I could have written this exact post about my dog Callie (chihuahua). We adopted her 1.5 years ago. She too was born in a puppy mill where she stayed and had two litters at a very young age before they discarded her at a shelter because the puppies she was producing were too big. She lived in a cage her whole life before went to her foster mom. She was terrified of pretty much all people, especially men.
Her foster mom had about 8-10 dogs that she owned and was fostering, most of them large like great danes. The only way she was able to warm up was through the other dogs. She eventually got used to them, then started trusting the foster mom a little bit. One of the biggest ways she bonded was through sleeping next to her foster mom in bed. She had numerous people apply to adopt her in the 5-6 months she was at her foster mom’s. But she was so nervous around new people that either they decided they didn’t want her or the foster mom wouldn’t let her go to anyone that didn’t have a large dog since she seemed to bond through other dogs (just big dogs, though- she still snaps a other little dogs). When we applied, her foster mom drove her an hour to our house for an in-home visit. She threw her in my arms to see what would happen, and to her suprise Callie started licking my face. She had never shown any kind of affection for someone she had just met before. We went in the house and she got pretty skiddish, but showed interest in our Husky/Lab mix Opus. After a 30 minute play date, she warmed up to Opus a little, but not to me that much.
After talking with my husband, we decided that we saw enough potential to do a week long trial run, which was the foster mom’s recommendation. She was extremely scared at first. She would only sit on one chair in our house. She refused to eat, refused to drink, refused to go outside. And she wouldn’t let us touch her. It was hard. I tried to corner her and pick her up to take her oustide one day and she bit me pretty hard (which was completely my fault for grabbing like I did). Honestly if it weren’t for that first little lick on the day I met her, we might have taken her back. My husband wasn’t thrilled at having a ‘damaged’ dog that wasn’t friendly. But slowly, she warmed up. I started feeding her out of my hands on the chair because she was scared of her dishes. She began to trust me first, then eventually my husband.
She didn’t understand at all that she was supposed to go to the bathroom outside, so we had to get puppy pads and put them by our door. I would take her outside in the yard and she had no idea what she was supposed to do and she was terrified by the new place and new sounds so she would just sink into the grass and cower. Her foster did her best to potty train, but with so many dogs around, she had puppy pads on the floors and a doggie door so they could relieve themselves whenever they wanted. So that’s what she got used to, so she didn’t understand what we were trying to do. She also had no idea how to walk on a leash. She got all limp and weird. Finally we just took her outside with our other dog on a leash and as soon as she saw him walking, she got the hang of it right away.
Now you’d never guess she was the same dog that we met then. She is truly the center of our universe. With us she is bold, demanding, and so loving. She sleeps next to me under the covers every single night. She loves walks and the dog park (but she only gets to interact in the large dog area- she still tries to bite little dogs). We go on runs together because she has a lot of energy (which has to look ridiculous- who runs with a chihuahua?) She is by my side throughout the day and is constantly demanding attention.
She still has some little flaws that we have come to accept. She is still scared of new people, scared of bicycles, skateboards, etc. It takes about a week of someone staying with us until she will warm up to the point that she’ll let them touch her or even come near her. If we go somewhere, we have to board her at our vet where there are cages and a good fence to keep her safe. Our other dog goes to our brother-in-law’s house, but we’re scared that if she’s walking on a leash and somehow gets away from him, she’d never come back. She listens to us very well, but not to anyone else because fear completely takes over. She’s still only partially potty trained. We do keep puppy pads in the house at all times for her. If we get up in the morning and take her out right away, give her a potty break during the day, then walk twice at night perfectly on schedule she won’t use her mat. But if we stray from that schedule at all, she doesn’t have the patience to wait.
So my advice to you is, to consider this dog only if you’re willing to take the good with the bad. We love Callie so much that we can work with her little flaws. She’s so worth it. It’s been one of the most rewarding experiences for me to watch her start off as this shy, scared little thing and turn into the dog she is today. I would do it again in a heartbeat. But, we do have to put up some issues that will never go away. Since the dog you are considering is with a foster family, perhaps they will let you do a trial period like we did. Or at least an extended visit. That way you can get an idea if she is capable of warming up to you. I wish you the best of luck in whatever you decide!
And of course I must post pics of my little girl now: