The following is the opinion of the authors (Michelle Bender and Kim Townsend) and is based on years of experience with puppy mill dogs; we are not veterinarians or professional trainers. Please note that an adopted puppy mill rescued dog may be at different stages of rehab so we have tried to start this from the beginning. Permission is granted to use this article, unedited, on your website or in print, as long as credit is linked to this page.
Every mill survivor is different. What works on one or many, will completely fail on others; the only thing that is consistent is that they will need lots of patience, understanding, love, and probably most importantly, unconditional acceptance of what they are and what their limitations may be.
At first glance a mill survivor may look like many of your friends' dogs; maybe not a perfect example of the breed, but close. What you won't see is the condition they were in when came into rescue. Many have fur so matted that it all had to be shaved off and even the short haired breeds suffer from thin dull coats. Many times removing the filth and matting have only revealed open sores, usually from flea allergies or sarcoptic mange. Their ears are often full of filth and usually mites and some survivors suffer from permanent hearing loss because of untreated ear infections. Most survivors require the removal of rotten teeth, even young dogs. The gums are usually very infected and the teeth have excessive buildup on them. Many vets who are not familiar with puppy mill rescued dogs will miscalculate the age of the dog if using only the teeth as their guide. Many survivors also suffer from swollen, splayed and sore feet from so much time walking on wire. While finally getting some good nutrition and extensive medical care after arriving in rescue, all too often there remains the psychological damage that can't be fixed with a bath, medicine, or surgery.
We would love to say that every puppy mill survivor only needs love to turn it into a wonderful family pet, but that would be a lie. Love is definitely needed in large amounts, but so is patience. The damage done during the years in the mill usually can be overcome, but it takes time and dedication. It takes a very special adopter for one of these dogs. Not being "up to it" is no crime, but you need to be honest with yourself, and us, about your expectations. These dogs have already been through more than their share of heartache and if your entire family is not willing to make the commitment, the dog is better off staying in our care until the perfect home for them is found.