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Some Advice for Fostering or Adopting a Puppy Mill Rescue​

The long road home

Don't be surprised if they are exhausted when you get them home. They are going to have to charge their batteries and get some rest! Some of them will do nothing but sleep for a couple of days. They are exhausted. These little guys have had a busy long week or more. They have been routed from "home," bad as it may have been, they have had people they don't know handling them, etc. ; also moving around from place to place, all kinds of new things they have never experienced or seen before. Then, long travel in many different cars to different places. You may not begin to see their real personalities for weeks and that's so normal. They are scared to death and TIRED!


Leash walking
They have not seen leashes or even collars before. We initially do not walk them on leashes unless it is really necessary. We carry them from the car to the house, into the vets office, etc.. Once the dogs are more comfortable, we start them on a leash. You can just  clip it on and let them drag the leash around inside the house. The next step is walking them on leash in the fenced yard. They will get used to it just like a pup does. 

Flight Risks
All mill dog survivors are high flight risks. Never take your dog outside a securely fenced yard until you are thoroughly bonded to the dog and it is used to a leash. And that takes lots of time, there's no hurry for leashes that first period of adjustment. When you do get ready to take your dog outside the fence, double-check to be sure the harness is secure enough. You can use a collar and harness, then run the lead from the collar through the harness for extra safety. I have also used a coupler to clip on to the collar and harness. Many a dog has backed right out of a collar or harness! So take lots of care. If a mill dog gets loose outside a secured area, he will likely run until he drops; catching him will be quite a difficult task. Prevention is by far the best policy.  Even the best trained cavalier may take off after a butterfly!! 

Practice really good door control to make sure they don't slip out an open door to an area that's not fenced. We have a gate we use across the opening before the front door so the dogs cannot get out when the door opens.

Potty stuff

Waste disposal:
In the beginning, after you scoop/clean the area where they potty, spray the area with some bleach mixed with water to be safe. Indoors use something like Nature's Miracle or Oxy Solution Pet Stain and Odor remover. Use normal sanitary practices to clean/wash hands and safely dispose of waste, etc.

House training
Crates and/or exercise pens indoors- we usually keep the dogs confined to a crate/x-pen indoors when we cannot watch them in the beginning and at night. You can put an old piece of linoleum or heavy drop cloth down under the x-pen to make cleanup easier. We try to not give them the opportunity to make a "potty mistake."   Put them on a schedule. At first, as a minimum,  take them out in the yard with the other  dogs immediately when they get up in the morning, again around 11 or noon, before and after dinner and then again right before bed. They learn the routine quickly.

-Don't put soft things in the crate initially. They seem to like to pee on soft things. Once you see that they are not peeing in the crate/pen, you can then add soft things like crate pads, blankets.

-They are a lot quicker to housetrain than puppies!  They will follow your other dogs and learn from them too. Have a party when they potty outside. Sing, clap and dance for them in the beginning (and yes, the neighbors will  think you're nuts) and give them a high value treat. Chicken pieces, hot dogs, cheese and liverwurst  and praise have trained lots of dogs here.

-Never say or do anything if they have an accident indoors. Just ignore them and clean it. But if you catch them in the act or circling to go,  give a loud ACK, ACK verbal noise and scoop them up and rush them out. Then praise and party when they potty outside.

The more careful you are  in the first week with not letting them have a chance to make a mistake indoors, the quicker they learn. Many  have a few mistakes in the first few days and none after that. Next thing you know, they have house freedom and are sleeping in your bed. LOL. Just use the methods you would use with a young puppy.

Some of the males and even females will urine mark initially. You can use a belly band indoors with a self sticking sanitary pad inside. Marking will lessen and usually disappear.  It may begin again in a new place they go to visit but is easily corrected. 

Some of the mill dogs are poop eaters. Pick up the poop frequently. Prevention is the key to this. They can learn  to stop over time.

Soft stools and Diarrhea:
Some may initially have soft stools or diarrhea due to the changes in food or stress. It usually clears up very quickly. You may want to have some cooked rice available to mix with food if that happens. Pls  call your coordinator  for some things that you can do for simple diarrhea. You can stop food for a short time to let the gut rest or feed small amounts of rice with maybe some boiled chopped meat or chicken. Make sure they get lots of fluids. acute diarrhea chronic diarrhea

Most of the dogs are comfortable in the crates. They are used to it. I have crates in several rooms and once the dog has earned more freedom, we leave the doors on the crates open and often find a dog napping there. Some like the security of the crate and will retreat there for comfort when afraid. Some will stay in them in the beginning and have to be coaxed out to go outside. Let them feel comfortable coming out on their own. I drop a small piece of food or treat at the front of the open crate, then a small piece outside and like Hansel and Gretel and the bread crumbs, they will start to come out and follow the trail. Don't push them too fast and they'll be fine. But for those dogs who are coming along well, freedom is great for them. They have spent all their lives in cages.   DO NOT LEAVE THEM IN CAGES FOR LONG PERIODS OF TIME.  Just like you, they need exercise and potty breaks.


