View Full Version : puppy mill breeding bitch rescue - would love some help

21st January 2011, 08:19 AM
Hello everyone,

I have been reading a ton on this site trying to get a better understanding of my new rescue. I would love any advice/experiences from anyone that thinks they can help.

I rescued a 5 year old Cavalier from a puppy mill that was shut down for animal cruelty. She had two of the worst ear infections I have ever seen, infection in her nipples, blood showed signs of infection, as well as extremely anemic.

When I got her I took her to the vet a ton until all of these issues were under control and/or corrected. After a lot of work, her ears and infections are all better and she is on medicine for her anemia as well as on the best food possible.

The main problems I am having is with fear/anxiety problems. She was never socialized (not once) with other dogs, animals or any humans. She is terrified of the world and until she came into my house had never been in one. She does not have any aggression, just fear. Over the past 4 months I have been working hard house-training her (achieved) as well as trying to gain her trust.

She does not like to be held or pet and won't let anyone else other than me hold her. She won't walk on a lead and has no interest in playing with anything. When I go to pick her up she runs a way at first and finally lets me (sometimes I have to get her to put her in the car, etc.). She has very little energy (sleeps all day and night) and doesn't seem happy at all.

Does anyone have any words of advice or experience with a similar rescue? I know she had a different past and therefor will always be a little different but I have to have hope that at some time in the future she may want affection/cuddles/walks/etc. I hope her past hasn't completely stunted the possibility and that there is a chance for her to enjoy/be a part of life and create a bond with me at some time.

Any advice would be much appreciated!

21st January 2011, 02:40 PM
Welcome to the Forum and well done for taking on an ex puppy farm girl. I've only ever had older bitches from "respectable" breeders, so don't have first hand knowledge of all the fears and anxieties experienced by PF dogs, but there are quite a few people on here who do, so hopefully they will post advice for you.

In my limited experience though, it does take an extraordinarily long time for older dogs to settle and get used to such a different life from the one they left. My present Tri came to us in October 2008, aged 8, and it is only in the last few months that I have really felt she "knows the ropes" in our household. Even then, she still looks rather anxious every time we get up, change rooms, go out etc.

I'm really sorry to hear of your problems and hope they will resolve, but you must have lots of patience. You are giving your girl the best possible chance, but she can't see it in the same way as you do, unfortunately :d*g:

Cathy T
21st January 2011, 02:55 PM
What a big heart you have to have taken in this poor girl. Sounds like you are really doing a good job with her. I just think about how much she missed out on and how long it will take her to understand that that life is all behind her now. I don't have much experience in this department but know we have a lot of members who do and am sure they will give you some good guidance. Slow and steady, give her her space and let her decide to do things on her own terms. Good luck with her and thanks for taking her in. Sounds like she's in wonderful hands.

Kate H
21st January 2011, 03:38 PM
My boy Aled escaped the puppy farm at 18 months, so didn't have as many problems as your older girl. Aled's rescue, Many Tears, always insists that their puppy farm rescues go to homes where there is another gentle and friendly dog, to show the newbie the ropes, and my older dog Oliver helped enormously with Aled. Given that most Cavaliers get on with other Cavaliers (even if they're scared of other breeds), do you know anyone with a calm and gentle Cavalier who could visit you - not forcing themselves on your girl but just sitting quietly in the same room ignoring her. You might find that the dogs will gradually start taking an interest in each other.

The other way forward is possible if your girl likes her food. Sometimes Cavalier greed can work in their favour! If you can find a treat that she really loves, give some to everyone she meets to offer to her - not making a big deal of it, perhaps sitting in a chair talking to you but casually holding the hand with the treat near the floor where she can take it. This worked very well with one of my Cavaliers who was not a rescue but for various reasons had not been socialised. Gradually they realise that people can be a source of treats and greed overcomes fear!

When I first had Aled he hated being picked up - endured it but froze - I think because he had always been picked up roughly, had something nasty done to him (tangled fur combed or nails clipped) and then been dumped down again. Now, if Oliver is on my lap Aled wants to come up too and share the fuss. And some Cavaliers (like both my two) are never interested in playing with toys.

As far as lead training is concerned, you could trying doing what one does with young puppies - clipping a light lead to her collar and let it dangle while she walks around the house and garden; it will catch on furniture and give a little tug, which gets her used to it. But she will need to be much more confident before she is ready to walk in the big world! Again, another Cavalier to walk with her could help.

