where there are only human interactions, probably accounts for a fair share of pet cats who are "difficult" or "stand-offish" or just plain "not very social." I don't know of any hard research on this focussing on kittens and cats, I'm afraid, but it would be great if rescues and rescuers would give it some consideration and apply it to their kitten raising efforts.

H. Houlahan

140 subjects is not ridiculously small for this kind of survey.

The problem with that autism "study" is that it was entirely fraudulent, not that the sample size was small.

PeTA is not hiding under every mattress.

And puppymill puppies aren't shipped until they are eight weeks old? Then I'm Cleopatra, Queen of Denial, as I walk through Petland and see the very marketable itty bitties in the deli case. Of course there is no way for a puppymiller to lie on the paperwork, seeing as puppies are whelped in hospitals and all have birth certificates on file at the county recorder's office.

Oh, sorry, I'm not supposed to say "puppymill" because that is a subversive term coined by Ingrid Newkirk in 1990, not a part of the dog world's lexicon since the 1960's, and I should certainly stand in solidarity with my fellow ethical breeders who just happen to move 3,000 little units to the Hunte warehouse every year.


The pack is truly the best teacher for dogs to learn things and follow orders which are initially implemented by the mother. Very good study..


Methinks the problem is actually twofold: "pups who never go anywhere after separation from their dam" and "pups who are separated too early from their dam and/or littermates." We've all seen these poor behaviors with dogs who stay home or in the yard, and who never get taken for outings with the family. This also affects pups whose breeder cannot or does not or will not get them out for socialization after those first set of shots. It's *not* a "pet shop puppy" (or kitten) issue, per se. It's an animal husbandry issue.

Maybe these Italian pet shop pups were not allowed to play with the other puppies? Or not allowed to be handled by people until they were bought? All the pet store pups I've seen [and I've made a deliberate effort to visit shops selling pups ever since AB 1634 (Calif - 2007)] have been very friendly, happy and healthy. All have loved playing with people and other pups in the shop. All were allowed to do so.

By the way, for what it's worth - to date only one study that I'm aware of has asked where owners who relinquished dogs to shelters originally got them from. In that tiny study, 1-2% came from 'breeders' and less than 5% came from pet stores. 85% came from friends or neighbors.


Yes, agreed - this is an interesting study. Thanks for publishing the link, Brent.

Sam Basso

That is huge.


@H. Houlahan - I'm not sure why Animal Rights Activists read this blog if they don't intend to open their minds.

No, you aren't supposed to say "puppy mill". And pray tell, what possible advantage could there be to shipping the puppies prior to eight weeks?

Where are you walking through Petlands that have "itty bitty puppies". Italy?

If you have solid proof that Petland stores in Missouri have puppies that are younger than eight weeks please contact Operation Bark Alert. They'll investigate. If it's in one of the other 56...OOPS, I mean 49 states (darn that Obama, now I'm totally confused) call the APHIS program with USDA.

Hunte is holding a very interesting seminar at the end of September, I believe - you might just learn something. Check it out.

And PeTA isn't hiding under every mattress. But HSUS is.


@True Agenda - there was another small study done years ago in (I think) Indianapolis regarding the source of animals that are relinquished to shelters. As I recall (DANGER, WILL ROBINSON - going off memory, here) the numbers were quite similar to those in the link you posted. I'll try to look it up later. As I recall the animals at greatest risk for relinquishment are those that cost less than $100, or were free, and came from a friend or family member.

If all the dogs in the shelter came from pet stores our shelters would be full of Yorkies, Maltese, Poms, and Shih-Tzus. But they aren't.

And why in the name of Sam Hill does everyone keep overlooking the elephant in the room - cats easily make up 2/3 of the shelter population in any urban shelter. Even in cities where Animal Control doesn't pick them up they mysteriously make up 2/3 of the shelter population. Why then is all the focus always on dogs? Is it because we expect all dogs to be perfect but cats can be the unfriendly, snotty animals that they are? Has anyone ever studied cat behavior? Probably not. That would be a total waste of time. It's not uncommon for cats to be the number one biter in cities that want to pass some sort of idiotic dog ordinance, but cities seem to put their hands over their ears and yell I CAN'T HEAR YOU if anyone starts complaining about cats.

I have to wonder if there's ever been a conversation like this at a shelter...

Owner - "I want to turn in this cat. It's fearful, it hides under the bed when company comes, it's not friendly, it doesn't interact with humans, and it doesn't get along with strange cats".

Shelter volunteer - "We call that NORMAL. They are all like that. Take it back home".



KMK -- I'll wait and let H respond -- but remember how mad you get when you make assumptions about other people when you don't know who they are? You are way more than guilty of this in this case.


Okay, Brent, if H. Houlahan is not an AR I'll apologize. besides, I get mad about pretty much everything. Waiting...

