In pet-loving nations such as Australia, nobody likes the idea of dogs churning out litters in squalid conditions or sitting homeless in a shelter.
Responsible dog owners are therefore strongly encouraged to desex their pets, through programs such as national desexing month and low-cost surgery schemes. In some places in Australia, it is even compulsory.
But as we try to limit unwanted dogs, experts estimate there is demand in Australia for nearly half a million new puppies every year.
Many desexed family pets are the ideal parents of the next generation of family companions, having demonstrated their ability to fit in with family life. Yet by desexing as early as possible, we are removing the best source of happy healthy pets from the doggy gene pool.
We argue there's room for responsible pet owners and breeders to work together, breeding ideal companion animals and reducing the number of unwanted or unsafe dogs left in shelters.
People want their dogs to suit their family's needs: tall or short, short-coated or non-shedding, couch potato or running buddy. We have created hundreds of breeds to meet these preferences. However, Australian pet-owners most value dogs that are affectionate, friendly, obedient and safe with children.
Such dogs are a combination of nature and nurture. Most temperament traits in dogs, including aggression, have a genetic basis. Dogs bred for working roles, such as police work, have physical and behavioural assessments to make sure they can do their jobs well.
If we treat being a happy and safe companion as a job, we need to select breeding dogs with the right characteristics to succeed. This begins with carefully selecting parents who also have these traits. Many dogs who would breed perfect family pets are themselves family pets, and owners have years of observation to rely on.