Home > Animal Rescue, Backyard Breeders, Dog Behavior, Maggie, Pine River puppy mill, puppy mill dogs, Puppy Mills, Shelties > Maggie takes small steps forward – A puppy mill dog’s journey

Maggie takes small steps forward – A puppy mill dog’s journey


IMG_1963If you read my post from last Thursday, then you know about Maggie, our new foster dog.

That post provided you with some general information on Maggie’s background and her fears and shared some videos of her outside.

If you don’t know, Maggie came from a puppy mill and has been staying with us just a little over a week. Dogs like Maggie,  are often damaged – emotionally and physically. Building trust with them is difficult. It takes time, patience and dedication. Oh yes, did I mention time?

My Lab Daisy took almost three years to come out of her shell. People who meet her now would never guess how emotionally damaged and scarred she was when she came to me just over 6 years ago. I still see it sometimes, it never goes completely away, but she is miles from where she started. For that, I am grateful.

When Daisy first came to live with me, I made sure to give her a lot of time and space – time to get used to me, Aspen (my dog) and our routine and space to decompress and adjust to this new life she had.  I wanted her to have a say in what she felt comfortable doing and I wanted it to be on her timeline. Building trust with her was my goal, but that could’t be done completely on my terms. That had to be done on her terms. If I forced her to do something just because I wanted her to do it, I would have risked her shutting down or regressing, and I most certainly would have destroyed any trust she had with me. So instead we worked together, in tandem, with Daisy telling me when something was too much for her and when she felt she could trust me enough to push past her discomfort. it required me to listen to her and to watch her body language in order to know I needed to stop or move forward.

What I did with Daisy is similar to the approach I am using with Maggie. The only difference between then and now is that I have a little more wisdom and experience this time around, and I have a few more resources at my disposal.

IMG_2145In Maggie’s first few days with us, I tried to give her some space, some time to adjust – to me, to my dogs and to our routine. Now I am focused on building her trust. There are two things I am doing to help build that trust (with more to follow as she progresses). The first is modeled after a video I shared on my blog a year ago showing how you can determine if your own dog likes to be petted by you. I recommend watching it, if you haven’t already, and trying it with your own dog.

Briefly, what I have been doing is petting Maggie for a short period of time and then letting her tell me if she wants me to continue or stop. It’s taken some time for her to figure out that she has a say but she has started to realize that if I pet her and stop, she can tell me if she wants me to continue by simply nudging her nose at my hand or by touching my hand or making a movement with her nose towards my hand.If she does not want to be touched she stops nudging me and I stop petting her.

Here is a video demonstrating that behavior. As you can see, there is one point at which she becomes distracted by a noise and looks around. I let her and wait to see if she chooses to come back to me for more petting. I don’t try to get her attention back, I just wait and let her decide, which she does. This is Maggie choosing on her own what she wants from me. Pretty cool huh?

The second thing I am doing is similar to the first, except I am asking her to do something in return for some cheese. It’s called hand targeting. I don’t have a video of this with Maggie yet, but Debbie Jacobs from FearfulDogs.com was kind enough to direct me to some of her videos on hand targeting that she did with her dog Nibbles, who came from a hoarding situation. I have included one video below, but I would really recommend going to her post titles “Nibbles” so you can see a few of the videos of her work with Nibbles and hand targeting.

If you are working with a dog like Maggie or Nibbles, you should absolutely check out the rest of Debbie’s videos and blog posts about Nibbles. He has made such amazing progress in her expert care. To me, Nibbles is proof that sometimes you can rehabilitate dogs like he and Maggie and give them a good quality life.

I will continue to work with Maggie to help her along her journey, but I know it will be a slow process that will have its ups and downs. It just takes time and patience.

Note: Maggie is one of the lucky ones, she got out of her puppy mill, but there are many more still living a life of hell. Please continue to spread the word about puppy mills and the damage they do to dogs like Maggie. Not every dog can be saved, but every dog should have a chance.

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  1. colliebrookcrossing
    January 7, 2014 at 6:16 AM

    I suspect Ranger, my border collie mix, came from a hoarding situation. When I picked him up the lady I met had a van full of dogs. Ages varied. Breeds varied. She supposedly had all the vet records because this was a shelter closing. No vet records were ever given to me, and Ranger needed about $400 in treatment, medication, vaccines, and testing. He had parasites inside and out. Lucky for him he was young enough not to be badly scarred by his experience. Sadly, he was only 5 weeks old. His biggest issue now (he’ll be 3 years old in March) is that he has separation anxiety when I leave him for more than 10 minutes. He has gotten better at dealing with his anxiety over the past few years but at first it was a big problem- he destroyed absolutely everything he could get his mouth on, and if I crated him he would chew himself.

