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Rehabbing a puppy mill dog--advice? Tips? Experiences?

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  • Rehabbing a puppy mill dog--advice? Tips? Experiences?

    We adopted a young female dog about 7 weeks ago. We were told she was a breeder at a puppy mill. My husband and I are decently experienced dog people (though not experts by a long stretch) and have done a fair amount of rescuing, fostering etc. However, we have never dealt with a dog like this and I'm interested in hearing others' experiences, recommendations for resources etc.

    She is a complete sweetheart of a dog, but so wary, so shy, and so worried. She will not drink water out of a bowl. Some days we still have trouble putting a collar on her. She'll follow us from room to room, but often runs away if you turn or look in her general direction. Not surprisingly, she is terrified of being picked up. She gets along well with my 2 much older dogs, but doesn't interact/engage them beyond following them around.

    If allowed, she would spend 24/7 in her crate. We let her do that for the first few weeks, and since then have been shutting her out of it for periods of time. She rarely seeks attention, but will allow petting if conditions are right and occasionally seems to enjoy it. The one thing she REALLY loves, go figure, is sleeping on the bed at night with us and the other dogs, so we have allowed that even though it's probably not great from a potty-training perspective.

    From internet reading, I know much of this is normal. I'm just looking for anything else I could be doing to help this poor, shut down little girl. If nothing else, I just want her to feel safe. Thank you in advance for any suggestions, recommendations, etc.

  • #2
    I work with food. I sit down on the floor, show my back to the dog, throw pieces of food closer and closer until dog picks it up from my hand. Same with feet as some dogs are scared of feet, I placed pieces of food on my instep. In the beginning without moving and without looking at the dog. I offer a crate and only close it when I am not able to take care of the dog to avoid backsteps (e.g. doing housework).
    Collar-training suggestion: https://youtu.be/L4f2IWXYjBU (of course there was some work done previously). The 'leash' in this case is an old shoelace, because the dog was scared of leashes (weight, the sound of the snap). Idea is to make the collar a good thing without making any other connection in the beginning. Don't put the collar over the head before the dog is ok with it. With some dogs I leave the collar on until they get used to it. With some dogs I had good results with leaving an old, quite short cut leash on the collar/harness. With some dogs I combine collar-training with main meal. With some dogs I reduce the main meal and feed from hand. When the dogs are used to collar/harness/leash I stay in the yard and teach them to walk in a leash. Next step I call "watching TV" means we stay in the yard but watch cars, people. Next step is leaving the yard for a few steps, returning, few steps, returning and so on.
    Some answers you give yourself: why picking her up? Why looking at her directly at the moment? Ignoring can be very helpful, dogs have their own tempo to trust us. If your dog is good with your other dogs, she will learn a lot from them. This journey takes time, time and time.

    Comment


    • #3
      I think it takes time and patience. Lots of both. She probably only knows, crate and lack of attention or mental stimulation of any kind so she and you have a long journey ahead. There is a Brussels Griffon rescue site with lots of information about the dogs available for adoption and what those care givers experience that might be helpful. Other than that ........
      my very best wishes for future success.

      Comment


      • #4
        seven weeks is nothing. It will take about a year for her to gain confidence and trust - and most likely she will not trust 100 % . I get some steak - something flat and not expensive - boil it and cut into small pieces and put small batches of this in tin foil and into the freezer - that way I can grab one from the freezer and it thaws quickly . I don't look at the dog but just put a piece of food down and walk away. ( your other dogs will have to be out of the room) I am not sure why you are shutting her out of her crate but yet want her to be safe. Let her go in her crate. I wouldn't put any demands on her - hopefully she will eat the meat and grow to trust you - then months from now you can progress to other things, but let her be for now.

        Comment

        • Original Poster

          #5
          To answer a few questions: we only pick her up if we have to (car for vet visit etc). I can definitely be better about not looking at her. She will eat some foods out of my hands. She is content to drag a light leash around the fenced yard. Regarding closing the crate-I had read somewhere that this was helpful in that it didn’t allow them to hide all the time. I can of course stop doing that right away. Thank you all for the suggestions.

          Comment


          • #6
            Maybe, and I suspect she isn't ready yet, nose/scent work would help her gain confidence. It's something you can teach all your dogs, it's fun to do, doesn't take a bunch of 'extra' stuff when you start. Dogs often bloom as they learn to find things themselves and discover they can be successful. Learning can start at home at your leisure and if she does grow to like it, many places to practice as she's ready.

            I would agree that 7 weeks sounds a bit soon. Some of those puppy mill breeders have such limited socialization and handling
            When you start to observe, you become more effective... your movements soften, you see more, you are more available to becoming a team member. Be an Observer first, a Handler second.

