Caring for a Puppy Mill Rescue
If you've rescued a puppy mill dog, first off I want to commend you on doing so! Though puppy mill dogs can and DO certainly make wonderful additions to a family, they also require a different approach than a dog coming from a good home. Their experience with humans has been a hurtful or neglectful one. It will take time, patience, understanding, and consistency to show them humans that aren't all that way.
That said, there is no single "right way" to help rehabilitate a puppy mill dog. Each one's experience is unique and you should expect the way they handle situations will be different as well.
If you have a puppy mill rescue or are considering adopting one, there are a couple things you should be aware of.
Tips for Trust, Touch, and Handling of a Puppy Mill Rescue
Many puppy mill survivors went through their entire ordeal without ever receiving any type of human contact, touching or petting. For others even less fortunate, their only physical contact with a human has been abusive.
It will take some considerable time and effort for your puppy mill rescue to learn that human touch can be kind and gentle. Even putting their leash on may be enough to get them trembling in fear or accidentally peeing on the floor, so don't rush things.
When making contact with a puppy mill dog, approach slow and gentle. A quick approach can be very frightening to them.
Use treats and feeding time as a way to gain your puppy mill dog's trust. Just taking a treat from your hand is a huge step in the right direction! Sit on the floor as you do talk softly and gently to them at feeding time. When they seem to have lowered their guard, try a gentle touch on the back, but never force them to accept any type of human touch.
Be patient. It could take months before they stop trembling every time a hand approaches.
As they begin to relax, it is time to start getting them used to a leash. Leash training is an important step for any dog as it allows you to maintain control and instill trust and confidence in your rescue. To begin, let them outside of their crate, put the leash on and just let them drag it around the house. (Supervised of course, so if it does become stuck on anything you can quickly untangle it!) Eventually, as they become accustomed to it, you can begin to hold it.
You may have gleaned that a VERY gentle hand is needed with these dogs, HOWEVER, on the other hand, it is important to remember that there is a fine line between adequately and over-accommodating your puppy mill dog. An "over-coddled" puppy mill rescue is having their fearful tendencies rewarded and reinforced. Puppy mill rescues need rules, boundaries and limitations, just like any other dog. Bring them their food and water at the same time every day. Let them out to go potty at the same time every day too. Be the confident, strong, and consistent leader they can depend on to keep them safe.
Tips for Making Your Puppy Mill Rescue Comfortable at Home
Your puppy mill rescue has likely never experienced life in a nice, cozy home. Ironically, because most are used to being caged and confined to a very small area, the change in environment, although undoubtedly better than where they came from, can be quite frightening to them.
Ease the transition by keeping them separated from the hustle and bustle for a week or so, but put their crate in a room that has regular activity so they can become accustomed to it.
Also, don't be surprised when you open the crate and your rescue runs and cowers in a corner. All the noises of your home are new - telephone ringing, kids running, dishes being cleaned, vacuuming...
Always allow them a place to get away and be alone.
Tips for Potty-Training Your Puppy Mill Rescue
First and foremost, you'll need to understand that your puppy mill dog has been forced to urinate and defecate in their own living quarters for their entire life. Expecting them to quickly potty-train is just setting them up to fail and you to be disappointed.
You'll need to treat you puppy mill dog much like you would treat a puppy, especially in this regard. ( Please see my complete potty-training guide!)
Keep a strict potty schedule and don't forget to treat reward and give verbal praise when they take care of business outside! A regular feeding schedule and a higher quality dog food will help keep your rescue healthy and their bowel movements regular. Bell training can be very helpful as well - although if they are skittish around noise, it may be better to avoid that until they are more comfortable.
Expect accidents and NEVER EVER punish a dog (and I mean any dog) for soiling in your house! Yelling or rubbing their nose in it will only set them further back in their trust with you.
Unfortunately, because they were responsible for their own cages cleanliness and were fed inconsistently, many puppy mill dogs will eat their own poo. To knock them of this habit, try putting a chunk of pineapple in their food for about a week or so. This will make it taste disgusting to them and should discourage the habit.
If you rescue has not been spayed or neutered, doing so immediately will help avoid "marking" issues. If issues occur and persist, look into a "belly band", a device that prevents male dogs from marking. Your local pet store should have these, but if not, there is always the internet!
This Dog Trainer's Advice on Puppy Mill Rescues
Please remember that what works for one rescue dog, might not work for another. Be patient, calm, and consistent when working with your puppy mill survivor.
Consider hiring a professional dog-trainer to help you and your fur kid get off to the right start. They should be able to provide more helpful tips on easing your puppy mill rescue with their unique issues.
It is also important to understand that some puppy mill survivors are so damaged that no matter the amount of time, energy and money spent on them, they just never come around. These little fur kids may never be able to play like a normal dog, may always have potty issues, and may always be quick to move away from your hand. These "damaged" fur kids just need to be accepted for who they are. It takes a very special adoptee to understand and give them what they need and to require nothing more from them.
If you are considering rescuing a puppy mill survivor, please know that it is one of the most unselfish and giving acts a person can commit too. Despite the best wishes and sympathy of most people towards these victims, a puppy mill dog isn't for everyone. For those that accept the challenge however, there is true reward in knowing that you gave a dog the life and love they were always meant to have.
For more information on adopting a puppy mill dog,
please visit the Puppy Mill Rescue website.
Shazz Mack, Revolt! Puppy, 22Lauren, K9 Playgroups, JBSibiley