Adopting An Ex-Breeder Dog
We will address two areas in this section: Potential behavioral problems and potential physical problems.
Most of these dogs have spent their entire lives in a breeding environment with very little, if any, socialization and little veterinary care. Not all of the dogs will exhibit all of these issues and many will have none of them. We work with some very good breeders who take excellent care of their dogs both physically and emotionally. However, sometimes we receive them from environments that are less than ideal. We hope to give you an idea of possible problems and the solutions we have found that work best both from our own experience and the experience of our adopters. If your companion has any issues we have not addressed or you have found a solution that works for you, please feel free to share it with us and we will add it to this page
1. Hand shy. Most of the breeders "scruff" the dogs when they have to pick them up. They do this by grabbing the dog by the back of the neck like an animal mother does to its young. This is very painful for an adult dog so the back of their neck and head may be very sensitive to touch. It sometimes takes months before you will be able to touch the dog in this area without it flinching. Use a very soft touch and soothing words to gain the dog's trust that you will not hurt them. Always pick the dog up by supporting its chest with one hand and cupping its bottom in the other hand.
2. General fear of being picked up. You may have to lie on the floor and allow the dog to approach you over a period of time until it learns to trust. We recommend leaving a harness and a leash on a timid dog until it learns to trust you enough to come to you. Treats are a powerful tool in teaching them to trust you.
3. The dog won't look you in the eye. This is a very common behavior for dogs coming from this kind of environment and indicates fearful submission. Again, it's all about learning to trust. The first time your new companion comes to you, looks you in the eye, and begs to be picked up will be a truly joyful day.
4. Is not house trained. None of the dogs coming from this environment are house trained; however, their instinct is not to soil their nest. We have found the best way to train them to "hold it all night" is to take the dog to bed with us. They will not soil their nest (i.e. bed) and will get up and start moving around if they have to go. One adopter told us that she did not have a fenced yard so she put a pee pad at the end of a hallway with a jar of treats nearby. She would take the dog to the pad and when she did her business, she gave her a treat. It took three days for her new friend to be totally house trained. Treats, praise, and diligence, are the keys to successful house training.
5. Crating. It has been our experience that the ultimate cruelty to these dogs that have spent their entire lives in confinement is to crate them. Do NOT crate the dog. You may use a baby gate across a kitchen or laundry area, or a double x-pen if it is necessary to confine them. Do not put them in a small area such as a bathroom and close the door. Remember that these dogs have been denied the human companionship that they so desperately crave all of their lives. They may bark for hours until released from confinement because they are terrified of being separated from you.
6. Fear of water. Most of these dogs have never had a bath and their experience with water is limited to being sprayed with cold water when their cage is cleaned or as a discipline against excessive barking. We have found that bathing them in a sink full of warm water, using a cup to gently pour the water over them while talking to them in a quiet, soothing voice works the best. If you use a groomer, be sure to use one that is familiar with dogs coming from this environment.
7. Flight risk. All of these dogs are flight risks until they learn to come to you and trust you. Keep a harness and a leash on them at all times when they are not in a totally enclosed area. Everything is new to them, so anything can spook them into running and even jumping out of your arms.
8. Jumping off furniture. These dog have spent their entire lives on a flat wire surface so they have no concept of heights. The muscles used to navigate stairs and furniture have never been used. When they do jump, they may land on their face risking breaking teeth and jaws; or they could break a front leg or worse, both front legs. We recommend using a ramp or stairs made for dogs to reduce the risk and to put them on the floor when you leave the area.
9. Coprophagy. Stool eating is very common with dogs that live in a breeding environment. There are a couple of theories about why they do this. One is that they are trying to get all of the nutrient value out of un-digested food; the other is that they are trying to keep their nest clean. Either way, the best way to prevent it is to immediately pick up their waste. There are products available at pet stores that can be added to their food which makes it un-appetizing,
10. Cage crazy. Some dogs that have been confined to a small area for years exhibit what we call "cage crazy." Either they continouusly walk in a small, tight circle the size of their confinement cage, or they incessantly walk in a circle around an objeect. We have found the only way break this desperate pattern is love and patience. When the dog begins the pattern, interrupt it by speaking gently to the dog, pick it up, and hold it until it is reassured it is not confined. This is the hardest behavior to break as it comes from years of boredom and fear.
11. Don't know what to do with toys. These dogs have never seen a toy or had anything to play with and have no idea what they are for. However, it doesn't take long for their sense of fun to kick in so they are very easy to teach.
12. Resource aggression. Since they have never had a treat, a toy, or a bed, they may try to "guard" their new object from other dogs. Make sure if there are other dogs in the house that everyone gets their own food bowl and positions. You can also have a professional trainer give you tips on how to solve this problem.
1. Diarrhea. Nearly all of these dogs come with common parasites such as Giardia, Coccidia, and various worms. We give them worm medication to reduce the parasites but they may easily become re-infected. Bloody stool is very common and caused by a number of different things. With these dogs, after they have been medicated, stress is the biggest culprit. The very act of moving them into your home can cause an attack and should not be a concern unless it persists more than a day. A little, yogurt, Pepto Bismol, or any anti-diarrhea medication usually helps them. If the condition persists, please consult your veterinarian.
2. Refusal to eat, drink, or eliminate. Again, this is very common when dogs are moved to a new environment and should not be a concern unless it persists any more than a couple of days. Tempt them with something yummy but don't be concerned if they turn their nose up at it. As they relax and become more comfortable with you, everything will return to normal.
3. Dental. Dogs in breeding environments are not given dental care. Often dogs that are over six years old have lost many teeth or have been removed. Small breeds are very susceptible to periodontal disease. If their teeth are not cared for, their mouths become infected and their teeth rot and fall out. Some have broken jaws from biting at the wire of their cage with already fragile rotting, and diseased jaws. These are usually not fixable but they manage to eat just the same. Yearly dental cleaning is essential for those with teeth. Dogs without teeth do well with soft foods and love to "gum" bones for a treat.
4. Physical deformities or maimed limbs. Some of the dogs we get have lived their entire lives with physical deformities or maimed limbs. They do not have a clue they are different. Often, the breeders keep these dogs for breeding because they cannot be sold for profit as puppies. Some dogs are missing part of ear from cage aggression. Others may be missing part of an extremity from it being caught in the wire when they were young, and it was either chewed off or cut off. These dogs are survivors in spite of the lack of care and do just fine with three legs. Some are missing eyes from genetic defects or cage aggression. They usually get around fine as soon as they learn their new boundaries. They require no special care, just lots of love.
5. Cage walk. All of the dogs that have lived on wire cages exhibit what we call cage walk. Their feet are sensitive, their toenails can actually curl back into the pads of their feet, and their spines are humped. Over time, with proper grooming of their feet, using muscles to negotiate different heights and surfaces, this condition lessens and eventually is not noticeable.
We hope we have answered your questions. Please feel free to contact us if you have an issue we have not addressed or wish to share your experience.