You will need a lot of patience. Aled is younger than your girl, less damaged and not so fearful, but even with Oliver's help he didn't really start coming out of his shell for a year, and on his own he is still not very confident. But the plus side is that Cavaliers are amazingly resilient, and hopefully your girl will slowly respond to love and start relaxing. Well done for taking her on!

Kate, Oliver and Aled

Margaret C
22nd January 2011, 04:54 PM
but I have to have hope that at some time in the future she may want affection/cuddles/walks/etc. I hope her past hasn't completely stunted the possibility and that there is a chance for her to enjoy/be a part of life and create a bond with me at some time.

Any advice would be much appreciated!

I have not had a rescue dog but there are others on this forum that have, & they will give you good advice.

I just want to say that it seems to me there is already a bond, almost unnoticed by you, but I would think very significant to this damaged little dog who "won't let anyone else other than me hold her"

She is unlikely to ever be a normal pet, she may never be able to forget her early experiences of pain and neglect to be able to cuddle with confidence into your lap, but I would not mind betting that to her you are the most important thing in her bewildering world. You will be her only place of safety.

I know it seems to you that you have made little progress but it actually appears that you have achieved a great deal in a very short time. To toilet train a five year old bitch, who has never been in a house, in just 4 months is really impressive.

I agree with Kate, get everyone she meets to give her a very little treat, if she is hand shy they can gently toss it on the ground in front of her.
You should give her frequent little treats too & make baby talk to her and see if she will let you very gently touch and tickle her. She will need to relax with you before she can start to trust others.

Good luck with your little girl,

22nd January 2011, 07:45 PM
Hello! My posistion sounds very similar to yours- I got my ex puppy mill breeding bitch in August 2010, so have had her 5 months now. The vet reckons she was about 8 when we got her. She was- still is -very very nervous, but, and its a big but, I have a gentle giant of a retriever- Juno- who Tilly absolutely adores, and who is incredibly patient with Tilly. I do think it helps to have another dog who is well socialised if possible. Tilly is mad for her food so we give lots of treats as a reward at every opportunity - when we put her harness on- treat, when she gets in the car- treat, when she gets out, when she walks on the lead, when she is a "busy girl"- i.e, wees or poops outside - any positive behaviour is rewarded. The treats i use are just a tiny single piece of kibble- Royal canin mini bite- because we have to keep her wieght down as she has a dodgy heart.
Prior to Tilly I had Whisper- another ex puppy mill girl, who was about 3 when we got her and she took 18-24 months to start to be a normal dog- so it does take a long long time but it is so rewarding- I promise you, the first time your little one greets you or comes on your lap of her own volition will make it all so so worth while, and I am sure with time and patience that will happen. Sorry for such a long post- I just wanted you to know that miracles happen and you are brilliant to give the little thing a chance at being a proper dog

22nd January 2011, 08:36 PM
Hi and welcome to the forum. I wondered what your little girls name is?

I got an ex breeding girl from a puppy farm almost a year ago now. Her name is Dotty!
Dotty is about three/four years old, like your little girl she had been kept caged for most of her life and had never been in a house.

When Dotty arrived we tried to carry on as normal as possible, she would not let us get anywhere near her (even though she decided to sleep on the bed, so we had to sleep very still :slp:) we used to sit on the floor, with some extra tasty treats like liver treats. Eventually she decided to fall in love with my husband Graham,:l*v: Graham was the only one that could pick her up:lpy:, all she gave me was the odd dirty look :lol: I made sure I kept a few treats in my pocket so when I put my hand out she was getting something nice or I simply would put my hand out for her to sniff.

Graham actually became the problem because Dotty was totally focused on him, so if he went out she would cry a lot.

In the last month or so, she is starting to like me, I am now taking her to class on my own without Graham. She is not that impressed but for the last 15 minutes I sit out with her and just cuddle her until class is over.

I would just mention initially a collar and lead was not on her agenda but she would tolerate a harness.

It sounds to me as though you have got over the hardest part, your little girl likes you, if others around you are gentle and patient, I am sure she will gain confidence.
Patience is going to be the name of the game.

murphy's mum
22nd January 2011, 08:43 PM
Our Misty was an abused breeding bitch who was rescued and then re-homed with us. We were lucky that Fran, the lovely lady who fostered her, had started to rehabilitate her already. She had dogs of her own and a daughter, so Misty had started gaining trust before she came to us :)

It wasn't easy though, I think she felt abandoned when she was left with us. Having Murphy helped a lot, as Misty has adored him from the word go. I spent a lot of my time sitting on the floor with small treats, Misty adores her food. We couldn't move our hands too quickly, or raise our voices, or she would be away. She too had a really bad ear infection when we got her, they were stinking, and she hated us touching them. It was difficult to try and put ear drops in, as soon as you touched her she would pull away. She also got teeth taken out, and the rest cleaned, and her ears shaved to let them breath.

We introduced her to adult family members in our home, and then started going to their homes, letting her meet the kids. She hates seeing my father-in-law in his navy work overall, so we assume it brings back bad memories. We also took her to a 5 week puppy class. This was great for her training but she also got to meet dog friendly strangers.

We knew she had started to settle in the first time she wanted to play. She's still awkward about playing, and wont initiate it, but if you wave a toy in front of her she soon joins in giving little growls. The other break through was when she first barked, she never uttered a bark when we first got her. Then one day, when we picked up the leads, Murphy started barking, (a bad habit I know), and Misty started barking like crazy. She barks all the time now when she's excited, you can't shut her up :lol:

She is a total cuddle bum now, she's never happier than when she's tucked up on my lap, normally with her head on my shoulder. Or if she's on our bed with her head on my pillow, snoring away:l*v:

If you just take it slowly, build up a routine, and keep at it, without putting too much pressure on her it will all come together in the end. We've had Misty two year now, so it can take a lot of time. You've done a great thing by taking her in :D

22nd January 2011, 09:15 PM
Time is the greatest healer. Once you introduce them into a house and pour love into them (often from afar) they soon settle down.

Leo was rescued from a puppy farm at around 5 years old. He had gone blind while there due to lack of vet attention. He wouldn't let anyone near him and after 2 months in foster had at least managed to be mostly housetrained.
When we got him home we had to keep a harness on him at all times so we could catch him, otherwise he would just freak and run.... into whatever was closest as he couldnt see.
We had to shave all his fur off as his undercoat was so matted but this at least meant we got to start grooming sessions slowly and with as little stress to him as possible.
If voices got raised he would bolt and sit in the garden or under the table shaking.
It has been a long haul but we love him to bits.
It took 13 months for him to jump on the sofa and actually sit next to me. That was a very very special day.
We are two weeks away from him being here for two years. He now wags when you come home, greets visitors by jumping up at them and normally doesnt flinch when you stroke him. He even comes for cuddles now :l*v:
He still gets upset when voices get raised but without the panic and shaking. We couldn't imagine not having him now. He has been worth all the sleepless nights wondering if we had made the right decision to bring him home.


22nd January 2011, 10:28 PM
Thank you all so much for the feedback, advice and support (it was my original post).

Her warmth is so strong that even through her fear I can see it and really do have hope that in some time in the future, with love, time and patience, I will see her personality come to life.

The group that organized the rescue required a kid-free and pet-free environment for her as she was so timid and shaking with too much commotion. They thought a quite, one on one relationship would be the best home for her. I live alone, work from home and have no other pets so I thought it was the perfect fit. However, when I took her home I saw how she was somewhat learning how to be a dog by following my parents dog around (my parents dog is very mellow and very old so I think she didn't scare her). She really started to seem to learn how to be a dog and what humans are doing when they are petting,reaching,kissing, etc. Now I really wish I could get another dog to be her buddy but my life just doesn't allow for any more than one dog. So, I am looking to find a local friend that we can set up play dates with (the dog parks are a bit too much for her). I think another dog would be so beneficial for her...but just not an option.

All of your advice and feedback has done wonders, and I can't thank you all enough. I am a patient person by nature so really believe time will heal some or at least re-learn a piece of life for the future. I know she will never be entirely normal...but like you all say, I know how meaningful it will be the first time she wags her tail when I come home or jumps on the couch next to me.

To answer some questions- when I got her, her name was #258 (her inventory number....heartbreaking)...but I have since renamed her Muppet. She is adorable.