@H. Houlahan, re: the UK Autism study - yes, it was indeed fraudulent, but it was still scary that people would put so much faith in a study with 100 test subjects (I believe that was the number). Parents are still trying to hang their hats on that vaccination thing. Now we're finding out a bunch of women with autistic children took anti-depressants and anti-psychotics. Yikes.

And in re-reading the posts I want to thank Linda for the post about cats and kittens. My apologies about no one addressing cat behavior.


kmk -- I'm not sure why H is letting you off the hook (that's not usually her style) but I'm going to respond.

Just because some people may use to the term 'puppy mill' to describe a large breeding facility where animals are kept in horrible conditions doesn't mean they are AR wingnuts. It also doesn't necessarily mean they want to prohibit all breeding. It just means they want animals properly cared for in the process. Doesn't seem too much to ask. There seems to be way too much of a notion of either you want to protect all breeding regardless, or, you are an "AR wingnut". The reality is that the vast majority of people fall somewhere in between and are willing to have a good, honest conversation about it. And quickly casting someone into one side or the other doesn't do the conversation, and thus the dogs, any good. There is a whole wealth of compromise, but not if we let the only two voices be the two sides unwilling to compromise.


Okay, this was my problem with H. Houlahan's post. Perhaps she's letting me off the hook because she's out looking for pups in pet stores that are too young to be there.

Of course she's not an AR wingnut. And people that use the "n" word to describe black people aren't racist, either. The correct term is "commercial breeder". "Puppy mill" is a term invented by the animal rights activists to elicit an emotional response, much like "factory farm", "bait dog", and others of the sort.

But I digress. H. Houlahan claimed to have seen puppies younger than eight weeks in pet stores. Has she done anything to address the problem, since we have those pesky laws and everything. Puppies in pet stores have more protection than children in day cares.

Let's say I go to the mall every Saturday and every time I go there's a man raping a woman in the parking lot. And every Saturday I come home and complain to my husband, "Dang, that same guy was raping another woman in the parking lot. Why is he doing that?"

I probably wouldn't do that. At a minimum I could call 911 because rape is illegal.

So H. Houlahan, rather than going to the property authorities with concerns about an illegal act, comes here and spouts AR crap about "puppymills" and "puppymillers" breaking the law by shipping underage pups, not to mention the store owners that accept them.



KMK, try reading H. Houlanhan's blog before you make ANY assumptions about her. Its not hard to find, all you have to do is click on her name.

As for the original topic. Doesn't surprise me at all despite the low numbers involved. Now it wouldn't surprise me if genetics makes a difference, as would the household the puppy's going into, and none of that would be able to be determined from such a small selection, but it doesn't surprise me. When we were looking at getting a purebred pup as much as I wanted as young a pup as possible in order to give my cats a chance to adapt to him, I also wanted one that was at LEAST 10 weeks of age. And the lady we ended up getting him from stated much the same opinion.

She said she had gone back and forth a bit with her first few litters, letting some go at 8weeks, holding onto others till 10 for various unrelated reasons. She said she got FAR fewer call backs about unwanted behavior from the folks who got the slightly older pups. The older pups housebroke in an extreamly short length of time (which I can verify myself), while the younger pups took more than twice as long to figure it out. They picked up on social interactions better as well.


'Of course she's not an AR wingnut. And people that use the "n" word to describe black people aren't racist, either. The correct term is "commercial breeder". "Puppy mill" is a term invented by the animal rights activists to elicit an emotional response, much like "factory farm", "bait dog", and others of the sort.'

heather is utterly incapable of framing an argument or discussion on animals without painting those who disagree with her as unintelligent, unworldly, or unethical. if you were to slam a shot of whiskey every time she personally attacks one of the knuckleheads whose comments make it through the pde blog's filter (admittedly, very soft targets), you'd, uh, well - you'd be very, very drunk.

but the inability to engage in discourse without resorting to ad hominem attacks does not an animal rights advocate make. if you were to read her blog, you'd see that she is absolutely NOT an animal rights nut.

she's 100% right about the term puppy mill, too: 'puppy mill' has been around the dog community since at least the 1960s, used to describe substandard (and worse) large-scale breeding operations. true, it has been CO-OPTED by the 'ar wingnuts' in order to elicit emotions, donations and laws that hurt breeders both ethical and not - but puppy mills aren't a creation of animal rightists. puppy mills are a creation of dog breeders.


Okay, for the sake of argument, H. Houlahan is not an animal rights activist. But what she writes here says otherwise. It's quite normal for ARs to complain about an illegal situtation (puppies too young in pet stores) without doing anything to address the problem when there are laws in place that allow for investigation and resolution. They don't want the problem addressed because in their minds this gives them more fuel for their argument that the industry should be shut down completely because the laws "aren't working".

it's also normal for ARs to complain about a perfectly legal business, like a legal, licensed and inspected broker/kennel selling 3,000 puppies. Why is this a problem? Oh yea, because someone finds it morally objectionable. I quote, from H. Houlahan's post above, "...and I should certainly stand in solidarity with my fellow ethical breeders who just happen to move 3,000 little units to the Hunte warehouse every year".

