Tag Archive: puppy mill dogs SPEAK

Don’t Be Deceived

Would you know a puppy mill when you see one? Sadly, most people would not. Does that seem surprising to you? After all, we’ve all seen the photos of rows and rows of cages with scruffy-looking, sad-faced, and anxious dogs. That’s what a puppy mill looks like, right? While this may be true, puppy mill owners know that people are looking for these rows of cages. The plethora of farmers in several of the counties where I live in Pennsylvania, mostly Amish and Mennonite (but a small few are not), are clever people. They are not “simple” when it comes to fooling the public about how the dogs are bred.

This past weekend, my foster Poodles and I went to a pet festival at a local pet store and I had the opportunity to meet a lot of people with their dogs. Out of curiosity, I always ask them where they got their dogs. It just amazed me how many people told me that they got their puppies at farms.

“But it wasn’t a puppy mill,” they all said. They went on to describe the nice lady who said she only breeds her dog once a year. They also said they met the puppy’s parents who were running freely on the farm. It was always the same, suspicious story.

I must have had teeth marks on my tongue from biting it so much that day. All of these puppy purchasers had been duped by very smart puppy mill operators. These breeders are fully aware of the public perception and they do a savvy job of covering up their large-scale breeding operations. They know that some people will want to see the puppy’s parents; they know that some people will be looking for the rows and rows of cages or rabbit hutches that house the breeding dogs; and they know that the bucolic image of a farm-raised puppy appeals to the uninformed puppy purchaser. They also know that many people are so intent on getting a certain breed of dog and will overlook the possibility that it’s a puppy mill.

The farmers/puppy mill owners have a network of friends and relatives who are in the business together. The breeding dogs are definitely in rows and rows of cages on someone’s property but maybe not where the puppies are being sold. Someone else is doing the front-end selling, the farm of a relative or friend where the breeding dogs cannot be seen or heard. When the puppies are ready to be sold, they go to the bucolic farm setting. And the so-called puppies “parents” more than likely are not the real parents. As I described in my book, Puppy Mill Dogs SPEAK!, a set of socialized, attractive parents are trotted out to wow the buyers. In reality, the pup’s real parents are stuck in a cage on another farm.

The duping of puppy buyers goes beyond the farm – to the Internet. There are many web sites selling Lancaster County-bred puppies, any breed or mix that you can imagine. Don’t be fooled that these breeders are not Amish, thinking that the Amish do not use technology. Wrong! The Amish do not use technology in their homes, however, they do have electricity, cell phones, laptops and Internet connections. Yes, indeed. As long as it is not in the house, they are allowed to have them.

Do you really, really want to help the dogs and stop puppy mills? Then please spread this information around.


Having lived with a dog for 10 years who was very reactive when he saw another dog and quite aggressive if another dog came up to him, I understand the challenges faced by people who have dogs with this issue. Many people have asked me why some dogs simply don’t like other dogs and react so strongly. 

There is no easy answer because it could be a learned behavior (something that has happened over time). But we do know that four things can possibly make a dog react to other dogs. 

  1. Genetics – Heredity is a powerful thing for humans as well as animals. Just as we can inherit traits and characteristics from our progenitors, so can dogs. Aggression can be inherited from the lineage of either parent. This is one reason why I am so passionate about choosing a good breeder if you are considering getting a puppy. The best breeders will not breed a dog with known aggressive traits. Puppy mill breeders and many backyard breeders, on the other hand, do not care or may not even pay attention or be aware that genetics plays a role in behavior traits.
  2. Lack of socialization – If a puppy is not consistently exposed to other dogs at a young age continuing throughout adolescence, the dog may not develop good social skills with other dogs. Because he hasn’t learned dog-to-dog communications, the pup might fail to recognize signals from other dogs resulting in a possible fear-based reaction. If dogs are not socialized, they may be fearful or misinterpret another dog’s intentions.
  3. Attacked by another dog – A perfectly happy, non-reactive dog can change to a reactive, aggressive dog with just one scary incident with another dog. An attack that makes the dog feel vulnerable or resulting in a painful injury can permanently scar a dog and alter behavior. Consider yourself in a similar situation. If you get attacked by a certain breed of dog, you will more than likely fear that breed whenever you see it.
  4. Shock collars/prong collars/choke chains – Dogs learn by association. When aversive (punishment) training techniques are used, detrimental effects are sure to occur. The use of shock collars, even for electric fences, may result in inadvertent aggression. Here’s why. The dog sees another dog across the street and runs to see it. The shock collar from the electric fence delivers a zap. The dog learns to associate getting the shock with seeing another dog. The same scenario applies for people who use prong collars or choke chains, especially incorrectly. The dog sees another dog and gets yanked around the neck. The feeling is uncomfortable and the dog will associate that feeling with seeing another dog. People love to argue that prong collars and choke chains are appropriate, but they fail to understand the associative issues that may cause or amplify aggression.

