“I don’t understand why Bruno doesn’t like the puppy. I thought he’d welcome a new playmate.”
I hear this lament from clients who are saddened, confused, and sometimes unnerved or scared by the reaction that their current dog has over the addition of a new dog, especially a puppy. Certain that their dog, “who loves other dogs” would enthusiastically embrace the addition of another dog, they can’t understand what went wrong.
In the June 2021 edition of The Whole Dog Journal, Kathy Callahan, CPDT-KA has five tips for introducing a new puppy to your older dog. She reminds us that a puppy is not a full grown dog, and while your dog may indeed enjoy other adult dogs, Bruno may not be all that enthusiastic about having a biting, climbing, toy stealing, toddler, who totally disrupts his normal routine, takes up his peoples’ time, and is there 24/7! When you look at it from Bruno’s perspective, this is a tough adjustment to make.
But, do not despair! There are things you can do to make this introduction go more smoothly, help both dogs adjust to the presence of one another, and hopefully, learn to be best friends. Here are her five tips:
1. Manage the environment so that puppy contact is always optional. If you feel relieved when the puppy is napping and enjoy it when someone else is on puppy duty, so does your older dog. Make sure the senior resident has a puppy free zone that he can access when he needs a break. Crates and gates can give everyone a needed break from constant interaction and activity. And don’t forget that Puppy may also need some time off from an overly attentive older dog. Down time is good for everyone! (See my blog 10 Essential Things to Teach Your Puppy for more information on what puppies need to learn.)
2. Let your adult dog growl. This may be counterintuitive for most owners, but “if you have made interacting optional, then you know that Shadow has actually chosen to be with the puppy. In that case, his growl, and that scary-looking little snap/snarl are part of healthy boundary setting.” The key here is that Bruno has chosen to be with the puppy when he could have walked away, so let him teach the puppy how to interact appropriately with another dog, especially since he is much better at teaching this than you are.
3. Don’t change your dog’s best stuff. There is a tendency when you adopt a new dog to allow the household to be completely disrupted for awhile. You may know that normalcy will eventually return, but Bruno doesn’t. Reassure him that life is still good for him by making sure his top three things are not forgotten. For example, Zuzu will snuggle up close to me in the morning for 20 minutes before we get up. I don’t allow Clementine to interfere with this special Zuzu moment. What does your dog love? A kong at 3 pm? A walk with Dad before dinner? Keeping these things in place for your older dog “will help him be at his generous best with the new puppy.”
Zuzu and me kayaking
4. Exhaust your puppy elsewhere. Give your older dog a break from being the puppy’s camp counselor and constant playmate by finding a puppy kindergarten class (See: Puppy class: why your baby dog needs to go!), or another puppy down the block that is eager for a romp with someone his own age. Tiring out your puppy may result in “a very chill puppy, who might suddenly strike your older dog as a kind of nice kid.”
5. Two dogs = Duck! Fish! Feta! Make fun happen that only occurs in the presence of the puppy. “Find a treat that you’ve never given to your dog before.” Present it only when the puppy is around, so now, the puppy means feta happens and that’s a pretty good reason to want him around.
Patience is the key to reducing stress and encouraging the friendship between both of your beloved dogs, so don’t rush the process. Instead, plan ahead for separate spaces, play dates, normal activities, and special treats to ease the transition from a one dog house to a two dog endeavor.