74 (5) 364-374

Critical evaluation of the environment in Belgian dog breeding kennels during the puppies' socialization period

Different authors emphasize the role of an appropriate early environment during the juvenile period in the prevention of behavioral problems in puppies. In the present study, the authors investigate whether the conditions in which Belgian breeders raise and sell puppies meet the recommendations posed in the scientific literature. A questionnaire consisting of 20 questions was returned by 48 breeders. From the results it could be concluded that in all the breeding kennels both major and minor deviations from the conditions recommended in the literature were found. In a high percentage of the kennels that were examined, weaning occurs when the puppies are too young, the remaining puppies are kept solitary after the others have been sold, and not enough unfamiliar visual, olfactory and acoustic stimuli or toys are provided. A significant percentage of the puppies never leave the kennels and have no regular contact (or no contact at all) with unfamiliar humans or other non-canine animals. This leads to the conclusion that in a significant percentage of the breeding kennels the environment may not provide a solid basis for proper socialization. Consequently, efforts made by the new owners to achieve socialization are crucial. Depending on the number of breeding bitches in the kennel, the nature and degree of the deficiency will vary. In larger kennels the conditions seem to be less suitable than in smaller kennels (up to19 breeding bitches).However, a larger scale study is needed to confirm the tendencies that were found in this preliminary investigation. If these tendencies are confirmed, then amendments should be made in the Belgian legislation concerning the recognition of dog breeding kennels.

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