Canine welfare program certifies 100-plus dog breeders

More than 100 dog breeders have gained certification through a Purdue University–based program that measures dogs for stress, disease, and ability to thrive in homes. The program was created five years ago, and supported by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, as a way improve the lives of animals by elevating standards of care in the dog breeding industry.

Candace Croney, PhD, professor of animal behavior and well-being at Purdue University College of Veterinary Medicine, leads the Canine Care Certified program. She said program participants are seeing noticeable improvements in the health, happiness, and behavior of dogs under their care.

Litter of puppies in animal shelter

“They are seeing behavioral changes in the dogs that suggest the dogs are calmer. They’re easier to interact with. They’re less fearful,” she said. “Every indication of their body language suggests that they are happier to see people.”

The people who buy those dogs, too, are quite happy, she said. Veterinarians have told Dr. Croney they can tell which dogs come from certified breeders because of their good behavior.

Commercial dog breeding companies that participate in the program agree to meet health and welfare standards and undergo audits for compliance. Information from Purdue indicates the program provides assurances that breeders attend to their dogs’ physical, genetic, and behavioral health as well as commit to raising standards of care.

“When choosing a dog or puppy raised by a breeder, consumers have a right to expect that not only were the basic necessities met but also that the dog’s physical, social and behavioral needs were addressed,” Purdue information states.

Dr. Croney said the auditors assess whether enrichment and socialization are well matched to the dogs; look for signs of anxiety or fear when dogs are introduced to novel people, objects, or sounds; and check for biomarkers of stress in blood, incidence of periodontal disease, cleanliness, and other observable indications of a dog’s health.

Surpassing 100 participants shows the concept not only works but also is scalable and has promising buy-in among dog breeders, Dr. Croney said.

Before the Canine Care Certified program came to Purdue, it was launched by the World Pet Association in 2016 using research results and standards developed under Dr. Croney’s leadership. The program had five certified breeders when the WPA transferred the program to Purdue in early 2019.

In addition to the 100-plus dog breeders that are now certified, Dr. Croney said another 150 are at some phase in the certification process. The next phase of the program will entail working through that queue without sacrificing the program’s integrity.

Dr. Croney said the breeders in the program are making concrete efforts to improve animal welfare, and support from veterinarians is vital to their success. She said many dog breeders want to improve the lives of their dogs. The CCC program provides education and structure to make that a reality.

A version of this article appears in the June 2022 print issue of JAVMA.