Are you contemplating opening your heart and home to a dog who’s been rescued from a puppy mill but you're getting cold feet? Tough times may be ahead, but there are not many experiences out there as rewarding as watching these creatures come out of their shells and bloom into well-adjusted companions. Know what to expect before bring home your puppy-mill dog.
Yes, it's almost inevitable for your new puppy-mill dog to start re-decorating your carpet with yellow and brown polk-a-dots. Of course, it's not his fault. Puppies obtained from a puppy mill can be quite arduous to train because they were not let out to go potty, so they were forced to soil their cages and sleep on their own excrement. Once the puppy is in your home, he will likely continue this behavior. If you keep the puppy in a crate, he will likely soil the crate. In such a case, it may be helpful to provide a larger confinement area instead, suggests the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
It's not that abnormal for your puppy-mill dog to hide under the bed when guests come over. Dogs in puppy mills were poorly socialized toward people, children and other animals during that critical socialization period that lasts up to 4 months of age. Your puppy will likely find the world outside his cage a very intimidating place to be. With your calm and patient guidance your puppy-mill dog can be taught that the world is not such a scary place, and that humans are trustworthy.
You may soon notice how your puppy-mill dog will startle at the slightest noise and act terrified of that scary vacuum monster ready to suck him up. Lack of socialization -- combined with the fact these puppies may never have been let out of their cages to experience living inside a home -- may lead to fearful behaviors. Your puppy may be terrified of normal household noises, such as the dishwasher, laundry machine or vacuum, and he may be scared to wear a collar and go for a walk. Getting your puppy used to all these unusual stimuli and sensations may be a time-consuming process, but it's worth its weight in gold once you notice your puppy gaining confidence.
Social Skill Problems
A puppy-mill dog may bully his playmates and even bite them too hard during play. Puppies raised in puppy mills are typically removed too early from their littermates and mothers. During the "primary socialization stage" occurring between the ages of 3 to 5 weeks, puppies learn important species-specific behaviors such as bite inhibition, submissive postures and proper social relations. Removing puppies from their mother and littermates too soon can affect the puppy's ability to inhibit the force of their bite and get along with other dogs. Puppy classes and remedial socialization for older pups under the guidance of a trainer may be helpful in such cases.
Adrienne Farricelli has been writing for magazines, books and online publications since 2005. She specializes in canine topics, previously working for the American Animal Hospital Association and receiving certification from the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers. Her articles have appeared in "USA Today," "The APDT Chronicle of the Dog" and "Every Dog Magazine." She also contributed a chapter in the book " Puppy Socialization - An Insider's Guide to Dog Behavioral Fitness" by Caryl Wolff.