Puppy Mill Dogs – New Adventure


So, we made a big change in our lives. We adopted a dog. Not just any dog, a puppy mill dog. Let’s start from the beginning.

The BF (J) and I have been talking for a long time about getting a dog. We are both huge dog lovers and after the Pug passed away, it felt like something was missing. No one can replace the Pug, but there were so many dogs out there that deserved a loving home too. Through my obsessive dog searching, I stumbled upon the ASPCA Mega Match-A-Thon. Seven local shelters were meeting at the Washington Animal Rescue League for a huge adoption event – tons of dogs and reduced adoption fees. We thought it would be worth taking a look, not getting our hopes up but seeing what was out there. We should have known we would come home with a dog. The parking was a nightmare and there were tons of people (which is awesome because so many dogs found a new home!!). We looked around at the neighboring shelters and saw another dog that we might be interested in, but someone weaseled in their application before us. So, we waited in the long line to get into the WARL. It was a beautiful day, so the wait outside wasn’t too bad.

When we finally got in, it was a mad house in the shelter. We looked at all the dogs and came up on the aisle where Riley was last. She was in a pen with a poodle and was cowering in a corner because she was so afraid. It was an instant love. It was like a mad dash to claim your dogs – trying to find an adoption coordinator was an obstacle course. J stayed at the pen while I went in search, just to make sure no one got to her. (The people that got the first dog we were looking at kept eyeing her pen, but they were looking at the poodle. Good for them because we would have had a smack down at the animal shelter.) The adoption coordinator talked us through having a puppy mill dog and the precautions and we were definitely up for the challenge. Riley was so scared when we took her home. But she stayed very nicely in J’s lap on the drive home.

Our first stop was Petco, because we didn’t have any supplies. Now, this might seem underprepared, BUT we had no idea what breed we were going to bring home or if we were going to bring a dog home at all. And we knew everything we needed to get anyway. Everyone in Petco fell in love with her, even if she was too scared to interact. When we finally got her home and she was so scared of being somewhere new. At first, she wouldn’t go farther than a little circle in the living room. We gave her a lot of love that night and she started coming out of her shell. Instead of a crate, we have decided to baby gate the kitchen for her. Since she is so afraid already, we didn’t want her to revert to her crate and never come out. She has really bonded with me and J and has made a lot of progress.

When we first got her, she was terrified of doorways. Now, she walks through them with ease. Stairs are also a big issue for her – we have gotten her to go up the stairs, but still working on going down. Her first walk outside, she didn’t really know what to do. She would just sit in the grass. Now, she runs around following scents and really enjoys being outside. She is starting to eat more as well, so that’s also a good sign. We are working on transitioning her to the dry food,but she loves the canned food. Our main concern is her bathroom needs. We need to get her going regularly before we can start housetraining. Right now, she is getting better at using the puppy pads. But she eats and drinks so little that she rarely goes. Once we have her on a better schedule, house training is the next step.

I live by routines – and they are the biggest tool we have in training Riley. Everything is new and scary to her, but the more she does it the better she gets. It’s amazing how quickly she has picked up on certain things.

Riley’s separation anxiety is really high right now. She has to be by our side at all times. Sometimes she will venture away to a corner, but for the most part she has to be touching us. Which we love and love to cuddle with her, but it is not good when we leave. We can’t be in the next room without her starting to whimper and whine and occasionally bark. Usually it is only for 10-15 minutes and then she stops, but we are afraid of it growing. Our biggest fear is that she will disturb the neighbors while we are gone. We are researching ways to help the anxiety. Anyone have any tips/suggestions?

Right now, we are taking it one day at a time. Getting her into a schedule and making sure she knows she has a loving home. It seems to be one step forward and two steps back, but Riley is a great dog with a lot of future and I can’t wait to see her progress!


Anyone have experience rehabilitating a puppy mill dog? It baffles my mind that people still mistreat dogs and animals this way. They are such loving creatures and to lock them up and mass breed them all for money makes me sick. How do they wake up and look at those dogs and not feel any morsel of guilt? I could never imagine hurting a hair on Riley’s head and I cannot imagine how the first year of her life she received no nurturing and didn’t know what grass was. To see her make all these new discoveries is amazing but also heart breaking. If you can, save a life and rescue a dog. It will absolutely change your life.