    • Mel
      January 7, 2014 at 7:09 AM

      That is so sad. I wouldn’t doubt it was a hoarder, but I would to be surprised if she was a puppy mill operator. Backyard breeders and puppy millers will sell a dog at 5 weeks old with no qualms about doing so. They don’t care that it is waaaaayyyy too early at all. They will often sell dogs out of trucks and vans and will even agree to meet you somewhere because they don’t want you to see where their facility is located and how bad it is there. His separation anxiety could be genetic or a result of a lack of socialization at an early age. Por baby. I am so sorry. That is such a difficult issue to treat and to deal with. I am glad it is getting better.

      • colliebrookcrossing
        January 7, 2014 at 7:12 AM

        Now that you mention it… Maybe he was from a puppy mill.

        She wanted $25 for him. I told her I wouldn’t pay until I had his vet records. She threatened not to let me have him, so I threatens to call the police.

        He’s the center of my world now though. Happy, healthy, FINALLY gaining weight, just got neutered… If I have any say in it he’s going to live a long happy healthy life.

      • Mel
        January 8, 2014 at 11:38 PM

        He very well could have been. I would not be surprised if he was from one. I am SO glad he is happy AND healthy. He is lucky to have you!

  2. derrycats
    January 7, 2014 at 6:36 AM

    The comparisons with Maggie and Annie continue to fascinate me. The question of petting is true for her as it is for Maggie…hadn’t thought of that before. I put my open hand near her and if she wants to be pet she will stretch her head so I can pet the side of her face and under her chin. If she doesn’t want to be pet she either walks away, tucks her head down, or sometimes hisses lightly and I let her be,

    • Mel
      January 7, 2014 at 7:10 AM

      It is so interesting that they are so similar. I guess looking at where Annie came from it makes sense that she would have similar issues with trust and a lack of socialization. How cool that you are doing the same thing with her.

  3. Ken Knudson (@KenknudsonKen)
    January 7, 2014 at 8:36 AM

    I’m learning a lot from reading your postings and watching your videos — thanks much, and keep up the good work!

    • Mel
      January 8, 2014 at 11:36 PM

      Thanks Ken! I am so glad to hear that. I don’t know everything there is to know, but I have learned a lot from caring for Daisy and fortunately, I also know where to find resources when I need help. Thanks for your kind words. 🙂

  4. Cynthia Solberg
    January 7, 2014 at 8:48 AM

    Have I mentioned I love your posts? Thanks so much for sharing this info, I do not think my Bailey Girl came from a hoarding situation, however she reminds me of someone with PTSD.

    She is very skittish, very aware of her surroundings, gets overwhelmed in her environment easily. Fearful of noises (clearly wasn’t used to household noises) and runs away easily as well.

    She lacks in confidence and needs a lot of reassurance sometimes. She is a WONDERFUL dog, but I do have to watch her closely with people, children etc. (as we should do anyways) as she is reactive more so than a well socialized dog.

    So I appreciate that you share your stories and other resources. 🙂

    • Mel
      January 8, 2014 at 11:35 PM

      Thank you so much Cindy. I am so touched that you like my posts. I did not know that about Bailey. Poor peanut. Yes. Hoarding dogs suffer from a lack of socialization too. They also are skittish and a flight risk. Nibbles, the dog in Debbie’s video, is from a hoarding situation. You should watch her videos of her working with him. They are really helpful.

  5. January 7, 2014 at 9:42 AM

    It’s so wonderful to see Maggie’s progress!

    • Mel
      January 8, 2014 at 11:37 PM

      Thanks AJ! I am so with you on that one!

  6. January 7, 2014 at 9:52 AM

    So sad to think that even petting is a difficulty. We are such big snugglers at my house.

    • Mel
      January 8, 2014 at 11:37 PM

      Hard to believe isn’t it? Daisy loves it now, but in the beginning she was terrified to be touched. I’m guessing most touching she experienced previously was not a good experience. Maggie seems to be very open to getting a belly scratch or a pat on the head.

  7. January 7, 2014 at 9:58 AM

    She is such a lucky dog to have you to love her and help her out. Your patience with her will almost certainly pay off.

  8. January 7, 2014 at 10:05 AM

    It’s so great that you are up to the challenge – Maggie seems to be making some nice progress thanks to your efforts.

  9. January 7, 2014 at 10:06 AM

    Maggie, you can do it! Wooooooowooooooooo!

  10. January 7, 2014 at 11:14 AM

    I notice that you’re not speaking to her while petting. Is that on purpose? Do you talk less to her while she is settling in?

    • Mel
      January 8, 2014 at 11:31 PM

      So funny that you caught that Roxanne. I don’t think it was intentional that time. I think I was just so focused on filming I forgot to say anything, but I have refrained from saying something in some situations because sometimes it is less intense when I am quiet. I tend to be a talker, so I’m guessing in this case I just was caught up in the filming.

