A DOG FROM A PUPPY
take the time to read this before proceeding:
information has been compiled from a number of rescue organizations and
humane societies that routinely work with and rescue dogs from large
scale breeding facilities. It is our hope that this information will
help you in making an informed adoption decision.
What is a puppy mill? By the formal definition, a puppy mill is a
large-scale breeding operation that produces large numbers of puppies
for profit, with sales over the Internet, to local customers and to pet
stores. Dogs are typically confined to small cages or kennels, often
grouped in breeding pairs or large groups with little human contact or
meaningful socialization. Although the tendency is to want to save them
all, please do not act impulsively. Consider everything before you
choose to adopt.
Every puppy mill survivor is different. What works on one or many, will
completely fail on others; the only thing that is consistent is that
they will need lots of patience, understanding, love, and most
importantly, unconditional acceptance of who they are and what their
limitations may be. We would love to say that every puppy mill survivor
just needs love to turn it into a wonderful family pet, but that would
be a lie. Love is definitely needed in large amounts, but so is patience.
The damage done during the years in the mill usually can be overcome,
but it takes time and dedication. It takes a very special adopter for
one of these dogs. Not being "up to it" is no crime, but you
must be honest with yourself, and us, about your expectations. These
dogs have already been through more than their share of heartache and if
your entire family is not willing to make the commitment, the dog is
better staying in our care until the ideal home for them is found.
first glance a mill survivor may look like many of your friends' dogs;
maybe not a perfect example of the breed, but close. What you will not
see is the condition they were in when they came into our care. Many had
fur so matted that it all had to be shaved off, and even the short
haired breeds suffered from thin, dull coats. Many times removing the
filth and matting only revealed open sores, usually from flea allergies
or sarcoptic mange. Their ears are often full of filth and mites and
some survivors suffer from permanent hearing loss because of untreated
ear infections. Most survivors require the removal of rotten teeth, even
young dogs. The gums are usually infected and the teeth have excessive
buildup on them. Many vets who are not familiar with puppy mill rescued
dogs will miscalculate the age of the dog if using only the teeth as
their guide. Many survivors also suffer from swollen, splayed and sore
feet from so much time walking on wire or living in damp conditions.
While finally getting some good nutrition and extensive medical care,
all too often there remains the psychological damage that can't be fixed
with a bath, medicine, or surgery.
Unfortunately, some of these dogs will be extremely difficult to
housetrain. There could be behavioral issues, like excessive fearfulness,
shyness, or an especially needy dog. These dogs tend to be frightened of
sudden movements, loud noises and sometimes even the touch of a hand.
Many of these dogs have never worn a collar, walked on a leash or felt
the grass beneath their feet. Everyday activities that most people take
for granted can create panic in one of these animals. If they escape
through an open door or gate they will run and may not come back to you
or other people. Many dogs do not know how to act like a dog. They will
require much patience and understanding, without guarantee of success.
mill survivors have spent their entire life in the mill with only an
elevated wire cage or small kennel to call home. Puppies who grow up in
a mill miss many crucial socialization periods with humans and they
never learn to trust, to love, or to play. They have had very minimum
physical contact with people and have virtually no concept of what to
expect (or what is expected of them) when they are placed in a family
situation. Their life in the mill may have been what we would consider
unpleasant, but it is the only life they have ever known. In the mill,
many were fed in groups and had to fight over resources and were watered
using automatic dispensers. Actual human contact normally came when they
were being vaccinated, dewormed, or moved to a new cage to breed or to
Many of the quirks that mill dogs might have will be discovered while
the dog is still in our care, but there are things that may develop
after the dog feels a little more comfortable in your home. Most of the
dogs we encounter have had their spirit broken many years before and
aggression is not normally something we encounter; however, there are
memory triggers that the dog may experience after it is settled in your
home, so we will talk briefly about these.
The physical contact that they have received may not have been pleasant.
