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Fostering a puppy mill rescue.

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  • Fostering a puppy mill rescue.

    I've adopted before dogs that had been recently 'found' in a state of neglect.. one was found on the highway, emaciated. Another was an owner surrender who spent the first 2 years of her life tied to a chain in the backyard.

    What say you about true neglect cases? This girl is 2 yrs old, and described as being 'very afraid', but showing no aggression. We live a quiet life here with my submissive male dog, I'd love to help, and probably would end up adopting her.

    Have any of you done this before through an organization? Did you take the dog sight unseen, or have a chance to do a meet and greet?

    Please share your experiences fostering dogs with little history of positive human interaction. Thanks.

  • #2
    The hardest part is housebreaking as they have been left no choice but to go in their cage. You will definitely have to tether instead of crate train. The rest should take care of itself with time and treats. Good luck!
    McDowell Racing Stables

    Home Away From Home


    • #3
      I don't foster due to my living situation but last year my neighbor watched a toy breed for a few days that had spent his whole life in a hoarding situation (think a trailer with 40+ small breed dogs that never went outside).

      The biggest issues with him initially were:
      1) the world was a very scary place
      2) grass was a very scary thing to walk on much less pee on
      3) being picked up was scary

      From day 1 he was incredibly sweet and quiet but he just didn't know how to process the world. He came around incredibly quickly and my understanding was that he was adopted out to a fantastic home and is a confident, outgoing, little guy. Hopefully Bits will chime in with the details of the story since she fostered him for several weeks.

      From what I've seen and heard, being around well-socialized dogs is the biggest help. Watching other dogs go through the routine helps them get settled in and adjust. Your guy would probably be a calm and reassuring presence for her. I also think that low-key trips (i.e. riding in the car to go to the bank, visiting the feedstore, walking around shops downtown) are great ways to broaden a timid dogs world without tossing them into a dog park setting and hoping for the best.


      • #4
        A good friend of mine has a now 7 year old Havanese named Lagnie. He was a stud dog at a puppy mill for his first 5 years.

        He's a really good soul. Absolutely no bite in him. When he gets anxious (which doesn't take much), he completely shuts down. He retreats into his own little world, and will sometimes shake if he's very worried. But very little bolting instinct, and absolutely no aggression. It's really tragic- the best description I can give is that he's very much a shell of a dog.

        When she first got him, he was terrified of grass, and had no idea how to walk on a leash. It's much harder to train these dogs than other types of rescues, because the sorts of things that "mean something" to a normal dog (treats, verbal praise, physical affection or any sort of physical contact) mean nothing to them... and in a lot of cases actually frighten them.

        Honestly, the best thing she ever did for him was board him with a trainer for 2 months not long after she got him. She means well and is willing to do whatever needs to be done to help him, but she's not a talented dog trainer. The pro trainer was a great stepping stone into "normal life" for him. He got structure, skilled training, and learned how to interact with people and other dogs. And honestly, I think the kennel environment helped a little, too. I doubt he liked living in the puppy mill, but the fact remains that living in a house was a HUGE and scary change for him. A kennel where he was well-cared for a treated kindly was an environment he was more comfortable in at the beginning.

        My friend has had Lagnie for almost two years now, and he's only just getting to a point where he gets excited to see her when she gets home. He's still not big on physical contact.

        He's been a challenge to house train, and has a terrible coprophagia problem. But he's getting better, and in the past few months has really started to learn how to "hold it," especially when he has to pee. She lived in a house with carpet for awhile, and that made things doubly hard for the little guy (since he could smell past accidents).

        He has really poor vision and hearing, probably from years of sensory deprivation. He doesn't chase other animals or bark much. It took some time, but he has really bonded with my friend's other dog, and often looks to her when he's concerned.

        Overall, he has really enriched my friend's life. It's been incredible to watch him bloom, and to see him learn how to enjoy life. He'll never be a "normal" dog (he'd do horribly in a busy house or with kids, I'm sure), but he's a wonderful little guy, and I know my friend has found working with him to be very rewarding.