  11. January 7, 2014 at 11:22 AM

    I can already see a much more relaxed dog 🙂 Great work Mel! Do you think it is easier or more difficult with other dogs in the house? It seems to me it would help them feel relaxed, but I felt like a huge failure with my brother’s fearful dog, Saydee. She was a love bug, but I pushed her past her threshold too often – she is much happier being a couch potato with my brother 🙂

  12. jan
    January 7, 2014 at 11:57 AM

    How rewarding it must be to see these transformations. Thanks for all you are doing.

  13. January 7, 2014 at 3:36 PM

    Happy dance for Maggie. Wonderful to see.

  14. January 7, 2014 at 9:05 PM

    Maggie is in the best hands. So obvious. She will recover faster than Daisy, because you’ve learned so much from Daisy.

    • Mel
      January 8, 2014 at 11:29 PM

      I hope so Lori. I know people want that happy ending, but most puppy mill dogs dedicated time and attention to get to any semblance of a normal dog. I definitely am glad I have a little experience now. More than I did with Daisy, as you said.

  15. January 7, 2014 at 9:59 PM

    It looks like Maggie is really coming along. She definitely seems like she enjoys affection.

    • Mel
      January 8, 2014 at 11:28 PM

      She loves to have her ears and belly scratched. She is less trusting of other kinds of affection. But she is coming along. 🙂

  16. January 8, 2014 at 12:20 AM

    I’m jealous, Asher enjoys being patted but he’s not a nudger. If I stop patting him he just goes and lies down and looks at me. Maggie is looking relatively relaxed and it’s great she is communicating with you and learning to trust already 🙂

    • Mel
      January 8, 2014 at 11:27 PM

      Well darn! Do you think he will nudge in time? He seems to want to take it slowly in adjusting. Maybe he is still being cautious. He’s such a cutie. Maggie is making progress. That is good news for her. 🙂

  17. January 8, 2014 at 6:14 AM

    Maggie is a beauty. The information your share here is unique and valuable. Your expertise and natural ability to work with foster dogs is evident. Thank you for your daily effort and for sharing all this information. I hope to reblog it at a time that makes sense for my blog.

    • Mel
      January 8, 2014 at 11:26 PM

      Thank you so very much. I hope to share more next week.

  18. Sabrina Fratzke
    January 8, 2014 at 12:48 PM

    I am so happy to see these updates on Maggie. It really warms my heart and I’m so grateful that she is with someone who can help her so much. She’s such a beautiful soul, as are you for helping her to have the best life she can.

    • Mel
      January 8, 2014 at 11:18 PM

      Thanks Sabrina. She is a work in progress, but worth every minute of it.

  19. Victoria Carter
    January 9, 2014 at 12:29 PM

    Lovely! I am happy for Maggie and you, that she is making huge strides! I know it is a slow process, but you’ve had for such a short time and you can see such a difference already that is huge! I’m positive that your three (as well as your experience) are really helping her confidence and giving her the security she needs to learn how to be a happy dog.

    All our pups are rescues of one sort or another, our Hank (also a Sheltie) had some minor issues with adjusting as well. He is now a big snuggler, so much so we call him the ‘Needy Needle-nose’ (he’s the only dog we have that has such a narrow muzzle). At first he would tense up every time you went to touch him, and still will occasionally with strangers, friends that don’t visit to often, and sometimes Kevin. His original owner kept him crated most (22-23 hours for the first year and half) of the day, his second owner didn’t but couldn’t handle the puppy energy that never had an outlet, so we took him. After working with him for a year he’s a different dog, more relaxed with me than with Kevin but that’s due to me being the one who primarily worked with him.

    Willow came from the shelter, and while I’m not supposed to know her background, (our shelter rules) I do. She was an abuse/surrender case. She was very distrustful of men, hated quick movements, disliked people in solid uniforms (think mechanic coveralls), and would submissive pee. She now is a hugely confident dog, very friendly with everyone although still takes some warming up with men (took her about a year to let Kevin play with her the way I play with her), she does have separation anxiety that we’ve managed to temper as well. What helped with all of it was the touch game (hand targeting), puppy manners classes, and I was lucky enough to be able to take her to work with me when I worked, now being a housewife I’m always with her and we rarely do anything without the dogs so we don’t see much of the separation anxiety anymore, and the touch game is her absolute favorite thing the world!

  20. February 6, 2014 at 8:56 AM

    Maggie has a lovely face. It’s good that she already wants to be petted.

    Something Wagging was kind enough to point me in your direction in a comment on my latest post, “The cute face of puppy farms”.

    I have enjoyed reading a few of your posts and will visit again.

  1. February 1, 2015 at 11:11 PM

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