Because they are not handled enough, they are scared. Many mills handle
their "stock" by the scruff of the neck. It is not uncommon
for survivors to be sensitive on the backs of their necks; after all, it
brings the unexpected. Many mill dogs will try to always face you, not
trusting you enough to give you easy access to them from behind. Never
startle a mill survivor from behind, you will lose any trust that you
may have gained. Always make sure they are anticipating you picking them
up and consistently verbally tell them what you are going to do with the
same word, like "up". It is not uncommon for a mill dog to
drop their bellies to the floor when they know you are going to pick
them up, some will even roll on their backs, often urinating in the
process. This is a submissive move on the dog's part, and while it may
be frustrating trying to pick up a dog in this position, these dogs will
seldom show aggression. Encourage the dog to come to you by sitting a
few feet away and calling him. The most common posture we see in mill
dogs is the "freeze;" the dog will initially try to escape
from you, but when they realize there is no escape, they simply freeze,
rigid, like a statue, and accept their "fate." This is a good
time to really praise the dog, scratch his back or ears and speak gently
to him; it goes a long way towards teaching him that human contact can
be a good thing.
Another problem that sometimes occurs in puppy mill animals is
separation anxiety. Dogs that have been confined without attention for
long periods of time can become extremely dependent once they experience
a positive relationship. These dogs will not want to be separated from
their owner, and can become stressed, depressed or destructive when left
alone. Many of them do better in a home with another well-socialized dog.
There will also be an increased potential for ongoing medical expenses.
Some of these animals arrived at our facility with skin and eye problems,
while others had developed joint problems due to years of inactivity
confined to their small, cramped cages. Other medical problems might not
become visible until the dog has been in your home for a period of time.
is important for potential adopters to realize that they are not
adopting the “perfect dog.” In fact, after days, weeks or months of
hard work, they may still own a dog that is shy, fearful, not
housetrained, growls, barks constantly, and is protective of food or
toys. Please ask yourself, “Can you and your family accept this
It is important that you discover if the challenge of adopting one of
these rescued dogs is not for you before you take one home. It is our
goal to find the right home for these dogs, and help you and your family
find the right pet for your home.
Learning about the House:
Many times when you bring a mill survivor into your home, it is their
instinct to hide in a quiet corner. Any new dog that you bring into your
home should be kept separated from other family pets for seven days.
During this time it is fine to crate or confine them to a quiet area.
After that though, they need to have exposure to the household. If
crating, the crate should be in a central location. The ideal spot is
one where there is frequent walking and activity. This allows the dog to
feel safe in the crate, yet observe everyday activity and become
accustomed to it; they need to hear the table being set, the dishwasher
running, phones ringing, and people talking.
Very few mill dogs know what a leash is. After the quarantine, when the
dog is out of the crate and supervised, it is not a bad idea to let them
drag a leash around with them. Let them get used to the feel. It is easy
to fall into the mindset that they must be pampered and carried
everywhere, but leash training is important. It will make your life
easier to have a leash-trained dog, but it will also offer your dog
confidence in the future.
A mill dog has no reason to trust you. Your trust needs to be
earned, little by little. Patience is a very important part of rehabbing
a mill survivor. We have seen a lot of mill dogs that don't want to eat
whenever people are around. It is important that your mill dog be fed on
a schedule, with you nearby. You don't have to stand and watch over them
but should be in the same room with them. They need to know that their
yummy meal is coming from you. For the majority of mill dogs, accepting
a treat right out of your hand is a huge show of trust. Offer treats on
a regular basis, especially as a reward. Don't concern yourself too much
if your dog does not eat for a few days. If there is no vomiting or
diarrhea and your dog is otherwise acting healthy, a few days of
nibbling at their food while they learn to live by your schedule is not
going to hurt them. It is important to teach them that food is fed on a
schedule and you should not be leaving food down at all times.
