What is a breeder released dog?
Simply put a breeder released dog is a dog who came to us from a breeder.
But…there is nothing simple about any dog that comes to rescue.
It is assumed that breeder released dogs come from horrifying kennels with hundreds upon hundreds of starving, unhealthy dogs bred every couple months and kept in 2x3 cages 24 hours a day. People imagine dogs who have never touched grass, dogs who have never been touched by a human, dogs that have never had a bath and are covered in feces and urine… Dogs whose teeth are literally falling out of their mouth… Body full of tumors, hernias and a uterus that is as thin as tissue paper. People picture these dogs as feral and hiding in a corner climbing the nearest wall to escape possible touch from a human. These dogs are assumed to be near death and desperately in need of being “rescued”.
Sometimes that is entirely accurate, but only sometimes. We do get dogs in that fit the above description but thankfully it is not ALL the dogs. The dogs who come in like that are difficult to rehabilitate and it can take months, even years to just be able to get them to take a treat from your hand. Many bite and even defecate on you if picked up. Helping them to learn to trust a human is a challenge. They can break your heart and make you feel blessed all in the same day.
Sometimes the breeder released dogs are social and love people’s attention. They adore children. They happily take treats and run about playing with toys. They jump right up on your lap to get attention and are content to be near you. They are leash trained, housetrained and follow you around. They are groomed. Their teeth are sparkling white. They are healthy and up to date on their shots. They have had regular vet cares. They are not in need of emergency rescue. They just need help finding a new home. These dogs are generally adopted very quickly.
The biggest percentage of the dogs fall somewhere in between these two descriptions. They have some of the issues but not others. Many things can be fixed quickly and we don’t worry over those things. Matting, long toe nails and many health issues such as mammary tumors are fixed quickly.
One of the most difficult things with breeder released dogs is the fear factor. We are always grateful to have breeder released dogs come in and not be fearful. We know we will be able to find a home for those dogs and they can start their new lives soon. With a fearful dog, it can mean months of working with that dog, sometimes longer depending on the depth of the fear. Many fearful dogs will not even take a treat from us. They won’t even eat in front of a human. Those dogs need patience, love and sometimes gentle pushes along the way to help them learn how to be pets. They were working dogs and sometimes that’s the only life they’ve ever known.
We have developed a training plan for those fearful dogs. We work on approach first with a goal of being able to walk up to the dog without it running away from you. We have mini goals along the way, one being able to walk by the dog without it running. We work on eye contact. We work on treat acceptance wanting the dog to be able to take a treat from our hands. When we can help a dog enjoy treats, we have a reward that we can use to help in other areas. Finally, we work on touching the dog and helping the touch learn that touch can feel good and make them feel content and happy. This process can take a very long time and the dogs either remain at the rescue or go to temporary homes.
One of the things that breaks our heart when it comes to these dogs is people calling them “puppy mill” dogs. We believe that the term “puppy mill” is a derogatory name that should not be pinned on the dogs but only on humans who put dogs in the most inhumane conditions. It is a human problem and the dogs should not have to participate in any part of it, including name calling. No one should look at a dog and think “puppy mill”. They should look at a dog and think “dog”.
I have been to many breeding facilities and have seen some of the best and some of the worst. When people judge the dogs by the place they came from I want to tell them the following story so the will know what a real breeding facility looks like.
My first time visiting a breeding facility still sticks in my mind and always will….
When I pulled into the circle drive there was bags of garbage piled high creating an alleyway to get to the house. Dogs were hiding in half opened bags of trash. I waited for the police to arrive as the dogs were being “taken”, not surrendered. The owner came out. She was very distraught. I tried to assure her that we would take good care of her dogs and make sure they got a good life. I was there for the dogs.
There were small, poorly built sheds with surrounding fences scattered about the property. Even outside the smell of the mounds of feces was strong. Dogs laid on hills of feces. Dog dishes were empty except for ice. I shivered as I saw dogs laying in the snow and realized these dogs were not moving because they were dead. Many were very small dogs living outside in the cold of Iowa’s January winters. We began putting the dogs in kennels and loading them in the van.
At one of the sheds, we were stunned to find little dogs whose feet were frozen in the ice. They were alive but could not move. The owner gave us pans of water to pour on their feet so we could release them from the ice and put them in the van. I kept telling myself to just get the dogs and leave. No conversation would change the owner’s mind about what she had been doing and how horrific things had become. It would not help the dogs to try to reason with the owner. What would help was to get those dogs to a safe place and begin teaching them how to start a new life.
When we were done loading the dogs, we drove about a mile away from the place. I pulled over to the side of the road. Only then did I let the tears come….tears of really knowing that these kind of places really do exist, tears for the pain and degradation that these dogs had suffered, anger at myself for not helping sooner and a knowledge that this is what I was meant to do.
When people talk about bad breeding places, this is what my mind travels to….that place, the things I saw that are forever in my mind. This place was the worst I’d ever seen and it was that day that I decided I would help dogs who had lived their lives working for people, producing puppies.
We have fabulous breeders that we work with. They take good care of the dogs and they love their dogs enough to try to find them homes when they retire. We also work with awful breeders who don’t seem to care at all. We are grateful to be led in the direction of those breeders because that is where the dogs are that need the most help.
It is, afterall, all about the dogs.