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            • #7
              She will trust you when she knows that you know what she can handle and what not (yet). Be encouraging and reliable. Also interaction with the other dogs takes time, as long as she watches them, maybe follows them it's half the rent.
              I'd leave the crate open (safe place) and feed her from hand, let her return to the crate if she struggles with anxiety. Be aware that all the new noises and daily routine are challenging. Often puppy mill dogs never left their jail so even don't know sun or grass. Seven weeks is nothing, even a confident dog with a 'normal' backround has not fully 'arrived' within this amount of time, though it sometimes may seem to.

              Comment


              • #8
                I had a dog like this and I sacked her out much like I would a horse. I followed her around until she stopped and I touched her. Once she moved off, I followed again until she stopped and I touched her. From there, petting.

                We would walk around my dining room table for up to an hour.

                I also sang to her.

                She ended up being one of the most mentally and emotionally sound dogs I've ever met.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by Tweek View Post
                  I had a dog like this and I sacked her out much like I would a horse. I followed her around until she stopped and I touched her. Once she moved off, I followed again until she stopped and I touched her. From there, petting.

                  We would walk around my dining room table for up to an hour.
                  This sounds like terrible advice. How to totally traumatize the already traumatized dog.

                  I also think "sacking" is poor training for horses. It is possible to acclimate animals to stimuli without bombarding them until they mentally shut down. I definitely would not use this technique on an animal that is already suffering from PTSD.

                  Gentle, repeated exposure to stimuli will do the same thing. Yes, it takes longer.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by S1969 View Post

                    This sounds like terrible advice. How to totally traumatize the already traumatized dog.

                    I also think "sacking" is poor training for horses. It is possible to acclimate animals to stimuli without bombarding them until they mentally shut down. I definitely would not use this technique on an animal that is already suffering from PTSD.

                    Gentle, repeated exposure to stimuli will do the same thing. Yes, it takes longer.
                    In no way was she traumatized. I simply followed her until she stopped and then I touched her.

                    NO need to be so judgy. Jesus.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Tweek View Post
                      I had a dog like this and I sacked her out much like I would a horse. I followed her around until she stopped and I touched her. Once she moved off, I followed again until she stopped and I touched her. From there, petting.

                      We would walk around my dining room table for up to an hour.

                      I also sang to her.

                      She ended up being one of the most mentally and emotionally sound dogs I've ever met.
                      I try to imagine me being followed by someone I am scared of though I tell/show to leave me alone. Person ignores my entire signs/language and again follows me and I have no choice but to run, surrender or defend myself.

                      When I walked one of my most scared dogs some stupid people stopped, stared at her, even bent forward and said 'no need to be scared'. And there you are telling people that their body language is so threatening that this dog gives a sh* on their 'oh honey, don't be scared'.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Tweek View Post

                        In no way was she traumatized. I simply followed her until she stopped and then I touched her.

                        NO need to be so judgy. Jesus.
                        Well, the OP asked for advice.

                        The OP's dog has been traumatized. It is afraid of people. I don't see how giving advice to "sack it out" is useful in this situation.

                        If your dog wasn't traumatized before the "sacking" - it's not really the same. Although you said "I had a dog like this" so I assumed you meant one that had been neglected, possibly abused, and was afraid of people. Following her in circles for an hour certainly sounds traumatic to me.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          I had a puppy mill chi who had to be rehabbed from that and the supposed asshats that got him to rehab him. I won’t go into details with what happened but needless to say I had a dog who showed extreme fear aggression, was petrified of people touching him, a leash, collar and harness.

                          Hot dogs worked for me. He would eventually let you pet him with his favorite toy (a little blue stuffed seahorse) but would bite if it was your hand. Every time he tolerated touching without biting he got a piece of hot dog. Same with the leash. Eventually he would let me pick him up and take him for walks.

                          It helped too that I had another dog and a cat. I swear the cat calmed him because when he would go in his crate (we left it open for his safe space) she would sit with her head in the opening and they would groom each other. This was a cat who was not very tolerant of other animals. She took to him right away.

                          I miss that little guy. He was old, sway backed, had minimal teeth.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            I bought one of my dogs from a questionable background if ever a dog needed a home he did. He was frightened a
                            of people. So he was taken on a walk in town every day. To begin with when a person approached he would go behind me as far as the leash allowed. Some persons were extremely sympathetic referring to him as poor little dog. People were very co-operative when asked to ignore the dog, don’t look at him and don’t even talk to him until he takes a step, just one tine step forward then look, speak to him. This approach was extremely successful. Just took time. Hopefully you will discover a similar successful approach. Every dog is different though.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              first: what breed is she? Please, Please leave her crate open, right now, is her only "safe" place. I formerly fostered for cavalier rescue and many mill dogs are taken in. Each had different issues, but because they lived in crates it was the one consistent thing to them ......."safe" because it was all they knew.
                              You got good advise from Salo and a couple others. Go slow, mill dogs take a long time to rehab. Same from me, no direct eye contact, even if she initiates contact with you. Maybe try a light harness that you can leave on and reach over her back versus her neck. My one keeps it on all the time. On Facebook there is a woman Brittany Wilk, her rescue organization gets cavalier mill dogs and she is The Best rehabbing them, has tons of experience and she may be able to help you, look her up.
                              Adriane
                              Happily retired but used to be:
                              www.ParrotNutz.com

