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A Pine River puppy mill dog update – Maggie’s progress

March 16, 2014 18 comments

Keeping her distance. #Maggie It’s been a while since I’ve written about Maggie, so I thought I would give you all a quick update.

Maggie is a puppy mill breeding dog rescued from a puppy mill in Pine River last summer. She was not yet ready to be adopted into a home, so I am fostering to help her adjust to life in her new world.

Maggie has made some great progress since coming to stay with me just after Christmas. Here are some of the areas in which she has made progress:

  • Going outside – She now follows my dogs outside like she’s one of the group. For those times she doest, I am able to lead her out easily on her leash.
  • Coming inside – This was a problem for her before (doorways are often a problem for mill dogs). I would often have to let her drag a long line behind her so I could easily catch her and lead her inside, but this became an issue because she would often get it tangled on the bushes and trees in my yard. Now she drags a short leash and chooses to go inside on her own, often with my other dogs. She won’t do it if I am standing in the doorway, but if I go outside and walk away from the doorway, she runs right in. This is huge progress!
  • Interacting with me and my dogs – When Maggie first came, she was frightened of me, but not as much by my dogs. (This is common for mill dogs, who are often more comfortable around other dogs than humans.) She wouldn’t engage with my dogs, but she would often follow them around. Now she has started to engage them, coming into contact with them, sniffing them, and even making an attempt to play with them. She will also take treats from me  and interact with the dog puzzles I use with my own dogs. We are now working on her making eye contact with me. I am very impressed with how much more confident she is around me.
  • Eating – Maggie seems to have no trouble eating as long as she feels safe. Like Daisy, I often feed her in her kennel because that is where she feels safest. It also allows her to eat without my dogs trying to swipe a kibble or two from her. She is great about going in her kennel and loves the Kong I leave her before I leave for work each morning.

Despite all the progress Maggie has made, she still has some things that frighten her and cause her to run and hide. Most of them seem to occur in daylight:

  • cars going by the window
  • reflections from the sun on the window and on my walls
  • birds at the window bird feeder
  • reflections of the TV on my walls
  • Strange sounds
  • Loud sounds

All of these things frighten her and many will lead to her looking around frantically and running to my bedroom to hide (see the video below). Darkened rooms are much more comfortable for her than rooms doused in sunlight. (I imagine if we had grown up in a dark room and had little exposure to daylight, we might also be afraid of these strange shadows and reflections too.)

I am working with Maggie to help her change how she sees these scary things, but it will take time. We use treats and her Thundershirt to help her.

Here’s just a few of the more recent pictures I have taken of Maggie and the video I made to show you how she reacts to shadows and reflections she sees during the day.

Notice in the video that Maggie is panting and constantly looking around. Her ears are pulled way back on her head and at times she will pull her lips back in a tight, close-mouthed display. She also paces, coming back to me for comfort, but then moving away again when something she sees really scares her. These are all signs of stress. As I mentioned, I am working on this with Maggie but I wanted you to see a little bit of the stress and fear a puppy mill dog experiences when rescued from a mill.

Being rescued is not the end of the story for dogs like Maggie. It takes a lot of time, patience and dedicated work to help them deal with life. For some, life is just too stressful for them and they live in constant fear, unable to move forward. In those cases, euthanasia is almost a blessing, but for those who are able to adjust and cope, those who can be rehabilitated, life can be better. It just takes time. Maggie is a work in progress.

What new game is this?

Maggie giving me eye contact

I did something I never do this morning. I went back to bed after letting the dogs out. When I woke up, this is who I saw sleeping next to my bed. #maggie

Maggie often likes to sleep next to my bed in my bedroom when the daylight shadows scare her.

The aftermath of game night.

Like Aspen was for Daisy when I first fostered her, Daisy has become a comforting presence for Maggie. She often sleeps next to her like this. It is very sweet to see.

You can't see me.

it might look funny or cute, but Maggie is actually hiding because I was tossing the ball for Jasper. It frightened her so I let her go inside where she felt safe.

Maggie's first attempt at a dog puzzle. She may not be at Cupcake's level yet, but she wasn't afraid to try! Go Maggie!

Maggie working on a dog puzzle. It didn’t take her very long to figure out that my dogs loved doing puzzles. She started moving closer and closer until she indicated she wanted to try it too. Now she can hardly wait to play. 🙂

Please don’t shop, adopt. When you buy a puppy from a pet store, you support puppy mills and ensure that dogs like Maggie stay in them.

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

January 6, 2014 36 comments

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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