View Full Version : puppy mill rescue advice requested -- LONG

17th October 2007, 03:55 PM

I am looking for advice about adopting a puppy mill rescue from people who have actuallly adopted one. Feel free to send me a PM if you would rather not post on the board. Also, if any of you have any on-line references that you could point me to I would appreciate receiving them. I have found a few sites that gave helpful information but could always use more.

Here's my situation - have had cavaliers for almost 11 years. Currently have a 1+ year old ruby and a 9 1/2 year old blenheim. Had a rehomed dog (adopted at age eight) for almost 8 years. Had a Cavalier who went through a rapid decline because of MVD and died at age 10 this past February. Yesterday we had a home visit (it is just my husband and me at home now) from a 3 year old (best guess of his age) Amish puppy mill rescue. He has been living in a foster home for the past five months with 12 other dogs.

On the plus side he seemed to get along well with Sasha (younger dog) and Gadget and was even playing some with Sasha. He was interested in his surroundings and explored the yard and the house freely. He is crate trained. He was (but is not currently) sleeping in her bedroom in a dog bed and has even gotten up on the bed to sleep with his foster mother.

On the negative side, he has probably had little to no additional work done on his housetraining. He had a bellyband on but seemed to feel free to mark in lots of places in the house. This was not surprising to us since he is a puppy mill dog. His foster mother reported that he didn't mess in the house but she admitted that he did mark.

He also has had no training on being on a leash. If I understood correctly, he has maybe had a leash on him to try to walk only a few times, today being one of those days. He has to be contained to get a leash on him. His foster mother didn't try when leaving...she just picked him up and carried him.

We had been told that he had been extremely fearful of people when he arrived at the foster home. So much so that his foster mother thought he might be either blind or deaf or both. However, his eyes and hearing seemed to check out fine. He did approach us to sniff but he was clearly very fearful.

Here is what we would hope for in terms of training: that with work we would be able to have a housebroken dog; that with work we would be able to take him for a walk: that with work we could get him to recognize his name and respond to simple commands--sit, down, wait. Here's what we know that we would not likely get...a Cavalier who freely affectionate. We would accept that he would not trust us in the same way that Gadget and Sasha do, but that he would be comfortable with us.

So here are my questions:

Knowing what I have said about the dog do you think we would be successful in:
house training him at age 3
teaching him to walk on a leash
teaching him some basic commands
reducing his fear level to one where he was comfortable with us

And finally, a little bit more information - we both work; I work part-time and my husband works full-time but sometimes from home. Four days a week, the new dog would be at home with just Gadget and Sasha for five to six hours a day. For the first month or two I could change my schedule to be home more, but it would mean that I would work five days a week. The total time I would not be home would be the same...just spread out over five days, not four. When I said "with work" in what we hope for him, we would be willing to bring him in for training, either individually or in a group. We would be willing to continue the training at home but we would not be able to make his training the entire focus of our life for many, many months, or even years.

I would very much like to give this dog a home with us. But I am also very concerned about taking on a responsibility where I was unlikely to meet the goals we hope to met.

Would any of you offer any advice on this?

18th October 2007, 02:58 PM
Would Tufts animal hospital be able to give you some advice on this--since you're not far maybe you could go in with the dog and get their opinion.

18th October 2007, 03:26 PM
I can't give too much advice because my dogs were not puppy mill dogs but ex-breeding bitches and came to me almost a year ago around 4 years old. They were not house trained. We are still working on that - they are mostly there but still have the odd accident if I don't watch them carefully. Molly had quite bad seperation anxiety at first. This is now a lot better but she still does not like any major changes in her environment. Training a dog is a life time committment and in general you won't get 100% results in a matter of months.

Good luck with the adoption if you decide to go ahead.

18th October 2007, 03:30 PM
I have a lot of advice about the issues involved with taking in any rescue dog at my rescue site, www.ckcsrescue.com (http://www.ckcsrescue.com). Lots of resources there so that is a good place to start.

I'd have a couple of starter concerns about this fellow unrelated to whether you adopt him or not -- basically on whether he has been thoroughly health checked and in particular what the fear of leashes is that requires him to be contained to be put on a lead... which to me seems pretty drastic (eg if he has to be contained then he is being rushed way too fast into having to do something that makes him extremely uncomfortable. The training approach needs to back way, way up or it will only cement his fear by forcing him to wear something he finds disturbing. In other words he is NOT ready to be walked and should never be forced to do so. There are ways of desensitising to leads, collars, harnesses first and this is where his walking lessons should begin or the problem is likely to be made even worse than it already is). Many dogs are uncomfortable with a leash but there are clear ways of training them (basically exactly as you do with a puppy :)). Also: I'd wonder if he is being walked on a collar alone; if anyone has tried a harness, and checking him carefully for signs of SM would come to mind or disk issues and so forth. I'd wonder if he is sensitive around the neck and if part of his general fear would involve any experience of pain. With my own rescues this is the first thing I watch carefully for and if discomfort around the neck or shoulders is linked to fear is linked to a dilike of being walked... I might want a careful vet check for possible SM or disk related pain.