                              Comment

                              • Original Poster

                                #16
                                Originally posted by Parrotnutz View Post
                                first: what breed is she? Please, Please leave her crate open, right now, is her only "safe" place. I formerly fostered for cavalier rescue and many mill dogs are taken in. Each had different issues, but because they lived in crates it was the one consistent thing to them ......."safe" because it was all they knew.
                                You got good advise from Salo and a couple others. Go slow, mill dogs take a long time to rehab. Same from me, no direct eye contact, even if she initiates contact with you. Maybe try a light harness that you can leave on and reach over her back versus her neck. My one keeps it on all the time. On Facebook there is a woman Brittany Wilk, her rescue organization gets cavalier mill dogs and she is The Best rehabbing them, has tons of experience and she may be able to help you, look her up.
                                Crate is being left open now, thanks to the advice here--I do want to add we were only closing it for brief periods--but it's open all the time now. She is a 2.5 year old Boston Terrier. We have experimented with a harness, she seems ok with it, but I can tell she doesn't love when I have to reach under her belly to buckle the strap. The collar is generally left on all the time except when we crate her to leave the house, so as to minimize the amount of times we have to take it on & off.

                                Comment


                                • #17
                                  Originally posted by LuvMyTB View Post

                                  Crate is being left open now, thanks to the advice here--I do want to add we were only closing it for brief periods--but it's open all the time now. She is a 2.5 year old Boston Terrier. We have experimented with a harness, she seems ok with it, but I can tell she doesn't love when I have to reach under her belly to buckle the strap. The collar is generally left on all the time except when we crate her to leave the house, so as to minimize the amount of times we have to take it on & off.
                                  Great on crate. Some we have gotten in don't even want to leave their crate, so we would site next to them and talk not making eye contact, so you are ahead of the game here. Boston terriers are little like cavaliers and some do get very scared by being picked up. I have stairs for my bed, lol. Had a ramp to my SUV when I fostered fo dogs afraid of hands. The harness I use buckle on the back. I use one like this: https://www.chewy.com/blueberry-pet-...-dog/dp/139805. she doesn't mind it on all the time.
                                  Takes much time, but Bostons are such adorable dogs, just go slow and don't get discouraged! Expect, once she break through, she will become attached to whoever is her caregiver.
                                  Sounds like, since she already enjoys sleeping in the bed you are well on your way!
                                  PS; mine doesn't wear a color, just the harness since she doesn't like collars.
                                  Adriane
                                  Happily retired but used to be:
                                  www.ParrotNutz.com

                                  Comment


                                  • #18
                                    If you’re on Facebook, go to the page Lone Star Dog Rescue out of TX. They rescue a lot of mill dogs. The have another page that is Happy Trails, or something like that. You might be able to glean some good tips on these pages.

                                    Comment

                                    • Original Poster

                                      #19
                                      Originally posted by Parrotnutz View Post

                                      Great on crate. Some we have gotten in don't even want to leave their crate, so we would site next to them and talk not making eye contact, so you are ahead of the game here. Boston terriers are little like cavaliers and some do get very scared by being picked up. I have stairs for my bed, lol. Had a ramp to my SUV when I fostered fo dogs afraid of hands. The harness I use buckle on the back. I use one like this: https://www.chewy.com/blueberry-pet-...-dog/dp/139805. she doesn't mind it on all the time.
                                      Takes much time, but Bostons are such adorable dogs, just go slow and don't get discouraged! Expect, once she break through, she will become attached to whoever is her caregiver.
                                      Sounds like, since she already enjoys sleeping in the bed you are well on your way!
                                      PS; mine doesn't wear a color, just the harness since she doesn't like collars.
                                      Thanks for the suggestions! This is my 3rd Boston, they are the best dogs! Actually last night, totally unprompted, she stood up and put her front feet on the couch and stayed there for a long time--I think she wanted to get up there. We have one set of stairs for my ancient Lab to get onto a couch in a different room, but I think we'll get another set ASAP. It is funny how she likes the bed....she often moves away from us when we're walking around the house, stays in her crate for extended periods of time etc--but when she sees the other 2 dogs on the bed she will run over next to the bed and stay there and stare up at the bed. I do have to pick her up to put her on our bed as it is extra-high and I don't have stairs high enough to reach, and she doesn't like that part, but once on the bed she promptly curls up, goes to sleep and literally doesn't move all night.

                                      I do think that leaving the crate open all the time has made a difference so thanks again to everyone who suggested we stop closing it.

                                      CindyB59 thank you, I will look that up!

                                      Comment


                                      • #20
                                        What a brave girl!

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