What to Expect When Adopting a Puppy Mill Rescue Dog

Updated on June 28, 2019
alexadry profile image

Adrienne is a certified dog trainer, former veterinary assistant, and the author of "Brain Training for Dogs."

If you are considering adopting a puppy mill dog, it's important to know what to expect considering that puppy mill dogs are not the average dogs most people are accustomed to.

Puppy mill dogs are dogs mainly kept for breeding purposes and their associated profits, with little regard for the dogs' health and well-being. Also known as puppy farms, or more formally, canine commercial breeding establishments (CBEs), puppy mills are basically large-scale commercial dog breeding operations.

Dogs kept for breeding purposes in puppy mill operations are housed in squalid wire cages in inhumane conditions that negatively impact their physical and mental well-being. This is the total opposite of what responsible breeders do. A responsible breeder's goal is to produce puppies that are socialized and healthy and meant to be sold to responsible homes through a screening process.

Many times, prospective puppy owners purposely seek puppies from pet stores or internet sites knowing that they come from puppy mills. These prospective puppy owners feel that, by buying from these sources, they are helping these dogs. However, purchasing a puppy mill dog just opens up space for another puppy mill puppy and provides profit to the puppy mill industry so they can keep on breeding inhumanely.

The impact of living in unsanitary and isolated quarters deeply affects a puppy mill dog's health and well-being, often leading to medical ailments, under-socialization, and behavioral problems. Forewarned is forearmed goes the saying, and therefore, knowledge is power if you are considering adopting a puppy mill rescue dog.

Did you know?

According to the Humane Society of the United States, puppy mills in the United States alone produce approximately two million puppies per year.

1. Potential Medical Problems

Puppy mill dogs are often raised in horrific, crowded conditions and there are often reports of neglected dogs with open wounds, severely matted hair, ribs and spines showing, being fed moldy foods and dirty water, and housed in filthy, stacked wire cages.

Living in such unsanitary conditions can certainly put a toll on these dog's overall health and well-being, which is why it is imperative to have these dogs see a vet as soon as they are adopted.

It is not unusual for these dogs to develop congenital diseases and chronic conditions that may lead to significant veterinary bills. Some puppy mill dogs may not even survive following adoption, leading to high costs and heartaches.

What health conditions are likely to be found in puppy mill dogs? When looking at statistics, it was found that, when 80 dogs were rescued in 2011 from a puppy mill in Hertford, North Carolina, almost 50 percent had parasites, 23 percent had ear infections, 15 percent were affected by various eye disorders, including keratoconjunctivitis sicca, and dogs older than 18 months had moderate to severe periodontal disease.

Other conditions that are often found in puppy mill dogs include skin disease occurring as a result of urine-soaked, matted fur, skin diseases caused by mites, fleas, and secondary infections, dehydration, injured paws due to wire cages, breathing problems due to high ammonia levels, and some dogs are found to be severely underweight.

  • Tip: Have your recently adopted former puppy mill dog see a vet at your earliest convenience.


2. Potential Behavioral Problems

Dogs raised in puppy mills receive little or no exercise and lack most forms of socialization or enrichment. This has a deep, negative impact on the dog's personality and emotional well-being considering that these dogs are housed in cages or runs with little opportunity for social contact often for their entire reproductive lives.

There is plenty of anecdotal evidence suggesting that, after being rescued, former puppy mill dogs continue to display persistent behavioural and psychological abnormalities.

According to a study published in Applied Animal Behaviour Science, when compared with a convenience sample of pet dogs matched for breed, sex, age, and neuter status, former puppy mill dogs were found to demonstrate significantly higher rates of fear and phobias, lower trainability, compulsive and repetitive behaviors, heightened sensitivity to being touched, and difficulty in coping successfully with normal existence.

Fear is not unusual considering that puppy mill dogs often miss out socialization opportunities during the puppy critical socialization period, a window of opportunity that generally takes place between three and 16 weeks of age during which puppies are most open to learning about their environment. Lack of socialization during this critical time may, therefore, lead to the onset of fear and subsequent behavioral problems.

Because puppy mill dogs live most of their lives in cages, they have a hard time adjusting to novel stimuli. The sound of a coffee maker, vacuum cleaner, or washing machine can evoke stress and panic. Some dogs may be particularly fearful of men or may develop trust issues towards their new owners despite how well-meaning they are. Countless puppy mill dogs have a fear of sudden movements, unfamiliar objects, and loud noises. Here are some additional tips:

  • Puppy mill dogs may need to be desensitized and counter-conditioned to novel stimuli that evoke fearful responses. For fear of noises, the "hear that" method may help. Calming aids may be helpful too in lowering the fear threshold.
  • Puppy mill dogs may also not like being touched or may resent being picked up, and they may be fearful of going outside or even wearing a collar and leash.

