What to know about “breeder release” dogs, and helping them adjust to the Good Life


Puppy mills. 

The words make most people cringe, especially those that volunteer with rescue. We have been getting quite a few now former breeding dogs released to us as of late, and I just wanted to share some tips and additional information on what they have seen. The moms are baby factories, and the babies have most likely not had much human interaction. Sometimes they surprise us, but we tend to prepare for the worst, and hope for the best.


These pups most likely have spend a lot of time in a kennel. Whether they enjoyed it or not, it’s what they know. Having a kennel for them is recommended, as it can be their safe haven. Setting up a space for them where they can observe you, but know you aren’t going to hurt them can be very beneficial. Using an xpen, or doggy play pen with a kennel attached or inside gives them the best of both worlds.

Potty Training

Potty training is a whole new world. Sometimes, grass is new. Going outside can be scary. We’ve had rescued pups who will only go to the bathroom on cement, since that’s all they’ve known. Patience, rewards, and soft voices go a long ways.


We never know what was used to feed these pups. Whether it was food on the ground, in a bowl, or in some other type of feeder. Water in a bowl, or in what I think of as a hamster water bottle. If they aren’t used to a bowl, they might not eat or drink out of one. You might have to put their food on a mat, shallow plate, or tray. Sometimes adding water to soften it a bit and make it more appetizing. Putting water on a  plate, or a more shallow dish if they aren’t drinking out of a bowl.

Collar and Leash

These both could be all brand new. But again, sometimes not! The best thing to have on hand would be a martingale collar. These are made to prevent a dog from backing out and “slipping” their collar resulting in an already terrified dog becoming a loose terrified dog. Sometimes having both a harness and a collar work well too.

If you are having difficulties with the leash, leave it attached to them when indoors. Let them drag it around. Pick it up periodically. This gets them used to both being attached, and also having a nice human on the other end. I’ve seen some incredible “alligator death rolls” in attempts to get out of a leash and collar situation. Any positive exposure you can give a dog, the better. Having a leash attached indoors is also really beneficial with any scared or new dog to a situation. It gives you a lead line to grab onto if you need to catch your dog for whatever reason, without having to actually grab the dog. (which can be scary for them).

Fenced Yard

Even if you have a fenced in yard, using a leash is recommended. You don’t know if they will try to jump the fence, or just get completely scared in their new environment. You can use an extra long leash, but I would not use a flexi or retractable, leash. The quick movement and jerks they can create can be scary and be cause for your dog to try taking off. You do not have as much control over your dog with a flexi leash. Once you feel comfortable, let them drag the leash instead of you holding it. This gives them more freedom, but also gives you a lead line if you need to grab it.

Dogs over People

These dogs, generally speaking, do not know how to “be” a dog. Having resident dogs to learn from is hugely beneficial. They generally are going to feel more comfortable around the other dogs, and just seeing how the other dogs interact with you will help to ease their distrust. They can follow their lead on going potty, going up and down stairs, going for a walk. Coming in from outside and vice versa.

Scary New World

Most likely, being in a house will be new to a breeder release dog. They are more than likely used to being in an area where the sights and sounds are fairly consistent. Nothing like the many different things they may encounter in their new world. Fast movements and loud noises can startle them. Their response to being scared can vary from dog to dog. Keep in mind having their safe-haven kennel area accessible.  Harsh or corrective discipline can cause them to shut down more, and reverse any progress they have made. They will do best with patience, a soft voice, and positive reinforcement.

Adoption Requirements

More often than not, we recommend these dogs be adopted to a home that has a fence, another dog in the home, or both. That is because they are struggling with the leash, going potty on a leash, their confidence, and/or learning to trust humans. You might be an amazing pet owner, and someone we would adopt another dog to in a heartbeat. But, we have to keep our foster dogs in mind first and foremost, and want to set them up for success.


Here is a link to a BestFriends.org article with more details and information regarding this subject.

Please reach out to our rescue if you have questions! If you are interested in fostering with us, it is a truly rewarding experience. Click here to apply to foster cats, dogs, or to volunteer with Camp Companion!

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