It is an unfortunate reality in our society that puppy mills exist. Puppy mill dogs are typically kept in extremely harsh conditions, and receive very little, if any, human interaction, resulting in a mix of poor health and socialization / behaviour issues.
Due to their lack of human contact, they are usually quite wary of all humans—not just the bigger more intimidating humans, but even the small friendly-sounding humans. This fear can be displayed in many ways, but the most common is aggression or timidity.
|Princess, her picture taken the day she came to TAGS, and the day she was adopted. What a difference!|
Neither of these behaviours is very desirable. To make matters worse, if it is a medium to large dog, aggression can often result in euthanization.
The only good thing about this situation, if you can call any of it good, is that puppy mill dogs typically are very well socialized with other dogs. This makes finding them a home relatively easier since they get along with pretty much everybody who has four legs.
Many dogs who come from puppy mills or breeding situations have minor health issues, especially when they first arrive at a rescue, due to the unsanitary conditions they lived in. A little bit of tender love and care, though, will bring them back to health.
Occasionally, a puppy mill dog will have developed an issue from lack of exercise or growing up in a cage. This is sometimes referred to as “floppy bottom,” or having a general lack of muscle tone. This issue can be fixed usually just by walking or getting regular exercise, but some dogs will have permanent defects as a result of growing up in an enclosure. As long as the dog is not in any pain, he or she can live a happy second life.
|Little Sophia came from a Mennonite puppy mill in southern Ontario.
Such a cutie pie! Notice anything? She is missing her right eye, but that hasn’t slowed her down!
One issue you really need to be aware of when taking home a puppy mill dog is that these dogs have not been trained to eliminate outside (unless the foster home has done potty training). For their entire lives, they have peed and poohed where they live—in their house. This means that when you adopt a puppy mill dog, you should expect the same to happen in your house.
|A poster advertising the five dogs taken from the Missouri
puppy mill. I made the poster and dubbed them
“The Missouri 5”
In some cases, puppy mill dogs that have grown up in elevated wire cages require the sensation of the wire beneath their paws to induce them to eliminate. That will get the neighbours talking—why do they have chain-link fencing laid out on their back lawn?
On St. Patrick’s Day 2012, TAGS took five small dogs from a puppy mill in Missouri. Dubbed the Missouri 5, they were taken to one (super) foster home. All five of these dogs were given Irish-themed names for St. Patrick’s Day. So far, all but one have been adopted. Josie is the lone ranger waiting for her fur-ever home. She was particularly more cautious of humans than the others but has almost done an about-face and now approaches humans who she does not see as a threat.
Housetraining and people training a puppy mill dog is often a long-term process and cannot be done in the span of 30 minutes, despite what you see on TV. But I’m sure if you were to ask any of the adopters of the Missouri 5 dogs, they will tell you the long-term challenge leads to even greater reward!