Gosh, I did I misinterpret the sarcasm in there?

Sorry, but I've had to sit through testimony at the Capitol (Missouri) and listen to Little Missies say they'd rather see people on welfare than breeding dogs. And don't even tell the Little Missy contingent there are women in rural areas that have small kennels so they can stay home and not put their children in day care. Good grief! They don't even comprehend that concept.

Anyway, the age at which puppies are sent home with new owners has changed during our lifetimes. For much of my lifetime puppies went to new homes at six weeks. Sometime in the 1980s a lot of breeders decided they were better off keeping the pups for another week or so for housebreaking and social interaction purposes. One breeder I know would separate the pups into pairs at that point and even allow them to interact with an older bitch (not the dam) that was good at tolerating and disciplining puppies.

For about the last 10 or 15 years nine weeks has been the norm for people I know. Breeders I know (both show and commercial) that breed Toys tend to keep them just a little longer.


'it's also normal for ARs to complain about a perfectly legal business, like a legal, licensed and inspected broker/kennel selling 3,000 puppies. Why is this a problem? Oh yea, because someone finds it morally objectionable.'

complaining about economic inequality does not make one a socialist; complaints about excessive taxation and government overreach does not make one a libertarian.

likewise, you don't have to be a raving animal rights fanatic to have issues with the world of large scale breeding operations and the stores that sell those dogs.

granted, there is a lot of nasty propaganda out there, exaggerations and outright lies when it comes to the issue of 'commercial breeders.' but even so, it is well within a rational person's capabilities to critically examine the industry, reach a clear understanding of it, and still morally oppose it... all without ever being an animal rightist!


I don't have a problem with pet stores and large-scale, small-scale, or any other scale commercial breeders. Anyone that answers my phone for a week won't care about them anymore, either. Cities killing people's pets that are in perfectly good homes causes me far more heartburn.

I wish the people that are so upset about large scale breeding operations would take that energy and attempt to enact change at the municipal and county level.

Anyway, along these lines,this came from a woman named Roberta who lives in New York...enjoy!


Puppy mill: Any breeder someone else doesn’t like.

Pit bull: Any dog someone else doesn’t like.

Overpopulation: The dogs next door who bark all day.

Rescue: Enemies of shelters and breeders.

Shelters: Enemies of rescue and breeders.

Breeders: Enemies of rescue and shelters.

Inhumane conditions--1: Dog lives indoors as couch potato.

Inhumane conditions--2: Dog lives outdoors as a dog.

Good home: Mansion and 40 acres.

Bad home: Apartment in city.

Adoptable dog: Shelter director's preferred breed.

Unadoptable dog: All other breeds.

Adoptable cat: Very hairy, practically comatose.

Unadoptable cat: Short hair, lively, mischievous.

Good breeder: Oxymoron.

Bad breeder: See puppy mill.

Owner retention: Dog died soon, buried on owner’s property.

Owner relinquishment: Dog ate two left shoes.

AR (Animal Rights): Disease looking for victims (thanks, Lisa).

PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals), IDA (In Defense of Animals), and HSUS (Humane Society of the United States): Self-limiting investment funds.



Anyone who gets their back up over the term puppy mill and banning sales of cats and dogs in stores, but is also fighting against the killing of pets in shelters is missing the point.

Good breeders shouldn't have anything to fear from banning the sale of pets in pet shops. There is too much evidence available to show that the industry cannot regulate itself regarding large scale breeding operations, and is oversupplying the market without regard for animal health or welfare. Consumers are also getting ripped off due to the substandard animals being produced. Many consumers are aware that the animals will likely be killed if they are returned to the pet store, so they spend thousands on vet care for their sickly animals. Taxpayers, shelters, rescues groups and donors are also are burdened by these animals that have health and behavior issues.

Since it's very difficult to change the regulations animal breeders must follow, especially where the law classifies dogs as livestock, I fully support municipal efforts to ban the sale of cats and dogs in retail shops. Malls and pet supply stores can generate foot traffic by allowing rescue groups to put adoptable cats and kittens in their stores.

Since the ban of retail sales of cats and dogs in Albuquerque, New Mexico, came into effect in 2007, by 2009 there was a shelter adoption increase of 23% and euthanasia decrease of 35% since enacting their ban in 2006. Shelter intakes decreased 6%.

In Richmond, B.C., prior to the ban, 57% of dogs surrendered to shelters were pure bred, and approximately half of those arrived with an admission – or actual receipt showing – that the animal was purchased in a pet store, "Taxpayers pay for unwanted pets",

More info on Actions Speak Louder Calgary,

I am a member of my city's animal welfare committee, and no, I don't support PETA, the HSUS, or the ASPCA.

The comments to this entry are closed.