They have work to do, and don't really want to stand around holding some stinky little dog any longer than necessary. It is not uncommon for these survivors to be sensitive to the backs of their necks, after all, it brings the unexpected. Many mill dogs will try to always face you, not trusting you enough to give you easy access to them from behind. NEVER startle a mill survivor from behind, you will lose any trust that you may have gained. Always make sure that they are anticipating you picking them up and consistently verbally tell them what you are going to do with the same word, like "up".
It is not uncommon for a mill dog to drop their bellies to the floor when they know you are going to pick them up, some will even roll on their backs, often urinating in the process. This is a submissive move on the dog's part, and while it may be frustrating trying to pick up a dog in this position, these dogs will seldom show aggression in their lives. It is okay to go ahead and pick up a dog while they are in this position, but if time is not of the essence, encourage the dog to come to you by sitting a few feet away and calling him.
The most common posture we see in mill dogs is the "freeze;" the dog will initially try to escape you, but when they realize there is no escape, they simply freeze up--rigid, like a statue--and accept their "fate. Always be gentle and try to avoid picking them up until you see that they are receptive to it.
It's almost a 'hostage' type situation to these dogs. Imagine how you would feel if taken hostage at gunpoint. The gunman may never harm you in any way, but you are aware of the danger the entire time and you don't have the ability to leave when you want.
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No matter how nice the gunman is to you, you will never enjoy the experience and will always watch for an escape route; however, you can turn the tables around and see a ray of hope. Imagine the gunman has been captured and you decide to visit him in jail. Now you are in control. The bottom line is that these dogs have to progress at their own pace. Anything you force them to do will not be pleasant to them; let them visit with you on their terms, whenever possible..
Many times when you bring a mill survivor into your home, it is their instinct to hide in a quiet corner. Any new dog that you bring into your home should be kept separated from other family pets for 7 days. During this time it is fine to crate or confine them to a quiet area.
After that though, they need to have exposure to the household. If crating, the crate should be in a central location. The ideal spot is one where there is frequent walking and activity. This allows the dog to feel safe in the crate, yet observe everyday activity and become accustomed to it; they need to hear the table being set, the dishwasher running, phones ringing, and people talking.
Very few mill dogs know what a leash is. After the quarantine, when the dog is out of the crate and supervised, it is not a bad idea to let them drag a leash around with them. Let them get used to the feel. It is easy to fall into the mindset that they must be pampered and carried everywhere, but leash training is important. It will make your life easier to have a leash trained dog, but it will also offer your dog confidence in the future.
A mill dog has no reason to trust you. Your trust needs to be earned, little by little. Patience is a very important part of rehabbing a mill survivor.
We have seen a lot of mill dogs that don't want to eat whenever people are around. It is important that your mill dog be fed on a schedule, with you nearby. You don't have to stand and watch over them but should be in the same room with them. They need to know that their yummy meal is coming from you. For the majority of mill dogs, accepting a treat right out of your hand is a huge show of trust. Offer treats on a regular basis especially as a reward. Don't concern yourself too much if your dog does not eat for a few days. Because most of our mill rescues have been fed with self-feeders and confined to small places, it is not uncommon for them to be a little overweight.
If there is no vomiting or diarrhea and your dog is otherwise acting healthy, a few days of nibbling at their food while they learn to live by your schedule, is not going to hurt them. It is important to teach them that food is fed on a schedule and you should not be leaving food down at all times. While you shouldn't overly force yourself upon your dog, it does need to get used to you.
Sit and talk quietly while gently petting or massaging your dog. It is best to do this an area where they, not necessarily you, are the most comfortable. They probably won't like it at first, but given them time to adjust. Some dogs sadly, never will adjust, and we'll talk more about them later. Never allow friends to force attention on a mill survivor. Ask them not to look your dog directly in the eyes.
It is not uncommon for mill dogs to simply never accept outsiders. Let your dog set the pace. If the dog approaches, ask them to talk quietly and hold out a hand. No quick movements. Ask that any barking be ignored. Remember that these dogs bark to warn and scare off intruders. If you acknowledge the barking you may be reinforcing it with attention. If you bring your guest outside you have just reinforced to your dog that barking will make the intruder go away.
A child spends the first one to two years of their life soiling their diaper and having you remove the dirty diaper and replace it with a clean one. A puppy mill dog spends its entire life soiling its living area. Potty training a child and housebreaking a puppy mill dog are the exact same procedures A regular schedule, constant reinforcement, praise, and commitment on your part are a must! Would you ever scream at your child, march them to the bathroom and make them sit on the toilet AFTER you discovered they soiled their diaper? A dog is no different in this sense; scolding them after the deed is done is of no benefit to anyone.
The two most important things you can do are to get your new dog on a regular feeding schedule which will put them on a regular potty schedule and to observe them closely after feeding time.
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Getting them on a premium, low residue food is very important. This will produce a stool that normally is firm very easy to clean up and only one or two bowel movements a day are normal. Low cost, or over the counter foods have a lot of fillers and it is very hard to get a dog on a regular cycle using these foods.
Before you even begin to housebreak them, you must learn their schedule. Most dogs will need to 'go' right after eating. As soon as they are finished eating, command "outside". Always use the exact same word in the exact same tone. Watch them closely outside and observe their pattern as they prepare to defecate. Some will turn circles, some will scratch at the ground, some may find a corner, some may sniff every inch of the ground, some will get a strange look on their face We could give you a million tips that our adopters have found to work best for them, but as we have said, every dog is different.
As long as you always keep in mind that housebreaking and potty training are one in the same, you should eventually see results.
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Never do to a dog what you would not do to a child. It may take a week, it may take a month, it may take a year Never give up and never accept 'accidents' as a way of life. In most cases, the success of housebreaking depends on your commitment. While we have focus mainly on bowel movements, urinating in the house is just as hard to correct as defecating in the house if not worse. Below we will discuss "marking," which many people associate only with male dogs.
We will go into that in more detail, below, but if urinating in the house remains a problem for your dog, we highly recommend crate training. This can be researched online in more detail, but if crate training is not working because your dog is soiling in the crate, you should discontinue the training immediately--as you are only reinforcing that it is okay to soil their area.
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In general, if you can understand your dog's bowel patterns, you will usually find that they urinate before or after a bowel movement. Reinforce the positive and work on the negative, as most dogs will understand "outside" and associate it with both urinating and defecating. Of course, in the meantime, you will want to protect your carpets by either removing any that can be rolled up, or confining the dog to a tiled floor when you aren't holding it on your lap.
This should only be done during the training process, as socialization is just as important as house training and often tiled floors are in areas that we don't spend a lot of time.
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