6 Responses to “Puppy Mill Dogs – New Adventure”

  1. 1 Kat

    I have a puppy mill survivor – Gypsy, my 9 year old mini dachshund has been with me for 3 years now. When she came here, she had no clue how to navigate stairs, walk thru a door, eat out of a bowl, and she was scared to death of my husband. It took a good 6 months before she learned to live anywhere NEAR like a real dog, and a bit longer to accept hubby – each new day has presented a new set of challenges, but we’ve worked thru them, and I’m pleased to say that she is finally enjoying her new life!! She has turned out to be the most loving dog I’ve ever known. Congrats on rescuing your puppy mill survivor – I hope things turn out as well for you and Riley as it did for me and Gypsy! Good luck!

    • 2 B

      Thank you, Kat! Riley is a mini dachshund as well! Did you crate train Gypsy? We are going back and forth on if we should or not. Any advice on feeding and bathroom schedules?

      • 3 Kat

        Ya know, I shouldn’t have said “we’ve worked thru them” when I referred to Gypsy’s challenges – I should have said “we’re still working on some”, because there are still some issues that need improvement, and some we haven’t made any progress on at all!

        I’m a firm believer in crate training, but honestly, I didn’t have the heart to put Gypsy in a crate at first. Remember, she was 6 years old when she came here, and I’m assuming that she spent at least the majority of her first 6 years living in a cage, if not the ENTIRE 6 years – so I just couldn’t do that to her right away. But eventually, I found that I had no choice BUT to crate her, especially in certain situations, so we gradually introduced her to one, and she tolerated it, because she had to. The only time she’s in a crate now is if we’re not home (because she is prone to chewing things she’s not supposed to chew – like the sofa), and she doesn’t seem to mind it now at all.

        As for house training, I took Gypsy out after she ate, after she played, after she slept, and about every hour in between. She wouldn’t go unless I stood outside with her, so that’s what I did – even in my jammies in the middle of the night. I gave her a treat every time she did her business outside, and made over her like crazy, telling her what a good girl she was. Three years later, I’m still doing all this, BUT… she STILL does not know how to tell me she wants to go outside, and will go in the kitchen behind the table when I’m not looking (good thing its linoleum!). She will sometimes go outside, go to the bathroom, and then come in and IMMEDIATELY go in the kitchen and leave me another present.

        The other thing I have not been able to break her of is eating feces – see, in those little mill cages, the more dominant dogs usually get most, if not all of the food – the more submissive dogs sometimes eat whatever they can or they go hungry… Unfortunately, Gypsy is the submissive type, so you can imagine what kind of “diet” she was used to eating – and although she eats her dog food like a little piglet now, I just can’t get it thru to her that she doesn’t NEED to eat yucky stuff anymore!

        Regardless of Gypsy’s less-than-desirable habits, we love her VERY much. She has REALLY come out of her shell, personality wise, and she loves everyTHING and everyBODY! She no longer hides or trembles, or screams like a banshee whenever my husband so much as walks into the room – she absolutely adores him now, but its obvious that she prefers me over him. Its as though there is an invisible string between us that is about 3 feet long. The only time she leaves my side is to play with one of our other dogs, or to chase one of my chickens, but its not long before she’s right back under my feet or in my lap again.

        Sorry to ramble – I seem to have forgotten that this is YOUR blog, not mine!!! LOL! I could just go on an on about Gypsy – I’ve always had a soft spot for doxies (or short legged dogs in general), but this one has really stolen my heart – as I’m sure Riley has done yours!!!

  2. 4 B

    That is awesome!! They definitely have a way of stealing your heart. We take her outside constantly, but she only goes to the bathroom about once a day – it’s never been outside and happens when we’re not looking. She hasn’t grasped the concept yet, but one day she will. We are preparing for the challenge and I’m so happy to hear a successful story! Thank you!

  3. 5 lowercase v

    Thank you for choosing Riley. You sound like a great fit. Good luck with the rehabilitation process… My Gabi, although not from puppy mill, also seem more cautious of men. She was also not potty trained until she was at her foster home.
    Keep blogging about Riley, I have a whole Gabi blog.

    • 6 B

      Thank you! It’s definitely been great so far. I will have to check out your Gabi blog

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