While you should not force yourself upon your dog, it does need to get
used to you. Sit and talk quietly while gently petting or massaging your
dog. It is best to do this an area where they, not necessarily you, are
the most comfortable. They probably won't like it at first, but give
them time to adjust. Some dogs sadly, never will adjust, and we’ll
talk more about them later.
Never allow children or friends to force attention on a mill survivor,
or any dog. Ask them not to look your dog directly in the eyes. It is
not uncommon for mill dogs to simply never accept outsiders. Let your
dog set the pace. If the dog approaches, ask them to talk quietly and
hold out a hand. No quick movements. Ask that any barking be ignored.
Remember that these dogs bark to warn and scare off intruders. If you
acknowledge the barking you may be reinforcing it with attention. If you
bring your guest outside you have just reinforced to your dog that
barking will make the intruder go away.
A child spends the first one to two years of their life soiling their
diaper and having you remove the dirty diaper and replace it with a
clean one. A puppy mill dog spends its entire life soiling its living
area. Potty training a child and housebreaking a puppy mill dog are the
exact same procedures...you are UN-teaching them something that they
have already learned to be acceptable. A regular schedule, constant
reinforcement, praise, and commitment on your part are a must! Would you
ever scream at your child, march them to the bathroom and make them sit
on the toilet AFTER you discovered they soiled their diaper? A dog is no
different in this sense; scolding them after the deed is done is of no
benefit to anyone.
The two most important things you can do are to get your new dog on a
regular feeding schedule (which will put them on a regular potty
schedule) and to observe them closely after feeding time.
Getting them on a premium, low residue food is very important. This will
produce a stool that normally is firm (very easy to clean up) and only
one or two bowel movements a day are normal. Low cost, or over the
counter foods have a lot of fillers and it is very hard to get a dog on
a regular cycle using these foods.
Before you even begin to housebreak them, you must learn their schedule.
Most dogs will need to 'go' shortly after eating. Soon after they are
finished eating, tell them “outside" and bring them on leash to
the potty zone. Always use the exact same word in the exact same tone.
Watch them closely outside and observe their pattern as they prepare to
defecate. Some will turn circles, some will scratch at the ground, some
may find a corner, some may sniff every inch of the ground, some will
get a strange look on their face...every dog is different and you have
to learn to recognize how the dog will behave right before he goes; this
way you will recognize it when he gets ready to go in the house.
We could give you a million tips that our adopters have found to work
best for them, but as we have said, every dog is different. As long as
you always keep in mind that housebreaking and potty training are one in
the same, you should eventually see results. Never do to a dog what you
would not do to a child. It may take a week, it may take a month, it may
take a year...and sadly, some dogs will never gain mastery. Never give
up and never accept 'accidents' as a way of life. In most cases, the
success of housebreaking depends on your commitment.
While we have focused mainly on bowel movements, urinating in the house
is just as hard to correct as defecating in the house (if not worse).
Below we will discuss "marking," which many people associate
only with male dogs. We will go into that in more detail, below, but if
urinating in the house remains a problem for your dog, we highly
recommend crate training. This can be researched online in more detail,
but if crate training is not working because your dog is soiling in the
crate, you should discontinue the training immediately--as you are only
reinforcing that it is okay to soil their area.
In general, if you can understand your dog's bowel patterns, you will
usually find that they urinate before or after a bowel movement.
Reinforce the positive and work on the negative, as most dogs will
understand "outside" and associate it with both urinating and
defecating. Of course, in the meantime, you will want to protect your
carpets by either removing any that can be rolled up, or confining the
dog to a tiled floor when you aren't holding it on your lap. This should
only be done during the training process, as socialization is just as
important as house training, and often tiled floors are in areas that we
don't spend a lot of time.
mill survivors all have one thing in common...they were all used for
breeding. A dog that marks its territory is 'warning' other dogs that
this is its area...stay away! However, in a puppy mill situation, the
dog's area is a cage with other dogs in and around their 'territory'. It
becomes a constant battle of establishing territory and it is not
uncommon to see male and female survivors with marking problems.