Feeding in crates or ex-pen:
I feed them in the crate initially so that they can eat in peace without my own dogs trying to steal their food. It's also easier to see who has eaten, etc. I can then keep them confined till all dogs are all finished so we can send the whole crew outside together right after the meal.   Some don’t know how to eat out of a dog food bowl.    Try putting  the food on a flat plate to see if that works.   Call your LS contact for help.

Feeding fears

Some millers use the food bowl to temp the dog to the front of the crate so they can grab them. So some dogs retreat to the back of the crate or pen when you put down food. Just close the gate, walk away and let them come to the food when they feel safe. I give them 15 minutes or so to eat and then remove the food. Initially they may be stressed from the travel, the new surrounding, different foods, etc. and may not eat.   They may only be used to a bad diet and don’t recognize a new food.    They will usually eat the next time the food is offered. None of them will commit suicide by not eating. LOL.

They will need access to fresh water. Hopefully if they are crated during the day while you are at work, someone can who can give them a potty break midday is a plus. Just make sure that person knows the safety rules so the dog doesn't get loose.

Other FEARS:

Many of the dogs are hand shy or afraid of loud noises. They may run from a hand because they were not treated kindly by hands before. Just be patient with them and let them learn that hands give lots of love and belly rubs. Build the trust slowly at the dog's pace. They will learn to trust you. And you will cry when they lick your hands for the first time. It usually doesn't take long. You can start by holding them and petting them gently for a very short time several times a day, talking quietly, then putting them carefully down. Try not to overwhelm them in the beginning and they will do fine.

Eye Contact
Some dogs will not make eye contact initially (submissive behavior). You can avert your eyes and talk quietly to them. They will learn to trust you. They don't understand English yet but they will understand your soft tone of voice.

Many have never seen stairs before and are afraid. If they are very small or afraid, Try carrying them down (and/or up) at first. It is easier for them to go up than down. I tempt them with a small treat to come up just a few  steps at first.      Then you can start to put them on the second step from the bottom and tempt them down. Then we gradually add a step or two at the pace they seem to be comfortable. Soon, most are running the stairs. They are really afraid of open backed stairs. If you have those small stairs for the couch indoors, they will learn those really quickly by watching or being tempted up. That helps them learn the outside steps to your fenced yard.

Most of the dogs have never walked on grass, tile, carpet, wood surfaces, etc. They may high step and be afraid at first. Most will follow your dogs or you onto the surface and soon be comfortable and explore. Nothing is better than seeing them realize they can run freely around your yard on grass and they are so HAPPY!

Toys and Play
They do not know what toys are. They don't know how to play with humans. They might not even know how to play with other dogs at first. Just take it very slow. They usually get curious to toys later when they get over their fears. Some of the females will take the stuffed toys in your house and bring them to the crate. Remember, most have their puppies taken away very early and they seem to mimic mothering with the toys. Some will not let the other dogs take their "babies." Many stop the behavior later.

Hose Water
Many of the millers leave the dog in the crate and turn on the hose to clean out the cage. Your foster may freak at a hose running water even when someone's just watering the lawn.

Other fears
Some are afraid of men, men with hats, caps and/or beards.   Might very well remind them of the mean miller. My other half takes these dogs on and calmly softly talks to them, pets them for short periods, feeds them, etc. Soon they are climbing happily in his lap.

Some are afraid of children. I usually wait till the dog is more confident (and the individual dog will determine how long that will be). Then I have kids offer the dog treats and walk away. Soon they love to see kids coming. Just take it slow if the dog is shy around them.

Some are noise phobic. Try and keep the house calm in the beginning. Just go about your business doing vacuuming, playing music/TV and they will get used to it. Mirrors freak some of them out. Just handle it like you would a brand new puppy. Lots of other things will scare them because it is all NEW to them.

Just be patient and try to not force things too quickly. The dog will develop at their own pace; some very, very quickly and some take longer. It's amazing to watch them grow by baby steps and leaps.


Hey, have I put you to sleep yet? LOL. Enjoy the EXPERIENCE!. It is rewarding and fun! How many times do any of us get to make such a difference in a life and get to witness the miracle of love and patience help a sweet dog blossom and have a great life! Thank you for taking a rescue into your family.  It's great to see the wonderful enthusiasm you have! Please let us know if you have any questions.   You have been rescued!


P.O. Box 7054 •  Carmel, CA 93921  •