Helping Puppy Mill Dog Survivors

*Shared post from my blog at Private School Pups

10,000 and 2 million…

…the former is the number of puppy mills that exist today, and the later is the number of dogs born in their cages in the United States each year. Puppy mill dogs are often sold at retail pet stores, and unfortunately, are kept in wire cages their entire lives. This means no exposure to fresh air, food, earth, or even solid ground their entire lives.

Recently, rescues are starting to see an increase in dog surrenders from puppy mills once the mill owners are done using the dogs for breeding. Dogs surrendered range anywhere in age but are typically 6-9 years old. It is heartwarming to see this change, as in the past, these unneeded dogs were often killed by mill owners.

Sadly, these dogs come in to rescues typically scared, skinny, under socialized, and with expensive medical needs. Because of this, rescues try to place these unique dogs in understanding foster homes. Despite its challenges, anyone who is up to the challenge of fostering or even adopting a mill dog will surely be in for a treat, as these dogs will reward you an amazing, caring, and sweet companionship. It will take work, but it will be worth the reward!

Having fostered several puppy mill dogs now myself, I wanted to share some of my best tips on things I’ve discovered during my journey. And if you are reading this and also have tips to share from fostering or adopting mill dogs, PLEASE SHARE YOUR EXPERIENCES IN THE COMMENTS SECTION. This type of information is invaluable for those starting their journey with these very special pups.

 GIVE THEM TIME AND UNDERSTANDING

Above all else, when you first get a puppy mill dog, they will need some time to adjust. These dogs have spent YEARS in cages with little to no positive human interaction. It will take time for them to adjust to you, your family, being inside, and even potty training. They may hide in corners and run away from you. That’s OK. All they need is time to adjust to learning and getting comfortable with their new home. It’s always important to give them the space they need and not force them into anything too fast. They will come around, I promise. 

Brandi, a mill dog I had for more than a year, spend most of her time for the first few months in my bathroom, even when I left the door open. It was her safe space that was easy to clean and was far away from activity to keep things quiet. But over time, I started to notice this sweet girl sitting in the same room with me. After that, sleeping with me. It was a great feeling to watch her personality bloom!

Brandi, a puppy mill survivor, loves sleeping and hanging out in my bathroom. It was her safe place when she was learning to be comfortable inside a home.
Brandi, a puppy mill survivor, loves sleeping and hanging out in my bathroom. It was her safe place when she was learning to be comfortable inside a home.

DELICIOUS TREATS

Like any dog, mill dogs generally love to eat. Helping to calm them and train them, super delicious treats will be the key to your success. Just remember, most of these dogs will not take food from your hands, at least initially, so you may have to throw them on the floor near them and let them take the treats from there. In addition, many mill dogs have very poor teeth, so make sure not pick anything that is too hard to chew.

My favorite picks:

·       Peanut butter (just make sure no sugar or artificial sweeteners ever added!)

·       Cream cheese

·       Hot dogs

·       Any flavor Bark Pouch. I’ve had some picking eaters and have had NO ONE refuse these treats. You can add it to food, in a toy, or even just put a little bit on the floor for your friend to enjoy. Bonus, the company is woman-owned and she donates to charity often (include Private School Pups!)

GET A GOOD HARNESS AND SLING/STROLLER

Puppy mill dogs can spook easily, so if you are taking them outside, or have them inside during training, a harness goes a long way. For one, a harnesses prevents them running away, as it’s harder to slip out of when compared with a traditional collar. This means that if your mill dog gets scared and tries to run away, they will be much less likely to get away from you. When worn in the house, this can help you be able to pick up your mill dog without the fear of potentially getting bitten or having to grab the dog in a way they are not yet comfortable with. My favorites harnesses are ones with handles on the back, like this one from Kurgo. This is particular helpful in picking up and guiding puppy mill dogs.

I have found that some mill dogs just never get used to walking on a leash, but even if they don’t, it doesn’t mean that they do not enjoy walking outside. Once settled in and used to me and my house, I start to “walk” my mill dogs in a sling (if they are not too scared and do not try to escape). The sling allows them to get used to walks and to being outside while giving me the free hands to walk my other pups at the same time. You can find a variety of dog slings through Amazon or other retailers.

If a sling is not for you, they also make a great variety of pet walkers that are fully secure and breathable.  

Always walking multiple dogs, a pet sling for puppy mills dogs is my go-to item to help them adjust to outside settings, get some fresh air, all while letting them feel like part of the pack.
Always walking multiple dogs, a pet sling for puppy mills dogs is my go-to item to help them adjust to outside settings, get some fresh air, all while letting them feel like part of the pack.

THEY OFTEN FIND COMFORT IN OTHER DOGS

Spending most of their lives around other dogs and not humans, mill dogs often love to have other furry friends. If you have a mill dog in your care and other pets, consider arranging play dates to see if they enjoy spending time with their furry counterparts. It’s a great way to help them learn doggy manners and standards in the house, too!

HELP END PUPPY MILLS – WHAT YOU CAN DO

And of course, the practice of puppy mills needs to be banned. So make sure to never adopt a puppy or dog from any store or owner in which you have not visited the breeding facility. In addition, visit Best Friends here to learn about 15 other simple things you can do to help.

-Monica Mosure

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