That out of the way and assuming he just is not used to lead and there are no related health issues...

Your approach needs to be not to view him as an adult but as a totally untrained puppy. He will require all the time a puppy would -- except in a lerger and ptoentially more destructive size -- and that might be a way of considering whether, in the first instance, this is the right dog for you. Can you give him the time for the next 6 months that you would give to a puppy?

On the general issue of mill rescues, he not only has to be viewed as a puppy in terms of training but as a dog who may NEVER be fully trainable or have the personality you would like: there are no promises he will even be a dog that doesn't mark inside, that will be happy to be walked, or that can be left alone with your own dogs. He may spend his entire life never being fully housetrained. The issue with any rescue is: are you ready to let him be the dog he is, without expectations or assumptions? Can he continue to be the dog he is now, or a dog that has more issues than you are seeing now, and still be fully welcomed? Will you be willing to adjust your lives to allow him to fit in with his uinque problems he brings with him because of the poor start he has had in life?

If the honest answer is that you have a goal in mind for what you would want him to be and how you will need him to behave, than a rescue dog probably isn't the right choice, whether a mill dog or not. Rescues almost always come with issues (my Lily did). Often they never go away (they haven't with Lily, who remains a barker and reactive to other dogs). They can be the most rewarding dogs to take in -- but also the most frustrating and challenging. Realising a rescue isn't the right dog for someone is simply being honest -- just as realising a puppy (v an older dog) isn't the right option -- for many people, a more easily managed option is a better choice.

Hope that helps; it is what I say when talking to people uncertain about getting a rescue. :thmbsup:

18th October 2007, 04:18 PM

Thanks for the comments so far. I had thought about Tufts or Angell Memorial. May still do it but am worried about further traumatizing dog by carting him around to strange situations.

Karlin...I knew I had seen your rescue information somewhere but I had not bookmarked it. Thanks for sending it again and I'll check into it more thoroughly later today..

As to questions:
This dog has been thoroughly checked. He's coming out of a reputable USA cavalier rescue group. I think that leash issue is probably more lack of time to work on this in his current foster home given the large number of other fosters there. Harness vs. collar is good point. He has a collar on now. My other dogs have collars but are walked with harnesses. I'll look more into articles on desensitization for collars/leashes/etc.

After doing more reading I realized that my expectation when I saw him wasn't calibrated correctly. I had not ever seen a puppy mill dog and was not expecting that level of fearfulness toward people. (I know, I know..I had been told he was fearful but it didn't sink in.) The approach of viewing him as an untrained puppy is a good one. Having added a puppy to our house just a little over a year ago we have a clear memory of what this is like.

This is the portion of Karlin's comment that I wrestle with the most:

"The issue with any rescue is: are you ready to let him be the dog he is, without expectations or assumptions? Can he continue to be the dog he is now, or a dog that has more issues than you are seeing now, and still be fully welcomed? Will you be willing to adjust your lives to allow him to fit in with his uinque problems he brings with him because of the poor start he has had in life?"

We're still trying to answer this. I don't think our inability to answer it quickly means we won't decide to take him. We need to be sure that we can accept him as he is.

Thanks for the help.


21st October 2007, 10:13 PM
The last question is the tough one all right. It's the point where people need to be really honest with themselves as either they, or a dog, can end up very unhappy. Deciding one particular rescue isn't quite right doesn't mean a rescue is the wrong choice, but maybe that this rescue, already with these issues, is not the right choice.

Certain types of rescue don't suit everyone, for all sorts of reasons -- it is never a sign of being inadequate; it is a sign of knowing what will work for one's own situation. We are all different -- some of us like the unique challenges that puppies bring; others find puppies exhausting. Same with certain types of rescue dog. There are those who are perfect for an older dog; some like the rewards of working with mill dogs or abused dogs but this is a lot of work with dogs that may never improve too much and may always have problems with other dogs, with bad habits, with housetraining.

I have homed easy going rescue dogs and difficult rescue dogs -- some of the easy ones were the mill dogs; some of the difficult ones were former family pets that were in the wrong, wrong household and get a bit neurotic as a result (often because they have just been left to fend for themselves all day in a garden or left crated all day). Some even find the easy going ones too difficult because their expectations were for a dog just like the one they have, but no dog is ever just like the one you have or had. :flwr: For those a rescue is probably the wrong choice, full stop -- starting with a puppy is probably better.

