6 Tips for Peace between Your Old Dog and Young One

You and your old dog have shared many adventures;

Because he’s added so much to your life, you’ve decided to bring home a younger dog (or puppy). Perhaps you’ve heard that a puppy can enrich an older dog’s life; maybe he’ll be happier and want to play again. If your older dog is well behaved and well trained, you might be hoping he’ll help you raise your new dog so he, too, will be a joy to live with. You might have brought the new dog home so you won’t be dog-less when your old dog passes away.

However, once the introductions are over and your new dog settles into the household routine, you may find that your household is more chaotic than you expected. The younger dog is jumping all over the older dog, trying to get a reaction out of the old dog or encouraging the old dog to play. The young dog is constantly stealing the old dog’s toys or treats (or visa versa). The old dog is growling and grumpy. The younger dog is acting out in frustration. Your once peaceful home is in chaos.

Obedience Training is Imperative

You are in charge of creating peace in your household and the rowdy younger dog and potentially grumpy old dog are not allowed to disrupt that peace. Refresh your older dog’s obedience skills; keeping the sessions fun. Your old dog is going to love his one on one training sessions with you and the special attention. Plus, by refreshing his skills, he’s more in tune with you again, listening to you and working for you. If your old dog has some joint problems or health issues, work around those. There is still a lot he can do. The oldest dog I’ve seen in my dog training classes was 14 years old and that old guy had a blast.

At the same time, in his own sessions, start training your younger dog (or puppy). Tailor the training to his age and abilities and keep it fun. However, it’s important to teach your young dog that he, too, needs to look to you for direction as to what’s allowed and what isn’t. This training will help you teach him household and public guidelines while also teaching him what he’s allowed to do with your old dog.

©istockphoto/raduga21

©istockphoto/raduga21

Prevent Arguments and Fusses

Make sure each dog has his own food dish and don’t let either one steal from the other. Feed them in opposite corners of the room, or one inside and one out, or both in crates if you have to do that to keep the peace. If one dog finishes before the other, take him out of the room; don’t let him sit and stare at the dog who’s still eating.

If you’re handing out chews or treats, give one to each dog and have both lie down and stay while they’re chewing. Again, no stealing as that leads to hard feelings and arguments.

If either dog has a favorite toy, he’s allowed to have that, obviously, but he’s not allowed to guard it with growls, snapping jaws, or lunges as the other dog walks by. Resources guarding is potentially dangerous so if your dog is too possessive of any particular toy, make that toy disappear. If resource guarding seems to be increasing, call a dog trainer for help right away.

Exercise is Great

Both dogs need exercise but tailor it to the individual dog. For example, let both dogs play in the back yard with you but when the old dog is getting tired, take him in the house, give him something to chew on, and go back outside to continue exercising the younger dog. With a special treat, he shouldn’t be upset you go outside to spend more time with the younger dog.

Walks can be handled the same way. Begin your walk with both dogs but follow a shorter route that the old dog can still handle. Then circle back home, drop the older dog off, again with a toy or chew, and then go back out to walk a longer route with the younger dog.

Exercise is recommended for both old and young dogs. Just tailor it for the individual dog’s needs, which will, of course, change over time.

©istockphoto/BrianAsmussen

©istockphoto/BrianAsmussen

Teach the Younger Dog Respect

Young dogs are used to playing with littermates and often that play is rough. You may find that your young dog is pouncing on your old dog while he’s sleeping, dashing in to bite his tail and then dashing away before your old dog can react. The young dog may stay out of the old dog’s reach and bark and bark and bark. The poor old dog!

Let your old dog growl and teach the young dog as long as it doesn’t get out of hand. If the young dog is rude and the old dog growls, barks, chases the young dog, and pins him to the ground, that’s fine. Let him teach the young dog some rules. However, if the old dog is continually smashing the young dog, or if blood is drawn, then interfere and have the old dog back off.

If the old dog is too rough, or if the old dog is not able to teach the young dog, then you need to step in and teach that lesson. Let the young dog drag a leash (when you can supervise) and when his behavior is out of line, step on the leash to stop him, and let him know he’s gone too far. Then move him away from the old dog, practice some obedience skills to distract him and get him listening to you, and then give him one of his toys to occupy him.

If the old dog is just plain grumpy about the whole situation, interrupt him and let him know it’s your house too and he doesn’t set all the rules. When he’s too grumpy or rude, take him away from the family and let him relax in another room for a few minutes. When he’s more tolerant with the younger dog, praise the older dog; let him know you see his efforts.

Give Each Dog some Space

It’s rare that the old dog and new dog are immediately best friends. After all, the young dog is an intruder as far as your old dog is concerned. It’s important to give each dog his own space; especially when you aren’t able to supervise them. Crate train the younger dog when you have to leave the house and have him in his crate while allowing the old dog to enjoy some alone time in his home. After a while, you may find that when you come home, the old dog may be napping outside of the younger dog’s crate.

As your old dog grows older or if some health problems develop, he may need more time alone. At the same time, though, you don’t want your old dog to feel like he’s being exiled. Finding the balance may take some imagination. Perhaps you can use an exercise pen and set up a protected spot for your old dog next to the sofa where you like to relax. When the time comes, look at your house and routine, and see what you can do to protect your old dog.

Special Time with Each Dog

Both dogs, your special older dog and the new dog full of promise, need one on one time with you. You can do this when you’re doing obedience training but they each also need time to just relax with you. You can cuddle with each dog, brush him, check each one for signs of a health problem, rub his tummy, and just enjoy him.

The easiest way to do this and prevent jealousy is to go to a different room. Otherwise as you cuddle with one dog the other will be fussing for his attention. So take one dog at a time to another room, cuddle and enjoy one dog, and then after a while, swap dogs. Both dogs will learn the routine and won’t fuss over it.

Meet the Author: Liz Palika

Liz Palika is a Certified Dog Trainer, Certified Animal Behavior Consultant, and the co-owner of Kindred Spirits Dog Training in Vista, CA. Liz is also an award-winning author and writer specializing in pets. She writes about cats, cat behavior and health, dogs, dog behavior and health, living with pets, and pet nutrition. Liz’s works have been recognized with many awards, but her most recent book, “Idiot’s Guides: Dog Training” (Penguin Books, 2014) recently won the Best Nonfiction book category in the San Diego Book Writing competition. Liz shares her home with two dogs; Bashir, an Australian Shepherd, and Bones, an English Shepherd. Three cats, Spock, Scottie, and Kirk, provide motivation for her articles about cats. And yes, she is a Star Trek fan. For more information go to www.kindredspiritsk9.com.

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