Thanks again for all the support,
Allison and Muppet

23rd January 2011, 12:42 AM
I am sure she will slowly come out of her shell to some degree but it may take months or even years -- and you do need to be prepared that she may not or not to any great extent. It is quite likely she will always be shy and reluctant to meet people and may never be a lap dog. These dogs have to travel a very long long way to trust. The best thing is to put no pressure on her and let her come out in her own time, if she wishes. Others have given some good advice. You have done really well to get her housetrained which is often impossible at her age for a dog from her background, and to have the bond you already have :). Using food as a lure is a great idea as she shouldn't feel she is being chased around when you do need to get hold of her (which is further negative associations) but be willing to trust and come and this is a good way to start to teach recall. :) I would look for a good positive methods trainer that knows mill rescues for other professional advice or there are some good books out there too on working with rescues. Ian Dunbar's website www.dogstardaily.com has tons of great training advice and the methods there would all be beneficial.

I am shocked that any rescue doing puppy mill rescue would recommend putting an ex puppy mill dog into a no-dog household though or that they thought this would benefit a very shy one :(. The opposite is usually required for ex mill rescues by any rescue I know working with puppy mill/farm dogs and to place a dog alone as a solo dog really suggests the rescue badly needs to talk with some people more experienced with the problems of adjustment and the fear these dogs generally arrive with. They are setting up these poor dogs for further discomfort and new owners for the situation you have found yourself in -- with a dog that is scared and shy and confusing for you to know how to manage. They should have given a lot more support in explaining all this to a prospective home before they placed a dog but also I cannot comprehend how they could think a mill dog unused to humans except in the most negative sense would not badly need at least one other dog in the home. This is absolutely not a criticism of where you find yourself --just the opposite -- it is just totally irresponsible of the rescue!!! :eek:

I am so glad you were able to see how reassuring and positive it is for her to be around another dog.You are far more likely to get a better adjusted trusting dog, if Muppet has another confident dog to take cues from. If it is impossible to do this the chance of her remaining like she is are higher if she is left as a solo dog. Any friend is better than no canine friend but it isn;t easy either to take in another unknown quantity. From that angle it is hard to know what to suggest except to keep working with her as you are and using some of the advice above. :flwr: Getting her to mix with another dog such as your parents' as frequently as possible will always help and I'd try to do that. I don;t know if a play date with a dog is really the right approach -- more just having a quiet day or half day with someone else's dog. 'Play' is not something these dogs tend to understand for a long long time and she needs an example around the house such a your parents' dog,not just a dog interaction though even just meeting some other dogs will be good for her. It is notable that all the people who replied to you with some positive stories had at least one and sometimes several other dogs at home alongside their mill rescue.

Rescues really have to be so well informed and responsible if they are rehoming mill dogs. Mill dogs can also be the most rewarding but owners need to search deep to explore if this is the right type of dog I think and be honest if they can make that long term commitment to an emotionally distant dog that may not change. On the other hand the little breakthroughs can be marvellous and some eventually end up a totally different dog to what they arrived as. :flwr:

23rd January 2011, 03:01 AM
Have you tried discussing her fear with your vet? Just like people, animals can have post traumatic stress disorder, depression, and anxiety. I know first hand because my Ragdoll Solo actually was diagnosed with anxiety after trying to figure out why for the first 7 months of his life he would meow at nothing, and constantly. Meds helped him out a lot and he was only on them for about 4 or 5 months until weaned off, and he is a changed cat.

No longer on meds he only meows at normal things, like dinner time, and enjoys being pet, and greets us at the door. Before he was consumed with so much anxiety he acted like he didn't know what to do with himself.

Meds aren't necessarily a cure though; you would want to try meds along with training, like continuing giving treats, going on car rides, and just making a lot of fun and memorable moments with her. The meds could help open up her mind a bit more to be a little more tolerant/accepting to try new things and ultimately help her realize that there's an interesting and fun world out there :)

Solo was taking Amitryptaline.

Kate H
24th January 2011, 11:22 AM
One incident along the way in Aled's journey still makes me laugh! Having spent most of his life shut in a kennel in a Welsh puppy farm, he had very little experience of anything, except life with an excellent foster mum (and her own 4 Cavaliers) for a few weeks before I had him. I have a tiny garden that backs onto a small car park, with a high slatted fence. My older Cavalier, Oliver, loves peering through the fence watching the comings and goings, and if someone walks past with a dog or children are running around he will bark. One day, when Oliver was doing this, Aled went up to him and like him peered through the fence and gave a little wuff - but then turned to Oliver and clearly asked him 'What am I supposed to be barking at?' Aled hadn't a clue what he was looking at through the fence!

You might find that when Muppet is faced with a situation that you know she will find particularly stressful, Bach's Rescue Remedy will help.

Kate, Oliver and Aled