Puppy Mill Dog Syndrome [Know These 15 Now]

Zack Keithy, our author, is a certified veterinarian technician (UC Blue Ash) for over 6 years (contact him here). The articles written here are based on his expertise and experience, combined with a review by our expert vet reviewers including Dr M. Tarantino. Learn more about us here.

Did you know that in the United States alone, it’s estimated that there are over 10,000 puppy mills? Just imagine the number of innocent souls that enter the world under the darkest of circumstances, setting the stage for a life filled with pain, fear, and unimaginable hardships.

If you’re planning on getting a dog now, you should equip yourself with the right knowledge before doing so, and one important aspect is knowing more about puppy mill dog syndromes, and telltale signs that they have been in one.

I’m going straight to the heart of the matter in this post.

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What is a Puppy Mill?

What is Puppy Mill

You recently brought home a new puppy, and you immediately noticed a problem. Your lovely young friend appears ill and struggles to make friends. 

You might be wondering if they came from a place called a “puppy mill.” But what exactly are these places?

Well, a puppy mill is like a big factory for dogs. But instead of making things, they make puppies, lots and lots of them, all for profit.

In these places, the mom and dad dogs are often kept in tiny cages, where they can’t run or play. They don’t get love or attention like they should. 

And when the puppies are born, they often don’t have the best care either. 

What is a Backyard Breeder?

Here’s another bad news for dogs and people who want to own one.

While puppy mills are like big factories for dogs, backyard breeders are individuals or small groups who breed dogs in their homes or backyards without the same level of care and responsibility as reputable breeders.

They often don’t provide proper healthcare, socialization, or attention to their dogs and puppies. 

And they also don’t follow good breeding practices, with their main focus being making money rather than the well-being of the dogs.

15 Signs That Your Puppy Came From a Puppy Mill

For the untrained, especially new dog owners, it’s quite hard to tell if a puppy came from a puppy mill or not.

Follow these clues that could be signs of neglect or abuse.

1. No paperwork is required

Puppy mills are all about making a quick buck. Their owners don’t want to spend time and effort on paperwork because that eats up their time and profits.

Paperwork contains items like the dog’s family tree and medical history. They tell the potential owner if the fur baby they are eyeing is healthy or not. 

It also lets them know about the furry pal’s parents and where they came from. Puppy mills often skip this paperwork part to sell puppies faster.

2. You are not allowed to visit the facility

If your breeder says you can’t visit their place, it’s a reason to be cautious. This could mean that your puppy is coming from a place that is not kept in good shape.

You might find that everything is dirty and there are too many dogs crowded together. 

3. Puppies are unclean or unhealthy

Puppies are unclean or unhealthy

Responsible breeders make sure their puppies have the best care, keeping their charges clean with full bellies.

They also make sure that the pups regularly get checked by a vet and exercised.

However, in puppy mills, the puppies do not get the love and attention they deserve. 

You will notice things like messy fur, tangles, or dirt, along with discharge from the pup’s eyes or nose, which can be signs of illness. 

The puppy might also seem unusually tired and lacking the usual playful puppy energy. These are signs that the pup could be sick or malnourished. 

4. Poor living conditions 

Another sign that your pup may have come from a puppy mill is the living conditions.

This is directly connected to when the breeder or puppy source won’t let you see where your future furry friend is being kept.

Poor living conditions often mean cramped cages, unsanitary surroundings, and overcrowding.

Dogs and puppies often don’t have enough space to move around or play.

5. Poor reputation of the breeder

Pay attention to the breeder’s reputation by checking online reviews or chats in pet groups. 

If you spot lots of negative reviews or hear about puppies getting sick after purchase, it’s a sign to be careful. 

Deceptive practices, like selling unhealthy puppies, are a big no-no.

And if the breeder doesn’t address concerns from past buyers, it’s another clear red flag.

6. Sold online

When you come across puppies being sold exclusively online, you should be concerned.

Many puppy mills use websites or online listings to market their puppies because it allows them to reach a wide audience quickly. 

Often, the websites do not give detailed information on where the breeder’s facility can be found. 

This lack of information can make it very difficult to check your potential pet’s background.

You won’t be able to see the breeder’s practices in action either.

7. Puppies do not get vaccinated

Not giving puppies their shots is a big problem. 

If the person selling you a puppy can’t show you papers that prove the puppy got its shots, that’s worrying. 

Vaccinations keep puppies healthy, and good breeders always give them.

8. Unable to meet the puppy’s parents

A big red flag you should not ignore is if the pet facility refuses to let you meet your pet’s parents. 

Responsible breeders usually encourage you to meet the puppy’s parents.

But in some cases, puppy mills keep the parent dogs in unsavory conditions, and you bet they don’t want you to see that!

Most of the time, the moms and dads of the poor pups are also not in good health. 

9. There are many litters to be found

When you notice that a breeder seems to be churning out litter after litter, you can be almost 100% sure they are running a puppy mill.

This means the breeder is not taking the time to focus on just one litter so that the newborn pups can receive the best care.

More litters mean more profit, sadly.

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10. Puppy mill owners won’t meet you at home

When the people selling you a puppy won’t let you come to their home, it’s a reason to be wary. 

Puppy mill owners often prefer not to reveal where they operate because they might be running their business in poor conditions.

