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Introducing a Puppy to a Resident, Senior Dog

Christmas is around the corner.  Are you thinking of bringing home a new puppy as a Christmas gift but you already have a senior dog?  There are some things to consider before you decide to bring home the energetic, fur ball.  The introduction between the new comer and the senior, resident dog will set the tone of their relationship – it’s important to get it right!  This blog runs through the preparation, steps, and tips to introduce a puppy to a resident, senior dog.

Before you bring home a new puppy you might want to check out this article by dog trainer Jolanta Benal: http://www.quickanddirtytips.com/pets/dog-behavior/how-to-introduce-a-puppy-to-your-older-dog

Why is this important?   Think of the puppy as a young child.  Getting a new puppy is like bringing home a new baby – your resident dog may be confused about a fluff ball that he now has to share with. Dogs, like people, have their own social code.  Like children, puppies need to learn the code.  Dogs can end up hurt if their first introduction is not handled properly.  A poor introduction can also lead to behavioural problems for both the puppy and the senior dog.

Preparation

For the first home introduction you’ll want to remove your resident dog’s possessions – toys, bones, food bowl, and bed.  Even if your dog has never displayed possessive and/or aggressive behaviour make sure you pack away anything your dog might identify as his/her property.

For each dog you will need:

  • A leash
  • A bed
  • A feed bowl
  • Toys

You’ll also need training materials you like to use and treats.  As time goes on the dogs may learn to share their toys.

Before you bring the puppy home make sure the space your dogs will be spending time in is clean and uncluttered.

Steps

There should be a human to handle each dog.  The very first meeting should take place in a park – somewhere open that won’t make the dogs feel claustrophobic.  Let the dogs approach one another – don’t hold on to the leash too tightly.  Allow the dogs to investigate one another – if they start fighting intervene immediately.

If you notice that tensions are growing separate the dogs by distracting each one with a treat.  Try not to pull on their leash – it might trigger an attack.

After the dogs have greeted one another and are calm take them for a walk.

When you bring the dogs home let the resident dog off the leash first.  Then allow the puppy to explore the home while on his leash.  If the dogs seem to be getting on well the puppy can be let off the leash.

All interactions between the dogs should be supervised for the first few weeks – the dogs should not be left alone together.  Keep to routines as much as possible – this signals to the resident dog that nothing has changed and teaches the puppy how the household works.

For more on the initial meeting check out: http://asnpr.rescuegroups.org/info/display?PageID=1804

This PetMD article describes an alternative method: http://www.petmd.com/dog/training/evr_introducing_a_new_dog_to_a_resident_dog#.Uo1uuuLX2q0

Tips from Laurie Luck, Certified Trainer and Co-Founder of Smart Dog University

  • Supervision – minimizes opportunities for negative interactions between senior dog and puppy.  When you supervisor your puppy and senior dog you also have the opportunity to correct your puppies behaviour.  Your puppy will learn a lot about the social rules of the dog world.
  • Separated social time – allow your puppy and senior dog to have some down time.  You can use a create, a gate, and/or a pen to separate the puppy and the senior dog.  Sometimes you need a rest from other people and dogs can be the same way.  This is also makes it easy for you to give some one on one attention to each dog.
  • Escape – provide an escape route for both your puppy and your senior dog.  When one of the dogs becomes too much for the other they can separate themselves before the situation escalates.
  • Avoid punishment for communication – growling is how dogs communicate.  Your new puppy needs to learn about communication to and from other dogs.  If your senior dog growls at your puppy avoid punishment; it’s important for your puppy to learn what growling means.  Instead make sure you’re supervising the dogs so that the situation doesn’t escalate.
  • Reinforce positive behaviours – if you see a behaviour you like from either your puppy or your senior dog reinforce it.  Use treats or clicker training.  Make sure you raise the bar when the dogs have mastered a particular behaviour.

For tips check out: http://www.clickertraining.com/node/4037

Other concerns and issues

Just like not all people are fit to be parents not all dogs enjoy the company of a puppy.  Make sure you keep a watchful eye during the puppy/senior interaction.  If your puppy yips or squeals but your senior dog does not let up intervene immediately.

Do not put the dogs into small spaces together – this is asking for trouble.

During the introduction process food bowls should be placed in different areas of the house.

Do not allow the dogs to “fight it out”.  This can lead to issues in the future.

What to expect

Depending on how well your senior dog tolerates the puppy and how quickly your puppy learns, it will take roughly three weeks for your senior and puppy to begin getting along.

Do you have any tips or advice?

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