It really does not matter how a dog came to be reactive to another dog. What matters is how to work with the issue. Use of counter-conditioning techniques with a qualified trainer or behaviorist is the only way to help the dog overcome the problem and learn how to be around other dogs. My dog was able to live with other dogs because I diligently worked with him. It took time and patience. There are no quick, easy fixes like some TV show trainers lead you to believe. And if you are getting a puppy, remember to be aware of these things that can create a reactive dog.

Unsocialized Dogs

I recently met a very handsome Standard Poodle who was rescued from a bad situation. He had been kept in a crate for most of his life and had not been adequately socialized with people. [Socialization is the term used for exposing pets to a large variety of other animals, people and situations at a young age so that they learn not to be fearful.]  This stunning guy ran from me when I met him and was obviously afraid of people. His behavior was just like puppy mill survivors who also did not have the benefit of being socialized. They can be like wild animals. I realized that in order for this Poodle to learn to trust me, I would have to treat him like a puppy mill dog. 

If you are a regular reader of my blog, you know that I wrote Puppy Mill Dogs SPEAK, the foremost book on how to rehabilitate puppy mill survivors. Many of the ideas I offer in the book to help mill dogs can be applied to under-socialized dogs as well. It doesn’t matter how the dogs did not receive socialization; lack of socialization manifests in the same behaviors. 

My body language was important when trying to gain the trust of the Poodle. I did not approach him head-on, nor did I chase him. With this kind of dog, all egos must be put aside. So many people believe that they have “a gift” with animals. Mill dogs and under-socialized dogs will humble you very quickly! No matter how much of a gift you may have, these dogs will still be afraid of you. However, you can learn how to gain their trust. 

I suggest that anyone who has a fearful dog read my book.  Several chapters apply to fearful dogs and talk in depth about how to deal with the following issues:

  • Fear of being touched
  • Fear of noises
  • Greeting new people
  • Living with dogs who may be a flight risk

I also cover how to be a dog’s leader using the principle that dogs require us to have good parenting skills, meaning no force-based or physical punishment methods, controlling the dog’s resources, and use of consistent rules. The book is a good read for any dog owner, really. An entire chapter is dedicated to housetraining, and lots of insights into dog behavior are provided.

The book can be ordered at https://www.createspace.com/3445335

Canine Senility

Just as medical science is extending the human lifespan, veterinary science is doing the same for our pets.  But with longer lives come problems that were uncommon years ago when we and our pets didn’t live as long. Dementia, or senility, is becoming more prevalent. Human dementia seems easier it diagnose – forgetfulness, loss of short-term memory, and difficulty recognizing people.  Dogs and cats don’t exhibit these exact symptoms. They show other signs. 

One of the most common signs of canine senility, also known as Canine Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome (CCD), is loss of housetraining. Dogs who have been reliably housetrained and start to “lose their manners” may have CCD. This may be considered forgetfulness, as they “forget” to give the signal that they need to go outside. (Cats who stop using the litter box may also be showing signs of dementia.) First, rule out that a health problem such as a urinary tract infection is not the cause of the housetraining accidents before deciding it could be CCD. 

Other symptoms are usually present. Barking for no reason, sleeplessness during the night, staring at nothing, pacing, and either a withdrawal from the family or overly-clinginess are all possible symptoms. Some dogs may even have a change in personality where they become aggressive, have separation anxiety or other issues when before they did not. Just like housetraining problems, first rule out any health issues that may be the underlying cause of any of these symptoms.  Problems such as thyroid disease, brain tumors or cancer could also produce these symptoms. 