If you knew where it was, you could see how the puppies are kept, and they don’t want that. 

Also, they don’t want you to know their location in case you have complaints about the puppy later.

11. Exotic or designer dog breeds

Some dogs, like the Samoyed or Pomeranian, can be rare because good breeders don’t always have them. 

If a breeder always has these dogs, be careful. 

These exotic or designer breeds can fetch a higher price because they’re unique and hard to come by, thus puppy mill owners produce more of them.

12. Multiple breeds are available in one mill

In my experience, reputable breeders usually specialize in just one or a few specific breeds. 

They get to devote themselves to giving their charges the best possible care and attention because of this. 

However, if you stumble upon a place offering a wide variety of breeds, it might indicate that their focus is on producing many puppies to meet demand rather than ensuring each dog’s well-being.

13. Puppies that are too young

Sometimes, a breeder might offer puppies that look very small and young, like they’re just born. 

Good breeders don’t do this! 

In general, puppies leave their mom after eight weeks.

They do this because during those early days, puppies learn important things from their moms and siblings, such as how to behave, play nicely, and bite inhibition.

14. Behavior issues

Does your new pup act very scared, very mean, or extremely shy?

That’s not how puppies from reputable breeders usually act, but rather, they are usually friendly and curious.  

Puppies from these pet factories act strangely because they didn’t get to spend time with other dogs and people when they were little and learn important socialization skills.

15. Puppies from the pet store

There’s one important reason why I always discourage people from getting their pets from a pet store.

Many of them source their puppies from puppy mills!

This happens because puppy mills produce puppies quickly and cheaply, and pet stores can buy them at low prices.

What Are Some Common Behaviors of Dogs Rescued From Puppy Mills?

What Are Some Common Behaviors of Dogs Rescued From Puppy Mills

Dogs rescued from puppy mills might show certain behaviors because of their past experiences. 

For instance, they might be very shy and scared around people because they didn’t get much love and attention before. 

Around strangers, they would hide, tremble, or even act aggressively.

These pups tend to find it difficult to develop trust, taking a long time to start feeling safe around new people. 

And since these potential pets do not have access to toys and playmates for most of their lives, they may not know how to properly interact with others.

What Are Some Precautions You Can Take Before Buying a Puppy?

To avoid supporting puppy mills, one of the most crucial steps is to find a responsible breeder. 

As I mentioned repeatedly, a good breeder cares about the puppy and not just the money.

They stick to ethical breeding practices, making sure to prioritize the health and happiness of their fur babies over profit. 

Insist on checking the breeder’s facility.

This way, you can check out where the fur pups are being raised and you’ll get an idea of how they are being treated.

Ask questions!

Inquire about the pups’ training and socialization. Check also for possible health concerns.

A reputable breeder will gladly answer your questions and provide you with health records for both the puppy and its parents.

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Where Can You Learn More About Puppy Mills?

Check the websites of organizations like the Humane Society of the United States

The websites of the ASPCA and the Puppy Mill Project (seems to be no longer active but still have lots of good info) both have a wealth of useful information regarding how puppy mills operate.

Your local animal shelters and rescue organizations can also be valuable sources of knowledge.

They may even sponsor awareness campaigns that you can join. 

For me, I learned so much from workshops and presentations hosted by local animal welfare organizations.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

How are animals treated at puppy mills?

Animals at puppy mills are typically subjected to inhumane conditions. They are frequently forced to live in filthy and overcrowded cages or enclosures. These pups are neglected and they lack proper interactions with other dogs. They often do not have access to sufficient veterinary care.

How often are dogs bred in puppy mills? 

Dogs in puppy mills are often subjected to relentless breeding cycles. They are bred repeatedly so that they can give birth to more litters.

Which states in the USA have the most puppy mills?

Missouri is the state that is considered to have the most number of puppy mills. Iowa, Kansas, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and upstate New York are also known to be home to these unsavory puppy factories.

Are puppy mills legal?

It depends on the location. Some states have strict regulations against the operation of puppy mills, others may have insufficient laws or experience slack in the implementation of the laws concerning it.

Where can I get a purebred dog?

In the US and other nations, there are a lot of trustworthy breeders. Get referrals from clubs, dog shows, and vet clinics. Social media groups often have forums where dog owners talk about where they got their pets. You can join those for reliable suggestions.

How do I help stop puppy mills?

Let other people know that puppy mills exist. Teach others how to recognize pups that are from these places. Encourage your friends and family not to patronize these pet factories. You can also support groups and laws that promote stricter animal welfare regulations. 

In Conclusion: Puppy Mill Dog Syndrome

It’s a reality we cannot ignore, and it’s our responsibility as dog lovers and compassionate human beings to stand up for these voiceless victims. 

By being aware of the horrors of puppy mills and choosing to support responsible breeding practices or adopting from shelters, we can be the change these dogs so desperately need. 

Let’s work together to ensure that no more innocent lives are caught in the cycle of suffering!

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Zack Keithy
Zack Keithy

Hey, I'm Zack, the Chief Editor here. I was formerly a Certified Veterinary Technician (CVT) for a good 6 years before moving on to greener pastures. Right now, I am still heavily involved in dog parenting duties, and it is my desire to share all our knowledge with fellow dog owners out there! Connect with me on LinkedIn, or read more about Canine Care Central!

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