Choosing Ex-Puppy Mill Rescue Dogs for Adoption

When choosing ex-puppy mill rescue dogs for adoption, there are several considerations. While most dogs can be rehabilitated, you will be facing additional challenges with dogs who may never have been handled by humans, socialized or potty trained.

Observing Temperament

Puppy mill dogs have spent their whole lives living in cages, surrounded by other dogs in cages. They are often only handled when they are pulled out of their crate to be mated to another dog. They have not been properly socialized to people, other dogs, loud noises or anything of the other things to which a normal dog would have been exposed.

This lack of socialization often leads to crippling fear, which can exhibit itself in fight or flight. Many dogs will choose to avoid you, run and hide, but others may show signs of aggression when you come near.

When observing a puppy mill rescue dog, if you feel sorry for the dog cowering in the corner, remember that it will take months, maybe years to completely rehabilitate this dog. He may not warm up to you immediately and may be afraid of your visitors or other members of your family.

Younger dogs have obviously spent less time in such an environment, so they may be better suited to adoption. However, any dog older than 6 weeks old will have deficiencies in their socialization from this experience.

Suitable Health

Puppy mill dogs have not been cared for properly. They may have never been to a veterinarian, and they are usually fed low-quality food. Because of this, they will often have bad teeth and coat as well as potentially serious health problems.

Before choosing a puppy mill dog, make sure he has had a complete health check. He may not have had puppy vaccinations and certainly hasn't been given heart worm or flea medication. If your dog has heart worm or another serious illness, it may be transmitted to your other dogs or live with you only a short time.

Teeth and coat can be improved. Fleas and worms can be cleared up. But a dog with a devastating illness is probably not a dog you want to adopt.

Training Considerations

Because puppy mill dogs have spent their entire lives in cages without human contact, they are missing many of the skills that other rescue dogs have from living in homes.

First of all, they are never allowed to leave their cage, so though dogs are clean by nature, they have learned to live in filth, eliminating in their crates and often being forced to sleep in it. This makes potty training very difficult. It's not impossible, but it does take commitment and consistency.

In addition, these dogs have never been walked on a leash. They will require leash training to learn to enjoy walks. They may also be afraid to walk on a leash or afraid of the strange things encountered on walks, so they may become reactive or shut down and refuse to walk. Again, this can be trained as long as you use positive methods and infinite patience.

You will also have to teach your dog to trust you and others in your life. To do this, use positive training and move slowly. Don't force your puppy mill dog into a situation that may frighten him, even if you have treats. Move slowly and you will be rewarded with a dog who will slowly but surely come out of his shell.