Depending on the severity of these issues, it could be quite difficult to live with a dog who has CCD. Continued housetraining accidents, non-stop barking and getting up in the middle of the night may tax even the most loving and patient dog-parent. There is a medication to help with these symptoms but it is quite expensive. Anipryl, used to treat humans with Parkinson’s disease, has shown effectiveness in improving symptoms of CCD. 

Little if any research has been done to see if mental activity slows dementia in pets as it can in humans. Dogs can’t do crossword puzzles but, as you know, I always advocate for lifelong training with dogs. It keeps them from being bored, tires them out and ensures good manners. It can’t hurt to try! Start now if your dog is still young. An active dog is a happy dog, and may keep your dog from forgetting who you are when he gets older.

A LIfe Cut Too Short

I never met him but his story is all too familiar to me. Ralphie, a sweet Basset Hound, was rescued from years in a cage as a breeding stud in a puppy mill. He finally found his freedom and was adopted by Dana Mania, a dedicated volunteer with Tri-State Basset Hound Rescue. After living with and being loved by Dana, her husband and many other canine friends for just two short years, Ralphie passed away last week. It isn’t fair, to suffer for so many years then to finally find freedom and love, only to die once he knew what it was to be loved. It’s a bitter pill for Dana to swallow and so difficult to accept. Our hearts go out to her, for all she did for Ralphie to help him to adjust and for loving him despite his typical puppy mill dog quirks. 

She’s not the alone. Steve Jackson and his wife adopted Camille from Delaware Valley Golden Retriever Rescue in 2007 and renamed her Callie. Callie had been a very psychologically damaged dog from her years of captivity in what must have been the worst of the worst puppy mill. But through the love and patience of first her foster mom, Dawn, then finding her forever home with the Jacksons, Callie flourished and was enjoying her freedom. Cancer struck and she was gone only a year after being adopted. Like Ralphie, Callie only knew freedom and love for a very short time. 

Callie Jackson

I could give many more heartbreakingly similar examples like Ralphie and Callie. Why do these dogs so often die soon after being released from their lives as prisoners in puppy mills when they now have so much to live for?  It’s likely due to several factors:

–          Stress

–          Poor genetics (It’s a known fact that puppy mill operators don’t care about the health history of their breeding stock)

–          Inadequate nutrition

–          Lack of veterinary care (poor dental hygiene may lead to many health problems)

–          No exercise

All of these issues are bound to take a toll on the dogs’ bodies. Additionally, the adjustment to living in a brand new world – a house with people, strange noises, etc. – is also stressful like a prisoner trying to adjust to life on the outside after living in a small world for so long. Change, even if we perceive it as better, can still cause stress. 

Stories like these renew my anger at the fact that puppy mills are still so prevalent, and that so many people remain unaware of where their puppies are coming from. I met a man the other day who proudly told me that his daughter bought a rare breed of dog, a Husky mixed with a Chihuahua (?!??!) and she paid $1500 for this “special breed”.  Without hesitation, I shook my head and told him that it was a shame that she spent that kind of money for a mutt that she could have found in a shelter for $100 adoption fee. 

I’ve said it before and I’ll keep on saying it, people do more research on what kind of TV to buy than the dog who will be sharing their lives. It’s time to educate people – in honor of the Ralphies and Callies and other dogs who are locked in cages making puppies for people who don’t know where they come from.

Be the Change – Foster a Pet

Do you love animals and wish to do something to help the homeless pets? What are you waiting for?! There are soooo many pets just waiting for new homes. If you cannot adopt, please consider being a foster home. Most shelters and rescue groups are begging for people to foster pets, especially now when kitten season is starting (that’s when stray cats give birth to their litters of kittens). The more people who foster animals, the fewer will need to be euthanized because of space constraints. 

Some people say that they couldn’t bear to give up their fosters once they have them in their homes, so they won’t even consider fostering. To that I say, “Yes you can – if you really care about the animals.” I just finished a six-month stint as a foster mom to two adorable Basset Hounds. I fell in love with them very quickly. Because they are older (nine and ten) and had to be adopted as a pair, I figured I would have them forever. But lo and behold, an amazing man came along who loves older dogs as much I do. He adopted them on Saturday. My last image of the dogs was this: Zoe had her front paws on the dashboard, gleefully looking out the window towards her new life; Brooks was kissing his dad’s ear as he was trying to drive. 

