A guide to ethical dog breeding
April 27, 2023

A guide to ethical dog breeding

Some occupations and hobbies seem to raise questions about our ethics. Nurses are generally seen as ethical, while lawyers and politicians are considered… less so. In recent years perceptions of dog breeding have shifted, largely because of a small number of unethical breeders.

Being an ethical dog breeder shouldn’t be difficult. In fact, it isn’t. We will look at what you can do to ensure that your breeding plans tick all the right ethical boxes.

What is ethical dog breeding?

Let’s start by being clear about what we mean by ethical dog breeding.

Ethical dog breeding means putting the needs and the welfare of dogs at the heart of your breeding plans. An ethical breeder should always ensure that their dogs are being well cared for and that the puppies produced have the best chance of being healthy and happy.

There’s also a place in ethical breeding for considering the effect of our breeding decisions on the well-being of the specific breed we’re working with and society in general. This is in stark contrast to unethical breeding, which values profit above all else.


A guide to ethical dog breeding

How to be an ethical dog breeder

Follow a breed code of ethics

The first thing to understand about ethical dog breeding is that you don’t need to reinvent the wheel. The overwhelming majority of breeders want to be ethical in what they’re doing, which means there are loads of resources to help guide you.

Look for a code of ethics that seems sufficiently thorough, and don’t be afraid to add sections from multiple different sources. The Kennel Club’s assured breeder scheme is a great first start.

Consider whether your dog is really suitable

There’s a big difference between a dog being your perfect pet and being ideal for breeding. When you’re considering breeding your dog ethically, there are a few more questions to ask.

Both the health and the temperament of your dog are essential. You might also want to consider whether your dog’s characteristics will improve the breed. An assertive dog might be a great prospect if their breed is typically anxious but less appropriate for a breed with aggression issues. The opposite applies if your dog is timid.

Consider why you're focusing on that specific breed

One of the big considerations that separate ethical dog breeders from exploitative ones is asking why they’ve chosen to focus on that particular breed. Breeders who are motivated by profit will typically look to breed fashionable dogs and those with a high price tag.

Now, obviously, the answer for most people is, “Well, that’s the breed of dog I have”. But ethical breeding means looking into breed choice a little more deeply.

Contact local rescues and ask what breeds they have coming in regularly. If your breed matches one that is regularly abandoned, how can you be sure that your puppies won’t face the same fate?

Learn as much as you can

Ethical dog breeders all share one common characteristic — they’re always learning. No one expects you to be perfect, but being ethical means giving your best effort.

Ask questions. Talk to your vet, your breed association, other breeders and experts, rescues, and potential puppy buyers. Learn as much as possible about genetics and the conditions your breed is vulnerable to. Never stop learning and never assume you already know everything you need to know.

Vet your buyers carefully

Most guides about ethical dog breeding will focus on how to have the very best healthy, happy puppies ready to leave you and head off to their new homes. Bring your ethical A game by taking the next step as well.

As an ethical breeder, you’re responsible for the welfare of your puppies and that includes the homes you choose to send them to. Some breeders will have a “first come, first served” policy to choosing pups, but that isn’t always in the puppy’s best interests.

Talk to prospective buyers. Ask about their lifestyle, their experience, and other family members. Learn about their plans for training and support. Be (politely) curious about the life your puppy will have in their new home.

This is especially important with certain fashionable or aggressive breeds. Try asking prospective puppy parents what attracted them to the breed. If someone is talking about taking long hikes with their french bulldog, they probably haven’t done enough research. If a 17-year-old wants a Belgian Malinois as their first dog, an ethical breeder might be sceptical that they have the skills and experience needed to truly care for their new pet.

Properly prepare for breeding

So far, we’ve focused on the planning and decision-making aspects of breeding. There are also practical considerations to ethical breeding. Check out our post about what to consider as a first-time breeder for more thoughts.

Paws in Work - the fully licensed puppy therapy specialists

At Paws in Work, we’re committed to the ethical treatment of dogs at all stages of their lives. We’re the UK’s only fully licensed puppy therapy specialist; holding an animal exhibition license.

If you have any questions about ethical dog breeding, contact our breeder team today. We’re here to support you, your dogs, and your future puppies.

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