Tuesday, February 7, 2017

The Consequences of Premature Removal of Livestock Guardian Dog Pups from Their Litter

The Consequences of Premature Removal of Livestock Guardian Dog Pups from Their Litter

An Integrity and Ethics Issue on the Part of Both Breeder and Buyer

© 2017 Brenda M. Negri

Would you let your 15 year old child drive a 16 wheeler semi-truck?  Of course not.
Likewise, taking a prematurely weaned puppy from it's mother is a recipe for disaster.


One of the quickest ways to ascertain and vet out the validity, integrity and quality of a dog breeder is to see what age they wean their puppies. 

Likewise, it’s the quickest way for an honest, ethical breeder to sort out an irresponsible potential owner – one who willingly buys and takes home a puppy that has been weaned from its mother and littermates prematurely.

What do ethical professionals in the dog world generally consider weaning too soon?  (Also refer to the several links below at the end of this post).

The general consensus is that no puppy should be removed from its dam before six weeks of age. 

The hallmark of an ethical breeder is one who keeps them till at least eight weeks of age – and truly responsible breeders will keep pups till ten or twelve weeks before they let them go.

The reason most unethical breeders part with pups at premature age are many. 

It usually boils down to money.

Mostly, it is because they are beginning to cost the breeder more to keep.  They require several daily feedings of dog food in addition to mother’s milk, and thus, cost more to keep.  They require regular de-wormings – only one time is never enough, and will only ensure your pup is full of parasites.  The litter requires more puppy vaccinations in order to stay healthy and free of potentially lethal viruses. 

This all adds up to more cost for the breeder. 

Guess what?  Puppy mills, hack backyard breeders, opportunistic fad breeders (in all countries) don’t want to shell out more money.  They want to make money off their litter.  The less they can spend on the litter means more profit for them.  So they cut the pups loose too young to minimize their costs.

Who pays for it in the end? 

The puppy does, in stunted development, psychological deprivation, emotional duress and even physically, by being deprived of the very important next six weeks of rearing with its mother and litter.  Those weeks teach the pup important social skills, confidence, and behaviors no human master can replicate in the pup’s rearing.

Dogs are pack animals and the litter is it’s own pack.  Within that litter pack, a pup grows up to learn play fighting and work skills, setting boundaries of both terrain and accepted behaviors, and models after it’s parents.  Most importantly if bred by a good breeder, the pup grows up within a protected, secure environment that lends future confidence and skills not offered in a poor or stressful environment.  This is priceless.  The difference between well-bred and raised pups and poorly bred and badly raised pups are so vast and so obvious to the trained eye, that you would think it would be obvious to anyone.  Sadly, too many inexperienced, uneducated and frankly, clueless buyers, fail to see, understand or respect the difference.  They buy from bad puppy mills and unethical breeders, thus contributing to those “bottom feeder breeders” staying in business.

Many states – in fact, roughly half of the USA – have laws regarding the age pups can be taken from their mothers, as shown in the link below.  In my state of Nevada, pups cannot legally leave their mother till eight weeks of age.  I keep mine until they are twelve weeks old. 

By keeping my pups longer, they learn more.  They learn from their littermates, their mother and father, and my large pack.  They leave here stable, assured, healthy in mind and body, confident, curious and ready to assimilate into their new home.  Instead of being shaky, frightened, crying and scared of their own shadow, I’m regularly told by buyers my pups exceed their expectations in their self assured manner, and seem more mature than their age.  It's a win/win for the pup and for the new owner.

I was shocked recently by a post on a Facebook page to see someone importing two tiny, six week old LGD pups from a foreign country, both uncomfortably crammed into a tiny airline crate that appeared to be too small for them to stretch their legs and turn around in.  They were so tiny, I actually first thought they a miniature terrier breed.  I could only imagine the filth those pups were sitting in for a day or more as they made a grueling harsh trip to the USA from a far off country.  Here is part of the (redacted as I removed the names) Facebook thread wherein the owner admits the tiny pups are “1.5 months old” – i.e., 6 weeks old:

·                  How cute, how old are they?
·                 About 1.5 months old.
·              It is so cool watching this process! Thank you so much for sharing it. Is it common for the pups to be away from mom at 6 weeks? It seems so young!

I actually had several people contact me privately about this post expressing shock at the age the pups were brought over to the USA.  I was actually relieved to see I wasn't the only concerned person.

So who do you point fingers at in a case like this? 

The breeder of course. They are the one who allowed them to leave their dam and littermates at such a tender premature age.  How did he pull that off?  Did the country lack age shipping age regulations?  Possible but not likely.  Did he do it by lying on paperwork about their ages?  Did he lie about the breed?  Were officials paid off?  

Impossible you say?  Oh, guess again.  

I know from experience as I saw it done in Turkey.  I saw black market exporters lie about pups breeds and ages, calling Kangals “German Shepherds” on the export paperwork, and more than I care to comfortably go into here.  I was actually told buyers were made to pay an extra fee so they could bribe officials at the border.  There was a whole underground network of black market transporters and ‘fixers’.  Don’t think for one minute this does not go on; it does.  More than you care to know about.  Only a Pollyanna living in a self-perpetuating dream world of fluff and bogus perfection would want you to think it doesn’t.

But what does this also say about the buyer/owner? 

It says a lot. 

It brings into question how much they really care. It tells me they cut corners and do not have the pup’s best interest in mind.  It even hints that they did this just to save money.  How is that?  

Do you call this compassionate treatment of pups? Absolutely inexcusable.


Well, younger, tiny pups weigh less.  As shipping rates go by size and poundage, the smaller they are, the cheaper it is to ship them via air.  The math is simple.  And there's even more ways to cut costs, if they don't care.  By stuffing two pups into a tiny crate meant for only one puppy,  the buyer further saves on shipping costs – although I know for a fact, many airline companies do not allow this.

In short: it says a lot about the buyer.   And it's not pretty.

No pup leaves my ranch before twelve weeks of age, and all the pups I have brought over here from Europe in over eight years, have been of legal age to enter the USA – never only at six weeks of age; and never doubled up in a crate to save costs on shipping.   Even siblings come in their own crates.    Although the separation from each other during the flight is stressful, their physical comfort is increased for a grueling long, sometimes 48 hours or more trip cooped up in a crate.  Most of my imports have been at least ten weeks old and older. With recent law changes the average has been twelve weeks.  In some cases, some pups were older than twelve weeks.

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When you are shopping for a dog breeder - Livestock Guardian Dog breeds or ANY breed for that matter - do the age test.  Ask them when they wean their pups.  Their answer will help you decide on whether you buy from them or keep on shopping for a better, ethical breeder - one who cares; one who is responsible.  If they try pushing their six-week old pups off on you, no matter the reason, keep going and do not recommend them to anyone.   Those are the bad breeders who need to go out of business and stay out of business.

And if you are a Livestock Guardian Dog breeder, use this puppy weaning age test to help vet out your potential customers.  Don’t ever sell to someone who asks you to remove an under aged five or six week old pup from it’s litter.  No matter how much they beg, don’t do it.  Ethical breeders who truly care should tell potential customers who try to do this to go pound sand.  It shows you the potential customers lack scruples, don’t care, and will most likely prove to be an inferior if not poor home for your pup.

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More resources on this important topic for you to digest: