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Stop guessing what dog owners want – discover the truth

by | Jun 9, 2023

After breeding my first litter of guide dog puppies, it got me thinking about the reasons why people want dogs, the role they play in our lives, and whether we as dog breeders are getting things right. 

As dog breeders, it’s imperative that we understand what motivates people to get a dog, so that we can ensure we are thoughtfully breeding dogs that are fit for their roles in a human world. 

Because if we don’t, they end up being relinquished to rescue and we are part of the problem. 

So let’s explore why people want a dog and what we as breeders can do to ensure we’re breeding dogs that are set up for happy, fulfilled lives with their families. 

The top 5 reasons people want a dog

  • Companionship
  • A walking buddy
  • Mental health benefits
  • Sport/working/show/assistance dog partner
  • Status symbol/accessory

Types of dog owner

An interesting study into types of pet owner  conducted by Beverland et al, reveals two types of pet owners. I thought this study was really interesting from a breeders perspective when matching puppies with new homes. 

They identified two types of pet owners, motivated by different desires for getting a dog. 

  1. desire a pet as a companion
  2. want a pet as a status symbol, toy, or accessory

A further study into the motivations for getting a dog by Katrina Holland et al, revealed that companionship was the most common reason for wanting to get a dog, reported by 79.4 and 87.8% of current and potential owners. 

dog and human walking together happily

Perhaps what is most interesting though, is the finding that there were significant differences between existing owners and prospective owners when asked about the reasons, motivations, and deciding factors around getting a dog. 

76% of  UK dog owners surveyed wanted to change one or more behaviours of their dog. 

PDSA Animal Wellbeing Report 

I’d hazard a guess that this is largely because of the giant mismatch between expectations of getting a dog versus the reality!

If we are to improve the welfare of dogs, then we have to address this mismatch! 

What prospective owners want from a dog

The reasons that people cite for wanting to get a dog are largely human motivated – meaning they want to get a dog for the perceived benefits that it will have on their own lives. 

The study conducted by Katrina E Holland et al reveals human desire for companionship, a walking buddy, emotional support, and social connection with other humans are the driving motivations for most dog owners. 

dog lunging on the lead at another dog

Expectations versus reality

So what happens when an owner winds up with a dog who is reactive or who struggles with socialising? 

What happens when an owner finds their dog’s needs are too great to contend with and outweigh their perceived benefits of getting a dog? 

Yup. Relinquishment rates go up and more dogs fall foul to a life of trauma all created by humans.

“It’s estimated that between 90,000 and 130,000 dogs are relinquished to UK animal welfare organisations annually.”

Researchgate: Number of cats and dogs in UK welfare organisations

We must pair owner education with unwavering dedication to breeding dogs who can cope and thrive in the human world – with all the expectations we put upon them. 

Free support for prospective dog owners

The Puppy Pie is a free resource which I devised to help prospective owners make an informed decision prior to getting a dog. It looks at lifestyle, expectations and breed needs – all wrapped up in an easy questionnaire and supported with a 30 minute video. 

It’s a brilliant resource for both prospective owners and breeders who want to help further owner education for the benefit of everyone. 

Get instant access to The Puppy Pie

The Puppy Pie landing page

Are all dogs emotional support dogs? 

Exploring all the research around what motivates people to welcome a dog into their family has reinforced what I believed to be true. 

The vast majority of pet dogs are acquired to perform roles akin to an emotional support dog. 

They play such a vital role in our health, mindfulness and wellbeing. They get us outdoors, they provide comfort when we’re down or sad, they’re our cuddle monsters on the sofa and a huge part of our families. 

How can dog breeders uplevel animal welfare?

As breeders, we are privileged to be able to make a huge impact on making the lives of dogs and their families happy and mutually beneficial. 

When we carefully select the dogs we breed from with an understanding of what dog owners want, we have the ability to help match happy dogs with happy homes. 

happy dog and happy owner

Our Level 3 in Dog Breeding, Litter Socialisation and Welfare brings together all of the vital puzzle pieces together to help breeders to put the welfare of the dogs they bring into the world front and centre. 

From developing a breeder mission to selecting the right dogs to breed from, right through to the crucial early litter socialisation that gives puppies the ultimate foundation to thrive in a human world. 

