Adopting and caring for a puppy is always a rewarding experience. In exchange for food, shelter, exercise, and regular veterinary care, your pet offers loyalty and companionship for the remainder of his life. Dogs that have lived in puppy mills, however, pose a unique challenge for owners. The treatment they received at the mill will likely have made them distrustful of people, and fearful of anything that is unfamiliar to them. Owners who adopt such dogs must take a few extra steps toward making them feel comfortable and secure in their new homes.
In this article, we’ll describe how puppies are treated in mills so you’ll understand the reasons such pups are hesitant and fearful of others. We’ll also describe the typical behaviors puppy mill dogs exhibit once they’re rescued. Lastly, we’ll provide a few suggestions for helping your puppy feel comfortable within your home.
Inside A Puppy Mill
Puppies are treated poorly in mills. Their physical and mental health take a back seat to revenue. The mill generates this revenue by breeding the pups in their care. But there is a key difference between the breeding activity that takes place in a mill, and that which is done by professional breeders.
Professional breeders do everything possible to minimize genetic problems in the puppies they breed. Mills take no such precautions. Instead, they breed pups without consideration for the likelihood that defects may pass to the litters. For this reason, many of the puppies born from this process are saddled with eye, dental, and joint problems.
The pups at the mill are usually housed in overcrowded pens. The living conditions are often dirty to the point of being unhygienic. Moreover, the dogs seldom receive the basic essentials they need to stay physically and mentally healthy. They rarely see the sun, or have access to a constant source of clean air.
When a puppy is adopted from a mill, the transition to a “normal” life can be jarring to him. You may notice behaviors in him during the first few days in your home that seem odd.
Establishing His Personal Den
Keep in mind that everything is new and potentially frightening to your new pet. When you bring him into your home, he may appear especially hesitant. This is because he has lived with fear his entire life. He has learned to dread the unfamiliar.
First, establish a room – or part of a room – as his personal den. Place bowls for food and water in this area along with newspapers on which he can urinate and defecate. Having an area to himself will make him feel safe, and slowly build his confidence.
Second, after a week has passed, begin acclimating him to a collar and leash. Place both on him for short periods, and let him drag the lead as he roams throughout your home. This will help him become accustomed to the feel, and prepare him for going on walks.
Minimizing Fear And Stress
Because your puppy’s exposure to the outside world was so limited while he was at the mill, he may be easily startled by unfamiliar noises. For example, the sound made by a vacuum cleaner may frighten him. A toaster, television, and blow dryer may also cause him stress. Desensitization training will prove invaluable for helping him become used to hearing these sounds. This type of training takes time and requires patience. But it’s the most effective way to minimize your puppy’s fear and stress of routine noises that occur in your household.
Once your dog begins to feel safe and secure within your home, he’ll explore on his own. He’ll start to peek into other rooms to discover what lies beyond the confines of his personal den. Over time, he’ll gain confidence regarding his place within your life, and look to you as his best friend.