SO YOU WANT TO ADD TO THE FAMILY…
With all those cute puppy photos flooding your news feed, it might be tempting to add to your family with puppy number 2.There are many positive reasons to expand your fur family however it may also create additional stress and, in some circumstances, may not be the best option. Does your older dog actually enjoy the company of a puppy? He/she may regress in behaviour, show signs of aggression and even depression if he is not ready or not a suitable candidate for the big brother/big sister role. In this blog we will discuss some precautions around getting a second dog and assist with the transition when bringing a new puppy into your home. Prior to committing to a new puppy, consider the following;
Does your older dog like puppies in general?
If your older dog has been properly socialised to puppies in the past and enjoys encounters with them, the chances are greater that you will be successful in transitioning a new puppy into your home and it will be accepted (if the situation is properly managed). If your older dog doesn’t like puppies it is much harder to accept one living in your home.
Does your older dog have any behavioural issues?
If your dog has any behavioural issues then it is likely that these will be exasperated by adding another puppy. It is better to resolve any behavioural concerns prior to getting a new addition. Contact a reputable dog trainer for advice and guidance around problem behaviours.
Does your older dog exhibit guarding behaviour?
If your older dog guards items – or even you – get help from a dog behaviour expert, prior to getting a puppy.
STEP BY STEP GUIDE
Preparation is key
Prepare your house, prior to the puppy’s arrival. Pick up all chews, toys, and food bowls as these are items that your older dog may guard. Have a toy-free zone, at least initially, so both dogs can learn to get along, without the distraction or possessiveness created by play/chew items lying around.
Never rush introductions
It is best to make the initial introductions at a neutral location. Alternatively, consider meeting in an open space such as the front or back yard. Make sure that each dog has a handler and both the puppy and the older dog are on a leash. Allow the two dogs to share the same space without any demand for interaction. Don’t force them together. Supervise carefully and watch for clues regarding each dog’s emotional state by carefully analysing body language and energy levels. Aim for a calm energy in both the dog and the puppy. After the puppy and the adult dog become accustomed to each other in a neutral space, slowly integrate them together in your home.
‘Meet and Greet’
They are ready for the next step, once the puppy and the older dog display a happy interest in meeting. Walk them closer, ensuring that the older dog is comfortable. If the older dog seems relaxed, have them meet for a few seconds then walk apart, telling them “let’s go” as you walk away.
Offer a sniffing opportunity
Next bring them closer together to smell each other. This usually happens ‘nose to nose’ first and then ‘nose to rear. Listen and watch vigilantly for signs of negative behaviour. Negative behaviour may include;
- baring teeth
- a bristling of hair on the back of the neck/ back
- prolonged stares
- tense posture
- hunched back.
If signs of aggression do occur, firmly say ‘no’ and remove the dogs from each other, calmly. Going forward, have your older dog receive rewards in the form of praise and treats, whenever he even sees the puppy and is calm. Using a clicker can also help an older dog understand what behaviour you would like to see from him/her. In this approach, a click would mark the behaviour followed by a reward such as a treat or a pat, in quick succession. Generously reward any doggy interactive behaviour that you would like to see continue, such as patience, tolerance, interest, calmness, etc.,
Manage the interactions
One option is to use a “howdy’ crate. A “howdy” crate is a zookeeper’s term, used when introducing a new animal into an exhibit. By putting the animal in a crate, the animals can all say ‘hi’ to one another through the safety of the crate walls. Use the same concept at home by putting your new puppy in a crate in the front yard or living room so that your older dog can spend some time getting to know the new puppy. An alternative option to consider is to have gates between rooms to have the puppy and the older dog meet. One dog can be one side of the gate and the other can be on the other opposing side.
An option to play
It is a good sign if the dogs want to play together. Patience and time are important for the older dog to accept the new puppy and perhaps be interested in play. It takes about 3 weeks for play behaviours to begin between the adult dog and the puppy. A classic canine invitation game is the play bow in which the tail goes up and the head goes down. Supervision is essential. Keep a close eye when your puppy and older dog are playing, particularly in the initial stages.
Playing “bitey face”
Older dogs often like to play games with young puppies. Play may incorporate grabbing cheeks, the neck, the scruff, the face, and/or showing teeth and play growling.
Social Ettiquette during interactions
There is an entire manner structure that adult dogs subscribe to, and it makes their social interactions predictable and enjoyable. Puppies have not yet learnt the social rules of the dog world and may not read and respond to your current dog’s cues properly. If your older dog is telling the youngster to respect him/her and back off (much as the mother would do) by giving a growl and an air snap this is perfectly fine. The puppy will begin to learn the new rules of this new house. Don’t suppress the older dog’s growl in these circumstances. The older dog should move away from the puppy after the admonishment growl. The puppy should also back off after the correction. He may even let out a squeal but as long as the interaction is brief and the puppy isn’t injured, this is nothing to worry about. All of the below behaviours signal “I am no threat” in dog language and are a sign of submission.
- Licking the mouth and face of the older dog
- rolling on the back
A FEW ADDITIONAL DO’S
- *DO – Supervise the interactions carefully for the first few weeks.
- *DO – keep your puppy and older dog in separate areas while you are out (particularly in the first few weeks).
- *DO – Impose periods of predictable separation between the puppy and the older dog to give them a break from each other.
- *DO – Put your dogs in separate areas of the house /yard when giving a bone or a chewable treat.
- *DO – Keep to a routine as much as possible. Older dog’s crave routine and consistency.
- *DO – Focus on the older dog before greeting your younger dog.
- *DO – Feed your older dog first.
- *DO – Remember to spend time with both dogs individually and give each of them your undivided attention and love.
Older dogs can often live with a new puppy in comfortable cohabitation. They may even become best friends. It will, however take time, patience and management to set them up to succeed.
How about you. Have you brought a new puppy to your older dog? How did it go? Tell us your experience in the comment section.