When dogs coming to rescue from this environment arrive, they are terrified of almost everything. They do not trust humans because they haven’t had a lot of human contact and often times the contact they had with humans while living at the mill was far from pleasant for them. They press themselves against the back of the crate when a human approaches and will not leave the crate when the door is left wide open for them. It can take weeks living with an extremely patient foster parent for them gain enough confidence to venture just outside their crate on their own. A leash has to be left on them at all times as a means of catching them as needed.
When out in the yard, they are feeling grass often for the very first time and don’t know quite what to make of that.. When it’s time to go back inside, they frequently have to be captured to bring back in. Often the door has to just be propped open while the foster parent hides out of sight for them to come back in the house.
They spook very easily at every new noise, things like the telephone ringing, the buzzer on a dryer or microwave going off, the vacuum cleaner, let alone noises they hear outside like a motorcycle, traffic, sirens, etc. When spooked they tend to bolt in the opposite direction to get away from the new and unknown and do not stop until they encounter a fence or get snagged on something.
Every small step they make in their foster homes is greatly celebrated and they can be in rescue for months before they reach the point where they are ready to go up on the website as Available for Adoption.
While in foster care they have so many new experiences and learn so many things. They start working on housetraining. Often see a vet for the very first time. They discover that not all people are bad or going to be mean to them and they start the process of building trust in humans. They are also introduced to things like treats, toys and dog beds. They have to learn that they do have a name and are not just a number. They also start learning some basic commands and what different words mean.
They trust the other dogs living in the foster home long before they trust any humans living there and they follow examples set by the other dogs living in their foster home.
Fostering a mill dog can be frustrating at times, but I can not find the words to express how wonderful it makes you feel inside to watch all the changes in them occur. The first time they approach you seeking attention… the first time they take a treat from your hand… they first time they come when you call or race back into the house with the rest of the pack. A foster parent has to have the patience of a Saint and has to give the dog whatever time frame and space is necessary for them to build confidence and trust.
The time that a mill dog is in the foster home is like watching a butterfly emerge from a cocoon. You really see them blossom. The work involved with them coming full circle does not stop with the foster home. It has to continue in the adoptive home. The adoptive family has to be patient with the dog; realize that the dog may still be timid and shy of new situations he/she is introduced to; will spook easily at new or loud noises; work on housetraining continued, etc. All the effort that the foster home starts and then Adoptive Family continues is so rewarding. Mill dogs tend to make very loyal and loving pets. They truly appreciate a much different and better type of life than they lived at the Mill and exhibit a high desire to please their owners.
When placing a Mill dog in an Adoptive home we often require a few things.
--A securely fenced yard. This means that the fence isn’t so high off the ground in any spot that a spooked dog can squeeze underneath it or through a fence post and building, etc. We require this because Mill dogs do spook easily and this can take months or years to totally overcome. If the dog would escape from your yard, it will not stop running until something snags them. They are scared and won’t stop and return if you call out to them. They frequently will not bark or respond in any way if you are searching for them and calling out to them.
--Another dog already living in an adoptive home. As stated above a mill dog will tend to bond with another dog living in it’s home before it will bond with the humans living there. It also looks to the other dog(s) to set examples for it to follow.
--We also highly recommend taking some type of obedience class with the dog.