Yes, I cried. Actually, I sobbed with sounds of sorrow coming from deep in my soul. It hurt for a while. Until I received an email that night from the adopter. He already loved the dogs, and they were doing so well. I knew that this man could give them more than what I was able – a fenced in yard, another dog friend, and hamburger for their meals!  I had done my job, giving the dogs a place to live until the right home came along, and loving them the whole time. Now it’s time to help another dog or two. 

Why do I think you really can be a foster home?

–          You’re stronger than you think. Of course it hurts, but the sadness is short-lived.

–          The feeling of satisfaction that you made a difference for an animal is sweet. Focusing on that helps to overcome the sadness.

–          If you truly love animals, you will walk the talk and help them. Think of their feelings instead of yours.

As I was driving to meet Brooks and Zoe’s new dad, I felt the same emotion as when I had driven a couple of my dogs to the vet to be euthanized. It was going to be a final goodbye. As I felt this sorrow, it occurred to me that a man was driving towards me with just the opposite feeling. He was exhilarated and excited to meet his new friends and begin their journey together. Instead of feeling bad for myself, I thought of how I was facilitating this opportunity for the man and the dogs. By shifting the focus away from me, I was able to go through with giving the dogs up and feel proud of myself.

Life is often better if we think of how others will feel instead of only ourselves. With fostering animals, they will feel good and so will you.  Here’s the last and only photo I have of me with Brooks and Zoe. I’ll love you always!

Brooks and Zoe Cropped and Compressed

Finding an Agent

You may be wondering where I’ve been for the past couple of months. I’ve been writing, but obviously not here!  If you remember I completed writing my second book, The Trumpeter in the Woods, and it was a finalist in the Hay House Nonfiction Writing Contest. Writing the book was hard work, without a doubt. But now is the really hard work – getting the book published. 

Thanks to the digital age, there are several paths an author can take to publish their books. Many authors are now skipping getting their books published on paper and instead are creating ebooks.  The Kindle, Nook and iPad have all made this possible. Books can be published within days of completion versus one to two years for a print book. 

Another path is self-publishing, which I chose for my first book, Puppy Mill Dogs SPEAK. I had high hopes for that book – to be widely distributed and to teach many, many people about puppy mills. Publishers are looking to make a lot of money from their books, understandably so. Unfortunately, agents and publishers did not see that potential in my book and described it as a niche book. As a result, I made the decision to publish the book myself through an on-demand printer. It worked out quite well and sales have been steady. With self-publishing, the royalties I receive on each sale are higher with a traditional publisher. But I am 100% on my own with marketing and selling the book. 

The traditional publishing path is to find an agent who then tries to “sell” your book to a publisher. Large publishers will not accept submissions directly from authors, only from agents. The agent assists the author with editing the book and with negotiating the publishing contract. An agent gets a portion of the book royalties.

Right now, I have completed writing the query letter that is sent to the agents in hope of getting their attention. It’s not as easy it sounds. The letter is only one page in length but it has to pack a powerful punch. The first line needs to grab the reader’s attention and want to read more about the book and about the person writing it. Since December, I have written and rewritten my query letter five times. And I may not be finished. 

The Trumpeter in the Woods is a book that needs to be published to show the world how the animals are our spiritual partners. They have chosen me to be their voice and I will not give up!

Walking With Dogs Who Pull

As a trainer, one of the most-requested problems to solve is how to get a dog to walk nicely on a leash. Some dogs just naturally want to stay close to the person who is walking them while others are completely oblivious to the fact that there is a person on the other end of the leash. That’s the case with my two foster hounds, Brooks and Zoë. They not only pull hard but they also don’t walk in a straight line. They zigzag to wherever their noses lead them. I needed to find some equipment to help me.

A flat collar or even a Martingale just will not cut it. The hounds will sputter and choke themselves in desperation to get to the next scent or to chase the squirrel that just crossed their paths. And of course, it goes without saying that I would never, EVER use a choke chain or prong collar. If you want to know why, please read my article on the reasons why:  http://www.chrisshaughness.com/why-not-prong-collars-and-choke-chains/

I have successfully used both the Easy Walk harness and the Gentle Leader on other dogs but the Easy Walk does not fit the Bassets’ physique. It slips right off of them. The nose-loop on the Gentle Leader may be dangerous for as hard as the Bassets pull. I’m afraid they may hurt their necks when they do one of their 90 degree zigzag routines.

