Large scale dog breeders: what can I do about it

Blog post about ‘Broodfokkers, aka large-scale dog breeders’ and how to detect and report them. February 2017
Article by Laure-Anne Visele. References and picture credits at the end of the post.

About author: certified dog trainer and applied behaviourist in The Hague


My name is Laure-Anne and I am the dog behaviour therapist at Canis bonus, and Head Trainer at OhMyDog! (dog training school in The Hague).

I help people from The Hague, Rijswijk, Delft, Westland and region with their dog behaviour questions.

I studied Zoology, am a certified dog training instructor, and have a Postgraduate in applied animal behaviour (completed Magna cum laude).

If you want dog-friendly and evidence-based tips, drop me a line briefly explaining the problem and I’ll tell you if I think I can help.


What is a puppy mill?

A puppy mill, or puppy farm, is a dog breeder who breeds dogs on a grand scale, principally for financial gain. The living conditions of the dogs there vary from inappropriately socialized to life-threateningly crammed.

These are common problems:

  • The pups separated from their mother far too early,
  • Or the opposite, the pups arrive at your home way older than the sensitive socialisation period (ideal age of adoption = 9-10 weeks)
  • The pups arrive at your home badly ill.
  • The pups look much older or older than what is claimed on their certificate.

And this is the big one for me:

  • The pups have not been structurally socialized to life as a family dog, having only known having known their enclosure and the hands of passing visitors. Result? More often than not, you have yourself a pathologically fearful or aggressive from day 1 until  you spend hundreds of euros in behaviour therapy.

How can you tell a puppy mill from a responsible breeder?

A puppy mill isn’t always easy to spot. The breeder can be very personable, and the room in which they show the pup could seem spotless. Here are some of the possible red flags that you are most likely getting an undersocialized pup:

  • They sell dogs all year round, there is no long waiting period.
  • You can’t see where the litter is staying. The breeder gets the pup ‘in the back’ for you.
  • Mother and pups don’t live in a house, but in enclosures.
  • There is more than one litter of pups.
  • They sell more than one breed.

Is large-scale dog breeding legal?

  1. It is illegal to sell you a pup who doesn’t satisfy the ‘product characteristics’ (e.g. who is sick, who appears younger/older than what you declare, etc.).
  2. It is illegal to keep the dogs in sub-optimal husbandry conditions. The Dutch minimal requirements are not as high as I’d like to see them though. Think basics like a clean enclosure, a reasonable temperature, shelter from the rain and minimal room to move about.
  3. It is legal – but undesirable and irresponsible – to fail to socialise the pups to the family life for which he/she is sold.

A puppy mill doesn’t necessarily look that obvious. Check the red flags.

So if 3. is legal, does that mean I can do nothing about a large-scale breeder if they adhere to the minimum legal requirements? No, you can.

What can you do about large-scale dog breeders?

  • Resist the temptation to ‘save’ a pup from these breeders. By purchasing a pup from them, you are only perpetuating the problem.
  • If you decide you want a pup, contact a responsible breeder and be ready for a long wait. When we stop seeing dogs like next-day-delivery convenience products, it will no longer be commercially viable to sell them as such.
  • If you suspect your pup came from a broodfokker, call the animal protection agency (144 in The Netherlands) and report them. Even if their only infraction was on point 3 (undersocialised pups who don’t grow up in a home environment), they are considered to uphold ‘onwenselijke’ (undesirable) practices by the animal protection agency. With enough complaints, the problem becomes more visible and the agency can send inspectors.

Be the squeaky wheel!

Why does it matters to avoid large-scale breeders?

Not only for the dogs’ welfare, but also for your own sake as a ‘consumer’. You are adopting a pup as a companion to enjoy for years, and not to spend hundreds of euros on behaviour therapy or only walk it at night, right?

Illustration credits

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