The advantage of going through a rescue, where a dog has been fostered, is that people can get a sense of what a dog is like and what needs to be worked on.

21st October 2007, 10:33 PM
Just an other thing i have found with the cavs i have fostered and kept myself is that i have found that they tend to not show there real sealves until they feel secure in their new home. Most cavs i have taken on here tend to be really quiet and well behaved for the first week or two, then i find they try and chance their arms to see what they can get away with. Then ANY traits they have will surface.
Sorry i know this is not what u asked but i is a help to know it takes awhile for their really selves to show.

21st October 2007, 11:04 PM
Thanks to all who responded and sent me private messages. We've decided to adopt Wyatt. He arrives this Thursday. The comments that all of you made helped us discuss honestly what we expected and what we could do for him. We're going into this with our eyes open, as opposed to our earlier rescue, Toby, who was more of a "rehoming" than a rescue. He was a real character (which didn't show up for several weeks as was mentioned in one posting). We had no idea of what we were in for. It turned out great, but could have been a disaster.

This time, we're as ready as we can be.

I'll keep you posted as things unfold.


21st October 2007, 11:06 PM
Yes that is definitely true! They often will be very low key and cautious initially then they decide to push things to see what they can get away with. icon_devil They are wary and uncertain initially in a new home and as they gain confidence they will try new things.

I've found the initial problems tend to be whining or barking at night when left alone, or fussing at existing dogs and being very jealous. Then that typically settles after a few days. The real issues start to sneak out about two weeks along. It is so important to lay down ground rules right away, as you will expect them to be followed a month later -- a lot of people feel sorry for the dog's past and therefore allow him or her to do all sorts of things they'd not normally allow, and give the dog lots of extra attention. The latter can make them either very demanding or very anxious, depending. And if they are allowed to do things on day one, they will naturally expect to be allowed on day 30! Consistency and steadiness are really important, especially for rescues from any kind of traumatic beackground. They often almost need to be treated with complete nonchalance! They gain confidence when a lot of attention isn't focused right on them and they can gradually find their way in their own time.

It's very much like kids, really -- for a lot of poeple when you ask if they'd let their kids do an equivalent of what they let their dog get away with, or how they think their kids would react if constantly being fussed with, and the situation becomes a lot clearer! :)

22nd October 2007, 12:37 AM
Well, I've made the ten commandments of Wyatt for our first few weeks. Some of these are based on what I've already been told about Wyatt in his foster home. See what you think of these. We can always make it the 20 commandments of Wyatt.:)

1. do not approach me from the back (I am likely to be startled by you)

2. do not touch the back of my neck (People used to pick me up by the scruff of the neck for hosing and poking)

3. do not stare directly at me (I find this threatening)

4. do not fuss over me (I want to fit in to the family..not be the center of attention)

5. tell me “NO” in a firm voice if I am marking (I don't know I shouldn't do this)

6. always have me wear a leash when i am in the fenced backyard (You can step on the leash to get me and not have to chase me.)

7. use my name often (I'm still not sure it is my name)

8. give me a routine and stick with it (I thrive on routine)

9. Be patient with me (I need this)

10. Always put a belly band on me when I am in the house (This is for your sanity and for the sake of the other dogs in the house)

22nd October 2007, 04:11 AM
Your commandments are an excellent start:)

#9 is so important.

22nd October 2007, 07:18 AM
Good luck with Wyatt!

What's a belly band?

22nd October 2007, 03:35 PM
These are a great friend to dogs who have trouble holding it (say a dog with MVD who is taking lasix) or a dog that marks. They can be handmade and there are lots of places on the web that sell them. The belly band is a strip of cloth, often with velcro, that you attach over the dog's lower abdomen covering the penis. They can have a incontinence pad attached to them that you change when it is wet.

It's like a doggy diaper for urine.


22nd October 2007, 11:02 PM
A good #11 is speak as softly as possible for the situation. They do react negatively to even joyful loudness in the beginning. Congratulations on your decision. He is going to love your home, your dogs and you :rah:.

23rd October 2007, 05:03 PM
. . . . We've decided to adopt Wyatt. He arrives this Thursday. The comments that all of you made helped us discuss honestly what we expected and what we could do for him. We're going into this with our eyes open . . . .

You and your husband are what good Rescue groups dreams of, people who take the time to consider carefully whether the particular dog to be rescued is a good match for them and who have realistic expectations. Good luck to you and to Wyatt. I have a good feeling that this is going to work out for both of you.

I love your commandments. Very thoughtful. I would add another: "Remember to smile at me everyday no matter what."