This study gives us strong evidence that the dogs kept in these large-scale breeding facilities don't just suffer while they're confined there, but carry the emotional scars out with them for years, even when they're placed in loving homes.

— Dr. Frank McMillan, DVM,

3. Potty Training Challenges

Puppy mill dogs are raised most of their lives in cages or kennels. This means that when they need to urinate or defecate, they'll just do it without much thinking. This can pose significant challenges in the potty training department once adopted and placed in a new home.

Dog owners want their dogs to not have accidents around the house, and when crated, they expect their dogs to "hold it" because dogs are known to have a natural inclination of not soiling the areas where they sleep.

However, in puppy mill dogs this instinct is not present. When placed in a crate or kennel, they are therefore prone to soil in it, even if this means getting their fur dirty and wet. This is because a crate or kennel may have been their regular bathroom for weeks, months or years.

Potty training a puppy mill dog is therefore not without challenges. However, there are many steps owners of recently adopted puppy mill dogs may take to ameliorate the situation:

  • Keep your dog on a regular feeding schedule ( this helps establish regular outings). Skip the cheap, supermarket kibble which leads to bulky and frequent stools and opt instead for a premium dog food.
  • Familiarize yourself with your dog's pre-potty cues and readily accompany your dog out when you recognize them. Praise and reward for successfully eliminating outside.
  • Clean indoor messes with an enzyme-based product that helps remove traces of any residual smells.
  • Avoid using punishment-based methods when you catch your dog eliminating in the home (like scolding or pushing your pup's nose in his mess) as this will only teach your dog to hide to pee or poop because he associates eliminating in your presence with fear.

With time and persistence, you can also train your new puppy mill dog to go potty on command.

Further Tips to Help Puppy Mill Dogs

  • Provide a quiet area for your new puppy mill dog to retreat when frightened.
  • Provide a structured routine. Routines provide predictability and a sense of reassurance.
  • Use positive reinforcement methods for training and behavior modification.
  • Be patient and take baby steps when introducing new stimuli. Let your dog approach at his own pace.
  • Enlist the help of a dog trainer/behavior consultant for help.

The Bottom Line

Puppy mill dogs need loads of patience, understanding and love. It can take time and loads of dedication to help these dogs overcome all the damage that has occurred during the many months or years spent in unsanitary and harmful conditions.

Maintaining realistic expectations is important. Not all puppy mill dogs are capable of overcoming their issues. Some will remain shy and skittish for life. Others may overcome many of their fears, but the process typically goes slowly.

Watching these dogs bloom and grow through baby steps, day after day, can be a very rewarding experience.


  • Mental health of dogs formerly used as ‘breeding stock’ in commercial breeding establishments, McMillan, Franklin D. et al.Applied Animal Behaviour Science , Volume 135 , Issue 1 , 86 - 94
  • The Humane Society of the United States 2012, Veterinary Problems in Puppy Mill Dogs

© 2018 Adrienne Janet Farricelli


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment
    • alexadry profile imageAUTHOR

      Adrienne Janet Farricelli 

      6 months ago

      Brittanie, so great to hear you rescued a puppy mill dog! Bless your heart for helping this dog out. I hope she warms up soon and gets comfy.

    • Brittanie2216 profile image

      Brittanie Anne 

      6 months ago from Seattle WA

      This is great advice! Thank you! I just recently adopted a rescue from a puppy mill. I'm hoping these tips will help her become more comfortable in her new surroundings.

    • alexadry profile imageAUTHOR

      Adrienne Janet Farricelli 

      12 months ago

      Yes, the level of committment needed is great with these dogs and not everyone may be ready to face the challenges, but as the saying goes, when there is a will there is a way. Glad to hear you have found a great match for your boy!

    • heidithorne profile image

      Heidi Thorne 

      12 months ago from Chicago Area

      The whole puppy mill issue is just devastating to these poor creatures! And, yes, it requires a dog parent that's willing to work with him or her on serious behavior retraining.

      BTW, we adopted a senior (9 years) playmate for our golden boy. She's amazing. Hope all is going good with you and your dog fam!


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, pethelpful.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://pethelpful.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
    ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)