Trust is an issue with mill rescues, they have no reason to trust anyone. After years of neglect and abuse, trust must be earned little by little. Be patient.
NEVER force or allow friends to force attention on a mill survivor. Do not to look your dog directly in the eyes. This is a sign of dominance and can often scare a mill survivor. Friends and family should do the same. It is not uncommon for mill dogs simply never to accept outsiders. Let your dog set the pace.
Protect without enabling. This is a tough one. We all want to protect and coddle a mill dog, but this is usually not the best for the dog. Remember, these dogs have NEVER heard a TV, a door bell, many have never heard traffic or a car horn. These things can be frightening to a mill baby. It is our nature to try to protect our mill dogs from frightening things, but they MUST become accustomed to the sounds and activities of a normal household. The fear response can be hiding, cowering or even flight. This is why we suggest letting them drag a leash even when in the home. Your reaction to their fear can either escalate it or calm it. Every dog knows how to read nervousness. If you become upset at these sounds the dog will believe it is something to fear. If you remain relaxed, your mill survivor will also calm down. They will soon figure out on their own that these things are not harmful. By following your lead, the dog is also learning to trust you.
Massage! Although not every dog appreciates a good massage, the benefits are amazing. They can relieve stress for you and the dog while gaining the dogs trust in the process. Often mill dogs are handled roughly, grabbed by the scruff, ears, legs. . . whatever is available. Getting them to trust human hands can be a task. Before you begin, make sure your dog is in a place that is comfortable for them, not necessarily you. It will be much easier for the dog if you are in their comfort space instead of the other way around. Start by gently and slowly running your hand from the back of the neck all the way down to the lower spine. You can increase the pressure as you continue to stroke. This will do several things. It is teaching your survivor that they can be touched, especially in areas where they might have been grabbed, without pain. Secondly it stimulates the part of the spinal cord that controls the rest and relaxation responses of the body. Most importantly, it builds trust.
NEVER yell at or rush toward your mill survivor. This will only worsen the anxiety and possibly cause fear aggression. Remember, these dogs do not know anything about life outside of a cage. Be gentle in your guidance and they will soon learn what is expected of them.
Trust must be earned and cannot be forced especially with a puppy mill survivor. The key to a rewarding experience is patience. Enjoy each day as your survivor discovers a world outside of a cage and learns to love and trust, and be satisfied in knowing that you are the one to show them this new life.
For more information on relaxation massage please see http://www.moderndogmagazine.com/articles/how-massage-your-dog/2028