Eureka! Dog Blog

Dog Training and Behavior weblog

Case Study: Puppy Mill Dog

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All names are changed in the case studies.

Mary came to us with a story of mismatched expectations. Her dog of many years had died, and she tried to find a new dog within a few days of her loss. She wanted to adopt a dog from a shelter (Well done, Mary!), but she found shelters very upsetting to visit. So she picked out a dog by breed and looks on the internet, then went to the shelter to see that particular dog. The dog Mary wanted and needed was a cheerful, outgoing, cuddly, upbeat dog. The dog she found was Hannah, a breeder dog from a puppy mill, who was scared or people and very undemonstrative.

Mary took Hannah home, and was distressed to find that Hannah would not come to her, or eat in front of her. On our first visit, we found that Hannah was prepared to sit on a cushion near Mary, but stayed very still, and would run to her crate if someone else arrived.  Mary was concerned because Hannah seemed unhappy, and was not eating properly.

In a future post, we’ll talk about the steps we have taken to make the household work for everyone.  For now, let’s observe that adopting a dog requires planning and selecting the right dog.

Mary tried to get a dog she thought was the same breed as her old dog.  That’s a little like losing a husband, and looking for another 35-year old bank teller, because that’s what worked before.  This bank teller may be very different from the previous one!

Dogs in shelters are often a little reserved, and it may take weeks or months for their full personality to emerge – they have to learn to trust you and feel comfortable first.  Hannah’s case was extreme – a dog who has lived such a life has had to develop survival strategies, and in Hannah’s case, she was focused on staying away from everyone, having a safe place to run to, and never taking anything when someone was around.

If you are looking to rescue and rehabilitate a dog like Hannah, thank you!  She is a sweet little dog, deserves a second chance, and will eventually repay your kindness.  But if you need a dog who will be able to interact with the rest of your family almost immediately, make sure that the dog you take home does not come with known, serious problems.  Spend time with the dog at the shelter, and with your family there, so that you all get a feeling for how well the dog will fit into your home.  Make sure that the dog is not fearful of men or boisterous children (both common fears), and that s/he appears to pay attention when each family member talks to or touches him/her.  See how much the shelter knows about the dog’s previous history, and how s/he has got on with other dogs at the shelter (and cats if you have one at home).  Information about a particular breed is useful, but not all labradors have the same personality, any more than all people from Houston do!

More about Mary and Hannah next week.

Written by eurekapaws

January 27, 2009 at 10:24 pm

Posted in Case Studies, New Adoptions, Training

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