When you adopt a dog, you want to know that you are getting a healthy, happy puppy that has been properly raised. Puppy mills breed their dogs to sell them to unsuspecting people, often for a much higher profit than responsible kennels or rescue groups. Fortunately, if you carefully look for signs of a mill, you can avoid these inhumane facilities and adopt from a reputable breeder or group.
Puppy mill dogs usually lack basic care such as vaccinations and grooming. This is an indication of the utter disregard for the health and well-being of these animals, and should be a major warning sign to you.
Almost all rescued puppy mill dogs have no concept of or experience with human touch, as they were kept in cages for most of their lives and rarely handled. Building trust in these dogs can take weeks, months or even a lifetime of dedication and patience.
Most rescued puppy mill dogs are extremely fearful and distrustful of humans, but they can be taught to trust again in a safe environment. To build trust, begin by offering treats on the ground at varying distances from your body. Gradually move the treats closer to you until they are within arm’s distance. Eventually, they will begin to accept your hand with the treat in it.
Once your puppy mill dog has learned to trust your presence, gradually introduce her to other members of the household. Ideally, these introductions should be done in a neutral location where both dogs have never been before, such as the home of a friend. If this is not possible, be prepared to use a leash and collar on each of the dogs to keep them separated from one another should any aggression arise (growling, snarling or baring teeth).
Next, set up a room in your house for your new puppy mill dog, and give her a crate to use as a retreat when she feels overwhelmed or frightened. This should be a space away from where the other dogs sleep, as frightened puppy mill dogs may perceive any other animal’s presence as a threat and try to attack. Dog-proof your house to remove small items that might be chewed or ingested and to secure any cabinets that contain cleaning products and other materials that could be dangerous.
If your puppy mill dog is comfortable in her crate, set up an exercise pen that is large enough for her to move around in but still provides some degree of safety. This will help her feel protected in her new home, and will prevent her from exploring areas that are too scary for her.
If you have a friendly, trusting, low-stimulation dog in the house, bring it to spend time with your puppy mill dog to act as a role model and provide comfort for her. This will also help to socialize your puppy mill dog, as she will have a dog to follow and learn from.