How do puppy mill puppies act? Here’s What to Expect

I think my local pet store might be selling dogs from puppy mills. How can I find out?

Almost all pet store puppies come from puppy mills. Ask the pet store employee to show you the paperwork identifying the puppys breeder and origins. If he or she refuses to do so or is reluctant to show you the paperwork, consider that a red flag. If you do inspect the paperwork, you may notice that the puppy has been shipped from out of state, often by a “broker” service. These are just a few indications that the stores dog may have come from a puppy mill. The bottom line is that responsible breeders do not sell their puppies to pet stores; they want to meet their puppy buyers in person and do not sell their puppies to the first person who shows up with cash in hand.

) How to house-train your dog

After puppy mill dogs are adopted into human households, almost all these dogs have urination and bowel movement “accidents” in the home. But we must realize that bodily eliminations inside the house are not accidents at all to the puppy mill dog; in fact, to these dogs, this is perfectly normal behavior.

Dogs in puppy mills are neither taught nor expect­ed to eliminate in any special area. They go wher­ever they want to, whenever they want to. The concept of “holding it” is completely unknown to them. To make matters worse, most of these dogs are very fearful, so training them to do anything — even with strictly positive techniques — can make them even more fearful.

Your puppy mill dog is not the “normal” dog that all the dog-training books have been written for. All of the usual instructions — what to do if you catch them in the act, how to use crate confine­ment as a tool, even the strategy of praising the dog profusely when he does his business outside — may be different when it comes to house-training a puppy mill dog.

For puppy mill dogs, the basic rule is this: Reward the good, distract from the bad. “Distract” means directing the dog’s mind away from the undesirable behavior that he’s involved in. Punishment is never a good idea when house-training a dog, but it can be even more harmful for the fragile and sensitive emotional make-up of rescued puppy mill dogs, impeding and even reversing any progress they are gaining in trusting people.


  • Be patient. House-training may take a week, it may take a month, it may take a year. Try not to get discouraged. As our studies clearly show, some dogs will achieve full mastery of eliminating in the right place.
  • Be very careful when using even the gentlest-sounding house-training methods with puppy mill dogs. Because of the fear these dogs can have, even the most benign things, such as rewarding the dog for urinating in the right place, can scare them. Your tone of voice when praising the dog may be scary, she may fear your reach­ing toward her to hand her a treat, or she may feel like you’re throwing something at her if you toss her a treat. The usual recommendation for what to do when you catch your dog eliminat­ing indoors can also create problems in fearful puppy mill dogs. The simple act of interrupting this behavior, no matter how carefully it’s done, may frighten the dog. And the standard advice to “quickly take the dog to the appropriate area to eliminate” is difficult to do without rushing toward the dog, which, again, can be frightening.
  • Keep in mind that many puppy mill dogs are very frightened of being outdoors, which is, of course, a major hindrance to training a dog to do her business outside. For these dogs, use piddle pads or newspaper to train the dog to eliminate indoors initially. As the dog’s fear of the outdoors lessens, the training can be transferred to a spot outside. When training the dog to go outside, take the thing you used inside (such as piddle pads or newspaper) and place it in the outdoors spot to help the dog learn the new “right” place to go. As an aside, not everyone wants or needs to train their dogs to do their business outside. For them, having the dog eliminate indoors on piddle pads or paper is just fine.
  • Don’t:

  • Expect perfection — ever. It may happen, but do not allow it to be your expectation.
  • Scold or discipline your puppy mill dog for any “accident” he has, even if you catch him in the act. Instead, gentle interruption is the cor­rect response.
  • Where can I find a list of known puppy mills?

    For many reasons, the HSUS does not publish a list of known puppy mills. There are literally thousands of puppy mills in existence all over the country and most of them are not required to register with any one agency. There are so many unregulated puppy mills that to publish a list of the known or “problem” mills may give the public a false impression that any establishment that is not on the list is “safe.” Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, some problematic puppy mills have been known to change their names and locations frequently to evade their reputations. We do publish an annual report on problem puppy mills, but it represents only a sampling of examples.

    Puppy Mills: What They Are & How to Stop Them