Dogs that are marking do not have to potty...taking them outside will
not help. You have to teach them that it is not acceptable to do this in
the house. While you and your survivor learn about each other, and your
survivor develops a sense of respect towards you, you will have to
protect your home from the damage caused by marking. Here are a few tips
that you will find helpful.
1. White vinegar is your best friend. Keep a spray bottle handy at all
times. Use the vinegar anytime you see your dog mark. Do not spray the
dog, however! The vinegar will neutralize the smell that your dog just
left behind. Using other cleaning products may actually cause your dog
to mark over the same area again. Most cleaning products contain ammonia,
the very scent found in urine. Your dog will feel the need to mark over
normal cleaning products, but normally has no interest in areas
neutralized by vinegar.
Potty Pads, your next best friend. These can be found in any pet store,
but most 'housebreaking pads' are treated with ammonia or pheromones to
encourage a puppy or dog to go on the pad instead of the carpet. Since
we are trying to discourage your dog from marking, these are not always
the best choice. You might check at a home medical supply store. The
blue and white pads used to protect beds usually work best. These are
not a solution to the problem, but will help protect your home while you
deal with the problem.
3. Scotch Guard. Scotch Guard is nothing more than paraffin based
protector. It puts a waxy substance down which repels water and spills
(and in our case, urine). Shake and spray this onto the fabric areas you
want to protect, such as the base of the sofa and the carpet below
doorways or areas your dog is apt to mark. It may make the area stiff
feeling at first but it will normally 'blend' in with normal household
temperatures and humidity. (Note: This is also great for high traffic
areas of your home or along the carpet in front of the couch).
With the use of vinegar and/or scotch guard, you should test a small
area of the fabric/fiber that you will be using the product on and make
sure it does not discolor, stain, or bleed.
Poo-poo, shoo-shoo, ca-ca, doo-doo, #2, feces, poop,
stool...whatever 'pet' name you give it, it's still gross! However,
nothing is grosser than owning a dog that eats poop!
Coprophagia is the technical term, but for the purpose of this article,
we're just going to call it the 'affliction'.
Dogs of all breeds, ages and sizes have the affliction but in puppy mill
rescues, it is not uncommon at all to find dogs afflicted with this
horrible habit. As in any bad habit, the cure lies in understanding the
There are three primary reasons that a puppy mill survivor is afflicted.
We'll start with the most common, and easiest to remedy.
1. It tastes good and they are hungry! Rescues that have come from a
mill where dogs were not fed properly often resort to eating their own
or other dog's feces as a source of food. These types of situations will
usually remedy themselves when the dog realizes that he is always going
to get fed. It is also easy to discourage this behavior by adding
over-the-counter products to their food which are manufactured for this
purpose. Ask your vet which products are available and you will normally
see results in 2-4 weeks.
2. Learned behavior. This is usually the cause of puppy mill dogs that
have the affliction. There are several reasons why a dog learned to
behave like this, but the most common cause is being housed with
dominant dogs who fight over food. These dominant dogs will often guard
the food dish and prevent the more submissive dogs from eating even if
the dominant dog is not hungry. Food aggression in caged dogs is usually
fast and furious and often results in severe injury to the submissive
dogs. Because the dominant dog is often eating much more than is needed,
the stool is virtually undigested and contains many of the nutrients and
'flavors' of the original meal; therefore almost as tasty to the
submissive dog as if he'd ate the real thing. Puppies that were raised
with a dominant mother or dominant litter mates also pick up this habit
very early--in this case, it is a little harder to treat, but it can
usually be done.
This eating pattern is usually maintained throughout the dog's life, so
the age of your dog will play a big role in how hard it is to correct
the behavior. It's become habit...and as the saying goes, "Old
habits are hard to break".