I asked some of the other Basset owners for recommendations. From one woman, I learned of something new called The Canine Connector. It’s the invention of a woman who lives near Reading, PA and it has helped considerably. The Canine Connector is a thick, long rope that loops around the dog’s chest and under the front legs, then ties on the dog’s back. It takes the pressure from around the dog’s neck and uses the concept that when a dog pulls, something that goes around their chest stops the pulling.

I have found that The Canine Connector has made it easier for me to walk both dogs together and they are much easier to handle. But it’s not a panacea. When they see another animal, they still can pull very hard even with this apparatus. That’s where training enters the picture. I am working on counter conditioning them to look at me when they see another animal. Yes, it’s a challenge! Hounds think with their noses! But it’s possible.

I do recommend The Canine Connector but be warned, it takes a few minutes to put it on the dog and to take it off. If you are accustomed to just snapping a leash on your dog’s collar, you will need to add a little more time to your schedule. If your dog likes to dance around in anticipation of their walk, you will need lots of patience to put The Canine Connector on your dog. Taking it off also takes a little more time because you need to unknot the ends of the rope. With as hard as my hounds pull, the knot is really, really tight!

Check out The Canine Connector’s Facebook page and give it a try!

Good News!

I have incredible news to share with you. In my last post, I told you that I finished writing my second book. The next day, I submitted it to the Hay House Non-Fiction Writing Contest. Soon after, I received an email telling me that my book, Trumpeter in the Woods, was one of 30 finalists in the contest! http://www.balboapress.com/publishingNFcontest/winners.aspx

This is such an honor and a dream come true. I have wanted to be published by Hay House, and the grand prize of this contest is a Hay House publishing contract. The winner will be announced on November 5. The anticipation is killing me!

I took a walk in the woods on Saturday and sat contemplating my goal to be a full time writer and speaker for the animals. As I watched the leaves fall from the trees, I realized that  my life right now is like one of those leaves still hanging onto the tree. Do I make the conscious decision to  fall from the tree when I choose, to chart my own course, falling gracefully to the ground? Or do I hold on for dear life in fear of what will happen if I let go? As Hurricane Sandy approaches, most remaining  leaves will be violently blown far away from the trees they once called home. I don’t want that to be me.

As I walked, a leaf floated in front of me and I grabbed it before it touched the ground. I took it home as a reminder that I want to choose my own path rather than let someone else blow me off course. How about you?

Stay tuned!

Join Me at Author Night

I am honored to be a part of this esteemed group of authors from the West Chester, PA area who are coming together to support a wonderful independent bookstore. They hosted my very first book reading and signing two years ago, so I hold them dearly in my heart. If you are in the area, please stop by.



 OCTOBER 26, 2012    6 to 9 PM



EVENT #1 of 2: Come celebrate, support, and say THANKS to this over 30-years old local independent bookstore that may be closing. Shop and socialize with area authors including Cordelia France Biddle, Jen Bryant, Nero Blanc, Jim Breslin, Jessica Dimuzio, Merry Jones, Susan Beth Lehman, Lisa Loeb, Bruce Mowday, Kathye Fetsko Petrie, Jan Mulligan, Marc Schuster, Kelly Simmons, Gloria Slater, Chris Shaughness, Jerry Spinelli, Eileen Spinelli, Joelle Sterling, Laura Tamakosh, Walt Trizna and Steve Zettler

975 Paoli Pike, West Goshen Center, West Chester, PA 19380  Tel. 610.696.1661


November 23, 2012    6 to 9 PM



EVENT #2 of 2: Come celebrate, support, and say THANKS to this over 30-years old local independent bookstore that may be closing. Shop and socialize with area authors including Carmen Ferreiro-Esteban, Stephen Fried, Beth Kephart, Elizabeth Letts, Jonathan McGoran, Karen E. Quinones Miller, Jan Mulligan, Kathye Fetsko Petrie, Chris Shaughness, Lisa Scottoline, Francesca Serritella, Kelly Simmons and K.M. Walton

975 Paoli Pike, West Goshen Center, West Chester, PA 19380  Tel. 610.696.1661


More information at