The Functional Dog Collaborative (FDC) recognizes that well-run breeding programs come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Blanket statements about kennel-based breeding programs leave no room for nuance and fail to distinguish between poorly managed “puppy mill” operations and careful professional programs, such as some guide and assistance dog programs, that use kennel set ups for breeding, rearing, and training with great success.
When it comes to the conditions in which dogs are bred and raised, the priority of the Functional Dog Collaborative (FDC) is, first, the physical and behavioral health of the dogs in the program, closely followed by the steps a breeder takes to meet the needs of their puppy buyers. The essential components of a functional breeding program are not where dogs are bred and raised, but how. What matters most is how the dogs are cared for physically and emotionally, how the puppies are socialized and prepared for life with their future owners, and how dogs are assessed for breeding.
This document provides guidelines to help breeders manage their dogs at a high level of health and welfare. In this document, “must” means that a condition must be met in order to be in compliance with these guidelines. “Should” means the condition should be met in almost all cases, but there may be extenuating circumstances in some cases.
At a minimum, dogs must not spend their entire lives in their kennels. Breeding dogs must have a purpose beyond breeding, be that as companions or working dogs. Dogs must live in a non-kennel environment appropriate to their purpose for most of their lives. For pets, this means a pet home (which may be the breeder’s home). For some working dogs, such as livestock guarding dogs, this may not be in a home. When not being used for breeding, dogs must have an enriched life that extends beyond producing puppies.
When in kennels:
- Dogs must be kept in a comfortable and hygienic environment, where they are able to rest without physical or emotional distress. Steps must be taken to prevent the spread of communicable diseases and keep areas free of waste.
- Dogs must be monitored for emotional well being, and steps must be taken to mitigate stress.
- Dogs must be provided excellent routine husbandry, including feeding, veterinary care, physical exercise, and, where appropriate, grooming.
- Dogs should be provided daily enrichment opportunities appropriate for their age, temperament, and long term roles as companions or working dogs. Where daily enrichment is not possible, enrichment must be frequent.
- Breeding females must be appropriately supervised and provided medical care as needed during whelping and rearing.
- Puppies must be raised with careful attention to their long-term roles, with an intentionally designed program of care and enrichment that prepares them for their futures.