        • #5
          Our aussie was sold by the breeder as a very young puppy to a herding trial competitor, that became terminally ill and several months later died.
          The puppy was kept all that time in a kennel run with another handful of dogs, no one doing any but cleaning and feeding, no handling, training or turnout even.

          The breeder heard about that when she was one year old and got the dog back and offered her to us.
          She was so afraid of the world, if you got close she would drop like a marionette you cut all the strings off, in a heap and closed her eyes.
          If you stood her up, she again would flop down, until everyone moved away and then she would slink under the nearest table or chair.
          We had several other house and ranch dogs and in a few days, she was coming along with us and I started taking her to obedience classes, where she eventually was a real star, was first in several competitions.

          I think that there is no telling what your dog's breeding is, so you don't know if it came from carefully picked parents, or if some problems are from bad genes, not only bad environment and life experiences.

          I know that, after a few weeks, you could not have told our aussie came from a bad start in life, her excellent temperament shone thru once given a chance.
          She was an absolutely wonderful dog, used to help start our chicks every spring, by herding them under herself to keep them warm.

          I say, why not try, if you can?


          • #6
            GLR, I didn't read the username before I read your post and was thinking, "that sounds similar to Ozzie... oh, wait!":-)
            the hoarding cases we've personally fostered have varied in their severity/amount of rehab needed. We've had a good track record with them but have our other dogs to thank for much of that, too!

            From that particular case we took in three adult dogs and a few arm loads of puppies ;-) I won't say that the 'breeding operation' was acceptable by any count, but thank goodness the good temperaments bred through. They were wonderful dogs, but I do think they were handled by their owner fairly regularly. They were Not socialized to new experiences, but they weren't terrified like some of the hoarding cases i've met.

            Housebreaking will be the biggest issue, most likely, as mentioned. Even the puppies we took in, at 6 weeks old, were the nastiest, grossest puppies we've met. They would immediately devour their littermates' feces and urine, and would sleep in and on it too. The adults had fewer accidents, but they also had the big pack of our dogs (about 7 of them) to follow outside and mark over their scents *out there.* A definite bonus of being around 40+ dogs their entire lives was that they were remarkably dog savvy and got along with everyone, even the unneutered males were completely appropriate in their behavior to other males and females. They had our confident, well adjusted and care free dogs to learn from- and i can't over stress how much of an impact it makes to have excellent, well-balanced dogs as role models. It's so cool to watch them watch the others and learn to chill out.
            We were lucky that they were so tolerant about grooming, because they dearly needed it. They were all shih tzu/lhasa type and aside from the hair being clipped from some of their eyes, the adults hadn't seen the business end of a clipper blade in years. We had the vets clip their talons while they were under anesthesia for their sterilizations, which solved the immediate problem of the nails and gave us time to get them used to their feet being handled.

            I think a problem some people face is that they don't treat the dog like a dog, but rather like a terrified, over fragile victim. They're nervous about how petrified the dog will be, take too much emphasis on petting the dog, reassuring it, coddling it. All that does is give the dog nervous energy to feed into. Around here, we do more of a matter of fact, no nonsense but unemotional interaction with a scared dog- or just completely ignore the dog all together until its mindset changes. Don't force interactions, but subtly and calmly reward any brave behavior. It's a dance :-)

            It's definitely doable, and very rewarding. Take it slowly, keeping in mind the dog's limited world experience, but at the same time act normally around the dog too. And don't underestimate the power of a good doggy role model!


            • #7
              And yep, glr, Ozzie has come back for a few boarding visits. He's quite the spoiled little bugger now! He comes over with about fifteen blankeys in his crate and several of his "must have" toys (which promptly get moved out of reach of the other dogs!). Well, i should say he's not so little actually... MrB had to tactfully suggest a reduction in treats! What a gordito!