Register today for just £250

Breeding with future lifestyle in mind

As breeders, our lives are completely centred around dogs. Our lives with our dogs don’t reflect the typical pet home environment and lifestyle. 

When selecting our breeding pair, we have to consider whether what they need to be happy can be fulfilled in a pet home. 

Go beyond looking at solely the health of the lineage, but dig deeper into what the prospective parents have been historically prepared for. 

  • What are their behaviour and personality traits? 
  • Do they enjoy being around people? 
  • Are they calm and controlled? 
  • Do they need to work or be given outlets for their breed instincts beyond what a regular pet home could provide? 

Breeding isn’t an exact science. We can never guarantee what types of dogs a mating will produce – but we can make informed and considered choices that give us a likely chance of raising dogs suitable for pet homes. 

Meeting owners expectations

Pet owners want dogs who can integrate into their day to day life. They want a dog who is confident, resilient and emotionally stable. 

They want a dog who is sociable with other dogs and people, but who can also be confidently left alone. 

They want a dog who can enter new situations without losing the plot and a dog who can contain their excitement when visitors come around or children are present. 

If that sounds like a lot to ask, then welcome to the world of responsible dog breeding! If you want to breed happy puppies destined for content and fulfilled lives – then the mating is the tip of the iceberg!

Correct early puppy socialisation is paramount

We not only need to breed from dogs who are healthy and temperamentally sound, but we need to recognise that this is just the first step in breeding well rounded dogs. 

Breeders who implement proper early socialisation prepare their puppies for the lives they will begin in their new homes. That means preparing your pups for alone time, for travel, for visitors, and for socialising happily with dogs and people. 

dachshund puppy playing with toy

All of this is covered in depth in our Level 3 dog breeding, litter socialisation and welfare course. This distance learning course prepares breeders to be the very best in their field – delivering everything you need, for every litter you breed. 

What happens next is very important

Beyond what you do as a breeder when raising your litters, the right matching of people and puppies is crucial. 

Having open discussions with prospective owners allows you to debunk the false expectations that leave puppies and dogs to be relinquished to rescue. They give the opportunity to prepare prospective owners for the reality and to ensure they’re up for the journey. 

Because it is a journey. Putting time and effort into puppy raising has to continue in their new home, if owners are to enjoy a happy, content adult dog that can meet their companionship expectations. 

You can learn more about matching puppies with their perfect people in this free on-demand workshop. 

Learn how to be an outstanding puppy matchmaker with our free webinar 

Free workshop

Realistic puppy training for new puppy owners

Once you’ve matched your puppies with the right people, supporting their humans with taking over the puppy raising reigns is vital. 

You’ve put everything into producing and raising puppies that are world ready, but their early development doesn’t stop when they leave you. 

Typically, puppy training classes don’t start until the pups hit 12 weeks old. This leaves new puppy owners with a gap in support at a critical stage in their puppies life. As they’re integrating their puppy into their family and getting to grips with life as a dog owner, they need guidance and hand holding. 

The Puppy Pod is our early puppy training course designed to support new puppy owners during this important transition. It helps them navigate the struggles that come up, focus on developing a strong bond and sets them up to understand their dog so they can have the companionship they crave. 

The Puppy Pod early puppy training

Education is empowering

I’m passionate about empowering breeders and owners to live the lives they dream of with dogs. Education isn’t a nice to have, it’s an empowering essential for every person who wants to share their lives with dogs. 

Our dogs do so much for us. They are our companions, confidantes, and our emotional support. And we owe it to them to ensure that we are playing our part in the partnership. 

At Pupstarts, we have developed a complete pathway for ethical breeding. This pathway takes into account ALL of the elements that contribute to upleveling welfare for dogs and helping humans do better. 

pupstarts pathway

Most humans want to do right by dogs, they just need a little hand holding and guidance to support them on their journey. And we are 100% here for that.


All the resources you need

Rebecca Walters

I’m Rebecca Walters, founder of Pupstarts Breeders. I’m a 5-star licensed dog breeder, an ex-licensing officer, and a woman committed to changing the industry for good.

I want to deliver all the dog breeding information, advice and education you need to be an ethical and reputable dog breeder who makes a difference in the world.

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