How to Socialize a Rescued Puppy-Mill Dog

By Laura Agadoni

If you rescued a dog from a puppy mill or bought a puppy from a pet store, there's a chance that your dog might display some behavioral problems. Responsible breeders always put the dogs’ welfare first, but "puppy-mill" dogs are unfortunately raised for profit with little concern for the dogs’ health. You can’t assume that a rescued puppy-mill dog will run, play and be carefree with you and other family members right away. You need to erase the damage that’s been done and start from scratch.

1 - Get a crate or set up a safe area in your home where your rescued puppy-mill dog can “escape” when she feels the need. Place her food and water bowl just outside an open crate or in the safe area. Also, put down some newspapers or house-training pads. Puppy-mill dogs are rarely housebroken; they often live in wire cages and urinate or defecate right in the cage.

2 - Sit down with your side to the dog instead of facing her. Put a treat in your hand and extend your arm toward the dog. Place treats around you on the floor if your dog is too shy to take a treat from your hand. When the dog feels comfortable approaching you, scratch her under her chin or on her chest. A dog will let you pet those areas before she’ll allow you to pet the top of her head.

3 - Attach a leash to her collar, or put a harness on your dog and attach a leash to that after she’s been in your home for a few days. Many puppy-mill dogs prefer a harness-leash setup to attaching a leash to a collar. If your dog pulls and is damaging her neck, use the harness with leash. Have the dog walk around the house dragging the leash with her so she’ll become used to the leash before you try to take her for a walk. Provide a treat when you attach the leash and another when she successfully walks around with the leash.

4 - Introduce a calm and friendly pooch -- yours, if you have one, or a willing friend or neighbor's -- to your puppy-mill dog. Because puppy-mill dogs are used to being around lots of other dogs, the new well-adjusted dog can help socialize her.

5 - Let your dog know that you will protect her. Do this by standing between your dog and any possible threat. For example, if a child comes running over to pet your dog, calmly step in front of the dog and tell the child that your dog is scared today. When your dog understands that you protect her, she will be more likely to follow your lead on walks and for training in general.

Caution: Never greet a shy dog by staring at her, leaning over her or reaching out to pat her head. These can be intimidating actions.

By Laura Agadoni

About the Author
Laura Agadoni has been writing professionally since 1983. Her feature stories on area businesses, human interest and health and fitness appear in her local newspaper. She has also written and edited for a grassroots outreach effort and has been published in "Clean Eating" magazine and in "Dimensions" magazine, a CUNA Mutual publication. Agadoni has a Bachelor of Arts in communications from California State University-Fullerton.