Dogs with the affliction will actually go hunting for a fresh stool when
you take them outside. The key is to give your dog something better to
hunt for. Pop some unbuttered/unsalted microwave popcorn and sprinkle it
on the lawn before taking your dog out in the morning. You may find
something that he likes better and is as readily available and
affordable. The good thing about popcorn is what your dog doesn't eat,
the birds will. It may take weeks or months before your dog 'unlearns'
to seek out stools but most dogs are receptive to this training. You may
have to sprinkle the lawn with popcorn the rest of your dog's life...but
the trouble is well worth just one 'popcorn kiss' as opposed to a lick
on the face right after he eats a tasty stool.
3. As mentioned above,
Coprophagia means 'eating poop'. Coprophagia is a form of a much more
serious problem called Pica. Pica is the unnatural 'need' to eat foreign
objects. Dogs suffering from Pica will eat not only stools, but rocks,
dirt, sticks, etc. Remember the kid in school who ate paste and chalk
and 'other unspeakables'? Pica is a psychological disorder which is much
more in depth and serious than anything we can discuss in this guide.
A good rescuer will observe dogs prior to placement and will recognize
the seriousness of this problem. A dog suffering from Pica should never
be placed in an inexperienced home or any home that is not aware of the
problem and the dangers. Dogs suffering from Pica will often end up
having surgery--.often several times--for objects they have eaten that
cannot be digested. If you are the owner of a dog which you believe
suffers from Pica, we suggest you consult your vet; these dogs often
require medication for their disorder and only your vet can guide you on
the best way to proceed.
Before we close this section on Pica, we want to say that true Pica is
rare. Most dogs will chew on sticks or rocks--or sofas and table legs.
However a dog suffering from Pica will not just chew on these
items...they will eat these items any chance they get. Just because your
dog is eating his own stool...and also the bar stool at the kitchen
counter...does not mean that he is suffering from Pica. If in
doubt, consult your vet.
we see the survivor who has survived the mill, but at such a great cost
that they can never be "brought around". These dogs have
endured so much suffering that they remind us of children who are abused
and survive by separating their mind from the body. These damaged dogs
will never fully trust anyone. So where does that leave these poor souls?
Most are still capable of living out a wonderful life. They need a
scheduled environment, but most importantly, a home where they are
accepted for who and what they are. They may never jump up on a couch
and cuddle with you, or bring you a ball to play catch, but you will see
the joy that they take in living each day knowing that they will have
clean bedding, fresh food and water, and unconditional love. To them,
those small comforts alone are pure bliss.
These "broken ones" are the ones that normally never leave
their foster homes. Ironically, these types of dogs normally do very
well in a group-dog setting. They seem to have shunned the world, and
most certainly mankind, and have created their own little world without
humans. Whenever we suspect that a mill rescue may be "too far gone"
for a fast paced family, we try to place them in experienced homes;
quiet homes; or homes with other dogs. These are by far the hardest ones
for our hearts to accept, but they are also a constant reminder of why
we do what we do.
Finding forever homes for mill rescues is not all we do; we are
constantly reminded of the horrors of puppy mills and the
commercialization/farming of dogs when we see the neglect and abuse
these dogs have suffered. We work not only to adopt dogs, but to educate
their new owners about the truth behind that puppy in the pet store
window. We hope that you will keep a journal or blog on the reform of
your puppy mill dog, and we hope that you will join us in our campaign
to educate the public--through the eyes of the survivors--by always
taking the opportunity to further educate others. Together we have made
a difference in the life of just one dog, but together we can also make
a difference in the lives of hundreds of thousands of dogs still caged
in puppy mills. It is only when the public realizes the connection
between pet stores and puppy mills that we will end the demand; end the
supply; and end the abuse!
Disclaimer: The following is the opinion of the authors (Michelle Bender
and Kim Townsend of a New Start on Life, www.ansol.org)
and is based on years of experience with puppy mill dogs; we are not
veterinarians or professional trainers. Please note that an adopted
puppy mill dog may be at different stages of rehabilitation so we have
tried to start this from the beginning.